Blessed by God’s Testing
“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)
This week, as I prepare for surgery, and write posts ahead, I have decided to focus on the blessings that we have from our gracious God. On Sunday we considered the benefit of having God’s Word on our hearts and our fingers, ready to share with others. Yesterday’s devotion was about the blessing of being remembered by God and being secure in him, through his righteousness. Today we will consider the blessing of perseverance resulting in receiving the crown of life from Christ. Let me be clear that I will not be persevering as a result of surgery, since all I have to do is lay on the table and let the surgeon do the work. I will try to persevere through rehab faithfully, in a way that glorifies God so all can see I depend on him. Otherwise, I’m just going through an elective medical experience, which is no trial, but a blessing of God’s provision of medical care. As we care for elderly relatives, reach out to the needy, teach, preach, or pray, we are not necessarily undergoing trials of faith.
According to James, a trial is a time of testing by God, when he teaches us to stand up under great difficulties. “…if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” (1 Peter 3:14) Job and Paul are two biblical figures who were tested by God; they suffered greatly but remained faithful, knowing that the Lord meant good for them, according to Romans 8:28-30. We may lose a spouse or child unexpectedly, experience a sudden debilitating injury, or lose a job or home. These may be trials because we are challenged to trust the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness in our grief and anger. Continuing to trust in God with a growing faith during these times crowns us with life in Christ that is stronger than our problems.
The gospel assures us that it is not by our own power that we persevere in our trials with faith, but it is because we are Christ’s, having resurrection power to endure. “Such [gospel] faith necessarily perseveres.” (1) “The foundation for spiritual growth is recognizing that it is God who began a good work in you and will bring it to completion. Genuine spiritual progress is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do.” (2) “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Not only will our faith be proved but it will become even stronger through God’s testing it.
When I have undergone trials in the past, I found Paul’s response to his tests helpful. He was not stoic; he described his trials of faith accurately and openly. He was not overly emotional; he focused on the advance of the gospel and how God might use him to bring Christ to others. The greatest challenge to our faith is focusing not on ourselves but Christ, as we undergo difficulties. My question for myself is, Will I remember to ask the surgical staff to stop working on me so I can pray for them, in Christ’s name, or will I be so consumed with my nervousness that I forget? I pray that I will. What question do you need to ask yourself today, to be blessed by God’s faithfulness as your faith is tested in a problematic situation?
(1) The Reformation Study Bible, James 1:12, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(2) ESV Study Bible Notes, Philippians 1:6(digital edition), Crossway, 2008.