A woman wrote me about a miscarriage she experienced. She asked if she was being punished. It was heartbreaking. Miscarriages are painful enough without having to wonder if God is upset with you.
We experience trials because we live in a fallen world
Trials take place as long as we’re on this side of heaven, but they’re not our fault. Why does God allow them? He uses them to:
Mature us: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4; see also Romans 5:3–5).
Strengthen our faith: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6–7).
As I look back at trials I’ve experienced, they were painful, but I’m thankful for them. God used them for my benefit.
We experience discipline because we sinned
Hebrews 12:5–6 records:
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
God punishes us when we sin. He wants to produce fruit and righteousness in our lives. While this doesn’t feel good, we should embrace the chastening, understanding God is doing something worthwhile. The author of Hebrews goes on to say in verses 11–13: Continue reading Don’t confuse discipline and trials
This is one of the most important questions we can ever ask. This is why 2 Corinthians 13:5 commands us: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus made it clear many people are deceived about their salvation:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Here are six ways to do that!
Test 1: Spiritual fruit.
While works don’t save, they are one of the strongest evidences of being saved. I’m amazed by the number of people confident in salvation that lacks fruit. Could be the salvation of a parent, child, sibling, or even their own. Three times James said, “faith without works is dead” (2:17, 20, 26).
Here’s the conversation between Katie and I one month ago when I told her I wanted to go back to the gym:
Katie: “You’re going to hurt yourself again.”
Me: “No, I’m not. I’m going to do things differently this time.”
Katie: “You say that every time.”
Me: “Yeah, but this time will be different.”
Katie: “You say that every time too.”
I went back to the gym one month ago, and this past Wednesday I hurt my lower back so badly I could barely make it out of the gym. If the pain hadn’t subsided some by the evening I would’ve had to cancel the first night of our home fellowship. By the time I work up Thursday morning I couldn’t get out of bed, which is where I spent the whole day (and most of Friday). Katie was wonderful as you’d imagine, taking great care of me and – most graciously – not reminding me of how right she was and how wrong I was. I joked with her throughout the day saying things like:
“Why didn’t you tell me you thought I’d hurt myself again?”
“If you would’ve warned me this wouldn’t have happened.”
“I’m only in this situation because it’s so important to you to have a husband that works out” (something Katie couldn’t care less about).
The truth is I was feeling sorry for myself on Thursday. I had four messages to prepare/review this week, and trying to study and type on my back was difficult. While I wouldn’t compare my “trial” to the trials others have gone through or are going through, there were still some lessons I tried to learn, because I believe the Bible is clear that every trial is meant to be a time of learning:
First, it happened to be September 11th. What right did I really have to complain about anything compared to what some people were going through as they remembered the past?
Second, good health – including the lack of pain and just being able to get out of bed, move around and wrestle with my boys is a blessing I take for granted. Ricky and Johnny try to “fight” with me every day and I felt like the elderly person in Ecclesiastes 12:5 afraid of everything whenever they came near me.
Third, Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”There’s wisdom associated with valuing our days and when you experience what feels like a completely wasted day, it makes you thankful for days you can be productive and spend your time profitably.
I can’t tell you how often what I’m preaching on is what I need preached to me. Last Sunday’s sermon had a real focus on trials, where the theme could’ve been: God uses trials for our good (Rom 5:3, 4; 2 Cor 4:17; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6, 7). That’s what I need to be hearing. I should probably listen to my own sermon and take notes. Seriously.The trials I’m facing mostly relate to feeling like I’m letting people down, not able to please everyone, not able to keep up with everyone, not able to get everything done, etc. as opposed to physical or financial trials.
Here’s part of an e-mail someone sent me this past week: “I have no doubt you will look back on this season as a time of great learning if you can but learn what the Lord would have you learn.” It was good for me to hear these words. At least part of what I believe God wants me to learn relates to my need to toughen up. I don’t mean that relationally, like being less sensitive to people (I should actually probably be more sensitive). I mean toughening up like…not feeling sorry for myself. Not being a baby. I think that’s what God wants me to learn. There’s a verse I was really meditating on this past week, and I’d like to share it, but first here’s the context…
Jeremiah the prophet had one of the most miserable ministries in Scripture; when you’re known as The Weeping Prophet, you know things are bad. He was regularly mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and rejected. In one candid moment of discouragement after learning the members of his hometown were plotting his murder, Jeremiah poured out his heart to God, questioning what God was doing…and wasn’t doing. What you would EXPECT God to do is encourage the beleaguered prophet with one of those verses like Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous hand. We love verses like this. We cling to them and memorize them. When we’re struggling we picture God saying verses like this to us. That’s not what God told Jeremiah though. Instead he said, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5). Not only did God not comfort him, He actually rebuked him; He said, “If you can’t handle it now, how are you going to handle it when things get even worse?” God doesn’t always want to stroke us and make us feel better. Sometimes He wants to rebuke us and tell us to toughen up, and I think that’s what He wants me to learn.