Growing Through Trials

In the heat of battle, it pays to stand back and put everything in perspective. Will this matter for eternity? What are the long-term consequences? Where is God, and what is He trying to accomplish? That is what Paul is addressing in Rom. 5:1-5. We have been justified and in the midst of any trial we have access to God. We can look with confidence to the future because we have hope in God. With that in mind, we can rejoice in our sufferings because there is a divine purpose behind them. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Persevering through trials and tribulations is what develops our character. God’s will for our lives is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and that is accomplished by the forging of our character through perseverance. Hope is the present assurance of that future good. The love of God will never allow us to suffer more than we can endure, and by His grace we can persevere.

Seeing life from a temporal perspective can lead to a false hope. People see their jobs as hopeless so they change jobs, or their marriages as hopeless, so they change spouses, or their churches as hopeless and so they change churches. Paul and James admonish us to stay on course and grow up. There may be legitimate reasons to change jobs or churches, but not if you are abdicating your responsibility to grow up by running away from the pressures of life. You will have to face the same obstacles again, and running away makes the process harder.

Suppose a husband shared with his pastor that his wife just left him. How can the pastor minister hope? Saying, we’ll win her back, is giving a false hope. Neither person has the right or ability to control her. The husband who tries to manipulate, force, or coerce her back, needs to realize that such behavior is probably what caused her to leave in the first place. It would be better for the pastor to say; “If you haven’t made a commitment to be the husband and father that God has called you to be, would you be willing to make that commitment now?” He can’t change her, but he can change himself, and that is by far the best way to win her back. Even if she didn’t come back, he can grow through the crisis and be a better person in the future and that is where his hope lies. The test of our character is determined by what it takes to stop us from becoming the person God created us to be.

Dr. Neil

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