And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; (Romans 5:3)
Whatever the realm of experience, perspective is always crucial. In art, it helps the artist create an image so that a cup appears ready to be filled or a chair seems firmly planted on the ground rather than suspended in the air. Similarly, in life’s trials the right perspective is required if we wish to make the right response. Unless we think correctly about them, we cannot respond properly.
Trials are the means by which our trust in Jesus as our only hope is tested. They help determine whether the faith we profess is genuine or false. When everything is going smoothly, it’s fairly easy to feel confident. But when the wheels fall off—when family life begins to disintegrate, when body or mind fails, when our hopes for this life are dashed—we begin to discover whether our faith is sincere. And when it is proved by testing to be genuine, there is joy, for that kind of faith is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7).
Difficulties also help us measure the growth of our faith—whether we are stagnant or flourishing. Disappointments and tears often bring more progress and growth in our faith as we put God’s word into practice in ways we hadn’t before and learn Christ’s all-surpassing value in ways we hadn’t appreciated before. As one writer puts it, “The wind of tribulation blows away the chaff of error, hypocrisy, and doubt, leaving that which survives the test … the genuine element of character.”
Testing develops staying power. The Christian life is not a few hundred-yard sprints; it’s a cross-country run that lasts throughout our lives. Marathon runners go through miles that feel difficult and exhausting, but they keep on going. They are not surprised that it hurts. They expect it to. But they know that beyond the hardships lies the finish. The trials we face along our way similarly call for and produce the endurance we need to run our spiritual race well.
Look at the life of any Christian who has soft eyes and a tender heart and you will almost certainly find that they came to that kindness through the experience of trials. It’s easy to want results without effort. Yet this is not how it works. God usually grows our faith in the soil of affliction.
The question to ask yourself is, “Do I believe this?” If you do, it will dramatically change your perspective and your response to life’s difficulties. Trials may still fill you with pain, fear, and uncertainty—but you will at the same time be able to consider them with joy, knowing that your spiritual endurance is being developed and therefore your ability to reach the finish line is being enhanced.
Devotional material is taken from Truth For Life: 365 Daily Devotions by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.
- Footnote: James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1976), p 54.