The Purpose in Trials (Part 1)
James 1:2-3, “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
In order to test the genuineness of a diamond, a jeweler often will put a diamond in clear water. A real diamond, you see, will sparkle with a special radiance, while an imitation or fake diamond will have almost no sparkle at all. When they then place the two stones side by side it is very easy to tell which one is real, and which one is fake.
In a similar way, even the non-believer notices the difference between a real and false believer. There is a noticeable difference especially when people are undergoing trials. Many professing Christians will say that they have a strong faith until that faith is really tested by hardships and disappointments. How we handle trouble in our lives reveals whether our faith is a real, living faith or a fake and imitation faith.
In Luke 8 Jesus tells the parable of the sower and in verse 13 he says, “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” Then in verse 15 he says, “But the seed in the good soil, those are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
Scripture mentions at least eight purposes for the Lord allowing trials to come into our lives. The first one is because trials test the strength of our faith. The person who is resentful, bitter, and self-pitying when trouble comes along exposes a weak faith. On the other hand, the person who turns to the Lord more and more as things get worse and asks the Lord for His help reveals a faith that is strong.
Exodus 16:4 says, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” In 2 Chronicles 32:31 God tests King Hezekiah, “Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.”
The second reason that God allows trials in our lives is because trials and difficulties humble us. They remind us to not let our trust in the Lord turn to presumption and spiritual self-satisfaction. The greater our blessings, the more Satan will tempt us to look on them as our own accomplishments. They can cause us to become proud rather than humble. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul writes, “for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me – to keep me from exalting myself.”
The third reason that God allows trials in our lives is because it weans us from our dependence on worldly things. The more material possessions we accumulate, the more we tend to rely on those things instead of on God. These things can include not just material possessions but other things as well. Things like education, work, friends, family members, important people we may know, and honors we have been given. While these things in and of themselves are not bad they can easily replace and become our focus instead of God.
In John 6:5-6 there is a crowd of 5,000 people (probably more like 20,000 if you include the women and children), who had been following Jesus all day and they did not have anything to eat. Verse 5 says, “Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?’” Now Jesus knew exactly what He was doing here, He is testing Philip. Verse 6 says, “This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” Verse 7 gives us Philip’s reaction: “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” Philip, instead of trusting the Lord, looked to material resources to solve the problem.
In Hebrews 11:24-26 the writer of Hebrews wrote of Moses, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.”
The fourth reason that God allows trials in our lives is because it calls us to an eternal and heavenly hope. The harder the trials are that we go through and the longer they last the more we tend to look forward to being with God for eternity. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:23-24, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:14, “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.” Then in verse 16 he wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Trials produce many good things in us but often that is very difficult to understand in the midst of those difficulties. Tomorrow we will look at the last four reasons that God allows us to suffer through trials.