Rev. E. Anderson
THE REASON FOR TRIALS
Reading 1 Peter 1; 3-9
Text 1 Peter 4: 12, 13 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” – (RSV).
FACT OF LIFE: This is so for Christian and non-Christian alike but the Christian able to look and note them and recognise that there are just and good reasons for their occurrence. When facing and in the midst of them it is not always easy to see and reckon so especially if they are severe and of a long-standing nature. One does come readily with easy answers especially when the trials are intense and traumatic. One does not quickly come to know the sense and reason for them. There is however hope for those who trust in God that at some time He will shed light on them and give some understanding and there is the sure hope that in eternity all will be seen in true and real light.
APOSTOLIC CONFESSION: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you” – in the AV ‘strange’ – 1Pe 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. The word means unusual and that which causes amazement and real questioning.
“The warning given by the apostle to all Christians, not to think it strange concerning these fiery trials; that is, not to look upon them as unusual things, but to expect them, and prepare for them; for unexpected trials fall upon the soul in their full weight, and suddenly overthrow it: what we fear, for that we prepare; but when trials come, and we never looked and prepared for them, they strike us to the heart, because not armed to receive the blow” – William Burkitt
The apostle could write from experience having undergone quite a series of test that had a great deal of trauma about them. He by no means found them easy to handle but eventually comes to a divine understanding on the issue. Having faced some serious and severe experiences and come through, he was able to fulfil a role of ministry in relation to such. He was now in a position where he could encourage and strengthen others in their ordeals thus fulfilling the Lord’s inspired on it – “when you are converted, strengthen your brethren” – Luke 22: 32.
ACCEPT INEVITABLE: Everyone should have the right mind set with regard to them so that when such occurs they are, in some measure prepared for them and can handle them better. Instead of being bowled over and overwhelmed by their sudden happening they are in a healthy state of attitude. Job gives us the best reaction when suddenly one is confronted with some enormous experience that attacks faith in a powerful manner – see Job 1: 20, Job 1:20 “Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshipped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” – (RSV).
1/. TRIALS ARE EXPERIENCED TO DISCOVER THE BEST IN US
It would appear that often they can evidence the worst rather than the choice and the best but it is imperative to have the divine perspective on them. They are not to find us without the right mind, mood and attitude but to be a spiritual condition where they neither upset or offset. How imperative that they do not engender bitterness or resentment but are taken in a great spirit so that nothing and no one gets in producing a negative factor. God allows them so as to give opportunity to take up a positive spiritual stance and so evidence that which can approve and commend. It is as such times that we really discover the true nature of ourselves.
2/. TRIALS ARE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF GOD’S AGENDA FOR OUR LIVES
Looking at the pathway and the pilgrimage of the saints it is possible to trace and see the plan and route that God had fro them in their lives and this included the prospect of facing things that would truly test them. In point of fact, God would regard such as possibly the most critical part of the journey.
He ordains and allows His chosen to pass through periods that are quite alarming and bewildering and does not shield or protect from such. He knows that is absolutely essential that He permit this to take place and to have a hand and purpose in them.
On the individual this is the case and He pays a great deal of attention to each one. He is personally and directly involved with each and every one, paying special interest and attention in all that they are confronting. From the Scriptures it can be proved that He is actively engaged in the procedure of life and of those difficult experiences and seasons that have to be negotiated.
Illustration: Very visible in Joseph’s, David’s and Job’s ordeals
On the communal front, in dealing with a vast community, Israel, they had to confront ordeals in their march of progress. It had to go through a rigorous programme. The transition to the Promised Land necessitated some difficult factors. Israel as a nation and people were not to escape from this procedure and process following their deliverance and even when in the Promised Land. In His timing and agenda it was imperative that the whole course should be put to the test and this became apparent on entrance into the wilderness. Those forty years were named the probation period when they had to be put through the paces. See Deuteronomy 8:2 “And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not”.
3/. TRIALS GIVE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE EXPRESSION AND DEVELOPMENT OF FAITH
A crucial quality that is required if there is to any outstanding progress in relationship with God, life and ministry is the fact of faith and it is that which is put through the test. Peter states it clearly – “that the trial of your faith” – 1 Peter 17. Trusting God in questionable and difficult moments is stretched and is made to see whether it really exists. When everything appears to be wrong it is not the easiest time to affirm one’s confidence in the Almighty, when there is no immediate divine action and things worsen and deteriorate. When things do not improve but grow exceedingly hard and impossible.
“A trial is an experiment or search made upon a man, by some affliction, to prove the value and strength of his faith” – Henry
As Joseph finishes up in prison he seems that he reaches the situation where all is lost. His confidence in God and the divine dreams were severely tested as he reaches an all time low. His faith level needed to exist and resist all the negative factors and be present in his being. More than ever, in those untoward and unseemly circumstances it was crucial that faith dictate and dominate his being. He was to remain on top even though placed in the most hostile conditions. Doubt does seek to creep in and makes its presence known.
