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THE TRIALS OF FAITH

By: Rev. Stephen Hosea

 

The Greek word of “trial” is “peirasmois”. It is the same Greek word used for “temptation”. So “peirasmois” can mean both “trial” and “temptation”. It is like a coin with one side is temptation and the other side is trial. In order to understand whether it means “trial” or “temptation”, we must look at the context of the passage in the Bible. In James 1:2-3, James uses this word for “trial”. In James 1:13-16, he uses this word for “temptation”. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, Peter also uses this word for “trial”. I would like to focus my message here on “trial”.

 

What is a trial? What does it mean to you?

Trial is something or someone to be put to the test; or something or someone has been gone through the test.  Like silver or gold is put into fire for a test.

Before I talk about trial, I would like to make clear with you the differences between trial and temptation.

  1. Trial often comes from God to bring out the good for you. It builds you up. But temptation often comes from Satan or Lust to bring out the worst for you. It tears you down.
  2. The goal of trial is to make you to be stronger, purer, and more mature in faith. It develops character. But the goal of temptation is to make you to fall into sins and at the end to destroy you. It ruins character.
  3. Trial is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in the will of God. But temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of the will of God. Such as a student who is tempted to cheat to pass the exam in order to accomplish a good thing in a bad way.

 

THREE ASPECTS OF TRIALS:

There are 3 aspects of trials that I would like to describe to you:

 

A. THE ATTITUDE TO TRIALS

What kind of attitude should you have toward trials? Do you blame others and God when they experience trials. Do you complain to others and God?

I remember a humorous story of an Irishman, a Mexico, and a Redneck. They were doing construction work on a tall building. After lunchtime, the Irishman opened his lunch box and said, “Corned beef! If I get corned beef one more time for lunch, I am going to jump off this building.” The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed, “Burritos again”. And he said the same thing. The Redneck opened his lunch and said, “Bologna again!” Then he said the same thing too. On the next day, the Irishman opened his box, he saw corned beef and jumped. The Mexican and the Redneck jumped as well. At the funeral, the Irish wife was weeping. She said, “If I had known how really tired he was of corned beef, I never would have given it to him again!”. The Mexican wife wept and said, “I could have given him tacos! I did not realize he hated burritos so much.” Everyone turned and stared all the Redneck’s wife. “Hey don’t look at me,” she said, “He always made his own lunch.” This story reminds us that we often create our own problems and then look for someone to blame.

What do James and Peter teach us about our attitude toward trials?

James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”  (James 1:2)

Peter also said, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” (1 Peter 1:6).

James and Peter teach us that we should rejoice in trials. They said, “count it all joy” or “you greatly rejoice”. Rejoice in What? Rejoice in something good? No, but rejoice in various kinds of trials. This is totally contrary to public views of trials. Most people are unhappy, angry, terrified, disappointed with trials. But we are taught to be joyful. Instead of angry, blaming, complaining, losing hope, we must rejoice. We should have a proper, a right and positive attitude toward trials.

The word “count” means to consider, deem, regard trial as a great joy. The word “count” is a command because joy is not the natural response to trouble. We must count it all joy that God is testing us in this way. To count it all joy means we must have joy in the highest degree. We must not let our troubles overwhelm us. We must rule over the troubles by being joyful and thankful. When bad things get in our lives, God wants us to be thankful and joyful.

Abraham Lincoln was a good example for us. He gave thank in the midst of trouble.

Abraham Lincoln was a man whom many believe that he was the greatest American president in American history. When he was 7 years of age, his family was forced out of their home, and he went to work. When he was 9, his mother died. He lost his job as a store clerk when he was 20. He wanted to go to law school, but he did not have the education. At age 23, he went into debt to be a partner in a small store. Three years later the business partner died, and the resulting debt took years to repay. When he was 28 after courting a girl for 4 year he asked her to marry him, and she turned him down. On his third try, he was elected to Congress at the age of 37, but then failed to be re-elected. His son died at 4 years of age. When this man was 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At age 47, he ran for the vice-presidency and lost. But at age of 51, he was elected President of the US.

