TRIBULATION AND TRIALS - WHY?
“Confirming the souls of the disciples, calling on them to continue in the faith and that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God”, Act.14:22

Confusion is steadily growing among Christians and even such as are faithful Christians (because heresy has a greater voice now) as to why there are trials and why these take place. This is a humble approach towards something upon which many a soul has stumbled already.

There was a reason why Paul and his co-workers went back on these churches to tell them that they must enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. At a first glance it seems that this was the reason they went back after all, as if something very important had been left unsaid.

We should be reminded that people have and breed and preach the notion that tribulations and lacking things are the direct consequences of a curse or of an absence of God at least. It is true that sin brings evil and evil tidings upon people. But, the notion that people have and breed as being evil, concerns their material life alone. People are not wrong by thinking and believing as they do most of the time, but they can't see sin as evil if they are bountiful and joyful in it still. Yet, what people regard as evil differs from what God sees as evil even though one may not disregard the fact that it might be a truth applied at the wrong time or even at the wrong place and circumstances as well, for if every trouble was a direct cause of sin, most people would give up on their faith easily.

I believe many troubles are the direct cause oh faith and not of sin only. This was the great struggle with Job: to see where he did sin. Sin is evil in the eyes of God - perhaps hardships and troubles are the only evils in the eyes of man. It is only to be expected that God would use what man might take as important issues to try his faith, and that man will see God's faithfulness in accordance with the blessings bestowed on him.

Why did Paul go back upon these churches just to tell them this truth? Was the effort worth being spent?

We know and acknowledge that faith is the link to salvation and that a certain kind of joy is the strength of holy ones. So, if sin makes our ship go down into the waters of calamity, there is nothing left to be done unless one is renewed and brought back to those expectations which are genuine and worked out by God Himself from within. But, suppose something as holy as a new heart could stumble over the fact that it has reason to believe God is absent or that troubles are mainly curses, or that joy begotten over and above any material blessing is what strength is all about. How shall such a heart be kept alive and still living as God intends it to be if one would say “Lord, we left all to follow you and now we don’t have anywhere to go on to work for you and we do  not have you either?” The thought of having kept nothing back, from family ties to money, houses and dreams (no matter how worldly these might have been) just to follow God, is something outsiders may applaud in many a way (even if they do not wish that for themselves); yet, if one has done away with all of that and started to follow God, having lost many a care towards all one possessed, hating even a piece of cloth stained by corrupted flesh from a point on, how desperate is a situation of such who have no more any desire to go back to the world, having nowhere to go anymore, and then realize God might not be with them either. Peter said, after leaving all “… Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life”, John 6:68. Let's recall that at a certain moment Jesus died and they had nowhere to go for a while. They refused to let go on the Lord and He eventually died and disappointed them deeply. What they refused to have came upon them, somehow, by the will of God.

I do not wish to talk and relate these things to carnal Christians alone, for they will not understand these things as they ought for those reasons they ought. Put yourselves in Peter’s real shoes and loose your only hope and Lord to an undeserved, rude and cruel cross and deny Him after having no desire to go back to an old living, especially if you can't do anything to save Him. I believe the denial made it easier to Peter, for his mind was drawn to other issues then those of self-righteousness and it hindered him to believe God had denied them in their hope. What hope will remain in such at all if they believe there is nowhere else to go having kept nothing back to follow God from a point on? They went back fishing – but do you think all those years’ happenings left their minds for one single moment by having climbed into that boat of hopelessness and despair? Were they talking and happily fishing, once having gone back to their boats? Was their mind willingly in whatever they were doing? Why wasn’t it a sin for them to go back to the nets and boats they left behind once upon a time? Was it not because they nurtured no more love towards it at all? Could it be a sin to hold something in your hand which does not reach your heart as it was their case? Were they concerned NOW that there were no fish in their nets somehow? They cared very little whether they had a fish in the net or not, really, even if they came to catch many this time. I believe God sends us, sometimes, back to our old living to make an impression in our minds that we do not belong there anymore - at all.

Trials have this feature in them that expose whatever is absorbing our hearts’ views and eyes and it is confronted right there by an older life so as to do away with the remains of it for good with the blessed view that it is over for us and for ever from within us. These trials may come to show what is within us still just as it may come to show what is not there. Tests come our way so we may know what is in our hearts - God knows it already. These trials will always be stumbling blocks to such who love God so that He may bless them alone, if their golden feet are mixed with clay as was the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. None of the clay will stand during such dark times and gold will become refined, for their hearts will reveal which way they will go from then on or not and we will understand why Mark headed for Jerusalem and left Paul and why Joseph remained faithful for two years after knowing those people from Pharaoh's house came to prison to open up a way for him out of there. Still, he waited for two years more and could do nothing about it at all. He might have thought he was ready to go out of prison, but God's provision kind of lied to him then, because his heart expected something right there while God intended to tell him about something two years before its time.

