Through Much Tribulation

By Jim Rector

The Suffering Servant
The Sufferings of David
The Example of Paul
The Objective of Trials
I Want My Answer Now!

When the apostle Paul had come into Galatia on his first missionary journey, he began to preach in the cities of Lystra, Derbe and Iconium. In Lystra, he and Barnabus were worshipped as virtual gods (Acts 14:6-18) -- but with Paul, the enemy was never very far away. True to form, certain Jews from Antioch came into the area and withstood the apostles, persuading the citizens to rise up against them. They accosted Paul, and this group that had so recently honored him, was turned into a howling lynch mob bent on destroying him. As the familiar story goes, they indeed succeeded in stoning him, dragging him out of the city and leaving him for dead!

Paul, by the grace of God, survived this ordeal, but it changed his life forever! He would never again be the same. He had suddenly, and almost without warning, become the victim of the most brutal reaction possible to the gospel message he had been personally commissioned by Christ to preach. He would never forget what happened that eventful day in Lystra. It shaped and colored his life and ministry until his dying hour.

Paul's mind undoubtedly flashed back to an earlier time, before his conversion, when a young man named Stephen, so devout and full of the Holy Spirit, had been stoned to death right in front of Paul himself. Paul, however, had been more than a mere witness on that morbid occasion, yes, far more! He had consented to the murder! He was the RINGLEADER!! On that black day, he was a part of a rabid Jewish mob just like the one that had left him for dead outside of Lystra. Needless to say, the impact upon Paul's life was profound. From that point forward, he continued to preach the same fiery message of Christ and Him crucified, of the coming Kingdom of God, of repentance and righteousness - but something had changed inside Paul. He begin, through his horrible experience, to see another dimension to the Christian calling - something he had never before understood. It was, as Paul began to put it,

"that we must THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the Kingdom of God' (Acts 14:32).

Paul became the prime New Testament example of the afflicted servant of God. No one more fully partook of the sufferings of Christ than did the apostle Paul. Indeed, from the time of his dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road, he was destined to suffer for the sake of the gospel (Acts 9:16). It is therefore in the life and teaching of Paul that Christians are able to most clearly discern the pattern of trial and testing spoken of so frequently in the Scriptures.

Of course, Paul was simply following in the footsteps of the Messiah Himself, the one who truly suffered more than any of us. Peter wrote concerning Christ's sufferings and their intimate connection with our own spiritual calling in this fashion:

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when you are buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently? But if, when you do well, and suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto WERE YOU CALLED: because Christ ALSO SUFFERED FOR US, leaving us an example, that you SHOULD FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS" (I Pet. 2:19-21).

We must comprehend that, as chosen servants of God, as distinguished followers of Christ, we are called to SUFFER! If we are to remain faithful to that calling, we cannot escape the inevitable trial which the Christian life brings with it. Years later, recalling that bitter episode at Lystra, Paul wrote Timothy, saying:

“But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION"(I1 Tim. 3:10-12).

Tribulation, persecution, affliction -- the sufferings of this life and calling are all a part of God's great plan for human beings, especially the firstfruits of His spiritual harvest. He uses trials of every sort to get our attention, to refocus our thinking, to teach us indelible lessons, to help us properly prioritize our lives, to create and develop righteous character within our minds. Trials become like tools to God which He employs for our eternal, spiritual good. We should not, therefore, be surprised or even dismayed at the difficulty and challenge we encounter in this Christian life. Remember what Peter plainly told us:

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is come to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are PARTAKERS OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS: that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Pet. 4:12 - 13).

Every single trial we as Christians face, no matter what the cause, is for our everlasting benefit. We may not always immediately discern its value. We may, in fact, be quite confused at times, but eventually every suffering will prove to be for our good. God sees to it that this is so.

We all know that suffering is a part of every human life, whether called of God or not. Misery is worldwide. Pain, sickness, poverty, sadness, depression, confusion, loneliness, loss, failure, sin - we all have these things in common. Very few of us ever escape this life without a certain share of problem and traumas. The key, therefore, is not so much in the trials themselves, as in the ATTITUDE AND APPROACH we take to the trials! This is really what God wants us to learn to put into practice.

God's people have, throughout the ages, suffered greatly. The Scriptures contain a powerful record of some of those individuals -- and all of it is written down for our admonition. The lessons available in the lives of the great men and women of God are absolutely priceless to those of us who seek to serve and please our Father in heaven. Now is our grand opportunity as students of the masters, to profit from a careful study of the mistakes and sins and sufferings, the righteous achievements and afflictions, of those who have blazed the trail before us. We will either learn our lessons now, in a time of relative peace, prosperity and freedom, or we will be forced by a loving, but angry God to be severely punished, learning those necessary lessons in the hardest way imaginable! The choice is ours to make. No one likes to dwell upon the negative side of life, we should always remember that with God there really is no negative side. It is all positive, even the painful and otherwise uncomfortable circumstances, if we are faithful and yielded to God.

Paul once declared:

 "For as the sufferings of Christ ABOUND IN US, so also our consolation abounds by Christ" (II Cor. 1:5). 

Do the sufferings of Christ truly abound in us? Are we really partakers of His afflictions, rejections and persecutions? How much trial have we actually endured for righteousness' sake? Furthermore, do we understand the purpose of each suffering we encounter? Do we ask the right questions, pray about it in the right way, really put the entire matter into God's hands? Is our approach and attitude toward our trials according to the mind of Christ, and do we really learn the spiritual lessons God intends? These are just a few of the pertinent questions we need to consider and answer. Searching the Scriptures and coming to grips with God's direct hand in our lives is precisely what every one of us needs to consistently be doing. Facing and rightly dealing with adversity is a profound part of spiritual growth.

The place to begin in any such study is with Christ Himself. He is the ultimate SUFFERING SERVANT. He is our shining example, our perfect role model, the true yardstick by which our own spiritual lives must always be measured.


On the surface of things, it might seem unlikely that such efforts as healing the sick, comforting the downtrodden and speaking the truth of God would actually enrage anyone, but of course it goes much deeper than that, doesn't it? Christ's lifestyle, His words and works, cut the ruling Pharisees and Sadducees to the quick. They perceived Him as their enemy, because He exposed them for what they really were - a bunch of conniving, materialistic, carnal-minded hypocrites! Naturally they felt threatened by this remarkably righteous man who pulled few punches in clearly pointing out their numerous mistakes, inconsistencies and outright crimes. His doctrine and mode of life always ran counter to their accepted way. When He pressed the issue with them, they couldn't stand the pressure. Notice, if you will, the classic confrontation that Christ's very first sermon precipitated:

"And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up and, as His custom was, He went Into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor-, He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, 'This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears' (Luke 4:16-21).

Now this was a bold enough statement in itself! This, in fact, was undoubtedly much further than any of us would have dared gone under the circumstances. Christ could have stopped right there, but no, He kept on. He continued:

"You will surely say unto Me this proverb - 'Physician, heal yourself': whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your country. And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country' (vs. 23-24).

The crowd in the synagogue was beginning to get restless. They couldn't believe that this mere son of the carpenter Joseph was speaking to them in such a bold manner (v. 22) - after all, he was only a local boy! What audacity! What nerve! What arrogance! The Messiah had the perfect opportunity again to stop, before things really got out of hand. He could easily sense the mood changing. He knew what was likely to occur, but He kept on. He cast the final straw by saying:

"But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout the land; but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Serepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian" (vs. 25-27).

Christ was not in the habit of speaking lightly. He cut right through to the heart of things. These words were not intended to merely convey a brief history lesson. They were like barbed iron to the Jews. They were fighting words! In a sudden rage, the congregation turned on this upstart. Luke concludes his record by saying:

"And all that were in the synagogue, when they heard these words, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city and led Him unto the brow of a hill whereupon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. But He, passing through the midst of them, went His way' (vs. 28-30).

When the Messiah spoke the hard truth to his fellow countrymen, especially their evil rulers, they were pricked in their hearts. His words were like hot knives being plunged deep into their dark souls - and they went crazy! Normal, average, everyday Jews were suddenly stirred into a frenzy against someone who stood up and burned their ears with the sting of truth! They were turned into a lynch mob! Death was in the air!

One might think that reasonable men would embrace this obvious man of God. He clearly demonstrated His credentials through the power of the Holy Spirit. They witnessed it and even believed it, but they would not permit themselves to submit to the truth. That is why Christ came down so hard on these leaders. They stood in real danger of knowingly rejecting the true Messiah. Their personal power and control was in jeopardy. He saw through their deception, their duplicity, their egoism - and they hated Him for it! On one occasion, they attempted to deride Him by implying that He was of illegitimate birth. They dared to accuse the Son of God of being a BASTARD, declaring: "We be not born of FORNICATION" (John 8:39-41). In another instance, they branded Him a demoniac, claiming that His power came from Satan himself! "He has BEELZEBUB," they said, "and by the prince of the demons casts He out demons" (Mark 3:21-22). Time after time, our Saviour met the opposition of unrighteous, bigoted, lying, insulting hypocrites. These men seldom stepped out of character. When He did good on the Sabbath day, healing a diseased man, they accused Him of breaking the commandment. When the apostles innocently plucked a few ears of corn, these self -righteous rulers chided Him, saying: "Behold, your disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day" (Matt. 12:2). And predictably, “the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might DESTROY Him" (v. 14).

Every time Christ encountered these religious leaders, they were challenged. They either attempted to trick Him into saying something wrong or they false accused Him or they withstood Him. On several occasions, they even tried to murder Him - whatever it took to shut Him up! Think about the kind of reaction the Saviour provoked when He spoke the truth of God. Has that truth changed? Has human nature changed? We all should know better than that! Should we expect to ease by in our preaching and publishing of the truth?

Aside from the constant opposition from Jewish leaders, Christ also had problems within His own little group of followers. When He told the crowd that He was the Living Bread that had come down out of heaven, and that that bread was His very flesh which He was to sacrifice, notice the reaction it provoked:

"Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is an hard saying; who can hear it?’ When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Does this offend you? What if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? It is the spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing ... From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him' (John 6:60-66).

