The Bible is clear that everyone, saved or lost, will go through trials and tribulations. What can we learn from them?
Trials and Suffering
There is nothing strange about suffering for the Christian because “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12) so “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:12-14). What Peter and Paul are saying is that everyone who lives a godly life in Christ will be persecuted so don’t think it’s strange and it’s unique to you alone. The surprise would be that if you are a Christian and you have never suffered for Christ’s sake. If you have never been persecuted for Jesus’ sake then you might want to take a closer look to see if you are actually saved or not.
Blessed by Persecution
One thing that Peter said that most people might miss is that the person who is persecuted for righteousness sake has “the Spirit of glory and of God [that] rests upon” them. You can actually receive a blessing from God when you are persecuted. How so? Because you are being “insulted for the name of Christ [and so] you are blessed” (1 Pet 4:14). That’s the kind of blessing most people don’t ever think about. Jesus said that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:0-12). Yes, rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward awaiting you in heaven because “they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The point is that you are blessed by God when you are insulted, scorned, reviled, have evil (lies) spoken about you, because you are in great company…that of Jesus of course who they put to death…and the Old Testament prophets, including John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets. If you are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, then you at least know you are on the right side!
Trials are Tests
We all suffer in this life, even those who are not born again but those who come to saving faith had better expect it. Trials do not show us how strong our faith is as much as they reveal whether we will remain faithful. James knew about trials. He suffered just like all of the apostles did as every one of them died for their faith. Only the Apostle John was not martyred but he was a prisoner on the Isle of Patmos and worked in the mines until he died even though he managed to write the Book of Revelation.
James wrote “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (1:12) James says that a “crown of [eternal] life” awaits you in heaven but only if you remain “steadfast under trial” and only when you have “stood the test” will you “receive this crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Tests Reveal True and False Converts
Matthew 13:18-23 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
If we fail to stand the test then we may be false converts because John says of those who left “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Paul knew that in the end times “some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). Those who hear the Word of God but have no root in themselves immediately fall away, others allow the cares of the world (trials or tests) to choke out the Word of God and it bears no fruit, while others endure until “tribulation and persecution arises on account of the word” (of God) and they “endure [only] for a while” but then fall away. This shows that they were never really saved in the first place so trials and tests can prove whether our faith is genuine or fake.
Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Since trials and tribulations reveal who are and who are not really saved Paul tells the Roman church to “be patient in tribulation” and they way to do that is to “be constant in prayer.” You measure your walk with Christ by how much time you devote to prayer and reading the Bible. The more you do both, the more you will be patient in tribulations, the less you do, the less patience you will have. If you lack either of these two, then you most certainly will not “rejoice in hope” but be plunged into despair.
You know you are not alone in trials, tests, and tribulations because “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).
John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The reason that Jesus told His disciples and He tells believers today these things in His written Word is so that we “may have peace [because] in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; [Jesus] has overcome the world.” Jesus never said that in the world you “might” have tribulation but you “will” have tribulation. Count on it, prepare for it, expect it, be patient in it, and be in constant prayer because it will come if it hasn’t already. Peter knows all about this too as he died a martyr’s death being hung on a cross upside down and so before his death he wrote “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Pet 5:10). Peter also knew that suffering would come because he said “And after you have suffered” and not “if you suffer.”
All of us who are believers will suffer from persecution, have to endure trials, and go through tribulations because we belong to Christ. David wrote that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). David states that there will be many, not just a few so expect it and “be constant in prayer.” Jesus gives us a parting statement so that we would understand that “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:18-20).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon