Turning Trials into Triumphs

“Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you…” (1 Peter 4:12).

By Mrs. Diolinda P. Maquiling

INTRODUCTION:
If we open our English hymnbook, we will find a song, entitled “It Is Well With My Soul,” authored by Mr. H. G. Spafford. Do you know how that song came about? The story is told that Mr. Spafford’s wife and four daughters were on board a ship; they were leaving for France, where they were going to have their much-needed vacation. All members of the family were so happy, because they were looking forward to visiting some of the best and most beautiful places in France. Mr. Spafford was busy with his business, but he had given word to his family that he would follow them there.

Then the unexpected happened. The ship which Mrs. Spafford and her children boarded was rammed by another ship, and it sank in the middle of the ocean. There were many casualties, there were many dead, and many who were dying because of the cold waters of the sea.

The news of the accident was cabled to Mr. Spafford. “SHIP MET ACCIDENT. OUR KIDS ARE NO MORE. OF US FIVE, I ALONE SURVIVED.” It was a cablegram from his wife. Mr Spafford read it again and again. Finally, breathing a sigh, he whispered to himself: “I am glad I have trusted the Lord.”

And so he wrote that song, and its first stanza reads like this: “When peace like a river attendeth my way/ When sorrows like sea billows roll/ Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say/ It is well, It is well with my soul.”

The trials this man had faced were unspeakably horrible. He was a bereaved father who had lost all four kids in that accident, but he endured the pain of this great loss. It was difficult to wake every morning calling over and over again the familiar names of the children you loved and realize that they were gone… and that you were alone. These trials were unimaginable, but he did not allow them to defeat him. He triumphed over them. Having done so, he inspired us Christians to walk on our own lonely road, to endure our own pain, to face our own hardships and difficulties, and be triumphant over them.

There were many characters in the Bible too whose faith was tested through trials and sufferings. Let me cite some examples: Daniel, who was thrown into the lions’ den. The three Hebrew young men, who were thrown bodily into the burning furnace. Jeremiah, who was thrown into the slimy pit. Paul, who had been shipwrecked not just one time, not just two times, but three times. Some things I noted about the trials of these men is that God, who could have stopped them from being tried, has allowed them to be tried!

I need not speak about our own trials as a Christian family during our younger days, worshipping with a group whose people we loved so much, whom we still love as a people even to this day, but this is necessary to illustrate the point we are saying. To be with them was a great struggle, not just with problems in doctrines but also problems in attitude. Big men and big women in the congregation, who were in the leadership core of the church, and one could not just argue with them. They had the final say in everything. But we were determined to stick it out. My family believes that the Lord as the Great Builder built only one church. We believe that the Lord saves the obedient ones from their sins, that He sanctifies them and makes them righteous, and adds them to His church. We believe that He has bought only one church, and that this one blood-bought church is going to be with Him in heaven. And so we remain in the Lord’s church. We will never leave it. We believe that God’s plan for the church is good; that His plan for you too is good. As God told Jeremiah, while that great prophet suffered at the hands of his own people, having been reviled, ridiculed, and rejected, as he sat there contemplating over his own fate: “Jeremiah, my plans for you are good. The plans I have for you are the plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”

Ladies, it is my prayer that we meet the following objectives in our lesson for today. We need to put in our heart the concept that trials and sufferings do have a purpose in our lives. We need to point out that one thing that is certain about life is that there is plenty of pain and suffering in all the world. We need to understand that the Bible says Christians have been equipped to face all trials, and hence must be ready to face them, and triumph over them. Having won over our trials, we can be of help so that our neighbors too may win over their own. We can all be triumphant. How then do we turn our trials into triumphs?

DISCUSSION:
Firstly, By adjusting our frame of mind to the idea that trials are there and that no one is spared from it.

None is spared from sufferings and pain. They are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Peter says, “Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, Living Bible Translation).

Concerning persecutions, listen to this: Paul says to Timothy: “But you have fully known my teaching, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:10-12).

God did not even spare His own Son from the trials that we in the world are going through. Jesus, our Lord and our example, was the subject of temptations and trials throughout His life. Luke 4:13 says, “And when the devil had ended all the temptations, he departed from Him for a season.” Also Luke 22:28, where he says to His disciples, “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.” By having been tried or tempted, and having passed those trials, He becomes our example, and our helper. For this very reason, He can help His disciples in their temptations. This teaching is brought out particularly by the following verses: (a) Hebrews 2:18, “For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.” (b) Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Because Jesus is without sin, the power of Satan is provoked to attack Him in many forms.
Let me repeat: “All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It means that only the godly shall be tested and tried. If you don’t have trials now, you will have them later. And Peter adds: “Don’t be surprised.”