Even those who were among His closest insiders deserted Christ when the chips were down. We can expect the very same thing to occur in the Church today! When it is said that "those of a man's own household" will turn against him, we had better understand that this can and should be applied to the very Church of God - our own spiritual family!! This, in fact, has already been taking place, but greater betrayal of brother against brother is still in store for the end-time.

It doesn't take much research to learn that the Saviour encountered resistance and rejection at every turn. He constantly rubbed many people the wrong way. Even His own family did not believe Him (John 7:1-5). Notice how determined the Sadducees and scribes were to find something worthy of arresting Him:

"And He beheld them and said, What is this then that Is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same Is become the head of the corner? Whoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind them to powder. And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on Him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that He had spoken this parable against them. And they watched Him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him into the power and authority of the governor" (Luke 20:17-20).

On another occasion, Luke again records that after he had spoken certain strong warnings to the teachers and lawyers that "the scribes and Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of many things; laying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him" (Luke 11:53-54).

The Jewish leaders did everything in their power to discredit Christ, to belittle Him, to ridicule Him, to lambast Him, to trick Him, to find something against Him, to dissuade others away from following Him. Every day of His life, even on the holy Sabbath, He never had rest. The pressure was relentless. He never knew when they would strike next or whether, not only His message might be distorted or Himself denigrated, but His very life would be at stake! He lived with this sort of tribulation throughout His ministry.

Of course, we are all so familiar with the story of Christ's final sufferings - the betrayal by Judas, the agony in Gethsemane, the complacency of the apostles, the arrest, the mock trial, the trumped up charges, the bribed witnesses, the insults, the outrages, the taunts and gibes, the beating with rods and slaps across the face, the horrible Roman scourging, the shame of nakedness, the desertion of the disciples, the denials of Peter, and then Golgotha, the place of the skull, the cross itself, the nails in hands and feet, the loneliness (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?), the blood poured out, and finally the hour of destiny, full of darkness, thunder and earthquake, and then IT IS FINISHED!! - The deed is done, the Shepherd is smitten, the Lamb is slain!

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer ... He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many."

These most eloquent, poignant, exquisite words are so painful to read, but they describe the ultimate in human reality -- the ultimate in righteous suffering and tribulation. Our Saviour was tried to the limit of His endurance, beyond the pale -- and yet He had no sin and no guile was found in His mouth. The perfect Son of God bore the ignominy, the pain, the blasphemy -- and who could shoulder it with more love, more dignity, more faith? Did He set a pace? Did He trace a pattern? Did He, through His unspeakable suffering set the example? Peter said He did indeed:

“For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should FOLLOW in His steps”(I Pet. 2:2 1).

We must remember the priceless shining example of our Saviour. Time and time again the writers of the New Testament refer us to Him, encourage us to look to Him, to consider what He said, how He handled Himself, what He was willing to endure for our sakes. Paul wrote the classic passage in that regard in Hebrews 12, saying:

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING TO JESUS (Yahshua), 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 God. For CONSIDER HIM that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, let you be wearied and faint in your minds. You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. 12:1-4).

If the perfect Son of God had to suffer, it only follows that the less than perfect disciples must walk in His footsteps. This is a integral part of our calling. God's very purposes are wrapped up in the trials and tests that we all undergo in His service. Do not resist them or run from them or try to worm your way out of them. They must be faced and endured by yielding into the mighty hands of God and allowing Him to hold full sway over your life, working out in His own way and time His perfect will. Every negative can and will be turned into a positive, if we will, from the heart, do these things.

Christ taught us that the servant is not above or greater than his master. If He, our Master, subjected Himself to tribulation and suffering, it is enough that we be as our Master and suffer also. This is the truth of the Scriptures. We are told that He was perfected by His many trials. In the same fashion, so are we formed and shaped by God through our afflictions. Never lose sight of this f act!


David was a type of the Messiah. Much of the suffering that he endured prefigured that of Christ. He was the first king of Israel from the Godly ordained lineage of Judah. The Saviour, also a Jew, was often called the "Son of David." It will be upon David's throne, in fact, that Christ will sit and rule the nations of the earth in the Kingdom. The adversity that David faced in his tumultuous life runs the full gamut of human experience.

God allowed this great man to get himself into almost every kind of trying situation conditions that forced him to see himself for what he really was, to lean completely upon God, to cry out in desperation and agony time after time for deliverance - and, amazingly, to write it all down so that people like us today can read it and profit from it.

David was a shepherd, tending the flocks of Jesse his father. The life of a shepherd contained a certain amount of danger - being alone for long stretches of time, the possibility of encountering wild animals or perhaps bandits, having to spend many nights outside. David undoubtedly learned many an important lesson during the formative years of his life. He mastered the lyre and composed poetry and music. He had perhaps an ideal life, and it probably would have continued on that way, had it not been for the intervention of God in his life. Once that happened, David was destined to live a life of inexpressible contrast to the pastoral experience he had enjoyed as a youth in the hills around Bethlehem.

The story begins with David's anointing by Samuel (I Sam. 16). He was still a young man at this time, hardly ready to ascend the throne of Israel. There would have to be much preparation. Subsequent to the anointing, Jesse sent him to take food to his brothers who were encamped with Saul's army in the Eloh Valley. It was here, upon his arrival, that David heard the insulting taunts of the Philistine giant Goliath. The Spirit of God stirred within David and he was moved with anger and zeal. He shouted:

"What shall be done to the man that kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God?" (I Sam. 17:10).

No one in the entire Israeli army had the faith and courage to stand up and trust God to give them victory over Goliath - only the shepherd boy David. God loved this zealous response, but David's brothers hated him. After all, it made them look like the cowards they really were. Just like Christ Himself, David's enemies included those of his own household.

The slaying of Goliath changed David's life forever. From that day forward, the king became intensely interested in this young Bethlehemite. Jonathan, the king's son, became David's closest friend and eventually David was invited to live with the royal family. This may have seemed like a dream come true, but David's troubles were just beginning. We read in I Samuel 18:

"David went out withersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war ... And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistines, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul ... And the women answered one another as they played and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands ... and SAUL EYED DAVID from that day and forward" (I Sam. 18:5-9).

Saul grew increasingly depressed and melancholy. His sins had separated him from God and he was in a miserable state. He became jealous of David, perhaps even fearful, even though David had given him no good reason for such feelings. He was, in fact, the most loyal and trusted man the King had in his service - but Saul's animosity only intensified and David was the one who suffered for it.

For years, Saul afflicted David, scheming to trick him by offering him the hand of his daughter Michal in marriage, later trying to arrange for the Philistines kill him, and concluding with his own many attempts directly on David's life. For months, even years on end, he persecuted David, hunting him down like a dog, threatening him, forcing him to flee and hide in caves, ultimately to leave the country and go to the Gentiles - yet no matter what happened, David amazingly maintained his loyal attitude toward Saul, even though he knew that he had been rejected by God. On two separate occasions, Saul himself tried outright to murder David by hurling a javelin at him. David was miraculously spared. The man whom David had befriended, the man whom he had faithfully served, the man whom he had help make rich and famous, now hated him so much that he was bent on destroying him. David was on the run. How different things must have seemed to him, as he pondered the peaceful days when he just kept his father's sheep. What a strange turn his life had suddenly taken. He pleaded with Jonathan, saying: 'What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life' (I Sam. 20:1).

Some of David's most powerful and moving psalms were composed during this most trying and stressful period in his life. Once he wrote:

"I will love you, 0 Lord (Yahweh), my strength. The Lord is my rock and may fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from my enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of bell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His Temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ear ... He sent from above, He took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hate me: for they were too strong for me" (Psa. 18).

Notice what David's dire straits taught him - to lean completely and totally upon God, to rest in Him and trust Him implicitly. David was greatly tested during this particular period of his life. He was not being punished, but God was forging character into his very mind and heart. David even states that he was afraid, that he was outnumbered, that he was overwhelmed, that he was even near unto death. On another occasion he cried:

"Plead my cause, 0 Lord, with them that strive with me. Fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am your salvation ... For without a cause have they bid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul ... in my adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together. yea, the abjects gathered themselves against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not ... This you have seen, 0 Yahweh: keep not silence, 0 Lord, be not far from me. STIR YOURSELF UP and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, My God and my Lord" (Psa 35).

David had to use his wits just to survive, but God was with him, delivering him time and again from what seemed like certain death. He was often hiding in dens and caves or being forced to ally himself with Gentiles to stay alive. He fought battles during this period of time against the Philistines and the Amalekites, and on at least two occasions, he himself spared King Saul's life, preferring to remain faithful to God's anointed ruler as long as he was alive, even in the face of such barbarous treatment. It was, however, only a matter of time before God left Saul to his own devices. He had already determined that the kingdom was to be David's. That fateful time came on the day Saul and Jonathan led the armies of Israel against the Philistine garrisons at Mt. Gilboa. They never stood a chance. The Philistines routed the Israelites and both Saul and the beloved Jonathan were slain in the battle. It was a dark, dark day in the history of Israel.

While this tragic event was unfolding, David was facing dire trouble of his own. The Amalekites had invaded the city of Ziklag, taking all the women captive and burning the town to the ground. David's wives were among those captured. He was crushed with sorrow. The story in I Samuel 30 makes for some very interesting reading. Beginning in verse 6, we come to see that:

"David and his men came to the city, and behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives and their sons and their daughters were taken captives. Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives, Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite and Abinoam the Jezreelitess. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of STONING HIM, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters; but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" vs. 3-6).

David successfully defeated the Amalekites and retrieved his family safely. He had no sooner completed that arduous task than the messenger bringing the tragic news of Saul and Jonathan arrived. This calamity hit David like a jackhammer! He grieved over this sorrowful event and lamented the king and his son, saying:

"From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan turned not back, and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! 0 Jonathan, you were slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant have you been unto me: your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (II Sam. 1:22-26).

