Trials, Pt. 1

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Psalm 11:5
This broadcast focuses on the problem of human suffering. Why has God permitted difficulties to come to us? The Bible has much to say about pain and challenges.
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We’re going to deal today with the problem of human suffering. Trials and afflictions do not impress us very much until they strike our own home or our own lives. Then we begin to question God. We begin to wonder why He has permitted difficulties and reverses to approach us. With all the teaching and examples of the Bible before us, friends, suffering should no longer be considered a strange development in human experience. The time should come when our faith will be able to oversee the trials and accept them as a part of our life plan. I don’t know how long it took these different men of the Bible, but Paul, James and John finally came to rejoice in their persecutions. Even Peter could say, “rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering.” 1 Peter 4:13.

I’m not going to try to tell you how to reach this point. I can’t tell you, because I’ve not been in your shoes. I’ve not suffered as you have suffered, and you cannot put yourself in my place. In spite of the mysteries in every individual case, God is still working in our behalf through His marvelous power. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Oh, the most wonderful thing in the world would be for every human being to reach this point of resignation to God. If only we could leave the future in His hands, and accept the possible events of tomorrow in faith! Have you ever struggled with yourself over this question? Have you ever wondered if God’s way would lead you through thorny paths tomorrow? We can’t see or know, of course. Only God understands the events of the future.

No doubt many who are listening to this broadcast today will face terrible trials in the future. Some of you may lose loved ones, and some will be brought into other emergency circumstances of life. Will those emergencies shake your faith or destroy your trust in God? This is why a correct attitude must be developed before the approach of affliction.

We’ve all read the story of Job in the Old Testament Scriptures. We read with interest about the calamities which took away all his possessions and all his children in one terrible stroke. And yet, the first reaction of this godly man was to fall down and worship God. With the fearful conflicts facing us, we must come to the same position of trust and confidence. Some of the most distressing and despondent moments have come to individuals on the heels of their greatest happiness. It is hard to understand-Satan uses moods as one of his greatest weapons against us.

It is said that the great English poet, Cowper, was so depressed at one time that he contemplated suicide. He actually hired a cab to take him to London Bridge so that he could jump off and end his own life. On the way to the bridge, a great fog settled down over the city and the cab driver became lost. Finally he had to take Cowper back to his apartment and leave him there. Immediately after this experience, Cowper wrote his immortal words, “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm.” There’s one thing for certain, friends, God does not allow a single needless pain to fall on the Christian. If we could believe that, we would be happy to accept whatever comes in life.

Somebody raises the question, “Well, why does God allow any pain to afflict us?” The answer is found in a variety of Bible verses. Psalm 11:5, “The Lord trieth the righteous.” And Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.”

Yes, God has good in mind for you-He controls the fires of affliction that cone to you. He builds a hedge around us to protect us from that which we cannot bear. He sees that we need an experience of pain sometimes, and in great love He permits the right amount to come that is for our good.

Parents will often give their beloved child into the hands of a surgeon for an operation. The parents know that great pain will be involved for the child, and yet they are willing to permit the operation to take place. Those same parents will sit by the bedside of the child, suffering along with him, and yet they will allow the knife to be applied, the surgery to be performed. The child would not choose it for himself, of course, but the parents can see days of joy ahead when that child will be able to play more happily because of the cutting experience of surgery.

It is often necessary for us to go under the knife and suffer in order that we might have a happier tomorrow. When the cutting is necessary, God sits up with us and suffers along with us, His children. In the tunnels He will be with us. In the dark moments of pain He will never forsake us. What a joy it will be after we reach the kingdom of heaven to understand the divine permissions of God!

You know, the safest ways are not always the shortest ways. There is a zigzag route that can relieve the force of the hill sometimes, and make it much easier for us to reach our destination at the top. God’s paths are not supposed to be open to us so that we can understand each step before we take it. That is where our faith is tried and tested. Can we trust Him to lead us, friends? Can we believe that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord? Could we spend forty years out in the wilderness as Moses did, taking care of sheep and apparently forsaken? Could we wait on that lonely Isle of Patmos as did John, until God stepped in to assign the writing of a testament? Could we sit behind prison walls as Paul did, and write a letter saying, “Godliness with contentment is great gain?” Could we endure as Joseph and say afterward that God intended it for good? Well, I thing Paul was ripened for the kingdom of heaven while he was in jail, and I think John needed the rest that the Isle of Patmos provided.