Secondly, By adjusting our frame of mind to the concept that it is God who tries His people or puts them to the test.

The verb PEIRADZO, where we get our word “to tempt,” can also be translated “to test, to try, to make trial of, to investigate, to look into.” The intent of this word is simply to prove whether one is genuine or not. The Hebrew verb NASAH, which is translated PEIRADZO in the Greek, has the primary implication of “testing the partner in the covenant to see whether he is keeping his side of the agreement.”

The noun PEIRASMOS, which is translated “trial,” can also mean “test, or temptation.” When the word is used to mean “trials,” it has God as the one who does the trying or testing of His own people. “It is important to note that Jehovah is not said to test, or try, the heathen people, but only His own, people of His own possession.” Study these verses which speak of how God dealt with His people during the Old Testament times.

Deut. 8:2, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no.”

Exodus 16:4, “Then the Lord said unto Moses, Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather at certain rate everyday, that I may prove (or try) them, whether the will walk in my law or not.”

When the term PEIRASMOS is used of an individual, the subject of the trial is always a pious man, never an ungodly man. Remember that Abraham, who was a man of faith, was tried concerning his son Isaac (cf. Gen. 22). Remember also the godly king Hezekiah (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:31).

Since only the godly are being tried, what about the ungodly who suffer? Are not their sufferings also considered “trials”? My answer: “Trials” for what? God does not need to “try” and prove if the ungodly will walk in Him, for they do not walk in Him anymore! When the ungodly suffer, they suffer because of their sins! Consider this verse: 2 Peter 2:9, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be
punished.”

To suffer as a Christian is a form of testing, and as such, it can be considered a mark of true discipleship, especially when one knows that it is possible, for instance by looking back to the examples of Abraham and Job, to emerge from the temptation approved and preserved by God.
Thirdly, By adjusting our frame of mind to the idea that trials are meant to carry out God’s purposes in the world.
(1) God uses circumstances in the world to develop our character, to make us grow. If He wants you to be strong, He grants you the opportunity to face what He thinks will make you strong.

(a) James 1:2-4 says: “My brethren, count it all joy when you undergo many trials, knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

(b) Trials, difficulties, problems, pain, sufferings: These do develop and strengthen our character as a people of God’s own possession. They are all essential to our growth process.

(2) God uses circumstances—bad, evil, violent, horrible, the worse circumstance, and even the worst circumstances— to make us see our weaknesses, and so He draws us closer to Him. You will never know that God is the only answer to your problems until you see you have no other
option but Him!

(a) Psalm 34:18 says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”

(b) We feel closer to Him when we are so downhearted and broken, when we feel abandoned, when we look around and run out of options—we call them our darkest days. It is when we are in pain that we learn to pray our most authentic, genuine, heartfelt, honest-to-God prayers.
In 2 Corinthians 1:9, Paul says: “We felt were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us.”

The trial of our faith has for its purpose the praise and honor and glory of the Godhead. 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto the praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

The trials we endure in this life are meant to make us partakers of Christ’s sufferings. 1 Peter 4:13 says, “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” The word “partakers” is a nice theological word, which also means “sharers.” Think about this: Because we are Christians, the Father would also like to become like His Son Jesus. In this world, the Father is molding and remolding us, slowly, gradually, little by little, until we have achieved that image that is Christ-like.

Fourthly, By adjusting our frame of mind to the concept that there are eternal fruits that could result from trials.

(1) JOY. 1 Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

(2) THE CROWN OF LIFE. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

(3) DIVINE DELIVERANCE. 2 Peter 2:9, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of trials.”

(4) GODLY STRENGTH. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

CONCLUSION:
To Christians who suffer now, who feel discouraged now, we say: You are not alone in this: We too have been suffering with you. We all suffer together, we are being tried together. But this—and we are talking about trials– is part of God’s scheme for all His people in the world. It takes FAITH to do that. While we contemplate on our own weaknesses, BELIEVE that we have a God who can give us the strength to face our trials and sufferings. While we reflect over our own problems, TRUST that we have a God who is bigger than our problems. While we ponder over our failures, RELY on a God who does not fail, a God who wins and makes His people winners in their own right.

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