David's heart was large, his love was deep and genuine. This is why God loved him so much. He was REAL, he was sincere, he was open. And he sought the Eternal with all of his being. Even though Saul had been his avowed enemy for many years, causing David's life to be one of almost unbearable trial and tribulation, still he loved Saul and supported him and even cried for him in death. David was a rare man indeed, greatly tested, yet greatly loved by God - but his trials had only just begun! It would be years before he would know peace and harmony. Unbeknown to David, there lay before him much sorrow and many tears - and they would be the forgers and shapers of God's righteous character within this remarkable man. He would become the king of Israel and would be known as the "man after God's own heart" - but many profound lessons lay in store for him.

Upon the death of Saul, David was crowned king over the tribe or nation of Judah, but not over Israel proper. For over seven years he waited until the time was right for the promises of God to be fulfilled. There was a long war between the house of David and the house of Saul, but eventually David emerged the victor.

Throughout David's reign, there was in-fighting between either his trusted military advisors and leaders or among members of his own family. Stealth, conspiracy, even treason abounded in David's realm. Indeed, something underhanded seemed to be brewing virtually all the time, and it usually resulted in causing David a great deal of trial and sorrow.

It began with Abner, Saul's military commander. Once David was made king over Judah, a battle ensued between the forces of David and Saul, with David's army winning the conflict. Abner then proceeded to murder Asahel, brother of Joab, David's captain. This only exacerbated the already tense situation and shortly thereafter, Joab lay in wait for Abner to return to Hebron and there slew him (II Sam. 3). David's feelings and allegiances always ran deep. Consequently, he suffered greatly when adversity arose. He mourned Abner, telling Joab and the people:

"Rend your clothes and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And King David himself followed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dies? Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put into fetters; as a man falls before the wicked men, so fell you. And all the people wept again over Abner ... And the king said unto his servants, Know you not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? And I am this day weak, though anointed king ... The Lord reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness" (II Sam. 3:31-39).

When David was finally crowned as king over all Israel, his troubles were only compounded. He was admittedly a great warrior, yet even warriors desire peace, something David had precious little of during his reign. He was constantly plagued with enemies on every side and, once again, his psalms convey the depth of his plight. He once wrote:

"O God, you have cast us off, you have scattered us, you have been displeased: 0 turn yourself to us again. You have made the earth to tremble; you have broken it; heal the breaches thereof, for it shakes. You have showed your people hard things; you have made us drink the wine of astonishment ... Who will bring me to the strong city? Who will lead me into Edom? Will not you, 0 God, which has cast us off? And you, 0 God, which did not go out with our armies? Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that shall tread down our enemies" (Psa. 6 0:1 - 3, 9 - 12).

Notice that David's sufferings accomplished one consistent thing in his life - they always caused him to draw closer and closer to God - to realize more and more deeply how small and insignificant he really was and how much he needed the power of God. Even though he often had to endure affliction for a long time, and had to plead with God on numerous occasions for deliverance, he did not grow bitter or accusatory toward God. It took a while, but David learned his lessons.

David's family was a constant source of problems for the king. Anyone who has had to endure trials with a mate or with children should be able to appreciate David's troubles. Saul had given his daughter Michal to David as a wife. One the day when the ark of the covenant was brought to Zion, we read that:

"David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart ... Then David returned to bless his household. And Michael, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord which chose me before your father and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore I will play before the Lord. And I will be yet more vile than thus, and will be base in my own sight: and of the maidservants which you have spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor. Therefore Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto the day of her death" (II Sam. 6:14-16, 20-23).

This was the beginning of David's family struggles and sorrows. They would only multiply as time passed. God permitted David to have several wives, but David was a man of passion and he was, after all, king of Israel. Therefore, one day something happened which would forever change the course of his life. One night David walked across the roof of his palace and saw a beautiful young woman bathing and immediately he lusted to have her for his own. Nothing would stand in his way. We all know the familiar story. Her name was Bathsheba, wife of one of David's own mighty men, Uriah the Hittite. Although the king knew full well that adultery was a violation of God's Law, he proceeded to take this women anyway, and as a result, she became pregnant. This was a heinous sin in God's sight, but He allowed David to continue with his plan.

In order to cover up his sin, David ordered Uriah back from the field, hoping that by getting him drunk he might entice him to go in and sleep with Bathsheba. The child could then be passed off as Uriah's, thus absolving David in the matter. But Uriah could not be persuaded, so faithful to David and his men was this captain. He refused to go in unto his wife, but slept outside the king's door. So David, in desperation, ordered Joab to send Uriah to the forefront of the hottest battle, that he might be slain. Joab obeyed the king and, like clockwork, David's plan worked perfectly. Uriah was killed and David made Bathsheba his wife and she bore him a son. God, however, was greatly displeased (II Sam. 11:27)!!

Now it goes without saying that David was a Godly man, a true servant of Yahweh, a man of understanding and obedience. He sought to honor God with all of his heart. Yet, in this instance, he sinned grievously. We should all should take warning from this episode in David's life. When he awoke that fateful day, he had no desire to sin against God, no intention to do so - but his guard was not up and it happened. Paul tells us to run this race set before us with patience, laying aside every weight and "the sin that so easily besets us" (Heb. 12:1). In the very beginning, God told Cain: 

"If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not well, SIN LIES AT THE DOOR. And unto you shall be his desire, and you shall RULE OVER HIM' (Gen. 4:7).

Sin is at the door, around every corner. It is everywhere we turn. It doesn't matter who you are or think you are, it is possible to be turned aside from God's strait and narrow path, if we permit ourselves to succumb to temptation. Paul once cautioned:

 "Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and MAKE NOT PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, to fulfill the lusts thereof' (Rom. 13:14).

 Unfortunately David did not heed this warning!

This sin with Bathsheba, greatly complicated by the additional sin of murder, was to cause David literally no end of problems and trials in his already plagued life. First of all, the child born to Bathsheba died, though David prayed with tears and fasted before God seven days. Next God pronounced a curse upon David, saying:

"Now the sword therefore shall never depart from your house; because you have despised me ... I will raise up evil against you out of your own house, and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them unto your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel" (II Sam. 12:10-12).

Indeed, God was as good as His word. One of David's sons, Amnon, lusted after his own sister, Tamar. One day, while feigning sickness, he lured Tamar into his bedroom, and Amnon forcibly raped her. David was both angry and heartbroken, but it was Absalom, another of David's sons, who sought to avenge this abuse to Tamar. He conspired with his servants to murder Amnon, once he was out of his father's presence. When David heard about this tragedy, we read:

"The king arose and tore his garments, and lay on the earth: and all the servants stood by with their clothes rent ... the king's sons came, and lifted up their voices and wept; and the king also and all his servants wept very sore' (II Sam. 13:31-36).

David was now literally reeling from the hammer -like blows of the calamity occurring within his own family! A daughter brutally assaulted and raped by her own brother. Then that very brother murdered by another brother. And finally, Absalom had fled the kingdom and was hiding in fear of his life. David's heart was crushed and he grieved over these tragic events, realizing as he must have, that they were punishments from the Eternal for his own wretched sins.

When he was at last reunited with his errant son, it was short lived. Absalom had already begun to entertain the idea of usurping the throne of his own father! He conspired with numerous influential people in Israel and was successful to the point that David was actually forced to flee Jerusalem. 'And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over. the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness" (II Sam. 15:23).

Years earlier, David had to run for his life from Saul. Now he was fleeing from the wrath of his own son. God's word is absolutely inviolable. It cannot and will not be broken! And David felt every blow!! And, as if this indignity was not enough, insult was added to injury. As the king and his entourage approached the village of Bahurim, a man named Shimei came out and began to throw stones at David and curse him, saying:

"Come out, come out, you bloody man, and you man of Belial: The Lord has returned upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son: and, behold, you are taken in your mischief, because you are a bloody man' (II Sam. 16:7 - 8).

No one could believe their ears when they heard the blasphemous words of this peasant. Surely he had signed his own death warrant! But David was so full of guilt and sorrow over his sin and the resultant catastrophes, that he said to his captains:

"If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, Curse David, who can ask, Why do you do this? David then said to Abishai and all his officials, My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more then this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that Yahweh will see my distress and repay me good for the cursing I am receiving today" (II Sam. 16:1-12).

David had to take strong medicine from God. It was no fun! Remember that Paul tells us that when God corrects and chastens us as children, that it is not pleasant, but painful (Heb. 12:11), but afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. So it was in David's case. Amid the frustration and sorrow of David's suffering, God was forming and shaping His own character within this remarkable man - but David's affliction was not over yet.

After being befriended by Hushai, David sent his armies under the command of Joab, Abishai and Ittai, charging them to "deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom" (II Sam. 18:5). But Joab had an unquenchable mean streak in him, and when Absalom's long hair got tangled in the boughs of a large oak tree, he gleefully slew the king's son and buried him in a pit deep in the woods.

When this news was conveyed to David, he was stunned! We read:

"And the king said to Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against you to do you hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept; and as he went, thus he said: 0 my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for you, 0 Absalom, my son, my son!' (II Sam. 18:32-33).

For a space of time, king David did enjoy a certain amount of peace and prosperity. David almost always learned the lessons of his trials, virtually never repeating the same mistakes again. But when he was older, there came a time when he fell prey to the influence of Satan and he committed yet another grievous sin. We read in I Chronicles 21: 

"And Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel' (v. 1).

This might not at first appear to be a sin. Numbering the tribes of Israel had certainly been done before. But this was different. David wanted to know the number of his fighting men. David should have been trusting completely in God and not in his huge army. This had become a source of pride with David. Joab immediately sensed that this decision was wrong, but David's wishes prevailed. God was enraged and confronted David with his sin. We read in II Samuel 24:10 that:

"David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done; and now, I beseech you, 0 Lord, take away the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly."

