As Christians, none of us are strangers to trials. The Bible says, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:9). It also says in the Bible, “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). From this, we can see that God wants to give refinement and trials to His chosen people and, through this, to perfect our faith and our love for God, to resolve our corrupt dispositions or the taints in our belief, to remedy our wrong views and to enable us to be purified. We can therefore encounter all kinds of environments that are at odds with our own notions. Examples of these environments may include sometimes encountering the refinement of illness, and sometimes our families may encounter misfortune, such as the suffering of a relative or our homes being burgled; sometimes we may encounter difficulties in our jobs or things in our lives that are not as we would wish. All these examples are, without a doubt, trials to us. So what approach should we take to the trials God sets for us? And when trials befall us, what is God’s will?
Over my recent contemplations on the Bible, I have been inspired by the experiences of Job and Abraham when trials befell them, and I’d like to share this with everyone.
The Trials of Job
First, we have to mention a person in the Bible who goes by the name of Job. When fiery trials befell Job, all his cattle and sheep and camels were stolen by robbers and burned by the fire from heaven, his children were crushed in the collapse of his house, and he was covered in boils. This succession of what we would call calamities befell Job. And what approach did Job take to it all? First of all, he did not blame God, and he did not employ any human means to take back his wealth from the robbers. Instead, he was able to quieten himself before God and he believed that we human beings receive our blessings from God. But in just the same way, we also suffer calamity, so no matter how at odds with his notions a situation was that befell him, he continued to praise the holy name of God, and he said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21).
Job bore a strong and resounding witness for God, and he passed smoothly through God’s trials. What followed these trials were increased blessings from God: Job’s wealth and cattle were increased twofold, each one of his children were outstandingly beautiful, and God allowed Job to live for another 140 years, and so he lived until he was 210.
By experiencing such painful trials, Job endured suffering that we ordinary people could never have endured. His faith was also raised to a new height and he stood witness for God before Satan, thus causing Satan to be so utterly shamed and defeated that it never dared to tempt Job again. Thereafter, Job was free, and he lived entirely in the presence of God. Moreover, an even greater blessing which Job received after he had undergone these trials was that God appeared to him within a whirlwind, and God spoke with him, thus enabling Job to enter into a closer relationship with God. Just as Job said, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Job had been hearing about God all his life, and now his understanding of God had been heightened to the actual existence of God. He became more certain than ever that everything he had encountered was under the sovereignty of God and his understanding of God became much more practical—this was a blessing greater than any material reward.
The Trial of Abraham
Here, I’d like to talk about a second person from the Bible, being Abraham, the father of faith. Brothers and sisters all know that, when Abraham was 100 years old, God gave him a son, and Abraham loved Isaac dearly. But one day, God’s trial befell Abraham, and God said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of” (Genesis 22:2). Think about it: This kind of trial would be hard for anyone to endure, so much so that some people would fight against God and be filled with misconceptions. Yet what approach did Abraham take? Although he felt great distress and pain, he obeyed God, and he did not try to argue with Him or lay down any conditions. Just when he had taken Isaac to the mountain alone and had raised the knife ready to kill him, God sent an angel to stay Abraham’s hand, and the trial was thus ended. Furthermore, God swore an oath and bestowed great blessings on Abraham. God said, “That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17–18).
I also read the passage in another book, “To man, God does much that is incomprehensible and even unbelievable. When God wishes to orchestrate someone, this orchestration is often at odds with man’s notions and incomprehensible to him, yet it is precisely this dissonance and incomprehensibility that are God’s trial and test of man. Abraham, meanwhile, was able to demonstrate obedience to God within himself, which was the most fundamental condition of his being able to satisfy God’s requirement. Only then, when Abraham was able to obey God’s requirement, when he offered up Isaac, did God truly feel reassurance and approval toward mankind—toward Abraham, whom He had chosen. Only then was God sure that this person whom He had chosen was an indispensable leader who could undertake His promise and His subsequent management plan” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”).
From this passage, we can see that God arranges environments in order to try us. From the outside, it may appear as though these trials are at odds with our notions and are hard for us to understand, so much so that we feel pain and torment in these environments, yet these trials brim with the painstaking efforts of God. Just like when Abraham stood firm in his testimony during his trial, God saw Abraham’s sincerity, and not only did God not take his son, but He also blessed Abraham so that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach or the stars in the sky. Behind this, the will of God reached a deeper level, for God chose Abraham to become the leading figure of His work of management for mankind. God purposed to perform His work of management for mankind through the descendants of Abraham, and He would manifest through these people His deeds, His wisdom, His authority and His power. Eventually, God’s work in the Age of Law and Age of Grace was primarily done in Israel. Israel was the testing ground and the birthland for God’s work of salvation on earth.
From this, we can see the greatness of the blessings which Abraham received. We can say that his ability to become the father of many nations, as well as his descendants being blessed by God, are related to God’s trial that befell him in those early days.
The Inspiration Gained From These Experiences
It is not hard for us to see from the trials which befell Abraham and Job that every trial we encounter contains God’s good will; not only can they enable us to gain God’s blessings but, even more importantly, they allow our spiritual lives to grow in leaps and bounds, we gain more knowledge of God, and we can follow the path of belief in God more sturdily and with more stability. Although the trials which befell Abraham and Job are not ones that we ordinary people would experience, as we do not have their stature and neither are we qualified to endure such trials, yet we can still encounter all kinds of different trials in our lives, both big and small. I have seen a sister suffer the torment of illness and her life hung in the balance, and yet she remained full of faith in God and wished to place her life and death in God’s hands. Regardless of whether her illness got better or not, she was still willing to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. In the end, she witnessed God’s deeds and her illness miraculously got better. During this process, the sister’s faith in God increased, and she came to have a more practical appreciation for God’s almightiness and sovereignty. When everything is going smoothly in the careers of some brothers and sisters, they thank God for His blessings. But when their businesses go through a rocky patch and money gets short in their families, the complaints in their hearts come forth, and they blame God for not blessing them. But afterward, through the revelations of God’s words, they realize that their belief in God is just making deals with God, and that they regard God as a cornucopia. They come to understand the wrong motives behind their belief in God, and so they correct their wrong views on belief, and they take their correct place as created beings. When people experience with the correct motive, not only do their lives progress, but their businesses also pick up again. … When brothers and sisters encounter these trials, their flesh suffers much to differing degrees, but from these trials they obtain something even more precious: They understand more and more about God’s will to save man, their knowledge of God becomes more real and they gain more truths. Therefore, it may be said that trials are another kind of blessing from God for us Christians, and they are the path that must be traversed in order for our lives to grow and for us to obtain God’s praise.
Since trials are so beneficial to each and every Christian, what reason do we have to complain when trials and tribulations befall us? Don’t you agree, my friends?