Thursday 23 July 2015


God is interested in transforming believers into His image more than anything else. As such, He places our comfort secondary to the change He wants to bring about in our lives. This goal of personal transformation is achieved, to a large extent, through trials.

Recently, a friend shared that there is some misconception about the place of trials in the life of believers. People conveniently attribute all suffering to the work of Satan, which is a deception and far from reality, he added. 

For the believer to grow toward maturity, he must understand that God is interested in the ‘bigger-picture’ of his life, rather than his comfort. It is through trials that God moulds a believer into His likeness. However, it is sad that the local church seldom teaches its members to embrace suffering for the sake of Christ and personal transformation.

“And the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1Peter 5:10).

Of course, it does not mean we intentionally inflict pain upon ourselves like masochists. Rather, we need to reframe our thinking and view trials as something positive (James 1:2-3).

Broadly speaking, there are two main reasons why a believer suffers. First, God allows him to go through suffering for his own good and personal growth. Second, He chastises him for disobedience in order to bring him back to Himself.

The passage in Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that divine correction is part of our growth into Christlikeness. Discipline is about learning, not punishment. The attitude a person adopts amid trials determines what he gets out from divine discipline. A person is not deemed to have truly changed just because, when viewed by others, he behaves differently. Rather, when he sees who he is in Christ—realises his identity in Christ—he spontaneously changes from within.

God-ordained suffering is necessary for growth whereas chastisement is optional. Before every believer lies two approaches to suffering: One, to see nothing good in it and to loath it—this attitude will consign him to a life of endless misery and regret; the other, to see suffering as part of  God’s purpose and benefit from it. This will allow him to be transformed through God-ordained trials designed for his own good.

Brian Edwards writes: “Christianity is not about how to escape from the difficulties of life but how to face them.” A believer can never be the same after experiencing God-ordained suffering because, when he is down to nothing, God is up to something. God uses suffering to mould the believer into Christlikeness. For the sovereign God has a pre-determined purpose in every twist and turn of events in the believer’s life.

Trials are meant to make a person, not to break him. Thus, God ordains suffering not only to test his worthiness but make him more like Jesus. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1Peter 4:12). “Man that is born of a woman us of few days and full of troubles” (Job 14:1).

God’s intention is that a believer becomes a better person through trials—that he may experience Him, be dependent upon Him, be delivered by Him and glorify Him. God never intends suffering to destroy the faith or life of the believer.

God-ordained trials derail the believer’s plans and upset his expectations. They are unforeseen events that interrupt his schedule or maladies that affect his health. But he needs to learn how to manage these disruptions.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones states: “It is a fundamental principle in the believers’ walk of faith that we must always be prepared for the unexpected when we are dealing with God.” The only thing certain in life is that nothing is certain.   

The English word ‘tribulation’ comes from the Latin word ‘tribulum’, which is an instrument used to beat and separate the wheat from the chaff. This is what God-ordained suffering is all about—it removes negative values and develops godly virtues in the believer’s life. “Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience (character); and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

William E. Cox states: “Scripture shows conclusively that God-ordained sufferings are a natural by-product of genuine Christianity.” Thus, crises do not make or break a person; they reveal what is in him. To grow in Christ, the believer needs an honest evaluation of himself and the crisis he is facing. He also needs to seek divine wisdom for a proper response.

John Killinger states: “Failure is the greatest opportunity I have to know who I really am.” But, from my personal observation, both leaders and members are afraid to face failure.

Lastly, God-ordained suffering is an antidote for pride. This was true in the case of the apostle Paul who had to be kept humble. “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (2 Corinthians 12:7).


Someone shared on Facebook: “Trials and suffering are designed by the devil against believers. God only wants to bless believers.” 
Does God only bless believers and exempt them from trials? 

A popular teaching tells us that Christians will not have to go through the Great Tribulation because they will be raptured first. But is such a 'pre-tribulation rapture' view valid? Is it true to say Christians will be airlifted to safety before the Great Tribulation begins?

When believers go through trials and tribulations, it is natural to ask God, “Why? Why does this have to happen to me?” In some instances, God remains silent and fails to grant us relief from our suffering.

God’s vision for our lives often revolves around our gifts—areas in which we shine like a star. Sometimes, this vision is birthed out of a scar, after we have gone through painful struggles.

Sometimes, we don’t like to admit that trials are an integral part of the Christian experience as much as blessings and victories. However, the process of growing into maturity involves learning to persevere through trials and arriving at a place of unshakeable faith.

1 comment:

  1. For the above post, I am indebted to a Bible teacher from Singapore for his input and comments.