Trials, Pt. 2

Scripture: Romans 8:28, Job 1:1-21
Difficulties are a blessing. Trials can help us grow. But we don't typically embrace these ideas in the midst of problems. But the Bible teaches us that adversity can strengthen our faith and characters. Job is an example in Scripture of this truth.
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Today I shall read a passage of Scripture which has brought hope and consolation to thousands through the years, and yet, when it is really needed, it is the most difficult to believe. We find that text in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We all pass through some experiences which are hard to bear and to understand. When some contrary wind blows in our lives, we wonder if and why God has forsaken us. Should we not say instead, “I do not understand now, but some day I shall, for the promise of God is, “all things work together for good to them that love God?” I repeat, it is at the time we need this passage most that we find it most difficult to believe.

Rain, wind, storm and crash of thunder come into all lives. As the poet said, “Into each life some rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.” Rain is a blessing. What if every day were all sunshine? In this world there are places of perpetual sunshine. I have visited some those places. They are only to be visited, and are not places for human habitation. I have seen those regions of perpetual sunshine, and all one can see there is drifting sand and the bleaching bones of some creatures unfortunate enough to have become lost in those great wastes.

While crossing one of these-the great Sind desert-I looked in every direction and could see nothing but shimmering sunshine, bright and dazzling, over the vast expanse. The eye rested on no green vegetation. There was not a cloud in the sky; nothing but brightness-sunshine and sand, sand and sunshine-everywhere, with intense heat, until it was maddening. Such are the places of perpetual sunshine in this old earth.

So is life. The greatest desert of life is in that of a person who has never experienced adversity; in whose life no storm has ever broken and no rain has ever fallen. Storms and wind and rain are God’s agents in our world by which He makes it fit for human habitation. When copious showers are interspersed with sunshine, vegetation is green and luxuriant and flowers bloom in beauty. There the earth yields its abundance and it may be made like the garden of God; but with everlasting sunshine this earth is parched, it becomes hard, and there is no green growth or growth of any kind. Thus it is with life. The most beautiful lives are those over which much rain has fallen and many storms have broken-lives that have been beaten by wind and waves. Let us beware lest we blame God when the storms blow and the rains fall over our lives, when lightening splits our skies and thunder rolls over our hills, for by these God is making our lives rich and fragrant. There are certain fruits that ripen only after the first touch of frost. Now it has been determined that many people require a measure of affliction and struggle in order to develop mature characters.

We might call the roll of the men and women who have made the world better because they have lived, and we will find that they all have been creatures of storms and winds. Can any life compare with that of Job, the servant of God? Here is the record: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the assed feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, the fire of God id fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking; wine in their eldest brother’s house: And behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” Job 1:1, 13-19.

Thus calamity, after calamity with progressive pain befell Job in one day until all his earthly possessions were wiped out, and he lost all his sons in that same day. His only response was, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21.

Then again trouble came to him. Soon he was visited with a loathsome disease until he was covered with boils, from head to foot, and he sat down among the ash heaps. His wife advised, “Curse God, and die.” He replied, “Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and not evil?”

Job’s friends came to comfort him, but when they saw him they sat in silence for seven days and seven nights. Then they thought they would reason with him. They said, “Job, repent of your evil, for this does not come upon you for nought.” They did not know, nor did Job know, that God in heaven had said of Job. “A perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil.” Job 1:8, 2:3.

Why these calamities, if Job was perfect? Although Job did not know it, God was using him to prove to angels, to Satan and to men, that man can serve God and do good for no other reason than doing right; from no ulterior or selfish motive. Not for material rewards, not because one believes that by serving God the way will be easier, did Job serve God. For this reason the storms blew, destruction upon destruction wasted his substance, robbed him of his family, and afflicted his body.

The storm which blew upon him only drove his roots deeper into the soil. The devil could not move him. He was perfect before God. God did not bring these calamities, but Satan did, and God permitted them for a purpose. When Satan had gone as far as he could, and Job still stood firm though everything earthly was gone, God said, “It is enough.” Job began to pray for his enemies-his so-called friends- and when he did this, the blessing he asked for others was bestowed upon him, manifold. Then God could bless him abundantly. He gave Job twice as much as he had before.

