Category Archives: trials

God’s Purpose in Satan’s Plots

Paul Levy recently drew attention to William Green’s book on Job where he gives us 8 reasons for earthly troubles and calls them ‘disciplinary ends of the temptations of Satan.’
  1. They drive us to take refuge in God
  2. They train the believer in the duties and exercises of the Christian warfare
  3. They are made a means of intensifying our hatred for sin
  4. They can be an aid to self knowledge as unsuspected germs of evil are brought to light
  5. They afford the occasion to grace to develop itself in forms which otherwise it could not assume.
  6. They wean the heart from the love of this present world.
  7. Having been bravely and successfully resisted, they shall heighten future glory.
  8. They redound to the glory of God’s grace.
 ‘He (Satan) is labouring to undo the work of God, to defeat the atonement, to destroy souls whom Christ would save. But his machinations shall recoil upon himself. Do what he may, let him rage as he please, let him accomplish his worst, and he is after all only building up what in his blind fury and malice he is endeavouring to bring down”

William H Green, Conflict and Triumph: The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded, (Banner of Truth 1999, p23-31)

It’s Good For Me That I am Being Crucified Today

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) 

Are you grateful for your cross? Do you take it up with joy and gratitude? Do you appreciate it as a gift from God in your life?

Maybe these seem like unusual, even unreasonable, questions.  Imagine, then, this question in light of the thief on the cross. He was a rebel living his life his own way. He was a vile rebel at that. The message of Jesus hadn’t moved him one inch. In fact, one Gospel writer tells us that he was well aware of the claims of Christ and even mocked him for them initially (Matt. 27:44). This thief was so antagonistic to Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and the King of Israel that in the midst of his own pain he could muster the energy to revile Christ for that “absurd” claim. 

But as he suffered there beside the Holy One of God, watching His unswerving integrity, watching His undiminished reliance on his Heavenly Father, listening to His words of selfless love to His few followers that were left…his heart was subdued by grace.

And God used this agonizing time of suffering to show him the reality of what Christ was doing for him on that cross. He came to realize that he was seeing the love of God in a form that he never could have imagined. How ironic that here, at the lowest point of his own misery, God had opened his eyes to the heights of mercy. Humanly speaking, his own crucifixion had become his pathway to Christ. He never understood or embraced the mesage of Christ until he had been exposed to it in this way. This crimminal could be thankful that his crucifixion was not postponed even a day, because it was through the means of his unspeakable suffering that he came face to face with the God of his salvation. Truly the thief on the cross could say “It was good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your ways.” (Ps. 119:71).

The cross involves suffering. Good suffering. I know that sounds crazy. It sounded crazy to the mockers around the cross as well. But Jesus was made “perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10). “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). There is a way in which what Jesus did on the cross was utterly unlike what we must do. He died for us. And yet, there is a way in which what Jesus did on the cross was very similar to what we must do. We must die with him. What was good for Jesus is also good for us. And this is part of what Christians must keep in mind when we daily take up our cross and follow Christ. We also, as sons and daughters of God, can say with the Psalmist: “It was good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your ways.”

When Trials Come

I will be starting a new sermon series in the Book of James in three weeks. As I study in preparation for that series I am struck by the powerful teaching on trials that James begins his letter with.

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3-4)

This is truly an example of distinctively Christian hope. This is more than a resigned acceptance of evil. James isn’t just saying “Keep your chin up.” James is saying count your trouble, joy. Consider your hardship to be your happiness. 

Maybe someone might ask, But is that really good advice? Well, no, at least not apart from the gospel. Only a wacko would be happy about suffering for the sake of suffering itself. Apart from the Christ, that would be madness!

But this portion of Scripture is not meant merely to be a tip to help the average Joe to get through tough times. This is for Christians. In fact, James says suffering is actually part of the blessing of the Christian life. That might be worth repeating. James says suffering is actually part of the blessing of the Christian life.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

James gives them this counsel as he calls them to “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1). Jesus is “the Lord of Glory” (2:1) and “the Lord of hosts” (5:4) and he stands at the door ready at any moment to come for his own (5:7, 9). No other hope can sustain true joy in a genuine Christian who is suffering a real trial.

With this in mind, we are going to begin learning a new song in our congregation this week. It is by Keith and Kristyn Getty, called “When Trials Come.” They write:

Inspired by those powerful passages about suffering in James and 1 Peter, this song has been sung far beyond western shores by those who face persecution in different parts of the world. In considering trial and struggle we wanted to capture a sense of victory and boldness as we remember our confidence and comfort is in the Lord who has defeated death and overcome the world.

Here is a chance to start learning it now. (Ignore the text reference to Margaret Becker. It is a mistake.) You can find the lyrics here.

Update: If you have trouble with it playing you may need to click through to the You Tube site to view it.

Sparks Fly Up and Grace Falls Down

I was reading through John MacArthur’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians today in the section on 3:18-4:6 and was very blessed by a couple of paragraphs on a Christian’s trouble and God’s help. He says:

“Life in this fallen, evil world is a struggle. In the picturesque language of the book of Job, ‘Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward’ (Job 5:7). The Christian life is no exception; in fact, the more devoted a believer is to Jesus Christ, the more difficult life seems to get. The Lord Jesus Christ warned His own, ‘In the world you have tribulation’ (John 16:33). Paul and Barnabas preached the sobering truth that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). Paul reminded Timothy that ‘all who  desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim. 3:12).

But in the same verse in which he warned them of the trials they would endure, the Lord comforted His disciples by telling them, ‘Take courage; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). He also promised to send the Holy Spirit to be their Helper (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The writer of Hebrews records God’s promise, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5). Through the psalmist, God declared to His people, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me’ (Ps. 50:15). He promises His children that in their deepest weakness they will find His greatest strength (2 Cor. 12:9-10).”

 MacArthur goes on to make the point that Christians don’t find their help in gazing at their trials but gazing at the glory of God in the face of Christ. Indeed!