Faith Under Trial
By Nelson Thomas Mumbai
|Summary:- A Christian believer should not be discouraged over various trials,
for it is a test of faith. After a while we will see it's benefits.
True Christian life has too many paradoxical experiences. Death for life, giving to receive, going down to go up and weakness in strength etc! Such an apparently contradictory statement is found in 1Peter. 1:6, 7:- “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials”. Manifold trials, and great joy. For a normal human being, it’s very hard to greatly rejoice, while going through fierce trials. But a Christian believer finds it normal to rejoice in trials and tribulations.
When Apostle Peter and companions were whipped and threatened, they went rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for Christ. Acts.5:40, 41. On another occasion when Paul and Silas were severely beaten and threw in to the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks they began to pray and sing hymns of praise to the Lord.. Acts.16:24, 25. Later Paul wrote, “We also exult in our tribulations”. (Romans.5:3) “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing”. (2Corinthias.10). What an irony to the common man:- rejoicing at trials. Yes, that’s exactly what Jesus said in His beatitude; “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness….rejoice and be glad.”. Matthew.5:10-12.
Why do they rejoice at suffering?
Many reasons could be found in the scripture for such Christian joy, but the most important one that Peter mentions is worthy of consideration; “that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth”. 1Peter.1:7.(KJV). They realize that these trials are testing time for their faith. It is like a student who is under much stress and tension during time of exam yet facing it joyfully and boldly, knowing that this brief period will result in approval and promotion.
In a Christian’s life too, trials are very much essential for the furtherance of his faith as well as fruitfulness. Peter further says that, “Beloved do not be surprised the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing as though some strange thing were happening to you”. 1 Peter.4:12. Trials for the men of faith are not a strange, isolated phenomenon, but a universal fact.
Consider the saints in the past. Always God tests the godly ones of their faith. When the Abraham who is known as the father of believers was called upon by God to sacrifice his only son, it was a test of his faith on a higher level. Hebrews.11:17. He tested the faith of the Israelites with a very strange strategy to pull down the wall of Jericho. Joshua.6. When Elijah was being fed by the ravens and the water from the brook of Cherith, the Lord tested his faith by stopping the provision all of a sudden. 1Kings. 17: 7. Job the blameless, upright, God fearing man also was not spared! He allowed Satan to touch his body and everything else except the life. Job.1:12. It was truly a fiery trial.
Often we fail to fathom such test of faith. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, God in His sovereign will and wisdom does try the faith of the saints, and it’s for our good and He makes it perfectly with out any error. With that conviction they all faced it with joy and came out of it with flying colors.
Why does God try our faith? Doesn’t He know all about us exactly? Certainly, God knows who we are and what kind of life we lead. Then why should He test our faith. I think two main reasons are there
A. To show me who I am.
By going through the trial of faith successfully, I will come to know of my own state. That will affect our faith - life enormously.
B. To show to others as a testimony.
Then the next question is why God should deal with our faith in such a painful manner to teach me or others. Why can’t He choose some other way? Questions are many. Certainly, we can be assured that there is no error in His purposes and dealings with us. He does everything well, with a definite intention. Let us consider few possible reasons why the Lord Almighty tests our faith.
1. Because of the importance of faith.
Notice, Peter compared faith with gold. The more gold is purified, more costly it becomes. Faith is costly and precious for a Christian. It’s fundamental. The total Christian life depends upon faith. From regeneration to the end of our pilgrim journey we need to live by faith. “All these died in faith…” Hebrews.11:13. By faith alone we are forgiven, saved, justified and given eternal life. Cf. Acts.10:43; Romans.3:25, 28; 5:1; John.20:31 etc. Not only that our spiritual edification and preservation also is based upon our faith. 1Timothy.1:4; 1Peter.1:5.
Paul says he lives and walks by faith. Galatians.2:20; 2Corinthians.5:7. It is by faith that we pray receive answers for our prayers. Without faith the word of God will have no effect in our life. 1 Thessalonians.2:13. Hebrews. 4:2. The only thing that God requires us is faith. John. 6:29. God is pleased, when we are able to trust Him fully and take His word as true. Hebrews.11:6. He has no pleasure in those who fail to trust Him. Heb.10:38. Nothing is impossible with the one who believes the Lord.