A Cambridge naturalist experimented with a pigeon that had been born in a cage. It had never actually flown at all, because its life had been spent in the confines of the cage. The naturalist was anxious to see how well it could fly, so he released it in a large room. Round and around the bird flew, becoming more excited all the time. Finally, it seemed to be in great distress, and it flew directly into the body of the naturalist and fell panting to the floor. It was discovered that this bird had inherited the instinct to fly, but it did not know how to stop. Had it not risked the shock of flying into the man’s body, it would have died of exhaustion in mid-air. Perhaps this is the reason God sometimes permits us to be placed on our backs in places of confinement. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Sometimes people are moving so fast and working so hard that they cannot think of God as they should.

Beneath the streets of the city of Shechem in Palestine, rivers flow constantly. The noise of the water can’t be heard during the day, but at night when all other sounds are quieted the musical flow of the waters can be heard beneath the streets of that ancient city. God would sometimes have us be quiet so that we can hear the music of His plan and His will. It might require a shock just as it did for the bird to cause us to stop our frenzied rush.

Strange as it may seem now, we will all someday thank God personally that He led exactly the way He did during our earthly life. Paul will learn why a thorn had to stay with him during his sojourn here. Perhaps he’ll also learn what his life might have been without the thorn that he prayed about so much. I think it would be an awful revelation if we could see ourselves without God’s mysterious permissions. We forget God so easily in times of prosperity and peace.

A man imprisoned in a tower was trying to attract the attention of passerby. Taking some coins from his pocket, he dropped them onto the pavement below. As the gold pieces fell, the people rushed around to pick them up and put them into their pockets before hurrying on their way. Finally, the man managed to break off a piece of stone from the edge of the wall and dropped it down. It struck a man on the head, wounding him. Only then did someone look up and get the message from the prisoner. Yes, blessings may be falling all around us and we don’t even bother to look up to see from whence they come. But when troubles strike, we do look up and become concerned. It is only then that some people think about God.

It’s true, friends, that all things do work, together for good to those who love the Lord. So when trial or burdens come, there is a divine purpose behind them. We may not be able to discover that purpose until Jesus comes again, but on the other hand, we may be able to see clearly in the near future how the blessings of God were disguised.

Trials can become stepping stones to greater faith and deeper experience with God. Even birds migrating to the summer climates wait for the wind to blow against them so that they can rise up to the needed elevation before starting their journey. So let’s not complain if something hurts for a little while. In Psalm 27:13, 14 we are told to “wait on the Lord.” Just wait. That blow, that pain, that affliction may turn into a blessing soon. Disappointments will become “His appointments.”

During the Napoleonic wars before radio or telegraph had been invented, signals were sent by semaphore. Little wig-wag flags sent messages across the distances. After long years of fighting with his coalition to bring Europe to his feet, all that stood between Napoleon and victory was the thin, red line of highlanders at Waterloo. The English banks had poured every available pound of money into that war, and if the Battle of Waterloo was lost, Britain also would be lost. The people were greatly concerned about it. They watched and watched from Dover’s cliffs, waiting for some news of the battle raging on the other side. Suddenly, a big semaphore began to spell out a message: “W-e-l-l-i-n-g-t-o-n - d-e-f-e-a-t-e-d” and just then a great, dense fog settled down over the English Channel. The people could see no more.

They were in despair, for apparently Wellington was defeated. They fled back into the city where all militia were rushed down to the coast. Houses were fortified and roads were blocked. Napoleon apparently would be upon their shores in another 48 hours. So they made ready for a last-ditch stand against the invaders. For two days terror filled the hearts of all Britishers. Then the storm abated and the fog lifted. Again the people strained their eyes watching as the wig-wag signals once more sent a message: “W-e-l-l-i-n-g-t-o-n - d-e-f-e-a-t-e-d - N-a-p-o-l-e-o-n - a-t - W-a-t-e-r-l-o-o!” And their sorrow turned to joy!

Friends, your cross may soon be turned into a crown. The fog will be lifted from your life and you will be able to see things as God sees them. The thorns will be seen as blessings in disguise. And in God’s tomorrow you may meet souls who were saved because of your pain, because of the reverses which came into your life. So do not become disheartened because of suffering, just trust God and put your faith in Him, and finally all things will be seen in their true perspective and we will be thankful for every affliction.

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