Seven Ways God Uses Tough Times to Shape Our Lives
Tribulation tests our identity as Christians Tribulation tests our identity. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), Jesus described several situations. The seed that landed on rocky places did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. When the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Jesus said that the one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. Since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution come because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. The seed that fell on good soil produced a good crop. By implication, that seed that fell on good soil stayed connected to the source of its life and was not destroyed by trouble, persecution, the worries of this life, or the deceitfulness of wealth. When we deal with tribulation as we should, it authenticates our true identity as believers.
Tribulation tests our faith “These [trials] have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).
Tribulation tests our sense of purpose When I was in my first year of medical school, I was about one minute late to histology class two or three times in a row. Our professor approached me in the laboratory and notified me that my tardiness reflected on my “sense of purpose.” I was never late again, because I realized how it would reflect on my character. As it says in James, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”(James 1:2).
Tribulation tests our obedience “The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
We are tested to teach us to rely on God “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
We are tested so that it will go well with us “He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (Deuteronomy 8:16).
Some people do not pass the test In the New Testament, there is a Greek word, adokimos, that speaks of people who are tested but do not pass the test. It is used several times in the New Testament. I have included selected quotations:
“No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless of course you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong” (2 Corinthians 13:5-7a).
“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:16).
“But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned” (Hebrews 6:8).
Consider what 1 John 2:19 says about some who left the fellowship: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going out showed that none of them belonged to us.”
As I study these concepts, I can only come to one conclusion: Salvation is a gift from God, but if your life does not show evidence of God working in it, you likely never received the gift.
Taken from the book Finding Strength in Weakness by William D. Black, M.D. Used by permission of New Life Ministries. New Life Ministries has a variety of resources on men, women and relationships. Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE or visit www.newlife.com.