This is an interesting experience. It is give to teach us that wind and storm and rain in the life do God’s bidding for men. Job did not suffer for his own sins, for God had said that he was a perfect and upright man, but he suffered for the sake of others. Satan had challenged God saying, “Job serves you only for the material benefits you confer upon him in that service. He does not do right because he loves right.” God accepted that challenge and answered, “Let us see.” Satan took over, with the result that never, except in his encounter with Jesus Christ on earth, was he so ignominiously defeated. Afterward Job would see that his suffering was for a purpose-that it was a blessing in disguise.

One of the most unusual monuments in the world is in Enterprise, Alabama, because it honors a pest, the Mexican Boll Weevil. In 1915 when the pest first mad its appearance in Coffee County, Alabama, the annual yield of 35,000 bales of cotton was cut by 40%. The ravages of the pest spread throughout the entire cotton belt from Texas to Georgia. Threatened by bankruptcy the farmers turned to diversified farming and began the successful growing of potatoes, corn and peanuts-but mostly peanuts.

In 1919 when the countries peanut crop was yielding more than a million bushels annually a monumental fountain with this inscription was put up in Enterprise, Alabama. “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the Herald of Prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama.” Isn’t that interesting? So really, tragedies sometimes turn out to be great blessing in disguise. It takes a certain degree of struggle for people to develop their spiritual lives.

We think also of the patriarch Jacob who suffered much and long. Unlike Job, who suffered for others, Jacob suffered for his own failures. Remember, in spite of his weaknesses, Jacob loved God. The hand of misfortune touched him frequently. He was cheated in marriage, he was cheated in wages, trouble pursued him for more than twenty years while he was with his crafty, cheating uncle. His only way out was to return home, and that meant facing a hostile brother whom he himself had cheated years before. When his brother, Esau, heard that Jacob was returning home, he set out with 400 armed men to kill him.

Upon hearing this, Jacob immediately divided his company into two bands, then withdrew to the banks of the brook Jabbok, where he prayed all night and wrestled with an angel. After that night of prayer he went out to meet his brother Esau. When they met, the scene was very different from that which each of them had anticipated. How different! There were no angry words, no rattling of sabers. Prayer had changed that. When they saw each other, love prevailed, and each one flung his arms around the other’s neck and in one long weeping embrace they greeted each other. The offense of past years was forgotten.

Jacob settled in the land of Canaan, and then another calamity befell him. His beloved son, Joseph, was taken from him and sold, and for years he knew not that Joseph was still alive. Then came the famine and the journey to Egypt for bread, and the stern command of Egypt’s prime minister that the youngest son, Benjamin, be brought on the next trip to buy food. Jacob was overwhelmed, and cried, “Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and now you take Benjamin! All these things are against me.” Simeon had been held a prisoner in Egypt.

But at last the clouds began to lift, and clear away. Jacob saw Simeon again; Benjamin was spared to him; and more wonderful yet, he saw his beloved son Joseph as prime minister of Egypt. Then he could see that God had watched over Joseph, not only to preserve his (Jacob’s) life, but also that of his posterity. Then the light of God’s leading burst upon this old man’s heart, and he was ready to lie down in peace.

The meaning of the providences in the tempests and storms of his life were revealed, and seeing the purpose clearly unfolded, he was satisfied. Could we see the end from the beginning, we too would be satisfied with God’s leading in our lives. Where we today seem to see nothing but confusion and broken promises we shall someday see the most perfect harmony.

Yes, we see that storms and wind in the lives of men do the will of God for them, and “we know,” as Paul declared in that text, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.

God is the same today as in years gone by. It is in loving kindness that He lets the storms beat upon us today, that we may strike our roots deeper. He lets the rain fall that our lives may become fragrant. Through all adversity His sheltering had is over His own. He tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.

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