The Trial of Our Faith

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” —I Peter 1:7

SINCE the creation of Adam, it has been a universal principle that our Heavenly Father administers trials or tests to prove those with whom he deals. The first man was placed on trial, as were the angels. This principle is so all-inclusive that even his own Son had to undergo testings and trials. We are told that Jesus learned obedience by the things which he suffered.—Heb. 5:8

The Apostle Peter wrote about the trial of our faith as being precious. Yet how easy it is to view a trial out of context with the totality of our experiences—to bemoan our lot, and think any trial is a terrible thing. But, as our subject text implies, the trial of our faith is used by God to develop us as we walk the narrow way.

The opening words of the epistle of James reads: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:2,3) It will help us whenever we are going through difficult experiences to remember that the on has a lesson for us in life’s trials just as in life’s blessings.

The Living Bible’s translation does make James’ words ‘come alive’ with its translation of the original Greek text “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”

Our trials are really opportunities. We can never become the purposed instruments of God’s grace in the future kingdom of Christ unless we have been rightly exercised by the trials and testings we have in this life. So we should view our vicissitudes as primarily developing the graces of the Spirit within us. Although James particularly mentions patience, all the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit are being developed and tested: love, faith, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, humility, and self-control, as well as patience.

Israel As an Example

Although we usually reserve the use of the word ‘consecration’ as applying to those who offer themselves to God during this present Gospel Age, the term can also be applied to Israel. Each Israelite dedicated himself to the Law Covenant; they swore allegiance to it. They were “baptized in the sea and in the cloud.” (I Cor. 10:2) At Sinai they said, “All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.”—Exod. 24:3

The Law put Israel on a high moral plane. A brief summary of that Law was given by Jesus when he was asked what was the greatest commandment in the Law. He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. [Quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5.] And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. [Quoted from Leviticus 19:18.]” (Matt. 22:37,39) If they had truly followed the Law, the Israelites would not have been preoccupied with themselves, but would have loved and sacrificed for their neighbors also.

As Christians during the Gospel Age, we come to God as Israel did, and say we will do all that he has asked of us. “All the words which the on hath said,” has been distilled into loving the Lord with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. When we love the Lord with all our hearts, our priorities will be set, and we will know how to live and act. Daily the Lord tests us to see if we really mean what we say, just as he tested Israel. “The Lord your God proved’ you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”—Deut. 13:3

We will not be surprised when, during a trying experience, we do not fully understand how or where the Lord is leading us! He has never promised to explain why something was happening to us while it was occurring. On the contrary, “How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33) While undergoing these vicissitudes we may not understand what the Lord’s purpose is, because his ways are higher than our ways. Although, if we were directing our experiences, we might do things quite differently, the Lord’s decision has been made, and we must learn to accept it.

Israel had many difficult problems to face during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But they were blessed when they finally entered into the Promised Land. Moses, in reminding Israel of the leadings of the Lord, gave the reason for all their experiences as being “to humble and to test [them] so that in the end it might go well with [them].” (Deut. 8:16, NIV) And so it is with us. First come the trials, and, if we are rightly exercised by them, in the end come the blessings. Faith in the Lord tells us that he is doing what is best for our spiritual interests. Later we will understand.

A Partnership

The eighth chapter of Romans contains this wonderful promise: “We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [his] design and purpose.” (Rom. 8:28, Amplified Bible) The thought suggested by this translation is a good one: things work out for good when we are partners with God.

It is all too easy in our Christian walk to make a motion, second it, and then proceed to implement it. If it results in disaster, we act surprised and wonder what went wrong. Did we involve our partner in our plans? If we did, then all things will work together for our good. We may not completely understand any one trial or blessing, but this text says our experiences “fit into a plan.” Just as the individual pieces of a puzzle make little sense, but the big picture is beautiful when all the pieces are properly brought together.

A human parent might withhold something his child wants because he knows that at this stage of his life it will hurt the child’s development or character in the long run. The Heavenly Father sometimes does the same thing. He may deny us things we want because he knows it might damage us at this point in our Christian development. Our faith should see God’s appointment even in life’s disappointments. If we knew everything, we would have no need for faith. But when we cannot understand all his ways, yet try to live close to him, following his commandments as though we did know everything, then we will have the victory that comes through faith.

