How do you respond to the trials of life that seem to stretch and test your faith?
Do you moan and complain seeking for the quickest way out?
Or do you rejoice and choose to patiently see it out allowing it to complete its own course?
Tough one this.
Let’s take a closer look at the apostle Paul’s approach and attitude that he chose to adopt toward sufferings and trials in his own life.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
The great apostle Paul’s joy in suffering was not an aberrant streak in his character or a deviation from the norm but one that was consistent with the teachings of Christ and the rest of the apostles. The Lord Jesus Himself encouraged and taught His disciples to take great joy when facing persecutions and tribulations on account of His name which was exactly the case with the apostle Paul.
He was languishing in a Roman prison cell incarcerated by the Roman emperor Nero on account of his faith in Christ and His calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. The Lord Jesus had anticipated this long before and not only did He let His followers know in advance what to expect but instructed them to rejoice in their sufferings for His name’s sake. Here’s why.
Matthew 5:10 — l12
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Ultimately, there is great reward reserved in heaven for those who suffer and are persecuted unjustly on account of their faith in Christ. The Lord says this is reason enough to rejoice! And the apostle Paul not only understood this but gladly obliged – hence his rejoicing in his sufferings.
The apostles James and Peter also spoke about rejoicing in trials and tribulations of all kinds and not necessarily directly associated with confession of our faith reminding us of their benefits in our lives. The apostle James tells us direct to count it all joy when we face trials of all sorts for these trials carry their own benefits with them.
James 1:2 — 3
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Trials produce in us a steadfastness, a firming that nothing else can. It is easy and effortless to profess faith in unchallenged times and situations but the real test of faith comes when it is truly challenged by trials and tribulations. It is here that it is not only tested but firmed and consolidated too. It is faith tested that is faith triumphant.
On the other hand Peter acknowledges that trials and sufferings cause grief – albeit temporary – but nonetheless have a huge role to play in treating and refining our faith which he deems “more precious than gold which perishes”.
1 Peter 1:6 — 7
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It is such faith that is tested and refined through various (in quality and quantity) trials that results in praise, glory and honour at the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, to summarise and recap, the various trials that we face and experience through the course of our lives whatever their genesis or nature are not actually as harmful or detrimental to our faith but, on the contrary, produce some amazing benefits that we would otherwise been unable to acquire. The persecution and tribulation we face on account of our faith guarantees us great reward in heaven while the trials and tribulations of various kinds that we experience create a firmness of faith within us leading to greater maturity and perfection as well as testing the genuineness of our faith and refining it in preparation for the return of our blessed Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
We all face or will face various trials of all sorts in our lives. It may be the unexpected loss of a loved one, unexpected setbacks in advances in life be it in education, relationships or career, illness or injury. Whatever it is you are facing right now that can be classed as trial or tribulation, you alone decide what your approach and attitude will be.
Will it be one of moaning and complaining or glorying and rejoicing?
Take a long term and biblical perspective to all the trials you face in life – however small or big, be it at your workplace or in your studies, in your relationships or personal life.
Whatever is challenging your faith has not been allowed in your life by God (unless of course you have knowingly and deliberately walked into it) to break it but to firm it. Firmness of faith, genuineness and refining is what God has in mind for your faith as He selectively allows trials of various sorts to test it. And he wants you to not only take it on the chin but with joy and gladness as you clock its benefits in your life.