The fact was not that Peter and John went back to those boats, but the real issue was what had been consuming them as they returned to an old life of substance. They saw there was no fish in the net, yet, they cared very little that it had been so for it just reminded them of the day it also happened three years before. If one loves God dearly and God is sensed lost, one cares very little whether there is fish on one’s net or not. If there is fish, such a Peter jumps into the water and is able to leave it right behind him if Jesus appears on the shore alive again; if there is no fish in it, he can remain fishing and his heart and thought won’t be absorbed and consumed by the time spent there or even by the lack of fruit from work.

The main issue on trials is to be sober and honestly realize and search whether one has a hidden, known or even unknown, heart sin. If not, one has to find ways not to loose faith, for faith alone saves and keeps saved right through. The point is that people easily believe trials are there because we may have sinned. I cannot agree with this vision of things, for it can’t be true most of the time among faithful ones. Trials may be there because we have not sinned. It is true that we may get reprimanded and punished, no doubt about that. But, the truth says also that a trial is there to do with hearts as mining and fire does to gold because it is a mine. We may also regard that a fire melting gold is always exposing the filth it has or the gold it has. It may also show the filth it has not. 

Now, here is another approach as well: if and when one has a heart towards sin and sinning, (God is after the heart we may have and our conduct as well) would it be love to let such a person have all and feel blessed while living abundantly in sin? Just suppose one is not aware of the heart he has. Think for yourself about this – can it be love from God not to let sin have and breed a curse as well, rather than to let one single person live, breed and feast on any sin and have reasons to feel there is no better life than that to carry out sin as a blessed achievement? When you look to a tree, do you look to its roots or to its fruit? Will people seek to save their lives if and when sin is a most happy place to be? Every tree which breeds sin has got to have a worm in it and the end of its branches must show the curse it has, for that’s what people are reaching after – the fruit.

But, because this is so decreed that there is a curse and a blessing before us all, the choice being ours by the way we may come to choose, one may never state that a trial is always a curse for sinning – it cannot be. Jesus was cursed and He had no sin. Paul and Job were tried immensely having been innocent; Daniel was thrown into the lions being clean and spotless before God. What shall we say about these things? Can these separate us from God, can these cause us to sin in any way? Will they separate you from God if you are spotless before Him? IN THEM we will be more than conquerors, for the desire to sin will be absent even then – and sin still separates from God; hence the need to be turned into more than a mere conqueror either in health or in pain. Can it devastate your faith? Are troubles synonymous to hurricanes and curses to you? Is health and wealth still synonymous to blessing as well? It just shows just how much you may still love yourself if you get discouraged due to trials somehow. We know worms eat wood, but don’t eat gold up. Gold is exposed if worms eat up its wooden basket. God cares for the heart – why take care of the conducting issues of this present life then if it is God who is demolishing them? Shall we perish because we still care for things God does not and cannot afford to care for our sakes?

Trials are mainly there because it has that rare ability to do away with the seed to sin, the very body of sin, the queen-bee which still lays eggs, by exposing the heart and by removing the remains of dross which is still glued on pure gold somehow to let gold show forth. Hence the reasons why gold shines more when it is hot and melting.

Trials are not there because we have sinned, but rather so we will not sin in future times as well. The main reason one is tried, is never because one may have sinned. I believe it is because one may come to sin still. So, to look backwards to search for the reasons for trials, one may be looking back in vain, for one has to look ahead and not backwards alone. Trials are mainly there to prevent sinning and not to punish it. “For the words are closed up and sealed … Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried. But the wicked shall do wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand”, Dan 12:10. Hope and pray you understand these well then.

Many a Christian has prayed, “Lord, purify me” and once trials come they ask “Lord, why did you leave me?” They should be glad God has heard a prayer from them instead.

It is not my intention to say through all of this that committing a sin does not bring us into uncomfortable situations at all. I mean to say trials purge and do not punish. Hell punishes sin – not trials; for an eye for an eye for having denied eternal happiness and life is served by its righteous eternal counterpart alone. God is righteous and He shall do accordingly. Nevertheless, because people’s hearts are set on temporal matters, God lets them feel the side effects of sin upon any temporal thing as well (for He is the God of them), because their hearts are set on such. “Brethren, be not deceived”, for trials may mean God is with you. Do not curse God and die then during such blessed times. There is no time for gold to shine more than under melting fire – take this unique chance to feel alone because of God, if you have no sin then. If not, cease to say “The will of the Lord be done, Act 21:14. Amen.  

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José Mateus
zemateus@msn.com