While seeing the plight of the saints and the injustice among the gentiles, Habakkuk puzzled and troubled in his mind, God answered and admonished him, “..the righteous shall live by his faith’. Habakuk.2:4
Thus the total life of a saint is based on faith. The quality of our spiritual life is in proportion to the quality to our faith. Our salvation, fruitfulness, our boldness, joy & peace and our victory, every thing is based on faith. That’s why Paul admonishes the Corinthians, “Stand firm in the faith”. (1 Corinthians.16:13) and “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2Corinthinas.13:5) More than anybody else the Lord knows the importance of faith and allows various ways to test, prove and improve our faith.
2. Because of the possibility of having a false faith.
Faith is one of the most commonly misunderstood biblical terms. There are different ideas behind the same word.
a. The creed. 2 Peter.1:1. Jude.v.3. “faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints”. Cp. V.20. Here Jude refers to the body of truth, the doctrine revealed in the word of God. Saying yes to such creed, belief will not transform any body. It’s not saving faith.
b. Intellectual belief. James. 2:19. Mere mental knowledge of anything, even things concerning the Lord has no regenerative value. Even devil has such knowledge. James says emphatically that faith that doesn’t affect our life is dead. Jam.2:26.
c. Secular faith. John.2:23-25. Every one believes something or some body in his everyday life. He believes a doctor and quietly lies before him for a surgery! He believes a driver and sits in the vehicle to reach the destination. Such every day practical faith is very much temporary in nature and it has nothing to do with spiritual life or salvation.
That is what happened to the Jews whom we find in John.2:23—25. They believed Christ just because of the miracles performed. It was not true faith. The Lord knew the merit of their faith. That’s why though they believed Him, He did not believe them. Later on we will notice them, leaving Christ. Still many misunderstand their secular faith as a spiritual faith. As the days go by either they will show their reality or the Lord will make it public. 1Thessalonians.3:2; 1John. 2:19; Matthew.7:22, 23.
d. Spiritual faith. Romans.12:3; Ephesians.2:8; Romans. 5:1. Then what is true, biblical faith? It is the God given ability to trust God’s word as true and yield fully at His disposal. Faith is God’s gift through regeneration. Ephesians.2:8 say that even the faith we exercised at conversion is also God’s gift. According to the Hebrew writer, the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who implanted faith in us and it is He who shall perfect faith in our heart. Hebrews.12:1
By such supernatural faith we see things that are unseen to the normal man. Faith substantiates the invisible things as true. Hebrtews.11:1.The Hebrew writer goes on to explain the possibilities of faith, using the Old Testament illustrations.
This spiritual faith is what saves us, helps us to continue to trust and take God for His word. So this faith can be called ‘scriptural faith’ or ‘saving faith’. Make no mistake, faith in itself is has no merit. It is by faith we accept all what is said about the Lord Jesus Christ and accept the salvation and other blessings that He offers. The more we grow in our faith, the more of divine work will be done in and through us.
So God allows suffering to examine what kind of faith we have. He wants us to make sure whether we have intellectual faith, secular faith or spiritual faith. Thus trials help us to reflect and make amendments in faith life.
3. Because of the variations in the level of our faith.
Matthew.6:30; 15:28; Luke.17:5. Our level of faith could go up and down. Some have little faith and others greater faith. To grow in our Christian life we need to continue in our faith and be strong as the days go by. If faith is compared to a pipe that flow God’s life & blessings, the more wide the pipe is, the more blessings and life will flow down.
An occasional check in the will and wisdom of God helps us to find out the real stage of our faith and make corrections. So, because of the fluctuating faith trials are essential to scrutinize and reinforce our faith. 2Corinthians.8:7.
4. Because of the satanic attack on our faith. Luke.22:31. cp. Ephesians. 6:16.
We have seen already that how much important faith is in a Christian’s life. The effectiveness and productivity of his spiritual life depend upon His faith. That exactly is the reason why the enemy is focusing on our faith. Evil forces are aiming at a believer’s faith. Satan wanted to swift Peter like wheat. Luke 22:31. The Lord prayed for his faith. So, because our enemy targets our faith the Lord who knows us exactly helps us in various ways to make our faith stronger, including trials!