Although this sin was exceedingly serious, it is to David's credit that he did recognize what he had done, that he repented and begged for mercy and forgiveness. Yet, even this did not prevent God from inflicting a severe punishment upon David and the people. The king was given three choices - a plague of famine for 7 years; three months of fleeing before the enemy; or three days of pestilence throughout the land. David chose the latter and in the ensuing scourge, SEVENTY THOUSAND INNOCENT PEOPLE OF ISRAEL DIED!!! Can you begin to imagine the crushing weight of this sin upon David? He pleaded with God and said: 'Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray you, be against me and against my father's house' (11 Sam. 24:17). The sorrow and pain of this sin was with David until the day he died.

We could hardly recount David's many problems and trials without at least mentioning what was perhaps his greatest disappointment. He had for sometime greatly desired to build a house for God, a grand temple to honor His Creator and to which all Israel could come and worship. He drew up the plans and was making all the necessary provisions, but God prevented him from completing the ambitious project, saying: "You have shed blood abundantly, and have made great wars: you shall not build an house unto my name, because you have shed much blood upon the earth in My sight" (I Chron. 22:8). So what would have been the crowing achievement to David's reign was denied him - but he took it well. David always did the right thing when he was tested. He did not resist, he did not attempt to worm his way out, he did not run and hide - he stood his ground and faced the situation and submitted to God. In so doing, although he suffered immeasurable anguish and heartache, he also profited from every affliction. God was able to teach him, to correct him, to mold and shape his character. And this is the crux of the matter - not only for David - but for all of God's people.

Even in death, David was tried. As he lay dying, an old man unable to defend himself any longer, Adonijah, another of his sons, "exalted himself, saying, I will be king; and he prepared him chariots and horsemen and fifty men to run before him" (I Kings 1:5). Adonijah, though a son of David, was not the one chosen by God to ascend the throne. That honor was to go to Solomon. Adonijah, however, was able to persuade a number of David's key personnel, including even Joab and Abiathar the priest. But Nathan the prophet remained faithful and informed David, who quickly had Solomon crowned king, thus putting an end to Adonijah's treachery. Had David lived, he would have had to witness the slaying of yet another of his sons, as well as Joab and others whom Solomon eventually put to death.

The record of David's life is indeed remarkable. God has seen fit to detail and catalog his sins and afflictions, more than any other man in all of human history - and all for our admonition and learning. Praise God for His unending love and concern for His children. Let us dwell, therefore, on the example of David in every respect, and profit by the trials and MUCH TRIBULATION of this great man of God.


If David was the preeminent Old Testament version of the suffering servant, then surely the apostle Paul was the chief New Testament example of one afflicted for the sake of Christ. His life, from his dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road until his last poignant letter written to Timothy from a Roman prison, was one of adversity, persecution and hardship. Very possibly, no human being ever suffered more over a longer period of time than did Paul.

Even from the very beginning of his calling, Paul was destined for a life of difficulty in God's service. Christ told Ananias concerning Paul:

"Go your way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things HE MUST SUFFER for My name's sake' (Acts 9:15 - 16).

Paul's trials started immediately upon his conversion. Indeed we read in Acts 9:23:

"And after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel TO KILL HIM ... and they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket' (Acts 9:23-25).

Notice that Paul's life in God's service parallels David's. In the beginning, both of them spent much time running for their very lives! After fleeing Damascus, Paul came to Jerusalem where the apostles at first refused to accept him. He had a hard time living down his reputation. After all, he had been guilty of tormenting the Church of God, even consenting to the death of the saints. Barnabus, however, came to his defence, and he was allowed to preach the gospel in the city. It wasn't long before he encountered trouble, and when he got into a hot dispute with the Greeks in Jerusalem, they attempted to murder him, and he once again had to run, barely escaping with his life!

Paul received opposition and persecution wherever he went, yet he never compromised his message in order to ease the pressure a bit or to make friends with the world around him. He never watered down the truth of God, although the temptation and opportunity to do so was great. He always took the strong stand, speaking boldly the gospel of Christ - and whenever he did, he drew fire!

Soon after Paul and Barnabus had embarked on their first missionary journey, they came into the area of southern Galatia. It was here that one of the most momentous incidents in the apostle's ministry occurred. When Paul healed a lame man at Lystra, virtually the entire city began worshipping both men as gods. When word of their arrival reached Antioch, some of the Jews came over to Lystra and began to stir up trouble. They succeeded in turning many of the people against Paul. In fact, they were worked into a frenzy, a lynch mob. We read in Acts 14:19:

"And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people and, having STONED PAUL, drew him out of the city, supposing that he had been DEAD.'

Imagine, if you will, the impact this sort of persecution might have on the Church today. We seldom think of torment, much less outright martyrdom, and I do not believe that we really appreciate what men like Paul endured for the sake of the gospel. Here in the very beginning of his missionary work, the apostle is not just repudiated or opposed by enemies of the truth, but stoned and left for dead outside the city gate!

I mentioned this event at the beginning of this article, so I won't dwell on it here, except to point out that God was orchestrating things in Paul’s life. He permitted this extreme reaction against His chosen servant to impress upon him the severity of this calling and undoubtedly to remind him of what he had formerly been a part of when he stood by consenting to Stephen's cruel death (Acts 8).

In the face of such persecution, many a man would have flagged and faded, but not Paul. He pressed on, almost as if nothing had happened! He was so driven, so clearly focused on the objective of the work at hand, that literally nothing short of death could or would ever stop him from laboring in the work of God. Paul was constantly opposed by the Jewish leadership wherever he went. They even went so far as to subvert the faith of many Gentiles, teaching that they had to be circumcised and observe the ritualistic law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15). Paul was consistently plagued with false teachers coming in behind him and leading the people astray.

When his entourage reached Philippi, he once again met with much resistance, not from Jews this time, but Gentiles. We read the account in Acts 16:22-24:

"And the multitude arose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid MANY STRIPES upon them, they cast them INTO PRISON, charging the jailor to keep them safely; who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks."

Paul was never very far away from danger. Upon his arrival in Thessalonica, some of the Jews once again caused trouble for him and the brethren had to help him escape under cover of night to the city of Berea. But once he began preaching there, the same opponents came over and aroused the people against him and he was forced to flee for his life yet another time! Later in his ministry, Paul was bound and brought before Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, where he was falsely accused and beaten with many stripes (Acts 18:12-17). And when he sojourned in Ephesus, Demetrius the silversmith raised a great uproar against him (Acts 19:23-41). Paul was always finding himself having to defend his credentials as an apostle, due primarily to the lies that jealous false prophets and teachers were spreading in order to gain control over the people and their money.

By the mid-50's A.D., when Paul was writing his second epistle to the Corinthians, he confessed what a life of frustration and suffering he had endured for the sake of the gospel. He told them:

"Blessed be God ... who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble...for we would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired EVEN OF LIFE: but we had the SENTENCE OF DEATH in ourselves' (II Cor. 1:3-4, 8-9).

Surely the most detailed passage relating Paul's sufferings, however, is found in 11 Corinthians 11. Here we read Paul's defense of his life and work in the face of almost unbearable and surely unparalleled opposition. Perhaps we have been guilty of taking Paul's life and service and sacrifice just a little for granted. Please ponder what this man was willing to undergo for the work of God:

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool), I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once was I stoned, three times I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I spent in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches" (II Cor. 11:23-28).

What a staggering compilation of sufferings!! No one endured more than did the apostle Paul. One reason he faced so much opposition and encountered so many problems was simply because he, like no one else of that era, spoke the truth of God more boldly and fearlessly to all men, kings or paupers! Yes, he surely learned many lessons, but his example of suffering stands forever as a pattern for Christians - that all who live Godly lives WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION! We have to take this warning to heart. Some may say that Paul's afflictions constituted a special case, not necessarily applicable to the rest of God's people. This is false and deceptive reasoning, designed to appeal to the sleepy Christian. While most of us may not have yet gone before governors and kings, the key lesson here is that Paul received pain, setback and adversity in direct proportion to the strength and boldness of his preaching the gospel. You see, Paul was different. He didn't just sit around and wait for things to happen. He went where God's Spirit led him. He was attuned to the voice of God at all times. He witnessed to all who would hear him. He feared no man or organization. He was willing to be beaten, imprisoned, stoned, lied about, cursed, rejected and repudiated at every turn. He truly bore in his own mind and body the sufferings of Christ!

Paul was going to preach the message no matter what the consequences to himself. He denied himself the pleasures of this life. He refused to marry so that he might devote himself in undistracted labor for Christ. He opted to work with his own hands, rather that accept money from others. He knew full well that when someone else pays your salary, they start to exert control over you and he would have none of that. He was willing to do without, to be destitute, to have no permanent abode, to possess little or nothing personally. This type of dedication, this determination and zeal, will always buy anyone a load of trouble.

What Paul preached and the manner in which he conducted himself cut many to the quick! They could not abide this unique man of God and so, like the Messiah Himself, they sought to belittle him, ridicule him, persecute him, beat him and kill him. This is something that many people don't seem to be able to accept about Paul - that he suffered so greatly quite simply because he so closely walked in the FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST!! Most people, including ministers, downplay the adversities of Paul in order to deflect attention away from the fact that we all ought to be learning the lesson of his example and giving ourselves in this same sort of selfless sacrifice and labor! It is always much easier to merely relegate Paul's sufferings to some ancient bygone era where things were different and not really relevant to today. This approach is merely an invitation to live a softer, more comfortable, less intense, less dedicated, less involved life of service to God! But in so doing, we utterly neglect the powerful lesson of Scripture!

Paul's example for us is sterling! The sense of urgency so prevalent in the apostolic era of the Church and the persecution and difficulty faced by those Christians are types of what should be present in the last era of the Church - the church just prior to the return of the Messiah - in other words, the CHURCH TODAY! It is for our admonition that all these things are written - UPON WHOM THE ENDS OF THE AGE IS COME!! Take heed, therefore, and let Paul's life of sacrifice and service shine as a light for the Church today. It is a simple thing to say that we are not like Paul, that he was unique and of another time and place. That is quite true, but what made him so unique was that he was willing to pull out every stop, topple every barrier, endure every suffering, in order to get the job done. he was willing to submit so fully to God, to sense so clearly his calling, that absolutely nothing could possibly stand in his way of laboring to share the truth with others.