4/. TRIALS ARE A MEANS OF INWARD PURIFICATION OF MOTIVES AND LIFE
The atrocious conditions are the factors employed to perform and bring about divine transformation within a person that eliminates things that are an impediment to the person and need to be removed. The fiery furnace is the place where the dross is dealt with, it surfaces and has to be removed. There are characteristics that do not enhance the person or the work and such must be dealt with so a better and more effectual man is revealed. This is an issue that is very important to God. There comes an open exposure of factors that one didn’t know existed and such has to be attended to. There is an actual discovery of oneself in such ordeals.
Peter was guilty of boasting that he would be loyal to the Lord whatever was to be encountered. But Jesus knew him better than he knew himself and that he was aware of what was to occur – Luke 22: 31-34 “Lu 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, v32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” v33 And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”v34 He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”(RSV).
When encompassed about by affliction and infirmity such can have a way of sifting and sorting out the inward spiritual condition. One is made to look at oneself more seriously, to make sure that there is nothing in the life or works that displeases the Lord and is an hindrance to vital progress on all fronts. Trials can be the time when God ‘perfects that which concerns us’ and it should be welcomed and not shunned.
5/. TRIALS ARE THE EXPERIENCES THAT SATAN EMPLOYS TO DEVASTATE AND DESTROY
Trials must be looked at at every angle and seen from all perspectives so they are properly evaluated and determined. Satan is very active and involved in the trials of the saints and the servants of God. He has his eyes on them not for good but evil. He is not impressed or enamoured when he witnesses a person dealing with this area successfully.
Note that God invited Satan to have a good look and Job to behold his faith and character. The Lord was so confident of Job that He was prepared to allow Satan to do his worst to him. Job had discharged of life in an admirable manner – v1 “and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” Job 1: 1. What an opening statement and God had to let him go through the mill to prove his metal and worth. The Lord permitted the evil one to do his worst and he did but Job’s faith was not dissipated or destroyed. Wave after wave of bad news could not shake his trust in the Lord.
“Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us” – Forsyth
6/. TRIALS THAT ARE SUCCESSFULLY NEGOTIATED BRING HONOUR AND GLORY TO GOD
The one main thing that we seek above all else is that the Lord may be honoured in and by our lives and the way that He is greatly honoured is when one remains pure and true to Him amidst controversial and difficult experiences. It is possible to bring exceeding glory to God in the midst of the furnace of affliction, when faith is truly and fully tested. In and through the trial there is perfect attitude revealed.
The three Hebrew children along with Daniel were prepared to go all the way if need be to see the Lord magnified in their decision and deed. They were prepared to face the fire and the lion’s den if need be to manifest their commitment to and regard of Him – Daniel 3 & 6. They would not take the easy route out but honour the Lord in expression and encounter. A steadfastness of spirit and commitment to a divine purpose enabled them to negotiate unchartered waters. There was to be no escape or exemption only the will to make their God known.
7/. TRIALS ARE THE FACTORS USED TO BRING ABOUT DIVINE PRO-MOTION AND EXALTATION AND EFFECTUAL MINISTRY
It is by trials that there is divine graduation and movement forward into the greater purposes and out-workings of God. It would seem that they are ordained stepping stones and not stumbling blocks into something much bigger than one has ever dreamed or known. The people who know how to deal with the worst seem to come into their own and into God’s best in His kingdom. They do not finish or terminate on the scrap heap or in the junk-yard but are promoted and exalted in a divine way and given a ministry of inspiration and encouragement to others. Instead of being written off they are written in for major tasks that enhance God’s kingdom in every way.
Nobody really comes unstuck and finishes worse off when they have truly dealt with the things that would have ruined them. Actually the trials have made them into very useful people will anointed ministries. Not only are they stronger and wiser but they are more suited to live in a very beneficial manner in the kingdom of God to others. The trials have not been lost on them or a waste of time, rather, they are enabled to minister untold good to others in their crises.
The important thing is to be able to ride our trials and not let them take over and rule us to our detriment. Do not be bogged down in them and such turn into a quagmire where there seems to be no escape. You were not ordained to be subdued by the those things that are of trying nature but to be conqueror.
Paul knew what it was to be exceedingly tried but such did not dominate his life or ministry – 2 Corinthians 11: 23-28 “2Co 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. (RSV)beatings, and often near death. v24 Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. v25 Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; v26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; v27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. v28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches -(RSV).
It is good to be able to say with Paul: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest His savour in every place” – 2 Corinthians 2: 14.