OUR BLESSED TRIALS
By Dan Luehrs
Reading this article may cause you to mature in Christ by having greater trials!
For the majority of my twenty years as Christian, like most of you, I have suffered many trials and temptations. We seem to get through one trial and another follows close behind. In fact, if we are not going through something, we might begin to think that something is wrong with us; or we think everything must be in line with God because He is really blessing us now. So we say to our friends, "I'm blessed, blessed, blessed" because we have no pressing trials in our life. Many gauge their blessings of God by how they are doing emotionally: if we are suffering something, we think we must be doing very badly in our Christian walk as if God is punishing us. If our circumstances change for the good, we surmise that now God is pleased with us. These are all lies of Satan and show our lack of understanding in the discipling ways of God.
Listen how the Apostle John describes himself in Revelation 1:9, "I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." The word "tribulation" means: "to be under pressure, afflicted, anguished, burdened, persecuted, and troubled." My friends, these are not the descriptions of a Christian life that is abnormal, but one that is normal! "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22 NAS). There is no easy street into kingdom authority, as many preachers have told us. Our flesh and Western theology wants everything fast and easy, yet, the kingdom doesn't come this way. This does not mean we have to suffer in order to go to heaven, as it has already has been paid for by Jesus. But what it does means for us is this: to enter into or partake of kingdom authority and power, we must pay the price of following the Lamb wherever He goes; even if it is to an island like Patmos to suffer like John. John was not there by his own will, but by the will of the Father; so that he could receive the Revelation of Jesus. Many tribulations came to John before he received the Revelation. He paid the high price of staying faithful through many trials. This is what Jesus meant when He said in Revelation 3:18, "I advise you to buy from Me gold (Jesus' character) refined by fire (trials), that you may become rich, (spiritually) and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, (with His likeness) and that the shame of your nakedness (un-Christ-likeness) may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see (spiritually)." Don't you see that we are rich because of our trials? We must pay the price of obedience in following the Lord. This alone will bring great tribulation in our life; but oh, the rewards are out of this world!
"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12 NAS).
One day I read this verse and this jumped out at me: "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial!" The word "perseveres" means: "to suffer, to stay under, to remain, to undergo, bear trials, endure and take patiently." This is how I would translate this verse: "Blessed is the person who suffers testings, temptations, and trials." Notice, it does not say, "Cursed is the man that suffers trials," but blessed! Why is this? "But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:13-14 NAS). Suffering is the very thing the church and the world hates, but what the world hates is very highly esteemed with God (see Luke 16:15). We must understand this!
We are to, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2 NAS). To consider something is to think carefully about it. We must think carefully about our trials and know that God has allowed them for His perfect plan in our life to mature us. We must not waste them by murmuring and complaining or by trying to get out of them too soon. We are to rejoice and be thankful for them and in them. Knowing that our loving Father has allowed them for our good, desiring us to overcome them through His power. Then we will be numbered with the overcomers on Mount Zion. We can count our trials "all joy" by the strength of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul said we can be, "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11 KJV).
We shouldn't despise our trials, but see them as opportunities to go higher in levels or grades, as if we were in school. If we are to graduate to higher grades/levels we must pass many tests to receive the crown of life. As Paul said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7 NAS). Our course ends on Mount Zion as the sons of God with His name on our forehead! "And I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads" (Revelation 14:1 NAS).
People suffer and pay the price every day for the many earthly things they want: money, material things, fame, control/power and success. These things we cannot keep, but spiritual things last for eternity: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These are worth suffering for to obtain and grow in. These are worth far more than all the riches of the earth! "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7 KJV). Don't you see: it's our trial that have greater worth than all the money in the earth, not our faith! Why should we run from these trials since they have so much value? Shouldn't we run to them, as a man runs to a gold rush, if they are so beneficial to our preparation for the revealing of Jesus? God, help us to see this! "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. I have become foolish… " (2 Corinthians 12:10-11 NAS). Yes, for Jesus' sake we must become foolish both to the ways of the world and the church, if we are going to receive the prize of our high calling!
Listen to the words of a bondservant that was willing to follow the Lord and suffer anything to finish his course. "And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:22-24 NAS). Paul learned that it was difficult to fulfill the Lord's will for one's life from the example of Jesus when He rebuked Peter for trying to stop Him from going to the cross, which was God's will for Him. "But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Matthew 16:23 NAS). Our willingness to suffer according to the will of God may cause difficulties in relationships, lead us to prison, poverty, and even death (see 1 Pet. 4:19, Rev. 2:9-10).
Being willing to suffer is not normal to the "what's-in-it-for-me-Christianity" it's abnormal! We are taught in most churches that we are to run from (and even pray against) suffering because God wants us to be "blessed" with all the things of the world. Before we can go on to the greater works of the kingdom we must have a revelation of what trials and tribulations will do for us in God's will. We must see "sorrow and suffering" as our closest friends, enabling us to get to our desired destination of His glory. We must stop running from our trials and stay under them until they have finished their work in us having made us into diamonds, reflecting His glory. Our sufferings will mature us and cause us not to be lacking in spiritual things.
"Knowing this, that the trying (trial) of your faith worketh (produces) patience (suffering). But let patience (suffering) have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect (mature) and entire (complete), wanting (lacking) nothing." (James 1:3-4 KJV).
"Patience" means: "to suffer, to stay under, to remain, to undergo, bear trials, persevere, abide, and endure." Patience, very simply put, is the willingness to suffer God's will. Why should it be so difficult for us to understand that it takes suffering through many tests and trials to cause us to become spiritually mature like Jesus? We sing, "Oh to be like Jesus," but we really don't want to pay the price of getting there! These trials are the very things that will cause us to grow up to be like Him. We fear and hate them and want to run away from these trials and quit, when in truth, these are the very things that produce maturity in us as we continue to walk forward following Jesus. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17 NAS). Only suffering the will of God for our lives will form His character in us. This will in turn bring His glory into our lives, for He cannot give us His glory until we have become like Him. "If we suffer (stay under our trials and not run), we shall also reign with him: if we deny (refuse to stay under suffering) him, he also will deny (refuse) us" (2 Timothy 2:12 KJV). If we refuse to identify with Him in His suffering, rejection, and death to self, He will refuse us from sitting on His throne with Him.
"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect (mature) the author (leader) of their salvation through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10 NAS). If it took suffering to mature Jesus, how do we think we will be matured to receive His glory? "Although He was a Son (as we are), He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect (matured), He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (deliverance)" (Hebrews 5:8-9 NAS).
I know many of you are suffering more now as you are drawing closer than ever before to the Lord. But this is the way God has designed it to keep out self-seekers, for they will buckle under the pressure. We must be grateful for and see each day and its trials as opportunities to know the Lord more intimately and not living to just "get though." Now is the time we must use the adverse winds to propel us higher and higher into the realm of God. We are now closer then ever before to full salvation. Even as a woman gets ready to give birth through pain, though it is intense, it will all be worth it in the end. Be encouraged today and p-u-s-h!