Isn't this the way we all should be? Don't you sense that this is God's will for us today - that the easy, routine life just won't cut it with God in the long run? Meditate on Paul's life of dedication and tribulation. It is an inspired pattern for us today.


Why must Christians suffer? What's the purpose in pain, poverty, loss, misery, desperation, depression, loneliness, confusion, doubt, weakness and persecution? Of what value is it? What is God really attempting to accomplish by allowing us to be afflicted on so many occasions throughout our lives? To know the answers to these questions is to be armed with invaluable weapons when trials overtake us. We can know what to look for, what questions to ask, what to pray about - and a good understanding of God's mind on this crucial issue will go a long way in helping each of us to derive the maximum benefit and most profound lesson from every adverse situation we may encounter.

1. FAITH - One of the most basic and important building blocks of the Christian life, faith is the God-given ability or gift to BELIEVE implicitly that the unseen things of God are REAL and that the Word of God is absolutely TRUE and will come to pass precisely according to the Scriptures. Without this kind of mindset, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). There is human faith and there is Godly faith, and many people often get the two confused. Godly faith can only be instilled and grow within our minds through the experience of trials and the subsequent testing under adverse circumstances. Peter wrote:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus (Yabsbua) Christ from the dead... who are kept by the power of God through FAITH unto salvation which is ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations (trials): that the TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH, being more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, you love; in whom, thought now you see Him not, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving THE END OF YOUR FAITH, EVEN THE SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS'(I Pet.1:3-9).

Peter compares faith with gold that is tried in the fire, saying that it is even more precious because it will never perish. Faith, which is spiritual and unseen - a part of our very minds through the Holy Spirit - must be tried and tested within a human being in order that it might grow and develop. This is one of the chief objectives of human trials. It is God's simple method of building faith within His people. Think about this during every difficult situation in your life. Ask God to show you how your trial might strengthen your faith in Him. Realize that all of God's true servants had to have their faith tested.

Who doesn't recall the episode of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and their great trial of faith? The story is simple, but the lesson is so profound! When Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to bow down to the golden image (type of the coming Beast!) he had constructed, their faith was clearly put to a dramatic test.

Imagine yourself in such a position. What would you have done? Oh, we all hope that we would do the right thing, but then we're not really faced with such a situation, are we? Well, think again. Their trial was intense and powerful, but it was only typical of our own trial. It is not necessary to be stood up in front of a firing squad or have one's life directly threatened in order for us to face the same kind of decision that these three men of faith encountered. We often just excuse ourselves from the lesson to be learned from this striking example, by not seeing how it can and should and must be applied in our lives.

All Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had to do was simply bow down to an idol. They could have done what most people do - just reason their way around the problem. They could easily have convinced themselves that the wisest, maybe even the Godly thing to do under such dire circumstances would merely be to go through the outward motions (after all, God looks on the heart, doesn't He?), only appearing to worship the golden image, but all the while opposing the idea in their minds. That way they could have preserved their lives and been able to continue serving God. Isn't this the way most people would assess such a horrible predicament?

Notice, however, how adamant these three men of faith were in their determination NOT to bow down to the image. When the king ordered them to do obedience, they said:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, 0 king. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, 0 king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up' (Dan. 3:16-18).

These men were bold and determined, but they were not arrogant. They admitted to the king that God was fully able to deliver them and that they trusted Him implicitly. But they added that even if He decided, for His own purposes, that He would not intervene, they would still not bow down before the idol. This is a remarkable attitude. It demonstrates absolute faith along with the perfect approach to trials - that God is to be obeyed, no matter what the consequences and His will to be done, no matter the outcome. These men may not have truly known precisely whether they were going to be delivered, but it didn't matter to them. They were willing to die right then and there if required - and, in effect, they were actually tested not just to the point of death, but through death! The king had them dragged bodily across the floor, but God did not step in and save them. They were brought to the door of the furnace that had been heated seven times hotter, but God was not to be found. Even the very guards who stood by them fell over dead from the heat. Then they were cast into the furnace itself. They were as good as dead. Notice that they were not delivered BEFORE they were thrown in. This is when we would expect God to intervene. They had to endure the horror of actually going into the flames of death!!

This is one of the most famous trials in all of history. The faith of these three young men allowed them to take the risks associated with serving God - to stand up for what they believed, to witness to others, even a world-renowned king, and to face whatever consequences were involved, even the ultimate suffering of death, if necessary.

We must let this episode be a profound lesson to us today. Whether we are tested to the limit of life itself does not matter. What does is whether or not we have the faith of Christ truly in our minds, whether or not we have the courage of our convictions, whether or not we will stand up for what we believe. This kind of challenge may come to you and me in many different ways and times in our lives. If we cannot pass this test now, how can we possibly expect to handle it under even more difficult circumstances? If we excuse ourselves now, if we rationalize our behavior now, if we worm our way around problems and trials now, we are missing out and indeed losing out on the most precious lessons of this great calling.

The apostle Paul refers us to the example of ancient Israel on more than one occasion, for their history is written down for our admonition. They are Biblical types of the Church today. What happened to them is a pattern of warning for us. Their plight was physical and had only human consequences, but ours are spiritual and eternal in their significance. In spite of miracle after miracle on their journey out of Egypt, the Israelites' faith wavered and weakened as they approached the promised land of Canaan. Because of their unbelief, God refused to permit that entire generation to enter into this land of milk and honey. Paul alludes to this tragic set of circumstances in Hebrews 3 & 4. Notice how he relates their actions with a Christian's challenge and responsibility.

"Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness: when your fathers tempted me, proved me and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest (land of Canaan - a type of the spiritual Kingdom of God). Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of UNBELIEF, in departing from the way of the Living God. But exhort (encourage) one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; while it is said, Today, if you will bear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation ... to whom swore He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Let us therefore FEAR, lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest (the spiritual Kingdom of God), any of you should seem to come short of it ... Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Heb. 3:8 - 19; 4:1 - 11).

What a powerful and profound lesson! We can look back at what happened to the Israelites and perceive the gravity of what we ourselves could lose through a lack of faith. If Israel could fail to enter into the land of promise after having the witness they received, how much more likely and how much more serious will be the loss of a Christian, if he too follows their example of unbelief, shrinks from the risks that must be taken, and is not permitted to enter into eternal life??? Think about it. Faith is absolutely essential and God knows it. He is determined, therefore, to create and build up within each of His begotten children that sure and strong faith in Himself, in Christ, in His truth, His unseen promises and power, and His coming Kingdom. We must learn faith and it must be strengthened in our minds and this comes only through the experience of testing and trial in our lives. This is one reason why we can enter into eternal life only through much tribulation.

David expressed the concept of faith so perfectly in Psalm 37 by saying:

"Fret not yourself because of evildoers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herbs. TRUST IN THE LORD (Yahweh), and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and verily you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord; and He shall give you the desires of your heart. COMMIT your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass. And He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. REST in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath ... for evildoers shall be cut off, but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth" (Psa. 37:1-9).

David says that we should not worry about what we see around us, whatever the apparent inequities in life might be. He says that despite what circumstances we may face, we ought to completely and implicitly lean upon our God, trust Him without reservation. He says to 'COMMIT' ourselves unto the Lord. This is an interesting choice of words. It means 'to roll oneself upon," in the manner of a pig that wallows blissfully in the mire! What a description of the utter faith and trust that we ought to possess. Problems, frustrations, setbacks, defeats, losses, disappointments and discomforts of every kind may plague us in this life, but instead of letting them cloud our minds, cause us worry, distract us from obeying God, get us down and depressed, we should come to see through them, see the end of all these things and know that God is on the scene, that He knows what is going on, that He can and will handle every untoward situation in our lives precisely as He sees fit for our everlasting spiritual good. He is our Father, remember, and He corrects and teaches us as little children. It is not and cannot be pleasant. It often hurts and causes us to suffer, but Paul tells us that after we have endured, it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Peter said:

'If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf ... Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God COMMIT the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator' (I Pet. 4:16-19).

Faithlessness - unbelief - doubt - fear - these are all products of the carnal mind. They are not of God's Spirit. God is a faithful and utterly trustworthy being. We must become just like our Father in heaven. It is therefore necessary that true faith be instilled in those who will become God's divine children. Your trials and sufferings play a vital part in this process. Approach them with this goal in mind and they will almost always take on a different and far more significant light in your life. 2. PATIENCE - Patience and faith often go hand in hand and are almost always related in some fashion. That which we believe in and trust in, we wait for patiently. James, in fact, made this direct connection by saying:

"My brethren, count in all joy when you fall into divers temptations (trials); knowing this, that the TRYING OF YOUR FAITH WORKS PATIENCE. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Once again this same apostle writes:

"Be PATIENT, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman WAITS for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receives the early and the latter rain. Be you also patient; establish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draws near ... Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which ENDURE. You have heard of the patience of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (James 5:7 - 11).

James says that just as God is willing to wait patiently for the development of His own spiritual family (you and me, today), not wanting to lose any and desirous that all come to the knowledge of the truth, so we also therefore should learn to be patient and wait upon Him to work out His perfect will in our lives. He says to pay attention to the examples of the prophets - men like Elijah, Isaiah and Zechariah, Amos, Jeremiah and Ezekiel - all of whom suffered rejection, loneliness, poverty, beatings, imprisonment and horrible death, that we might learn a profound lesson and take heart when we ourselves are tried - that we might grow in patience, waiting upon God our Father to perform His will, to complete His perfect work. Such a Godly attribute is not easily attainable for human beings. It comes only through the TRIAL OF FAITH, and that so often means suffering and tribulation.

