God Has a Purpose for Trials

Have you ever wondered why good things happen to bad people? We have all observed the dilemma. We possibly have given thought to the world’s determination that “life isn’t fair.” Why should bad people be able to not only get by with their evil ways, but even prosper in them?

King David, the beloved psalmist of Israel, observed the phenomenon. He took it personally and it troubled him. He spoke to God concerning the wicked and their prosperity, “Behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my heart in innocency” (Ps 73:12–13). He did take it personally, didn’t he? He had cleansed his heart and it gained him nothing. He wrestled with the problem until he “. . . went into the sanctuary; then I understood their end” (Ps 73:17).

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Have you become angry with God for some of those things which you have observed, or even experienced? We all have observed some fine people going through some terribly trying ordeals and wondered why such things should come upon them. I offered a tract to a man on a certain occasion and his immediate rejection of it was accompanied by an angry charge, “I don’t want anything to do with your God. My god doesn’t hate people!” I replied, “My God doesn’t hate people either. In fact, He loved them so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them that they might be with Him in heaven.” Evidently some observation had made the man think that God hates people, even the good ones. Has that thought ever crossed your mind in a weaker moment?

A Definition
Before we go any further, let’s clarify what we mean by the term “good people.” Admittedly there are some fine folks who do not profess Christ as their Savior. They are faithful to their spouse, they discipline their children, they pay their debts, they live within the law, and they are good neighbors. But for our purposes here, we are talking about Christian people, people whose sins are forgiven, who are seeking to glorify God in their daily conduct, and whom we would expect to be singularly blessed by their Heavenly Father.

The bad things that happen to such good people may not seem so bad when seen from God’s point of view. He may have some ultimate good in mind to be realized by the experience.

Let us consider four purposes which He might have in mind when bad things happen to good people.

The Purpose of Correction
First, the best of children will at one time or another require discipline for correction. Preachers’ kids, who are expected to be perfect, need it. But so do the children of deacons, elders, and parishioners! And, yes, so do the children of God who are His by faith in Jesus Christ. We have sinful natures which are still prone to sin. We still need to be brought to the place of repentance and confession because of some of the daily misconduct of life. God, in such circumstances, needs to get our attention.

Hebrews 12:5–7 reads, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?”

No discipline is pleasant, neither for the recipient nor for the giver. Many a parent has told his child, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” But when the tears have stopped flowing and the forgiving hug has been received, the discipline can be appreciated. So it is with our Heavenly Father. When the discipline has produced the correction needed and we are again on good terms with our Father, we will be glad that He loved us enough to correct us, even by stern discipline.

The Purpose of Developing Trust
Second, we need to learn to trust God in every circumstance. If we can’t trust His judgment and follow Him in trying circumstances, how can we confidently follow Him on our way to heaven? When the world expresses its hostility toward us, do we waver in our faithful walk with the Lord? When the ungodly mistreat and abuse us, emotionally and/or physically, will we stray from our godly course? When real persecution comes, can we really trust the Lord to see us through it?

In what is probably the best known passage in the Old Testament, David declared, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Ps 23:4). David learned to trust God when hunted by King Saul. He knew that he was destined to become the king of Israel and would replace Saul in God’s good time. With that expectation he knew that Saul could not kill him and thus prevent the will of God from being fulfilled. Though the efforts of Saul seemed endless, David could wait upon the Lord and renew his strength daily, and fear no evil.

Later, David had served as Israel’s king. One of his sons decided that it was time for him to replace his dad on the throne. He won the loyalty of a large number of David’s subjects and with their help he sought to take the kingdom from David, God’s chosen king. Even under those circumstances, the valley of the shadow of death was not a problem beyond God’s sufficiency.

The Purpose of Ministry to Others
Third, God uses adverse circumstances to teach us how to comfort others when they seek our help. At one time or another most of have said, “Been there; done that.” Or being more serious and sympathetic, we may have said, “I know exactly how you feel.” But we are probably more convincing if we can say, “I have been through the same experience.” It is at that point that we can say, “This is what the Lord showed me to help me through the experience.”

In 2 Corinthians 1:3–5, the Apostle Paul writes, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”

When Paul had asked three times to be delivered from a “thorn in the flesh,” God’s reply was, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It is in and through the trial that we learn that by experience and are then able to help our brethren who are suffering similar trials. It was as result of his many trials that Paul was able to console his readers to endure their persecutions, imprisonments, privations, and rejections as believers. And those discomforts had come upon them simply because they were Christians.

The Purpose of Teaching Patience
Fourth, God uses adversity to teach us patience. And, boy, do we Americans ever need that! We can hardly wait for the second section of a revolving door! We don’t like the car wash because there is no passing lane!

But we are admonished in Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” And how does God develop that patient waiting? Paul says in Romans 5:1–5, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

There are many things worth waiting for. The coming of the Lord comes to mind. The misery and evil of this present age would come to an end. Christ would be exalted as King of kings, and Lord of lords. Thus righteousness would prevail in all the earth.

The longing of ones soul for the conversion of a loved one is worth waiting for. Knowing the judgment destined for the lost, it is hard to wait, but God wishes to work patience in us. And how much more does the Lord long for that loved one’s conversion?

Enduring a lengthy and serious illness is a tough assignment, whether it is your own or that of a loved one. We hope that we are waiting for the cure for it, but we may be called upon to wait through the continuation of it. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was for the rest of his life; ours may be, too. We will be glad for the patience given by God through tribulation.

The Perfect Example
God not only upholds us with the explanations and encouragements of trials, but He also gives us a more perfect example than even the Apostle Paul. He calls our attention to a list of Old Testament heroes in Hebrews 11, and then to the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior, in chapter 12.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Heb 12:1–4).

Jesus certainly did not deserve such treatment as described here. He endured it for us. We may think that we do not deserve such trials as we receive, but let us bear them for Him. We may be called upon to give our lives in a wave of persecution someday, but, at least, we will not be forsaken by the Father as He was upon the cross.

So, dear reader, don’t despair when adversity comes your way. God has a purpose for it. He desires to work in you His will for His glory and for your good.

April/May 2010

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