Joseph As an Example

Joseph stands out as an excellent example of one who trusted God even though he had many dark and perplexing encounters in his life. He accepted whatever happened because he loved God with all his heart.

When Joseph was a young man, he had a dream. He saw eleven sheaves of corn standing upright and bowing down before one sheaf. Because of his youth, he discussed this dream with his brothers, who did not like it at all. They were skeptical that a time would ever come when they would bow down to Joseph. They called him a dreamer after that, and the dream remained a puzzle even to Joseph.

Until the age of seventeen, Joseph was blessed with the favor of the Lord and his father, Jacob. The Lord used these blessings to prepare him for a future purpose. But at this tender age, because of the hatred and jealousy of his brothers, he was cruelly sold by them into slavery. This must have been an overwhelming ordeal for one so young.

But, despite the evil motive which forced him into this position, when he arrived in Egypt he prospered in his occupation at Potiphar’s house. He could see clearly that God was protecting him, and overruling for good the events of his life. However, he was soon hit by another completely unexpected trial: he was thrown into prison for something he did not do! What was to be the fulfillment of his blessing his brethren, and their bowing before him? He did not know. For three years he simply had to endure what the Lord permitted to come upon him.

Later it all became plain. He was elevated to the right hand of Pharaoh, and supervised the collection of grain during the seven fat years so there would be food enough during the seven lean years. All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place when there was a famine in Canaan, and the sons of Jacob came down to Egypt to find food.

They did not recognize their brother, Joseph. After he revealed himself to them they were very distressed—terrified that the one whom they had so mercilessly wronged was now powerful and in control. They trembled. Yet Joseph said that although they meant to do evil, God made good to come out of it. “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance, so now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.”—Gen. 45:7,8

As he reviewed his life, Joseph did not see the trials and difficulties—he saw the good. He knew he was to extract from every experience the good that God had put into it.

When we are perplexed by some difficulty, taking it to the Lord in prayer, we may wait a week, a month, or sometimes a year, to see how he means it to be for our good. But Joseph had to wait twenty-two years until all the pieces came together and he could see the complete picture. So we should not become discouraged simply because we still do not know how to interpret all the events that constitute the pattern of our lives. God’s purposes often seem to develop slowly according to our perceptions. It is not for us to demand of God why we must go through one experience or another.

Abraham As an Example

Abraham was a mighty man of God—the father of the faithful. He too walked with God for long periods when he could not understand everything that was happening to him. He was about seventy-five years old when the Covenant was ratified with him in Haran, just prior to his entering into Canaan. He was promised that it would be through him that all the families of the earth would be blessed.

But Abraham did not have all the pieces of the puzzle. For twenty-five perplexing years he wondered how God would do this because he and Sarah were of advanced age. But as the father of the faithful, he kept his faith and followed the Lord even when he could not trace him.

Some eleven years later, he and Sarah decided that it must be through her maid, Hagar, that the promised seed of blessing would come. (Gen. 16:2,16) The Lord rejected this arrangement. Abraham could not understand what God planned to do. Finally, when Abraham was one hundred years old, God told him he was to become a father, and Sarah, his wife, would be the mother. But Abraham had his doubts: “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee.”—Gen. 17:17,18

Sometimes we are like Abraham. We want the Lord to see things our way, and to accept our solutions. We must learn what Abraham learned: the judgments of the Lord are unsearchable and his ways past finding out! We must keep our faith in him even when the answers to problems are not apparent. God is fitting the pieces of our life into a complete picture which will only be fully seen when he is ready to reveal it.

If we have prayed and worried over our lack of understanding of what the Lord is accomplishing in our lives, we should not be discouraged because a year or two goes by without an answer. Abraham had to wait twenty-five years from the time the promise was made to him before he understood how God would fulfill it!

So, let us acknowledge that God is indeed working out great things in our lives. Let us work with God in every experience, making ourselves his partners. Only then can it be said that all things are working together for our good.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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