Peter adds the following sound advice:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness, but is LONGSUFFERING (patient) toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance... wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent, that you may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the LONGSUFFERING OF OUR LORD IS SALVATION" (II Pet. 3:9, 15).

Paul expresses his own feelings on this subject by saying:

"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 (Trials) WORKS PATIENCE" (Rom. 5:2-3).

Indeed, patience is developed, tested and strengthened through the very experience of enduring trials in our lives, often for an extended period of time. Do not, therefore, become overly concerned if a trial lasts for a while. Remember that Christian suffering is always for a good purpose. God emphatically does not always immediately intervene and deliver His people every time they suffer. No, not by a long shot! He allows us to endure affliction, to be uncomfortable, to face the hard realities of this life and calling, in order to learn spiritual lessons and build Christ-like character.

When you are being tried, when things are not going well, start asking yourself some questions about faith and patience. They go hand in hand and are so often interwoven with the trials of a Christian life. Perhaps they are precisely what God is attempting to create within your own mind. SUBMIT TO HIM!! This is the key in all our tribulation. Patience is crucial to the full spiritual development of a child of God. Without it, we cannot please God. Without it, we cannot be effective in reaching out and helping others. And without it, we will not enter into the Kingdom of God!

3. MERCY - Another of the chief reasons God often permits us to go through a particularly difficult, even fiery trial is so that we might come to see our own desperate need for His mercy and really cry out to Him for it. He is so full of such compassion, but He wants us to truly comprehend our own need for it, and not be content with just leaning upon our own strength and human devices. It is oh so hard for human beings to learn just how small they really are, how weak, how pathetic, how utterly incapable they are of ever accomplishing anything of permanent or spiritual value hard, that is, until they suffer. In Psalms 44 we read that Israel was greatly suffering, seemingly forsaken by God. Notice how strongly the writer complains:

"But you have cast us off, and put us to shame; and go not before our armies. You make us to turn back from the enemy; and they which hate us spoil for themselves. You have given us like sheep appointed for meat; and have scattered us among the heathen. You sell your people for nothing ... You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us ... My CONFUSION is continually before me" (Psa. 44:9-15).

The nation was in dire straits, on the verge of military defeat and possible captivity. The psalmist even states that he cannot understand the reason for their plight. Have you ever felt like that - confused and perplexed over why you might be suffering, even asking God for an answer and seemingly drawing a blank? Everyone has been there. In this particular instance, these Israelites had not sinned. We read:

 'All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten you, neither have we dealt falsely in your covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from your way' (vs. 17 - 18).

What was going on here? Why were the people suffering in this case? God, in fact, was seeking to accomplish something which very possibly could not have been achieved in any other manner. He actually wanted the people to suffer, to realize their plight, to sense their inability to successfully deal with the matter, and then, with all their hearts, look directly to Him.

Remember that they had not sinned. So this trial was not based upon any wrongdoing. Yet they were suffering as if they were guilty. Neither could they grasp the meaning behind these tragic events in their lives. Soon, however, the people did come to see the light and the writer later expresses precisely what God wanted to hear in the first place. Just as any loving parent would want their own dear children to learn to trust in, look up to, obey and honor them, so God wants the same thing for His own people. In the end, the psalmist gets the picture and writes a fitting conclusion to this most instructive passage, by saying:

'Awake, why do you sleep, 0 Lord? Arise, cast us not off forever. Wherefore hide you your face, and forget our affliction and our oppressors? For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaves unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for YOUR MERCIES' SAKE" (Vs. 23-26).

God is full of mercy and He desires to literally pour it out upon His people. It is a part of His matchless love. But just to have mercy is not enough. God wants more for us. He wants us to sense within our own minds the need we have for that mercy. He does not want us to merely take His great compassion for granted. Therefore He often allows us to get into situations that are tough, that are uncomfortable, sometimes even dire. He wants us to see just how small we really are. Once again, we read in the Psalms:

"Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon Yahweh our God, until that He have MERCY upon us. Have mercy upon us, 0 Lord, have mercy upon us; for we are exceedingly filled with contempt. Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with contempt of the proud' (Psa. 123).

When we are severely tried, whether it be for our sin or for righteousness' sake, remember to always seek the mercy of God. He is full of love, mercy and compassion and wants to deliver and bless us. We often allow Him to do just that by permitting our trials to teach us the lesson of our incapacities. Let your sufferings speak to your mind. See who you really are and sense your utter helplessness, your complete need for the supernatural help of the invisible God in heaven. Cry out to Him and He will be pleased and He will show you favor in your times of greatest need.

4. ZEAL - This quality is sometimes brought out in trials that help us call for God's mercy, so it can go hand in hand with point number 3. The bottom line in this regard is simply that God wants to know just how badly we really desire to be delivered. Remember that He is interested in the full spiritual development of His people, including most especially just how deeply converted they really are, how hot the fire is that burns within them. Therefore, do not take your trials LYING DOWN!! Get on your knees and fight and plead with God. Let Him know exactly how you feel. When David was in trouble, notice how he approached the problem:

"O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, neither chasten me in your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, 0 Lord; for I am weak; 0 Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed ... I am weary with my groaning; ALL THE NIGHT make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with MY TEARS. My eye is consumed because of grief; it waxes old because of all my enemies' (Psa. 6).

David pleaded with God to intervene on his behalf. He was desperately ill and needed help. God had not seen fit as yet to deliver and heal him. So what did David do? He really began turning up the heat! He was moved to tears and stayed up all night in prayer. Think about this example the next time you have a major problem in your life. God loves this kind of reaction in His people. He can see where it is coming from. He knows that it is good for us to want something so badly that we will literally cry for it. So don't allow yourself to just sit there and mope and take it! Don't be so laid back! Be zealous, be hot, catch fire and let God know how you feel. Show Him just how much you want the answer.

Remember the example of King Hezekiah? He was one of the most righteous kings in Judah's history, walking in all the ways of David himself. Yet there came a time when he became sick unto death. When Isaiah told him that he was going to die, what reaction did that information provoke in the King? Notice what the Scriptures tell us:

"He turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying, I beseech you, 0 Lord, remember me now how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight. And Hezekiah WEPT SORE ... And it came to pass, before Isaiah was gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezeklah, the captain of My people, Thus says Yahweh, God of David your father, I HAVE HEARD YOUR PRAYER, I HAVE SEEN YOUR TEARS; behold, I will heal you' (II Kings 20:2-5).

Notice how fervently Hezekiah prayed, even being moved to tears. This is how God wants His people to respond, especially in times of trial and suffering. This does not mean that we are not to be patient and trusting, but neither can we afford to pass up the opportunity to express our deepest feelings to a loving and compassionate God, who will hear and react to our pleas and tears. Even Christ Himself prayed in this manner on occasion, for we read in Hebrews 5 concerning our Saviour:

'Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS WITH STRONG TEARS AND CRYING unto Him that was able to save him from death, and was HEARD in that he feared. Though he were a Son, yet LEARNED HE OBEDIENCE BY THE THINGS THAT HE SUFFERED" (Heb. 5:6- 8).

I recall a time when I was in a particularly difficult situation. I had prayed about it on a number of occasions, yet the answer just wasn't clear. Indeed I had been brought to tears over this problem, but seemingly all to no avail. One day at work, I knew that I had to pray about this thing one more time. So I got up from my desk, went out to my car and moved it over to a remote spot on the parking lot. I knew that I was all alone there, but just to be sure, I rolled the windows up. Then I proceeded to literally scream my request to God, shouting at the top of my voice, tears rolling down my face. Never had I reacted so dramatically in such a situation, but I felt that it called for it. Nothing was calculated. It was all completely spontaneous. The bottom line, however, is that I got the answer, plain and clear. It was one of the most astounding experiences of my life. I do not necessarily mean to say that anyone must scream to God, I just know what happened. I now believe that God wanted to hear me put everything I had into the supplication - and He did! The memory of that instance will always be with me. I believe that I learned a great lesson that day.

God wants us to beg, to plead, to really reach out and take hold of Him, to demonstrate that within us is real desire, real fire, real zeal. He wants us to get stirred up, to show Him that we mean what we say. Remember that James tells us that it is 'the FERVENT, EFFECTUAL PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN" that really counts with God (James 5:16)! Pray out loud and really speak your mind to God. Tell Him how much you need His help, plead with Him, cry out to Him, pray with all your heart and might. Stay with Him like Jacob did when he wrestled face to face with Yahweh Himself! Be tenacious. If you want deliverance, if you want to get God's attention, be ZEALOUS! Isaiah once lamented over the spiritual doldrums of ancient Israel by saying: 

"And there is none that calls upon your name, that STIRS UP HIMSELF TO TAKE HOLD OF YOU" (Isa. 64:7).

Remember that marvelous concept - that we, though small and weak, should actually TAKE HOLD OF GOD!! - The way a child will reach out and grab hold of his father or mother in order to get their attention, in order to really impress upon them his wishes. We must do the very same thing with our heavenly Father. Try this approach in your trials and you will see how much God appreciates a child who is close enough to Him, whose relationship is real enough, that he is willing to express himself in such a bold and direct and impassioned manner.

5. PRIORITIES - Another key purpose of our trials is to determine just what our priorities really are at any given moment of time. God wants to know precisely what is most important to us. So often, the ease and comfort of life, especially today, the routine, the everyday sameness, can dull the edge of our spiritual lives. We easily become complacent and often take even the most sacred and important things for granted. Physical things begin to occupy more and more of our time, energy and focus. Before long, our priorities are all out of order. God, being the loving and concerned Father that He is, will try us in these situations, to discover and reveal to us what is foremost in our hearts.

He did this very thing in Hezekiah's life, just after He had healed him of his deadly disease. if you follow the story in 11 Kings 20, you will notice that the king of Babylon heard of Hezekiah's dramatic healing and consequently sent emissaries to inquire about what miraculous things had occurred. Little did King Hezekiah realize that this event was to become one of the greatest tests in his life.

