It is very common to find a mindset within Christian circles that “bad things happen to bad people,” a type of Eastern mysticism which is not supported by the Bible. This type of karma thinking may seem to make sense, while at the same time making us feel safer – because if we are good, then bad things will not happen to us.
Whatever the source, the general presumption is, if a believer has tribulation or trial in their life, it must be because they have done something wrong that God is punishing them for.
This type of conclusion may be based upon transference onto God concerning a Believer’s earthly father, who may have not been the best example of what fatherhood was meant to be.
Yet, if one examines God’s Word, concerning Believers only; when trials or tribulations occur, a majority of the time it is not punitive, but used to either grow faith in the life of the Believer, or achieve other positive outcomes – eventually (Romans 8:28, eventually).
The same cannot be said for the unbeliever, yet within the Bible it is the unbeliever that is normally the focus when punishment and tribulation are connected, therefore giving the impression that this is true for the Believer as well – it is not.
Unlike earthly fathers, God’s primary tool in training (which is what the word chastisement means – “training” ~ Hebrews 12:8), is not punitive discipline.
If Sin is the Problem
It is only common sense that if you are aware that you are committing sin and then trial start to come, perhaps God is trying to get your attention. This is obvious, so what do you do; give up the sin.
However, most of the time God uses trials / tribulations in the life of the believer in order to stretch the individuals faith in God in a way that only trials can, not done in anger; but loving care.
We could start with the oldest book of the Bible, Job. His trials were based on nothing that he had done, in fact he had lived a very righteous life; I’m sure much more than any of us have. Yet, he spent a year of his life, suffering loss and physical pain, that produced in him the greatest faith perhaps known (Job’s conclusion: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” ~ Job 13:15), except for that of Jesus (“…nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” ~ Mark 14:36).
It is very difficult, especially if you have been raised in an abusive or strict environment, to not think that if a trial comes your way it’s because you did something wrong.
But the problem of always focusing on this means that the Believer doesn’t focus on what they need to be fixated on, trusting God.
If you don’t know why a trial is happening (if it’s not obvious), and you spend all your time, while going through trial trying to figure out what you did wrong, you may miss the opportunity to understand that this situation is to teach you to yet trust Him no matter how bad it gets.
God’s promise is not to take us out of trials; out of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), but to be with us as we go through it.
This is the promise of Jesus: “…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:20)
Trials In the Life of Believers1
To glorify God. The most important for us (Dan. 3:16-18, Dan. 3:24-25)
To build faith. The most important to us (1 Pet. 1:6-7; Jam. 1:2-4) To cause growth (Rom. 5:3-5)
To prove the reality of Christ in us (2 Cor. 4:7-11)
To testify to Angels (Job 1:8; Eph. 3:8-11; 1 Pet. 1:12)
To equip us to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
To prevent us from falling into sin (1 Pet. 4:1-2)
To keep us from pride. Paul’s thorn (2 Cor. 12:7)
To teach obedience & discipline (Acts 9:15-16; Philip. 4:11-13)
To Discipline for known sin (Heb. 12:5-11; Jam. 4:17; Rom. 14:23; 1 Joh. 1:9)
So what do we do when we come into a trial?
The easiest thing is to consider if there is sin in your life that God is attempting to correct.
If that is not the case, then what I do is I start at the top of the list, and if it fits; that is what I accept.
But I’ve also come to understand that whatever the primary reason may be for a trial, in the life of the believer; there is always the aspect of God growing faith in their life.
So, if there is sin, repent and trust the Lord. If it is to teach us compassion for others, trust in God knowing that this is the only way to gain empathy (Sympathy is when we feel sorrow for what someone is going through, and we have never been through that situation ourselves. Empathy is when we to have experienced the same thing that they are experiencing – sympathy needs no qualification, empathy does – Christ empathizes with us, not just has sympathy for us).
If God is dealing with our pride, confess it; learn from it, and trust God.
If the only thing that makes sense is that God is teaching us discipline and obedience, submit under God’s mighty hand, and trust Him.
You see one of the valuable things about the lesson of faith, is that no matter what the reason for a trial or tribulation is that we are going through, besides perhaps addressing that factor, there is always the aspect of faith.
So even if you have no idea why you’re going through the trial, you always know that faith is one of its goals.
Spiritual Maturity comes as we learn to accept every trial and tribulation as being filtered through the loving hands of our Father, and that faith is always one of God’s objectives.
James said it best when he said:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Warren’s words deserve consideration on this matter of trials in faith.
Warren Wiersbe States Concerning James 1:2-4
One of the best tests of Christian maturity is tribulation. When God’s people go through personal trials, they discover what kind of faith they really possess. Trials not only reveal our faith; they also develop our faith and Christian character. The Jews to whom James was writing were experiencing trials, and he wanted to encourage them. The strange thing is that James tells them to rejoice! The word “greeting” in James 1:1 can mean “rejoice!” How is the Christian able to have joy in the midst of troubles? James gives the answer in this first chapter by showing the certainties Christians have in times of tribulation.
I. We Can Be Sure of the Purpose of God (James 1:1-12)
The experiences that come to the children of God are not by accident (Romans 8:28). We have a loving Heavenly Father who controls the affairs of this world and who has a purpose behind each event. Christians should expect trials to come; James does not say “if” but “when.” (The Gk. word for “temptation” in James 1:2 means “testings or trials”; while the Gk. word for “tempt” in James 1:13 means “solicitation to do evil.”) What is God’s purpose in trials? It is the perfection of Christian character in His children. He wants His children to be mature (perfect), and maturity is developed only in the laboratory of life. Trials can produce patience (see Romans 5:3), which means “endurance”; and endurance in turn leads the believer into deeper maturity in Christ. God put young Joseph through thirteen years of testing that He might make a king out of him. Peter spent three years in the school of testing to be changed from sand to a rock! Paul went through many testings, and each one helped to mature his character. Of course, it takes faith on the part of the Christian to trust God during testings, but knowing that God has a divine purpose in mind helps us to yield to Him.2
Also see: Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh (Link)
1. Thanks to Chuck Missler for teaching most of this list, and to his unmentioned original source (Bullinger)
2. WIERSBE BIBLE COMMENTARY: NEW TESTAMENT, Warren W. Wiersbe, Rick Myers; www.e-sword.net
The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’
is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was ‘involved’
the pig was ‘committed’.”
This is at least short for me. bb