Trials with a Purpose

by Martin and Deidre Bobgan

The world sees problems as impediments to accomplishments, progress, and happiness. The idea is to get through problems and solve them as soon as possible so that one can get on with life. The Bible presents an entirely different perspective on problems of living and even on the most horrendous trials.

The Bible begins with God's perfect creation of all that exists, including humans created in the image of God, and then reveals the disastrous source of all problems: rebellion against God, first by Satan and his minions, next by Adam and Eve, and then followed by their sin-infested progeny, generation after generation.

Problems of living, therefore, are not isolated human events of grief and disaster, but part of the spiritual battle that has been raging throughout the ages. The Bible is the true story of mankind's sin and rebellion, of God's wrath against sin and His love for mankind, and of His eternal plan for reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

According to His eternal plan and wisdom, God uses mankind's challenges, trials, and sufferings to reveal His glory, to show forth the nature of man, to expose sin, to draw people into relationship with Himself through the Gospel, and to bring forth spiritual growth in His children. Many purposes are fulfilled through trials that work for the good of believers. However, trials in themselves are not necessarily beneficial; it is what God works in the believer through the trials and it is also how the believer responds to God in the midst of those trials. The same trial may afflict two different people, with one turning to God in faith and the other one blaming other people, circumstances, and even God Himself.

God uses problems to expose sin for the purpose of repentance, forgiveness, change, and spiritual growth. God also uses suffering to refine His children into "pure gold" and to glorify Himself. He will use suffering to correct and discipline. Yet, not all suffering is the result of a person's own sin. The apostle Paul suffered greatly because of his faithfulness to preach the Gospel. Nevertheless, whatever the source of suffering, all can be used to show forth God's glory as believers choose to depend on Him and to follow Him in all circumstances.

Christ-centered ministry sees problems as opportunities to know Christ more fully, love Him more deeply, and follow Him more completely. Problems of living can serve a wonderful purpose when people turn to the Lord and seek Him above all else. Indeed trials, problems of living, and suffering are often those times in which the greatest spiritual growth occurs.

Rather than becoming immersed in problems of living and looking mainly to get rid of them, we want to encourage believers to treat problems of living as trials with a purpose. The Bible urges people to look to God and His Word rather than focusing on the problems themselves.

The Book of Job reveals God's purposes in human trials that show forth His glory and wisdom and demonstrate the power of faith in God. After the devastating loss of his children and all his possessions, Job's response was "... the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Then after Satan afflicted him with painful boils all over his body, Job's faith was being tested to its fullest; yet, Job kept his faith, proved Satan wrong, won the spiritual battle, and received great rewards at the end.

It is when our faith is tested that we find God's faithfulness to His Word. The truth of the Gospel we believe is confirmed over and over again in the trenches of daily life. Each test of faith can drive a believer deeper into the Lord as the shield of faith fends off the fiery darts of doubt and condemnation.

Especially in our culture of instant this and one-minute that, waiting on God in the midst of trials both tests and strengthens patience. Suffering brings us into close intimacy with God wherein we taste of Christ's suffering and also of His great consolation as He comforts us. Thus we are enabled to console others with the consolation we have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Believers are not to ask for trials or instigate problems for the sake of spiritual growth. However, trials can serve to make hardy believers, accustomed to the storms of life, as they are being strengthened in faith, developing patience, maturing in every spiritual discipline, and bearing fruit for God's kingdom and glory.

Trials test the faith and reveal whether or not it is genuine. They also reveal areas of unbelief. If we resist trials and murmur and complain, we will not benefit from them. But, if we turn to God in faith, trusting that He will use them for our spiritual growth, then we will benefit far more than we realize at the time.

Trials are not joyous in themselves, but difficult and often painful and even long-lasting. The joy comes from the prospect of God working His perfect will in His children through the trials. It is the kind of joy that Jesus knew during the greatest suffering of all, for it was "the joy that was set before him" (Hebrews 12:2). The joy was in the anticipation of completing the requirements for our salvation, the anticipation of much fruitfulness.

For believers the joy comes through faith in God's promises, that He will accomplish good and that these trials work an "eternal weight of glory", as Paul declared: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).

Remember that what Paul calls his "light affliction" included all of the afflictions, persecutions, great physical pain, and much overall suffering that he lists in the eleventh chapter of 2 Corinthians.

Paul knew that his calling as a Christian was to endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel. As days darken in our circumstances, we need to follow Paul's example of knowing our calling as believers and to use all circumstances for the sake of the Gospel, the glory of God, and our own growth to maturity in Christ.

With the right perspective on problems, instead of being bogged down and preoccupied with them, you will learn to lean on Christ, trust Him, and follow Him through each circumstance.

Excerpted from Person to Person Ministry, by Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Used by permission.

Martin is president of PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries and is a friend and supporter of Bill Rudge Ministries.