We must remember that Hezekiah was one of the two or three most righteous rulers in Judah's history. It is said of him that he walked in the ways of David his forefather. He had been blessed by God in ways that were absolutely spectacular. The Jews had been miraculously delivered from the Assyrians when an angel came in by night and slew 185,000 of the enemy soldiers. Hezekiah himself had been healed of a fatal disease and then had been given one of the most dramatic signs ever recorded in Scripture, indeed in all history, when God caused the sun's shadow to go backward 10 degrees on the sundial of Ahaz. And to top it off, Hezekiah had been given so many physical blessings in the form of wealth, power and position, that he was overshadowed only by Solomon in his splendor. Keep all this in mind as we consider what happened when Hezekiah met with the Babylonians.

When the ambassadors arrived in Jerusalem, instead of extolling God and giving him credit for all that occurred, do you recall what the king did? Hezekiah, for all his righteousness, had his priorities out of order. He forgot God and put himself first. He had the perfect opportunity to glorify God in the eyes of the pagans. Remember, in fact, that the Babylonians had come to visit him expressly because of the miracles God had performed on the king's behalf. But Hezekiah, who was at the zenith of his fame and prosperity, spent all this time boasting of his great wealth and showing these visitors everything that he possessed.

The thing that he did greatly displeased God and Isaiah the prophet was commanded to pronounce a curse upon the King's family. To complete the story, we need to read the account in 11 Chronicles 32. Here is revealed the full explanation of what was really going on behind the scenes. In verse 25 we read:

'But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up, therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and upon Jerusalem ... Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, GOD LEFT HIM, TO TRY HIM, THAT HE MIGHT KNOW ALL THAT WAS IN HIS HEART" (II Chron. 32:25, 31).

What an amazing revelation! Hezekiah was rich, famous and greatly blessed by God. He had everything anyone could possibly desire and much more. Yet even in his wealth and comfort, God found a way to try and test him. I urge you to remember this striking example. Things were not what they seemed to Hezekiah. Little did he realize what was really taking place in his life. He had become complacent and his priorities were wrong. Unbeknown to the king, God was watching him. The Scriptures actually state that at this point, God literally hid from him just to see what would happen.

We all must not only have the right priorities in our lives, but we must be continually aware of what we are really putting first. Often we fool ourselves, assuming that we are okay with God. Often we allow the good things of this flesh, even though they may be blessings from God, to cause us to become self - satisfied and complacent. Christ expressly stated that if we do not love him more than even father or mother, husband or wife, brother, sister or children, then we are not worthy to be his disciples. He said that if one's right hand offends him, it is better that he cut if off than be cast into the fires of hell. He told the rich young ruler who had, by the way, obeyed all the commandments, that he lacked on thing - he needed to sell all he had and, give it to the poor and follow the Saviour. In all these instances, Christ is saying that whatever gets in the way of our serving Him completely, genuinely and profitably - GET RID OF IT! CUT IT OFF! SELL IT! In other words, our priorities have got to be right before God. We must make certain that we are constantly putting first things first. What is truly most important to you - not just in some private moment of time, but everyday, every minute, every second of your life? What do you really put first - not in theory, not in lip service, but in actual commitment of time, energy, effort and focus? This is the heart of the matter. God wants to know exactly where we stand with Him and He will test us to the limit to find out. Be forewarned and prepared for just such a trial in your life. Remember this aspect of what God may be accomplishing. Examine yourself, probe your own spiritual mind and determine what is occupies first place with you. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to admit that you may have allowed your priorities to slip. It happens to all of us at times. The main thing is to recognize it, repent of it and get right with God immediately! 6. REPENTANCE - When the patriarch Job was severely tested by God, it achieved a remarkable purpose in his life. It let him to conclude, after many months of intense, even almost unspeakable suffering, that he really wasn't all that he thought he was. He confessed:

'I know that you can do everything and that no thought can be withheld from you. Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak; I will demand of you, and declare you unto me. I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Wherefore, I ABHOR MYSELF AND REPENT IN DUST AND ASHES' (job 42:2-6).

Repentance is one of the primary reasons for trials. We absolutely must come to see how and where we fall short. We must approach every trial with this in mind. It may be that we are afflicted totally for other reasons, but still we must give full consideration to the possibility that God is getting our attention, directing our minds to see sin in our lives. Undoubtedly, sin is the chief reason why most people suffer in the first place. We must learn the lessons of right and wrong. David certainly had to do so in his life. Correction is hard for human beings to take. We tend to resist it and try to avoid it at all costs. Christians cannot afford this kind of approach or attitude. We had better take our medicine, no matter how painful or bitter it may be seem for the moment. If we don't, we stand in dire jeopardy of losing salvation! The apostle Paul once wrote:

"You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My Son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chastens not? But if you be without chastening, whereof all are partakers, then are you BASTARDS, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby' (Heb. 12:3-11).

Now when Paul states that "no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous,' he does not mean to depress us, but really to encourage us in our many trials. God's method of dealing with human beings is quite different from what might normally be our own approach to such a challenge. He does things that cut against the grain of human nature. His tactics produce a certain amount of human sorrow, a certain amount of temporary discomfort - but all for the best of reasons. We should not therefore be too negative about our personal situations, no matter how dire they may be. We have to learn to SEE THROUGH OUR TRIBULATION, indeed just as God does. He sees beyond not only the immediate problem, but even beyond human life itself. He views our own personal turmoil in the light of His eternal objectives, of what is best for us in the long run of things. We too must come to appreciate the mind-set of God in this regard. The Scriptures promise us that all things eventually work for good if indeed we are called and chosen by God, and that certainly includes even the negative things of this life.

Paul concludes his discourse in Hebrews 12 by saying:

 "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet' (vs. 12-13). 

In other words, don't allow your trials to get you totally down. David, Job, Hezekiah and many others have had to come to see the inadequacies in their lives. It always led them to utter repentance. To repent is fundamental to a right relationship with God. It is something which certainly occurs before we are baptized, but it by no means should stop there. It must be an on-going process. This is the key to spiritual growth. We cannot permit this life to merely pass by us in some sort of routine fashion. It must deeply affect us, get through to us. We have many lessons to learn, many things to discern about ourselves - things that need to be understood, altered and/or completely overcome and eliminated. This takes a repentant heart, a mind that is desirous of learning the truth of God and acting on it, starting with the self. It is sometimes a painful process, but one well worth the sacrifice.

David once commented concerning a particular trial:

"So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before you. Nevertheless I am continually with you: you have held me by my right hand. You shall guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory ... my flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever ... it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in Yahweh my God, that I may declare all your works" (Psa. 73:22-28).

7. HUMILITY - Anyone who has ever been through a trial knows that there are times when God humbles us, reduces us to a low state of affairs. When we are tried, we often feel dejected, small, insignificant, even rejected. Such a feeling is really good for us from time to time. It allows us to wake up and see ourselves in a light not otherwise possible.

Daniel records an episode in the life King Nebuchadnezzar that clearly exemplifies this principle. In chapter 4 of his book, the king had been warned of his pride and cautioned to submit to God. But he resisted and refused to humble himself. One day he was walking through his magnificent palace and stopped by an open window to view the city of Babylon. Beginning in verse 29, we read:

The king spoke and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, 0 King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from you" (Dan. 4:29-31).

No one can humble a human being quite like God can! Here was the very epitome of pride itself, boasting and bragging about his own accomplishments and his own possessions, yet, in a mere moment of time, he was reduced to the level of a brute beast, wandering the fields eating grass for seven years! God embarrassed this great king and humbled him in the sight of all his subjects - but it worked!! Indeed Nebuchadnezzar learned a profound lesson, and after the trial was finally over, he responded by saying:

'I bless the Most High, and I praise and honor Him that lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What are you doing? ... all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that WALK IN PRIDE HE IS ABLE TO ABASE' (Dan. 4:34-35, 37).

God once told the children of Israel:

'You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, TO HUMBLE YOU, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger ... as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you' (Dent. 8:2-5).

God cannot work with a human being who remains full of pride. Solomon wrote: 

"A man's pride shall bring him low; but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit" (Prov. 29:23). 

And David once said:

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, you will not despise' (Psa. 51:17).

Clearly, therefore, one of the chief purposes of human suffering and trial is to humble us, to help us see ourselves and to bring us into a right relationship with our heavenly Father. Humility is the one quality that opens the door to spiritual contact with God. He will not listen to the prayers of the haughty. He cannot stand the typical human spirit of pride. He says through Isaiah: 

"For all these things has My hand made, and all those things have been, says the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word' (Isa. 66:2).

Perhaps the apostle Paul was inspired to write the most pertinent passage in all the Scriptures on true humility when he said:

"Let nothing be done through vainglory or strife; but in LOWLINESS OF MIND let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Yahshua); who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery (something to be held on to) to be equal with God: but made himself of NO REPUTATION, and took upon him the form of A SERVANT, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he HUMBLED himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross' (Phil. 2:2-8).

It never fails to astonish and amaze us that the one who created all things, who gave His perfect Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, who was worshipped as God and who was God, actually was willing to give up His divinity, His eternal life and position, and come to this earth as a mere human being. This was the ultimate act of contrition and humility in all the universe! Our Saviour therefore is our chief example in this regard. If Christ was willing to become the servant of all, then how much more must we be willing to humble ourselves and follow in his steps? James gives us the perfect formula:

'SUBMIT yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. ' BE AFFLICTED and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. ' HUMBLE yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up' (James 4:6 - 10).

Remember that your trials may be for the purpose of humbling you. Allow God to get through to your mind in this way. Don't resist Him by clinging to anything of this flesh. Let it all go and permit Him to abase you if necessary. We all must endure such affliction. We all must come to see that we are nothing. We often THINK WE ARE HUMBLE. We all like to appear as being humble. False humility is abundant. But true Godly humility is rare and can be created only through a certain amount of suffering. Consider this aspect of trials whenever you are afflicted.

