When You Think You Are Immune From Trials
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a day in the open sea.
2 Corinthians 11: 24-25
One of the strange things about trials is that when they knock at our door or sneak through the back door of our lives, we never quite expect them. Yes, we know that other people face them, but not us. When we do go into combat with them, we also feel that nobody else has ever faced the same intensity of testing nor do they understand.
The Greek word translated “testing” has two meanings: (1) A trial which comes from without, and (2) A temptation or solicitation to do wrong which comes from within.
Long ago, Paul warned against presumptuousness–thinking that you are immune from trials; and he went on to assure us that when we face periods of difficulty God will take us through. You find those words of counsel in 1 Corinthians, chapter ten. Here it is: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Throughout the New Testament you will find a common theme: periods of testing come to all of God’s children. The only question is when and what kind. They are neither an indication that you have been abandoned by God or selected for an attack from Satan. It is the result of living in a broken world, a world which is hostile to the values of God’s children.
Peter addressed the whole issue when he wrote to suffering brothers and sisters in Rome and he said our response should be threefold: First, we should rejoice, no matter how strange that logic is, because, said Peter, we share in the suffering and the glory of Jesus Christ. Then he wrote that we should commit ourselves to the loving watch-care of the Father, and continue doing what we know is right. Let’s take a closer look at his advice. “
Dear friends,” wrote Peter, “do not be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Following rejoicing, Peter says, (and these are my words), “Run up your flag and commit yourself to the Father!” There are times when you are telling the truth and you are accused of lying (misinformation is now the more acceptable word). You are abiding by your conscience and your friends suggest that you have sold out and are compromising. Even your friends misunderstand you. Peter says, “Commit yourself to the Father, who knows your heart and will write the last chapter.”
Then he says, “Don’t give up and quit!” Rather, he says you are to continue doing the right thing. Here are his words: “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).
When you are falsely accused and misunderstood, you are forced to look within and ask yourself, “For whom am I doing this? For the glory of God, or for the plaudits and gratitude of other people? Have I chosen to please men or God?” And when you work through that, you have a motive for keeping on doing the right thing. “
If you suffer as a Christian,” writes Peter, “do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16). What name? The name Christian! Today that name is yet used, as it was the first time it was applied to believers, as a term of derision. Hang in there, friend. You have good company.