St. Paul was making a swing back through some of the areas in which he had preached and established churches. He encouraged them and said: “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” (Acts 14:22).
Some would have us think…or maybe we even want us to believe…that once we come to Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the Cross the road to heaven won’t be so rough. It doesn’t take too long for anyone who has bought into that to realize that it’s just as Paul said. The King James version uses the older word “tribulations” for “troubles.”
Recently one of our church members landed totally unexpectedly in the hospital with a serious illness. Another friend had a very intrusive operation on her breast to remove a mass. Then there is the young mother who had lost three babies in stillbirths and then with the last pregnancy was confined to bed rest for several months hoping to give live birth to their second child.
Would you call those troubles? I would. What about you? Do you have troubles? Undoubtedly, you have, are currently or will be experiencing all kinds of troubles. Why is it that we so often come a little unglued when trouble knocks on our door? Didn’t Paul tell us to expect many troubles on our journey to our heavenly home?
St. James, the brother of Jesus and elected the first Pastor of the Church at Jerusalem, wrote:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the test of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be complete, lacking nothing” (Jas 1:2-4).
It seems to me that James is saying that troubles can be a blessing. As strange as that sounds, it makes sense. Consider this: when we have trials, we are driven to God for help. It seems that as we mature in the faith, help from God often comes later than sooner. It’s not because God is punishing us, rather He is building patience in us, which, in turn strengthens our faith.
William Arthur Ward said this: “Wise are they who have learned these truths: Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube.”
A test tube, he says. It is through the crucible of trial, test, and tribulation that we grow, mature and our faith sinks deep roots. All these trials will pass. All will find their end. The big question is not so much how the trial ends, rather what have we become as a result of living through the tough times. As an historical sidebar, you may be interested to learn that James met his death sometime around 62 A.D. at the hands of a mob organized by religious leaders in Jerusalem, who accused James of breaking the Law and thereby incited his stoning. Patience had its perfect work in James, and he died “lacking nothing.”
St. Peter was also no stranger to trials. Legend has it that he died a martyr in Rome being crucified upside down. He wrote this:
And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world (I Pet 1:5-7 NLT)
So, whatever it is that we are facing or will face, let us remember that this is part of life for all men and a very important part of the Christian life. The Lord will never desert you in your moment of need, but He may let you endure the trial a while so that His perfect work can be done in your life.
As strange as it may seem, what may seem like the most unimaginable and unwelcomed trial, may well be the very tool God is using to fashion you into a greater man/woman of patience… and faith.