“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
Consider some major adversity in your life and reflect on God’s purpose in sending it or permitting it. Here are some possibilities:
- Punishment for sin. No believer will face punishment for sin in eternity. But while here on earth Christians may suffer as a result of sin. In former days when tragedy struck, people ask, “For which of my many sins is God judging me? “ Today we tend to ask., “What’s wrong with God? Why me, who deserves so much better?” In searching for the purpose of your grief, it doesn’t hurt to ask the former question because God still does punish sin.
- Chastisement. The chief purpose of punishment is often to bring erring children back to the right way. (Psalm 119: 67, 71; Hebrews 12: 5-11).
- God may punish an erring child as a warning or example to others to be careful. (1 Corinthians 10: 11).
- Guidance. Sometimes God allows hard times to get us to go somewhere or do something we otherwise might not consider ( Acts 8: 1, 4; Matthew 10: 23).
- Suffering prepares a person to help others. (1 Corinthians 1:3-4). Sometimes it’s difficult to be truly comforted by one who has not suffered. Suffering is God’s great tenderizer. If you have difficulty in deciding what purpose God has in mind for sending or permitting a particular adversity, it may be because there two more important purposes in suffering. Those listed above are sometimes God’s reason, but often these purposes are difficult to sort out, as you may have discovered. There are two purposes, however, that are always present are in every trial. It is simpler to concentrate on those!
- God’s glory. When I respond to trouble with childlike confidence in God, people see it and give God the credit, whether they see a miraculous deliverance or miraculous strength in the midst of suffering (1 Corinthians 12:7-10). Suffering always has that purpose – the glory of God.
- Your growth. Suffering also has the purpose of growing you up into Christ’s own likeness – a fast track on the spiral up. Every circumstance in my life is designed to make me more like Jesus: the Spirit… pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way; And then everything, as we know, He cooperates for good with those who love God and are called according to their His purpose. For God knew his own before ever they were, and also ordained that they should be shaped into the likeness of his Son (see Romans 8:27-28).
Talk about a powerful spiral up! The Holy Spirit uses everything in the life of believers for the purpose he had all along, shaping us into the likeness of the Son. That includes, especially, the pain.
How do you make sure the adversity actually brings glory to God and growth to you? Watch the spiral carefully. “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives… Don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become mature and character, people of integrity with no weak spots.” (James 1:2- 4, author’s paraphrase).
Faith is the key! When you pass the faith test, you become tougher in endurance, and that leads to maturity, which in turn produces more and more the character of Christ in you. On the other hand, if you doubt that God is big enough to handle your problem, that He is smart enough to know what’s best for you, or that he cares enough to see you through, you spiral down, rumple in self-pity and give up or grow hard and cynical or even mean spirited and brittle. But faith will transform that same trouble from a stumbling block into a steppingstone, God’s fast track to spiritual growth.
Remember how to strengthen faith? Faith begins with an unconditional “Yes,” to God’s will in the matter. Faith surges forth on the wings of praise, is reinforced through Bible promises and the help of fellow pilgrims. All these ways of growing faith are essential. Leave off even one of them, and you stall at the starting gate.
Faith – the alchemy that transforms the most bitter pain into a life giving elixir. The adversity that can poison your whole life is the very thing the Spirit can use to bring God high praise and put you on the fast growth track. It almost seems like we should be grateful for trouble! Well, we are to give thanks always for everything. That does not mean, however, that we must be grateful for the pain itself. It may be evil incarnate that you resist and seek deliverance from. But in the meantime, we trust our all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God to bring about His purposes through it. And what clearer expression of faith than thanksgiving and praise?
 Jeremiah 11: 10-11; First Corinthians 11: 30-32; 2 Samuel 12: 13-14; John 5: 14
 Ezekiel 20: 9, 14, 22, 33, 39
 2 Corinthians 12:7; Philippians 3: 10; Hebrews 12: 4-13; John 15: 2-4; Romans. 5: 3.- 4; Psalm 119: 67, 71