Abraham Lincoln had learned to face discouragement and moved beyond it. Did you know that it was Abraham Lincoln who in the midst of the Civil Was in 1863, established the annual celebration of Thanksgiving? He had learned how important it is to thank God in the midst of great difficulties.

We must remember that God does not give us trouble for trouble’s sake; but for the sake of our goodness. The reason that trials must be considered for joy is that trials can develop the character of perseverance, patience or endurance. Perseverance enables us to stand on our feet to face our troubles. If we persevere until the end, we will pass the test, and become complete and perfect in our faith. So if we count trials as all joy, we will see the bright side of our trials and will treat them with an optimistic and positive attitude.

 

B. THE NATURES OF TRIALS

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” (1 Pet 1:6)

In this verse, Peter teaches us 4 natures of trials:

 

1. TRIALS ARE BRIEF

Peter points out that our present trials are temporary, brief and just for a little while. He assures us that our trials will only last “for a little while.” All the troubles, wounds, pains we suffer will have a season. One day they will pass in times.

Of course, for some Christian when they are in the furnace of trials that “little while” seems to last forever. One Sunday morning, a pastor asked a man how things were going, he shook his head and said, “Things are falling apart.” He told him that he should listen closely to his sermon because he was preaching on how our trials are brief. He chuckled and said, “They don’t seem brief to me.” I think, we can understand his feelings.

When you sit by the bedside of a loved one in the hospital, time seems to pass so slowly. When your marriage crumbles or your children are in trouble or you lose your job and can’t pay your bills, the trial seems to go on forever. In what sense can Peter say that our trials are brief? It is not in the sense of our feelings but comparing with the long term plans of God in your life and with the eternity. Our trials may last for weeks or months or years, sometimes they last for decades, it seems that they are endless. But in God’s sight, even the worst trials are brief in comparison with his long term plan for you. And God knows the times of your trials and the abilities you have to endure the trials. He is faithful, he promises that he will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear them (1 Cor 10:13)

Do you know how long Job was in the trials from God? Job had loss all his possessions, all his children, all his health, all his relatives and friends. We do not know for sure. We assume probably several months or a year. But compared to the length and greatness of the future God had planned for him, all the distresses of his life were very little and short indeed (cf. 5:10). After a certain period of trials, Job passed the test and he testified and said, “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

“Before I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.” ( Job 42:5)

2. TRIALS ARE NECESSARY

Here Peter uses the phrase: “You may have had to suffer” or “If it is at present necessary,” (as Barclay translated) to assure us that our trials are necessary. Literally, the Greek reads, “If necessary for a little while.” We cannot avoid from trials and we are not exempted from trials. Even though we are not sure how long we will suffer, but suffering is necessary.

Why trials are necessary to us? Trials help us grow spiritually. That’s why Martin Luther called adversity was “the very best book in my library.” And George Whitefield declared, “God puts burs in our bed to keep us watchful and awake.”

Gold must be tested in order to be genuine, silver must be refined in order to be pure. Olive seeds must be pressed in order to produce oil, grape must be squeezed in order to produce wine, strings of violin must be tightly pulled straight in order to produce music, etc. The trials that come to us are the test of our faith, and out of the trials our faith can emerge stronger, purer and firmer.

There are times we need to go through different trials. However, God may use it to discipline us when disobey His will (Ps 119:67); to prepare us for spiritual growth, and prevent us from sinning (2 Cor. 12:-9). It comes to us so that our faith may be proved genuine.

3. TRIALS ARE COLORFUL

James said, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” (James 1:2)

Peter also said, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,” (in all kinds of trials, NIV)

James and Peter point out that our trials are various. It means that our trials are varicolored, manycolored or manyfold. Our trials are in many kinds, they can be natural disasters, wars, losses of possession, life, job and hope, accidents, sickness, persecutions, life pressures and distresses, etc. They may come to us in many different ways, shapes, and degrees. They may come to us over and over in a short time or a long time. Our trials are not all alike. They are like variegated yarn that the weaver users make a beautiful rug. God arranges and mixes the colors of trials produce a beautiful rug in our life for his glory.

