CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Testing our Faith
The Purpose of Trials
By Julio Cotto
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We all go through trying times where our faith is tested. In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated "test" mean "to prove by trial." Therefore, when God tests His children, His purpose is to prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things, but He is proving to us and those around us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith. Remaining faithful throughout any trials we may face is evidence of our faith. In His Parable of the Sower, found in Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:2-9; and Luke 8:4-8, Jesus identifies the ones who fall away as those who receive the seed of God's Word with joy, but, as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away. James says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity in our walk with God (James 1:2-4). Similarly the Apostle Paul wrote that we "glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" (Romans 5:3-5).
If we struggle when being tested or stumble along the way, this does not necessarily mean that we do not belong to Christ or that our faith is not genuine. One example would be Peter's threefold denial of Jesus found in all four Gospel accounts: Matthew 26:69-74, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:55-62, and John 18:15-18, 25-27. Peter had followed Jesus after His arrest and watched Him being falsely accused, beaten, and insulted (Mark 14:57-66). When people began noticing Peter and asking if he was one of Christ's disciples, out of fear Peter denied even knowing Christ. However, having disowned Christ actually strengthened Peter's faith and equipped him to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32). Not only did Peter strengthen the other disciples, but he became the pillar of the early church in Jerusalem, exhorting and training others to follow the Lord Jesus (Acts 2). We learn from our mistakes, repent, strengthen our faith, and persevere as believers in Christ.
However, if we continually find ourselves being unfaithful and denying Christ, then we need to closely examine ourselves "to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matthew 10:32-34). The sword that Christ brings is what divides believers from unbelievers, the good from the wicked, those made righteous by grace through faith in Christ from those who reject Christ and remain dead in their sins. Christ made it clear to us; "anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:37-39).
We are believers not because Christ promised things will be easy for us, but because of the message of the cross and Christ's promises of salvation through His forgiveness, mercy, love and grace. We are told that "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). What Jesus did for us at the cross was not easy, yet He willingly gave His life for us and took all of our sins upon Himself even though we have done absolutely nothing to deserve this, that we may have eternal life with Him. Although most of us will never have to endure the suffering that Christ endured, we still go through hardships due to our faith. But the end result of any struggles we may face will be more than worth the temporary hardships of this life. We are promised that those who persevere and stand firm to the end will be saved and inherit eternal life (Matthew 10:2 2, 24:13; Luke 21:19; James 1:12). In Romans 8:18 Paul writes "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
We should never become discouraged or lose faith because of what others may say or think. Jesus said that Christians do not belong to this world, and warned us that we would be hated by the world because of His name (John 15:18-25). In John 16:33 Jesus says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Even though you may feel afraid at times, you must know that God is always with you and you should not fear. You also have no reason to feel ashamed. You should feel proud to be called a child of God. Those who practice ungodly things are the ones who should feel ashamed and definitely be afraid of God. The Bible tells us that God will bring all that is hidden in darkness into light and expose the motives of the heart, bringing everything into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Luke 8:17; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 5:13).
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Published on 6-15-2015