Thinking Biblically about trials

19 May

While in the middle of a 5-year legal ordeal resulting from an unwanted divorce, I made a laminated card describing how to react to trials.
I listened repeatedly to sermons by Pastor John MacArthur, especially those on James 1, while hiding out in my house in fear of arrest. I laminated a card, for quick reference, which helped me summarize how to react to trials:
God is allowing trial
Be joyful, humble
Let trial chasten you
God has a plan, is sovereign
Trials makes you more Christ-like
Pray to God for wisdom
God gives wisdom generously
Pray to God for direction to be joyful
Persevere by faith
Quiet your soul be trusting God
Have a believing heart
Look forward, not at circumstances
Love God above all
James Chapter 1, verse 2 says to count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.
How can you look at a trial joyfully? James, the half-brother of Christ, addresses the passage to “brethren.” Believers can have joy in trials because they live in Christ, and He in them. Christ accompanies us as we move through the trial. And joy is a fruit of the Spirit Who lives in us. (Gal. 5:22)
We belong to Christ, a fact that overshadows circumstances. Circumstances on Earth are temporal. We are citizens of heaven, our eternal home. (Phil. 3:20)
Hebrews 11:13 talks about those who lived by faith, realizing they “were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
The world would not always be our friend. We are strangers here.
Scripture also tells us that God chastens His children.
“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Heb. 12:5-11
The NKJV MacArthur Study Bible in Hebrews 12:6 says, “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
Christ was scourged.
God disciplines believers so they can share in His holiness, Hebrews 12 says.
How do we respond to chastening?
Again, the Bible tells us in James 1 that we should consider it all joy when we face trials.
“Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.” Job 5:17
Why joy? Trials bring us closer to God.
Trials will yield great fruit if we humble ourselves before God, seek Him, turn over our cares to Him, and acknowledge His sovereign rule over every atom in the universe.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
At the end of the trial we will know God better, a glorious outcome.
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD.’” Jer. 9:23-24
And trouble is inevitable.
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Trials in this world are a guarantee. If we don’t understand the certainty of trouble, we are susceptible to the siren song of those who cast blame when bad times take hold.
The critics and second-guessers will wreak havoc if we expect constant comfort and good tidings.
The world is fallen. All mankind is sinful. We can expect trouble.
Christ has responded emphatically, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We can steadily and confidently move through trials by trusting God and by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and promises in His Word.
“For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Heb. 13:5b-6

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