Monday, 15 July 2013

The Purpose of Trials

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
- Romans 8:35-37(NIV)
A few days ago our Pastor's son got married. Our thoughts and prayers were with the family, as we have seen them go through many severe trials of many kinds. The church looked beautiful and was overflowing with congregation members, family and friends. The service was lovely, the choir sang beautifully, the songs were well chosen and everything flowed smoothly. Of all things, I felt the highlight of the whole service was the sermon, which was perfect and everything a wedding sermon should be. A truly memorable wedding service, followed by a reception that was well organized and planned in a tasteful manner. As I looked around me, I was rejoicing in my heart and praising God for how things were going. It was truly a testimony that glorified God. I later heard that it was raining in different parts of Chennai and in neighbouring areas, but not a drop of rain fell over the open area where the reception was being held. Everything spoke of God's blessing and favour.

Perhaps for many it was just another wedding, a nice one, but not unique in any way. For me and my husband and many others who know them well, it was a time of rejoicing and praising God, because we so much wanted everything to go right. Having seen the family go through all kinds of trials in recent months, our prayer was that all should go smoothly, so that they could rejoice in this important occasion.

Sometimes we wonder why people who serve God sincerely suffer so many trials. It seems that they get double trouble for their faithfulness. You can almost see the fierce spiritual forces arrayed against them, waiting to attack at every opportunity. They are always in need of fervent prayer in order to overcome all that comes against them in various forms.

As I thought about these things, the verse came to my mind: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 

It was an eye-opener.  Yes, it is true that trials make us strong in the faith and teach us perseverance. Through them we are fired in the crucible until all that is impure is turned to ashes and what is left behind is precious gold. Through suffering and obedience we are transformed into the image of Christ. 


It is not all about us alone. It is about the larger purposes of God. 

Consider this: 

How can a person preach effectively about Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, if he has not been through difficult circumstances and seen God come to his aid?

How can he convince us about God our Healer, unless he has been seriously ill and experienced God's wonderful healing touch?

Can a person who has not gone through severe testing times and seen God's deliverance powerfully preach about God our Deliverer? That when we pass through the waters, they will not sweep over us, and when we pass through the fire, he will not let us be burned?

The testing of our Pastor and his family brings blessings on the congregation who witness the overcoming power of the Holy Spirit in his life and give glory to God. It brings blessing, because the sheep are fed real food that nourishes them and causes them to grow. The fearless preaching comes from true experience and a closer walk with God and has a ring of truth in it.

Does this mean that we are to leave them to it and rejoice that their sufferings are bringing blessing to us? Not at all. The sufferings and trials of a pastor also are a test of his congregation, whether they support him and his family through prayer and practical help. As the congregation members show love and support for their Shepherd, he is strengthened and comforted and his commitment to his loving congregation grows. In the process, both are edified and God's purposes are fulfilled. 

Because after all, it's not about us, is it? It's about God and his glory.