Trials and struggles are part of the Christian experience. God has ordained them, and he brings them about according to his wisdom, love, mercy, and his perfect good pleasure. God uses them skillfully to bring about any number of desirable results both in and for his children. Trials are the means by which Christians receive disciplining, guidance purifying, softening, strengthening, refocusing, reminding, rebuking, refining, preparing, and teaching occur. It is no wonder that we are told not to be surprised at them.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” ~ 1 Peter 4:13
Testing! There’s another one for the list!
I think, however, that often the greatest purpose in our trials will be hidden from us if we are only considering ourselves. I think that perhaps the greatest purpose our trials will serve is to be an encouragement and blessing to others.
His trial was probably the most fiery trial any man apart from Christ has faced. He literally lost more than most of us will ever have in a lifetime, all within a few short minutes. When he finally got an audience with God, he wanted to know WHY he had suffered so much. After all this suffering, surely God will step in to encourage his faithful servant right?
Wrong. How’s this for an answer
“Who is this that darkens my counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you and you make it known to me.” ~ Job 38:2-3
What follows are one hundred and twenty five verses, three whole chapters, of sheer glory, power, majesty, sovereignty, wisdom, and strength; all of which belong to God, and to him alone. After his incredible trial, Job meets God and is FAR from comforted; the encounter left him despising himself.
Perhaps you have read the book of Job and been comforted before. As I read Chapters 38 and 39, I got so pumped up that I am going to crash pretty soon. (Sometimes scripture has the same effect on me that energy drinks do!) Countless millions have been inspired, awestruck, uplifted, and humbled through Job’s trial.
The fiery trial for him resulted in untold blessings for others.
Sounds a bit like Jesus, doesn’t it?
It is in this spirit that I will share a poem about a fiery trial that I experienced just a few months ago. Essentially, for about six days I had thoughts and feelings that I was not actually saved, that I would spend the rest of my days apart from Christ and have hell as my eternal home after I died. I was unable to defend myself against them or rally any sort of hope or joy or faith, and especially in the first two days, I was barely able to function as these thoughts and feelings dominated my mind almost constantly.
It was terrible in and of itself and even worse because of it’s effect on my wife, whom had experienced me as very spiritually solid up until this point.
One of the things I found through this trial was the knowledge that I could lose absolutely everything; my joy, my purpose, my mental health, my emotional stability, my ministry, my favor with people, my wife, my job, my son; I could lose it all, and yet I can never loose the work of Christ on my behalf. Through this trial, I was reminded that the righteousness of Christ is stored up for me in heaven, far far removed from my ability to ruin it. I can’t loose it because it isn’t my righteousness. It is Christ’s, and it can never be lost or ruined. That means I can loose it all, and I’ll still have that.
Off to 5 south with me? so be it! I may very well wind up a terrified, whimpering, shell of a man, more of a worm; and yet I’ll be alright, because Christ’s righteousness is mine, and as sure as he lives I shall have it in the end.
I know that God ordained this trial for a number of reasons personal to me. I trust that there will be purpose in it beyond myself; that it will be an encouragement and testimony to the greatness of God and the glories of his salvation.
This Week ~ by Kaleb Penner
This week I thought I’d go to hell
At times it seemed so sure
And even just the thought of it
was a hell to endure
This week I thought I’d go to hell and oft my soul did quake,
and many nights I tossed and turned; sweating, wide awake.
This week I thought I’d go to hell, the prospect seemed so certain;
That on the day I die I’d wake behind the fiery curtain.
This week I thought I’d go to hell, I thought that God would throw
my never ending soul into the darkest depths below.
for all the youthful years wherewhich I did not heed the LORD,
though all along I sung his songs and looked upon his Word.
And though I’ve claimed him as my own I’ve often this week felt
that I am really an apostate who has even fooled himself.
This week I felt I’d go to hell, that nothing could retain me;
hopelessly I groped for hope, my faith unable to sustain me
This week I thought I’d go to hell; for fire that once burned bright
within for Christ and rightouesness seemed lost in darkest night.
This week my heart condemned me, my thoughts and feelings too;
and so my heart did fear and thus became hard through and through.
My hope was spent, my mind was bent, I was a total wreck.
Yet in this state a truth so great did keep my soul in check.
That God made him who knew no sin to become sin for me
And if that be the case then I may certainly go free.
For if he became my sin, and died, then what is left of me?
My sin is dead, not else remains but life eternally!
This week I thought I’d go to hell
but when the week was through, I said
“my thoughts and feelings can be damned;
the work of Christ holds true”
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
“”He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” ~ 1 Peter 2:24
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.” ~ Isaiah 53:5-6
“Jesus said, “It is finished.” ~ John 19:30
Special thanks to John Fitzpatrick who was such a great encouragement to me through the “trial” week. I must also credit Ray Comfort, I read his blog post on Job today and his main point found its way into this post. “Give credit where credit is due…” (kind of Romans 13:7)