How God Uses Trials to Refine Us…
If you are a child of God, you’re most likely going through a trial right now; some size, shape or level of intensity, it’s happening as we speak. But make NO mistake….
“…He who has begun a good work in us will complete it til the day of Jesus Christ”!
(Philippians 1:6) and
“But He knows the way that I take” [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold” [pure and luminous]. (Job 23:10Amp)
God never takes a time off, He never grabs the remote, puts up His feet and “checks out” for a while; He is never off the clock. Quite the opposite, He is working in us diligently to bring about the man He set us apart to be. But we must choose remain under His process of purification.
I was reading that passage in Philippians this week where Paul is encouraging Timothy and Epaphroditus and says “and I am confident in this, that He who has begun a good work in us will complete it til the day of Jesus Christ”. This passage says the process will continue until the “Day of Jesus Christ” (His return).
Then I thought of how this connects to James 1:1
“Consider it pure joy my brothers when you endure trials of various (many) kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith creates patience (endurance). And let patience have it’s perfect work -that you may be perfect, complete, not lacking in anything!”
This describes a person who is complete, having finished God’s process.
First, consider the word “let”…
This little word denotes a decision on our part; it is our opportunity to be obedient and bear up under God’s process of purification, perfection and sanctification through discipline (trials). Once we fully grasp how God uses, and dare I even say designs, trials, tough events, negative news, nasty people, on and on, to shape and purify us, we will begin to live at a completely new level of maturity, blessing, and wisdom… Scripture promises it!
In Hebrews 12:11 we see the same process explained…
Now, no discipline seems joyful at the time, but painful: nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”!
I love this verse, it says so many things, but most importantly, the words “…who have been trained by it.” again denotes a choice to receive or bear up under His divine process. Will we “bear up under” His discipline long enough to receive the reward?; His “peaceable fruit of righteousness waiting for us, perfect, complete, not lacking in anything!
Also, back in Job, the verse that follows Job 23:10 above:
“My foot has held fast to His steps; His ways have I kept and not turned aside.”
Again, this clearly denotes a choice: “My foot has held fast… I have kept…”
Second, consider the word “joy“
Again, in James 1:1 “Consider it pure joy…”, what “joy” is James talking about?
Let’s go back to Hebrew 12:2
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus knew something those around the foot of the cross were not yet aware of; He was about to hang His head and die for the sins of all mankind, and at that moment, the impenetrable barrier between man and God the Father would forever be destroyed and ALL man would have personal access to the Father! That’s why He could say with joy in the middle of the excruciating pain and suffering “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” -or about to receive!
No more Priests, no more animal sacrifices, no more traditions of men, just access to God, if they would only believe. And we have the same joy amidst our trials that Jesus had during His -access to the Father as a result of receiving His Son by faith!
Back to trials…
There are 2 kinds of bad experiences in our lives: Trials & Consequences
Those we have no control over are quite plainly a trial God is using to mature and shape us. Evil is all around us, we live in a fallen world! And, as a result of God’s choice to let man “choose”, sin entered the world and death through sin. The result? Bad things happen to good people. But we can take joy in knowing that God is in control of the “outcome”, the final score, and we are a part of that plan -His sovereign plan.
These are the result of choices we make, at the very least, due to a lack of knowledge or experience, “I had no idea that would happen!”; and, at worst due to our pride or stubbornness -”I’m doing MY way, regardless of all the warning signs and off-ramps God throws in my way.”
“So, then what if I caused this trial to happen to me? How can God use it to shape or ‘bless’ me?!“
How do we deal with consequences?
First… repent. Run to God for forgiveness, and get back on track with His program.
Take heart… God is the ultimate Chess Player.
He’s not surprised by our choices or moves; hurt sometimes, yes, but never surprised. Imagine, that not only does he know every move you’re going to make but has the skill to ensure that each and every right or wrong move comes back to serve US and bring about His sovereign plan!
Most of us can quotes Romans 8:28… “And we know that in all things (good AND bad) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“
The things we cause and the things we don’t cause are all used by God to shape us into that which He predestined us to be.
Keep in mind, Satan likes to twist and distort the Word by hiding its true meaning from unbelievers. ie: The world has robbed the Bible and often miss-quotes Romans… “Well, you know… ‘All things work together for good!’”. Uh, no they don’t! Here’s the catalyst; We MUST Love God and accept His call on our lives, otherwise we will still go through hard things in life but for little to no blessing, wisdom; those things God promises His followers.
He knows the end from the beginning;
He knew you would one day choose to serve Him. And because of this He can take “All Things”, those selfish things we do and the hard hits we have no control over and work them together for our good, while accomplishing His divine purpose and blessing us at the same time.
Yes, there are conditions for “all things to work together for our good” and for God’s perfecting process to reach it’s completion (-see Romans 8:28 again):
1) We Must LOVE God
First, receiving, by faith, Jesus Christ as Savior, believing fully that there is no other way to Heaven but through faith in Christ alone (See Ephesians 2:8-9). Then living out our lives in such a way that shows God our deep appreciation for His priceless, unobtainable gift of salvation.
2) Be “Called According to His Purpose”
We accept our “calling” to walk with God “according to His Purpose”. We willingly step into His new life for us where we are no longer our own; we are bought with a price, and walk daily with Christ in us, empowered by the Holy Spirit to live victoriously over sin.
3) Remain in Him
We must make the choice to remain in His love and His purpose (see John 15:1-8), which includes His sanctifying process. We must choose to “bear up under” until the day of His return. He will give us everything we need to fulfill His destiny for us.
“I’m afraid of the trials… What if I can’t bear up under these trials?”
First, let me assure you, you WILL go through trials for the rest of your life. We live in a fallen world where sin abounds; scrapes us, bumps us, deeply wounds us. But rather than bear up under these trials with our own strength and receive nothing in return for going through the hard things of life, submit to Christ, discover God’s sovereign purpose and receive His reward for enduring the very same trials in your life!
I Corinthians 10:13 says “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Keep in mind… God ALWAYS and EVER has His hand on the thermostat, and knows exactly how much “heat” you can take.
CONCLUSION: Remember, it’s NOT just about “here”:
Absolutely, we will accomplish much on earth because of the maturity and knowledge we obtain from His process. 2 Corinthians 1 says that “…we suffer the afflictions of Christ so that we may bring comfort to those who are suffering” and that’s here on earth. Ephesians 2:10 also says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
However, ultimately, this entire life-long process that we step into is for one primary reason… to bring God glory!
Upon our conversion, we step from this world’s “timeline” into God’s eternal timeline -which there is no time. What does this mean for us? We no longer carry the weight of accomplishment before we leave this world. No, this is NOT an excuse to just finish out our lives without goals or focus. Conversely, Yes, God has tasks for us while we are here (read Eph. 2:10 again), but these are tasks HE designs for us, thus accomplishing His goals through us to bring about His sovereign plan.
Upon our conversion, we are “bent” on serving the one who provided the priceless gift of salvation. The tasks or “works” we do for Him are no longer a vain attempt to earn God’s favor, but are now out of a heart of thankfulness for His mercy, grace and eternal salvation we don’t deserve.
Our short stay on earth is not about what WE accomplish, but what He accomplishes in and through us for His own glory.
Let’s finish with this verse again from Job 23:10-11 (Amp)
“But He knows the way that I take [He has concern for it, appreciates, and pays attention to it]. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].
My foot has held fast to His steps; His ways have I kept and not turned aside.”
Probably the best series I’ve heard on “why trials?”, enduring trials and their purpose in our lives:
“When Life is Hard“Audio series by James MacDonald