I started a sermon series last Sunday on enduring through hard times (you can check it here), and wanted to share some of those truths on trials.
1) A trial is a specific season of suffering that God allows for your good and His Glory. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 7:13-14
God has preordained everything before creating time and the universe and you. He knew we would give Him the middle finger, so He had in mind the sending of His Son to die on a cross in our place. This wasn’t a back-up plan, but The Plan.
God also had in mind specific seasons of your life, some good and some tough. Ninety-nine percent of life is what happens to you. The 1% is how you respond, to both the good and the bad.
Note that a trial is a season, and it WILL pass. You can come out of a trial better or bitter, and that will determine how you handle the next season. If you’re not humble in the trials, you won’t exactly enjoy the good seasons either. If you’re humble, you’ll thank God for both.
2) God has three motives in trials: That you’d trust Him, that you’d be transformed, and that He would give you all of Himself.
3) God is in complete control. He’s on it, He’s got it, He’s got you. Romans 8:28
Nothing is ever out of God’s control. Your feelings would like to say otherwise, but we must prioritize truth before feelings. No matter how bad it gets, God is working His Will for the good. Sometimes we get to see how it turns out, but our tiny limited three lb. brain doesn’t get to see it all from beginning to end (Ecc. 3:11). The Bible does show glimpses.
Joseph was beat up by his brothers, left for dead, sold to slavery, falsely accused of rape, thrown in a dungeon, left behind, but somehow made the #2 Top Dog of Egypt. This was for “the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
When Jesus hung up there that Friday, it looked crazy and upside-down and backwards. No one could make sense of that; like God lost control. But He didn’t. Sunday happened.
4) Trials are MORE reason to turn to God, not less. 2 Corinthians 9:8, Hebrews 4:15-16
The most common responses to trials are:
Control –For false security.
Escape –To numb ourselves.
The common motivation is fear, because we fear losing our Perfect Prescription of a Perfect Life that goes our Perfect Way. We’re also afraid of pain.
A trial hits you in the face and you’ll try to get back control or just escape from reality. You presume your life was interrupted. Cancer, earthquake, bankruptcy, death of a loved one, betrayal — you never planned for these things.
So we shake a fist at God and do things our way. Control or Escape: they’re predictable reactions. Read the frontpage of the news.
Trials have a way of turning us into statistical nightmares: a hollowed out lesser version of ourselves that God did not create us to be. Because we turn from the Only One who can help us. That makes little sense, like deciding to throw away the oxygen tank at the bottom of the ocean.
Trials are meant to be opportunities to refine us into God’s Image. At the very bottom, God not only gets us through it but He gets us rising back to the surface renewed, without carrying harmful baggage or bitterness. Trials always pass, but unless we relied on God there, the hurtful attitude won’t pass with them.
5) If transformation is one of God’s goals, then He will come at you like a 5000 ton freight train. Hebrews 12
You don’t get to pick your trials. God has the right to do anything He wants. He’s God. He doesn’t need your vote, approval, or hyper-submission. You don’t get to say what’s fair, right, or wrong: because that changes based on your convenience. God is not like you. He is above you. He has the full right to take your life, to crush you, to judge you, to blink you out of existence.
That doesn’t sit well with us, which only proves our pride. “No one can tell me what to do — Who are you to say that — Who do you think you are!” So what exactly do you think God has to do to remove that stinking thinking? You think God will take it easy?
If God is going to move you from your pride to His promises, He is going to come at you with all intensity. At that point you can either humble yourself and recognize God has the full rights to your life and you are NOT in control — that means transformation is happening — or you can reject God’s authority and discipline and course-correction, which is spiritual stagnancy.
I’ll just say that I would not want to be the person I was before God allowed certain trials to happen. Nothing else could’ve removed the fatal splinters of an idolatrous, selfish, disgusting, abusive, reckless heart as much as God crushing it out of me. And in the end, I recognized this was God’s love: not pampering, spoiling, or coddling, but aimed at my maturity.
A final word —
I know it’s painful. No one’s saying it’s not. I don’t have answers to all the Ultimate Questions — Why God? Why this evil? Why allow this one? Why now? — though I do believe there are some helpful answers for them. But I don’t mean to diminish your pain or make light of your circumstances.
It’s not as simple as Let’s-trust-God-you-guys to get you through some things. Not so cut-and-dry, and God can handle our honesty. He hears our venting, outrage, frustration. He still loves you, no matter how you handle it. But when it all falls apart, He doesn’t want you to so quickly fold and conform to that. He’s trying to give you life when there’s death all around. God will be glorified either way, but He would rather much do it through you.
Job 23:10 — But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Here are the verses I’m preaching from:
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-14
- James 1:2-8
- Hebrews 12:4-17
- 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
- Psalm 90
Originally posted here.