On the contrary, Peter also describes the grace of God is many-fold or many colored (I Pet 4:10). Our troubles may be many-colored, but so the grace of God. God manyfold and colorful grace is sufficient for us to meet our manyfold and various kinds of trials. There is no situation that the grace of God cannot match. Whatever life is doing to us, God’s grace can enable us overcome it. God’s grace can match every trial. There is no trial without its grace.

4. TRIALS ARE GRIEVOUS

Our trials are brief, necessary, various, and grievous. Peter points out: “you have been grieved by various trials.”  Peter acknowledges that our manyfold trials will bring grief and pain.

Pain is the principle of growth. Without pain you cannot growth. Imagine if you were gold to be refined in the furnace, you would feel how painful are you, wouldn’t you? Imagine if you were the branches a vine to be trimmed and cut by the gardener, you would feel how painful are you, wouldn’t you? Without pain you cannot be genuine like gold, and cannot bear much fruit like the branches of vine.

C. THE REWARDS OF TRIALS

Peter points out that “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1:7 NIV.)

Trials have a purpose. They bring rewards for those who have gone through the tests.

Peter exposes 2 rewards from trials:

 

1. We suffer trials so that our faith may be proved the genuine. The test removes all of the impurities and makes us pure and precious like gold.

After Job had gone through the trial, he testified: “But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Did you know that it takes four tons of gold ore to produce one ounce of pure gold? During the refining process, the gold ore is heated in a giant furnace until it melts; the dross or waste material is skimmed off, leaving only the pure gold at the bottom. In ancient times goldsmiths knew they had pure gold when they could look at the gold and see their reflection. That’s what God intends to refine us through our trials. He puts us in the furnace to burn off our greed, impatience, unkindness, anger, bitterness, hatred, lust, and selfishness. For most of us, that’s a lifetime process. But in the end, God wants our faith come forth from the fire to become more pure and precious.

It is not faith, but the trial of faith, that is here pronounced to be precious. A faith that can’t be tested cannot be trusted. A false faith or a genuine faith can be seen through trial of life.

2. We suffer trials so that we may be found to praise, honor, and glory when Jesus appears at his second coming.

Peter uses a wonderful word “precious” to describe the reward of the trial of our faith. He assures us that after the trials, our faith is much more precious than gold. As the result of this refining, our faith will receive praise, glory and honor, when Jesus comes.

Abraham is a good example for us. God praised and honored Abraham after he passed the test of offering his son Isaac as a burned offering on the altar.

“Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son’ blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:15-18)

James also points out that after the trials of our faith, the Lord promises, we will receive the crown of life as praise, glory and honor.

“Blessed is the man who endures trial; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (Jam 1:12)

In conclusion, what are your personal reactions to trials?

 

1. Turn trials into Triumphs

Have you ever seen a bumper sticker that reads: “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!” It is easier to smile at this statement than to practice it, but the philosophy is sound. It means to turn defeat into victory and trials into triumph. Instead of being victims, you become victors.

 

2. Turn troubles into treasures

Realize that each trial is a God-given opportunity for growth. Most of us do not like troubles that come into our lives. We tend to rebel against them rather than endure to them. God uses trials to produce a beautiful pearl in our lives. Look at an oyster. Oyster is wise and long suffering. When sand gets in his body, he experiences irritated and painful. But he tries to cover his irritation and pain from the sand with the most precious part of his body and makes the sand become a pearl. A true pearl is turning troubles into treasures, and making victories over irritation and pain. Every trouble is an opportunity to produce a pearl in our lives.

At the end of trials, when Jesus appears in his second coming, we will receive from Him praise, glory and honor. We will face Him and hear Him says “Well done!”

 

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