Of course there are many ways to examine, enlarge and build up our faith. For example regular study of God’s word helps us in growing our faith. (Romans.10:17) also our prayers for more faith also are answered by the Lord. (Lk.17:5). Listening to the exhortations of Godly men also encourages in our faith. (Acts.14:22). However in this study our focus is on the trials that God uses to test and strengthen our faith. 1 Peter.1:6, 7; James.1:3.
5. Because of the effect of our faith in others lives. 2Corinthians. 1:6.
The quality of our faith not only affects our life but also of others. Failure as well as success in our faith gives a lasting impression in other believers. Our faith life could be a challenging example to other Christians. As we successfully face trials and succeed, it is a pattern to others. Our testimony will give comfort and consolation to those who go through similar difficulties. That’s why Paul finds comfort in his difficulties realizing that it is for Corinthians consolation.
Who can forget the impact of the faith life of George Muller or Fanny Crosby etc? Faith of such saints in the midst of difficult situations always challenges Christians to trust God and patiently suffer.
From the above points itself we get the results of sufferings a believer’s life. Trials under God will lead a Christian to brokenness but never to depression and discouragement. “All discipline for the moment seem not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness”. Hebrews.12:11. Testing always produces positive results in a child of God. Job, the one who suffered the worst affirmed, “Though He slay me, I will hope He knows the way I take, in Him...” “When He has tried me I shall come forth as gold”. Job.13:15; 23:10.
A metal goes through the various stages of melting and heating, before it becomes pure and strong. So is a Christian, he becomes more clean, pure and strong as he goes through various trials. Jeremiah.9:7; 1 Peter.1:7; James.1:3.
a. Christ - likeness. Romans. 5:3.
One of the best results of suffering is the Christ like character that will be produced in us. His life and qualities will begin to reflect in us. Paul’s words are noteworthy; “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us.” 2Cor. 4:8-12.
b. Usefulness. 2Corinthians. 1:4.
They will be able to understand others who suffer and empathize with them. Thus their ministry for suffering Christians will be more effective. There will be increased zeal and commitment in a beliers’ life.
c. Promotion. Daniel. 3:30
Apart from character building and quality growth, God will also reward and promote the saints who patiently undergo trials. Dan.3:30.
c. Glory of God. Daniel. 3:23, 29.
God will begin to use such saints for His glory. The fiery trials of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego made Nebuchadnezzar to see the glory of God. In John 11:4ff we see how the Lord allowed not only sickness but even death for the glory of God. There are number of believers in the past who, along with their infirmity glorified the Lord. No trials and tribulations stopped them from witnessing for the Lord. As Paul said their weakness was their strength. 2Corinthians. 12:9, 10.
Then, what should be our response to trial of our faith- suffering? It must be very much positive. Yes, even we must be willing to welcome trials!
Three things are important:-
a. Accept trails. Face it with joy. Realize that whatever God permits is for our good. He will not allow in thing beyond our ability. 1Corinthians. 10:13. cp. Isaiah.28:27. He will grant the needed grace and a way out as well. 2Corinthians.12:9. Even in the midst of difficulties our Lord is close to us. He does not forsake or forget us when we suffer. Isiah. 43:2
b. Wait patiently. Isiah.28:24. 1 Peter.5:10; 1Corinthians.4:7. No trial is for ever. There will be an end. It’s temporary. After a while he will begin to bless, use and strengthen us. Never throw away confidence which has great reward. Heb. 10:35, 36.
c. Yield to His will. Take time to examine self and try to learn the lessons the Lord is trying to teach us. Voluntarily and joyfully surrender self to the purposes of God, whatever may be the situation now or later.
Habakkuk’s resolution may be a fitting conclusion to this study; “Though the fig tree should not blossom, And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold, And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation”. Habkkuk.3:17, 18.
Let it be our resolution too, in any circumstances, trusting in His strength rejoice in the Lord. Such an attitude will bring glory to the Lord, challenge many others and make our life more effective for the Lord.