In the last issue we noticed that two benefits of the believer’s trials are that they can be a defense against pride as well as a testimony to others. God’s Word also teaches that suffering:
3. Deepens Our Faith
First Peter 1:6-7 says: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1
When we think of Christ, our living and sure hope, we rejoice in this knowing that we are kept by God’s power for our certain salvation and inheritance (vv. 3-5). But what happens when trials come? Can a believer keep on rejoicing in the midst of suffering?
One commentator illustrates this seeming paradox:
“There are some parts of the sea where there is a strong current upon the surface going one way, but that down in the depths there is a strong current running the other way. These two currents do not meet and interfere with one another…Now the Christian is like that. On the surface there is a stream of heaviness rolling with dark waves, but down in the depths there is a strong undercurrent of great rejoicing that is always flowing there.”2
God brings trials into our lives because He has determined that we need them (“if need be”). These trials are various (different and numerous); and God specifically tailors each one to our individual needs. First Peter 5:10 reads: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” The word “perfect” means to “to complete, make a perfect or suitable fit, such as one should be, deficient in no part.”3 The Lord has allowed that specific trial because He has determined that we need it in His ongoing work to complete us and make us suitable for the service He has in mind.
After His resurrection, when our omniscient Lord prophesied to Peter that his manner of death would be crucifixion, Peter asked if John would die the same way. The Lord answered, “What is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:18-22). Sometimes we can wonder why some believers suffer more—or differently—than others but we must trust the Lord’s management of our lives as well as His shepherding care of other believers.
The word “grieved” suggests events that are distressing, hurtful, and sorrowful. Trials can be hard, crushing, and painful. Whether we have come through a trial or are still passing through it, God can use us to encourage others going through similar testing (2 Cor. 1:3-4). Encouragingly, our trials are only for a “little while.” God controls the end date; He may terminate them while we are still on earth or as Paul’s thorn in the flesh they will only end when we pass into the Lord’s presence.
The Lord tests our faith to increase it, strengthen it, and prove it genuine (v. 7). For the three young men in Daniel chapter 3, deliverance from the fiery furnace was not necessary for their faith, the fire proved the reality of their faith regardless of the outcome. From a Philippian prison, Paul and Silas, demonstrated that a heart rejoicing in God delights in His will in all circumstances (Acts 16). We too can be proven worthy servants that the Lord can depend upon in all situations.
4. Promotes Our Spiritual Growth
Romans 5:3-5 says: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Though trials can be very grievous, believers can glory (rejoice) in their spiritual growth as they patiently remain under their difficult circumstances. We can delight in the perseverance, godly character, and Christ-likeness tribulation is producing in our lives. Derived from the verb “endured” (Strongs – G5278), the word “perseverance” (Strongs – G5281) means to remain under, exhibiting a patient continuance or waiting.4
In Hebrews 12:2 we read that the Lord endured the cross, ignoring the taunts to come down, patiently remaining under the punishment of our sins until the task was finished. We can take pleasure that we are following His example when we patiently endure suffering, ignoring any whispers from within or without, to step outside God’s perfect will and purposes (Job 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:21). Further, we can rejoice in a greater experiential knowledge of God’s love, and look with confident expectation to heaven and being with the Lord Jesus (v. 5). Any suffering will be worth it when we see Him. We will not be disappointed in having trusted Christ through every experience in life.
Sometimes suffering is a result of God’s rebuke. Like an earthly father who chastens his children, the Lord may discipline (teach) us, to train us in righteousness, correcting us unto the right path. Hebrews 12:5-6 says: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’”
Two wrong responses to the Lord’s correction is to despise it (have little regard for it, rebel against it) or to get discouraged (be tempted to give up). The proper response is to receive it as a blessing from God to teach us, anticipating the ensuing spiritual profit from His training (vv. 10-11). Moreover, we can rejoice that we are God’s sons, knowing that both His character and love for us ensures He will correct us when we need it (vv. 6-8).
5. Gives a Greater Awareness of God’s Presence
First Peter 4:14 says: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part, He is glorified.”
While our faith does not rest upon our feelings but on the truth of God’s Word, the Lord does delight to manifest His presence, power, and help in a special way to believers who choose to suffer for His Name’s sake.
When the cloud rested over the mount, tabernacle, or temple it signified the Shekinah glory, the very presence of God (Ex. 24:16-18; 40:34-38; 2 Chron. 7:1). Many have testified of a greater sensitivity to the inner witness and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit during a time of suffering. The Lord’s tangible presence in suffering testifies that we belong to God and He cares (Acts 7:55-56; Rom. 8:14-18; 1 Pet. 5:7).
One has written: “The flower follows the sun even when it is not shining, it follows its hidden workings.”5 The believer who follows Christ should obey His will in all conditions. Our trials should ultimately draw us closer to the Lord as we look to Him for His sustaining help. To the world, our suffering suggests God is absent, but to the suffering believer they have gained a greater awareness of God’s presence in the midst of their suffering.
Sometimes God directly brings trials into our lives; other times He allows them by His permissive will. Though there is a mysterious aspect to suffering, the believer can correctly view our testing as God’s gift, knowing God’s purposes for our trials may only be revealed in glory.
1. All scriptural references are from the NKJV
2. The Biblical Illustrator: Old and New Testament Collection, e-Sword X software version
3. Complete Word Study Dictionary (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2013), e-Sword X software version
4. Strong, James, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Publishers, 2010), e-Sword X software version
5. The Biblical Illustrator: Old and New Testament Collection, e-Sword X software version