James on Trial

Help Understanding Hardships

P1 – Purpose of Trials, Source of Help

Written By: Ray - Aug• 09•10

(Updated on 9 August 2010)

In the last article on the Purpose of Trials, I stated my firm belief that although God does NOT CAUSE trials, He ALLOWS them – in order to fulfill His purposes. So, what ARE the purposes that God has for allowing us to endure hardship and pain?

In the previous article, we read from James 1:2,3 that the overall purpose of the “trying of [our] faith” is to develop patience, to help us mature and to bring us to the point where we are complete and not lacking anything. However, this is a very GENERAL view. In order to more fully understand the particulars, I wish to direct your attention to the 1st and 2nd chapters of 2nd Corinthians.

First, trials teach us where to find the SOURCE of help:

Although in times of ease, we can easily SAY, “My help comes from the Lord” (Ps 121.2), when we are in the middle of severe hardship, we generally look for relief wherever we can find it. That does not mean that we are double minded. Instead, it points out that hardships are described as a “test of our faith” for a reason. Just SAYING “my help comes from the Lord” is nice, but it is just words until we experience it!

Paul told the church at Corinth (2Co 1:5) that as Christians, “the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives.” He described some of his personal experiences as times when he was under “great pressure” and said these trials were “far beyond our ability to endure” (2Co 1:8). He also said that his trials were so severe that he “despaired even of life.” Christians ALWAYS have hope but it appears that Paul reached the place where (in his mind), his only hope was Christ’s promise of eternal life – after death. He saw no possibility of surviving the trial in his  physical body.

Why did God allow such extreme trouble to enter Paul’s life? He answered that question in 2Co 1:9, “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.” As with all of us, when we are compassed with comfort and ease, it is easy to say — but not practice — that we depend upon God. In reality, we depend upon our paycheck, our family, our insurance, our doctor, our friends, our possessions, our savings — or anything else except God. But when Paul was placed in a life or death situation, he learned NOT to rely upon himself (or anything temporal), but [to rely] on God.”

Paul wrote 2Co 12:7-10 to more fully explain it:

7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Like Paul, I am prone to take God’s blessings for granted and even become conceited about what I have done (for God, of course). But God had blessed Paul so greatly that OTHERS sometimes considered Paul to be a god (see Acts 14:11). So, in order for everyone to see that Paul was NOT God, he was given the particularly human trait of pain (a “thorn in the flesh”) to torment him.

The result of that episode was God’s declaration to Paul (and to all of us), “My power is made perfect [evident and complete] in [your human] weakness.” The John the Baptist understood the principle when he said (Jn 3:30), “He must become greater; I must become less.” As our physical strength diminishes (in trials), we learn to rely on God and His strength.

The simple answer is found in 2Co 1:3, our Father is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. That verse is so encouraging. To experience it more fully, I think that I am going to take a break from writing and just let my Heavenly Father pour some compassion into my heart and put His big arm around my shoulder and comfort me!

Look for the next article in this series… coming soon…

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