8. GLORIFYING GOD - Because we so often focus on our own suffering, sometimes we may forget that the Scriptures reveal that at times our trials are actually for the glory of God Himself. In John 9, we read of just such an example"

'And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? And Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should BE MADE MANIFEST IN HIM" (John 9:1-3).

In other words, John is saying here that this poor, miserable man had been blind from his birth, sitting at the gate begging for help for years and years, just so that at the right moment in time, the Son of God might walk by and glorify God in heaven by healing him in the sight of many!! What an astounding revelation!

Have you ever considered this aspect of suffering in your own life? You should. It is altogether possible that this very purpose could be the reason for a particular adversity. It is apparent that God allowed even his beloved friend Lazarus to actually die for this very reason. Christ told Mary and Martha: 

"This sickness is not unto (for the purpose of) death, but for THE GLORY OF GOD, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby' (John 11:4).

Please keep in mind that God is concerned about all people. He does not simply come down and appear visibly to us, but works through other subtle means to reach our minds, to convict us, to correct us, to humble us, to get our attention, to redirect our thoughts, to teach us the right perspective on things. Often He will use the affliction of one person to help many others. Such was the cases of the blind man and Lazarus. When God seeks to glorify Himself in the eyes of human beings, it is not because He has some sort of craving for recognition, the way we might. He glorifies Himself so that others may have their eyes opened, so that others might in some way be benefited. Your trial or mine could therefore be used in such a fashion to reach others, to help them come to see God. What a blessing! In this regard, surely our trials are a source of rejoicing, because we can discern that God's higher spiritual purposes are being served. Our trials can help others to grow. If it is God's will that this be, it may explain why some suffering lingers for quite a while before God decides to intervene and deliver. The longer we suffer, the more people become aware of it, pray about it, are concerned about it and serve us in our affliction. In this way, God is setting the stage for many to be positively affected. When He does intervene, many are thus strengthened in the faith and much good is accomplished.


It goes without saying that obtaining immediate responses from God is very important to each of us. We hope for it, we may even expect it and in some cases, we actually DEMAND IT! We would do well, however, to be patient with God and let Him work out His divine purpose in our lives. Remember the many Scriptural examples of some of God's greatest servants and how long they had to wait for Him to intervene, to fulfill a promise, to answer a prayer, to deliver from adversity. If these men and women of faith were allowed to go through such tests, both for their own good as well as ours, then we should not be surprised that God still works in the very same manner with us today.

Consider, if you will, that Noah waited for 120 long years before God sent rain and gave him the water to float the ship he had built in the desert. Think about this remarkable incident. 120 years is an incredible amount of time to wait for an answer to a promise! Do you think that Noah had to learn to be patient?

Abraham, the father of the faithful, was given a promise at the age of 75 when God first called him (Gen. 12:1), but it was not fulfilled until he was 100 years old - some 25 years later! He had to wait year after year, all the time knowing that the seeming likelihood of his being able to father a son was diminishing with every passing day. Yet he not only waited for God to act, the Bible tells us that the longer he waited, the more he believed that God would perform what He had promised.

Jacob once labored for seven years to acquire the woman he loved, but then her father deceived him and forced him to work another seven years before he received the desire of his heart. Fourteen years of his life were spent in toil to another man just so that he might obtain Rachel for his wife. Why didn't God just work it all out so that Jacob and Rachel could get together in some other, less painful way? Because Jacob undoubtedly needed to endure some suffering and learn some lessons. After all, he had previously deceived his own father in order to get the blessing of the firstborn. Now he too was deceived and compelled to suffer for 14 years. The lesson was certainly not lost on Jacob.

Joseph, a truly righteous man, suffered at the hands of his brothers who sought to kill him, finally being sold into slavery. He subsequently was unjustly charged with a crime he never committed and imprisoned for many years. Can you imagine what might have been running through his mind during this prolonged ordeal? Put yourself in his shoes. Do you think that might have cried out at times, "WHERE ARE YOU, 0 GOD?" Surely his feelings would have been similar to our own under such circumstances.

The patriarch Job suffered perhaps as intensely as anyone on record. During his affliction, he was completely confused as to what was going on, as to why he was undergoing such adversity. His mind was in a spin. He was pleading with God, but seemingly all to no avail - until, that is, the day when God chose to act!

Yes, God's people often have had to wait for their answers, sometimes for months and years! Be patient, therefore, and trust God. He will always do the right thing. This life is merely a blip on the screen of eternity. James says that it is but a puff of steam, here one second, gone the next! Put stock in God and not in this flesh, no matter how pleasurable it might seem to be at the moment. This brief span of human life is for God to achieve His purposes and objectives in and through us. We must see that fact and submit to Him at every turn, in every situation, especially those that try and test us to the limit.

David once pleaded with God, saying:

 "HOW LONG WILL YOU LOOK ON? ... Keep not silence ... Stir up yourself and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, My God and my Lord" we suffer, we almost always tend to focus on how uncomfortable we are and how rapidly we want to get back to feeling good again, to having the usual comforts our trials are denying us at the moment. I urge to you to break free from that spiritual ball and chain and give yourself totally to God. See your suffering from His perspective. Look at the bigger picture. Tell God to take you and prepare you and use you as He sees fit, to form and shape you, to search your heart and know where you stand with Him. In this way, He will always be able to work with us. We will be following in the steps of all the righteous servants, including the greatest of them all, Christ Himself, of whom it is said, that he 'learned obedience by the things that he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).

Our trials must put us in touch with ourselves and with our God. They must bring us to our knees, they must break our pride and cause us to tremble before the throne of heaven. Remember that we all stand on SHAKY GROUND! Entering the Kingdom of God is not like falling off a log! It is not associated with things that are smooth and easy, no matter how appealing and enjoyable they may be. It is difficult and Christ plainly told the disciples that only a few will enter in at that strait and narrow gate. He spoke of us bearing our cross daily. He said that if they persecuted him, they surely would persecute his followers.

Brethren, we must ACT NOW to carefully and prayerfully examine ourselves, making absolutely certain that our calling and election is sure. Trials, sufferings and afflictions all help us to accomplish this formidable task. Remember Peter's grave warning:

'For the time is come that judgment must begin AT THE HOUSE OF GOD, and if it begin with us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous SCARCELY BE SAVED, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear" (I Pet. 5:17-18).

If you consider yourself a Christian and are not experiencing tests and trials in your life, it is time that you seriously considered just where you stand with God, just how real your conversion is. I do not mean to suggest that you are not converted, but it is quite possible that you might be asleep spiritually. This is often the case with many of us. A sleeping person just does not absorb the impact of problems and suffering like one that is awake and aware and close to God every day. Sometimes God will allow us to simply drift free and easy for a while until the time and conditions are right for Him to deal strongly with us. It is not wrong to approach God and actually ask Him for some testing. David said more than once, 'TRY ME, OH GOD!" So should we.

Often, the closer we draw to God, the more He will test and try us. This is all a part of spiritual growth and should not be dreaded or avoided. Admittedly, it is not easy or pleasant, but as we grow, we should be able to see through many of our predicaments and discern the end of all these things. Remember that Christ was perfect, yet He suffered more than any of us and set us an example that we ought to follow in his steps (I Pet. 2:21). In fact, Paul tells us in Hebrews 2:10 just how big a part the Saviour's trials played in His spiritual life:

'For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation (Christ) PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERINGS.

Remember that the Bible characterizes us as pieces of raw clay in the hands of a master potter. Imagine, if you will, just what it would be like to be a lump of clay. What would it feel like to be picked up and pummeled and kneaded and mashed and then to be put on a spinning wheel to be formed and shaped? What would the clay think was going on. It would surely be uncomfortable, even painful. It might well be very confusing. Then would come the kiln, when the piece of pottery is fired under the heat. Only after such a process is it fit to become a vessel of service. This simplistic analogy is really quite significant, if you will meditate on its application in your spiritual life, especially when it comes to the trials and tribulations of your calling. Please consider the gravity of this calling we have mercifully received from a loving and omnipotent God. Consider the profound significance and scope of what we are truly involved in at this time. We are about to witness the literal return of the Son of God to this earth. We are about to experience the unfathomable event of being changed from mortal to immortal, to break the bonds of this flesh and inhabit another dimension, transcending all that we have ever known or imagined! This is REAL! AND THE PREPARATION FOR IT IS BEING CARRIED OUT EACH DAY THAT PASSES IN OUR LIVES!! Don't allow, another one to go by without deeply pondering all these things. Appreciate your trials. Know that God is taking A direct hand in your life, no matter how dark the day may be for you. Remember that, although things may seem bad now, they are going to get worse before they get better!

The Scriptures say, 'TODAY, IF YOU WILL HEAR HIS VOICE, do not harden your hearts" (Heb. 3:15). Now is our chance for salvation. There will be no other such opportunity for us. Today is our time of judgment. The rest of the world may continue to drift on down the road to destruction, but you and I cannot afford to slide on down that easy street. Take courage and hope in all the adversity you face. It is all for God's great unseen, yet very real purpose. Believe in it, trust in it, rest in it completely.

Almighty God has called each of us to become His own divine children, to inherit eternal life and sonship in His personal Family, to become heir to the entire universe! He wants us to succeed! Christ has the power and the will to give us the triumph over every affliction, every setback, every ploy and device of Satan. Victory is ours, if we will only believe it and choose it NOW! The battle has already begun. The enemy is at the door! We must heed the call and, like the army of God, we must rally round out banner - YAHWEH - NISSI. And if we do, we will stand shoulder to shoulder with no less a man of God than the apostle Paul who said: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us' (Rom. 8:18).

The return of Christ is at hand, probably in our own lifetime. Therefore, bear your cross with courage and determination and hope. Endure every suffering, amid all tears and pain and grief. Say with Paul: 'Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me ... for when I am weak, then am I strong' (II Cor. 12:9 - 10). Submit yourself under the mighty hand of your Father in heaven. Stir yourself up and lay hold on eternal life. By the power of Almighty God, REACH OUT NOW AND SEIZE IT!!