There is a common perception in the world today that faith in Jesus Christ will exempt you from the trials and hardships of life, especially those associated with your health, your happiness, and your prosperity. I’m thinking that someone has been messing with the message when it comes to telling people that suffering is part of the package, that many won’t appreciate what you stand for and what you believe in.
Peter addressed this issue in the first letter which bears his name, saying that the believer’s response is not fighting fire with fire but rather rejoicing because the Spirit of glory and of Christ rests in the believer. Jesus said that we are to rejoice when people persecute us and say evil things against us, because they persecuted the prophets before, as well.
A hostile world is out there, but the issue is, how do you respond? Do you fight fire with fire? Or do you rise above the trials and difficulties with strength that others don’t have?
Peter advised, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps…When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he trusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21, 23).
When times of difficulty come for you, there are promises that accompany them, which we seldom remember.
First, times of difficulty are accompanied by the promise of His presence. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He also promised, “I will be with you always…” (Matthew 28:20). Wouldn’t you be more comfortable with surgery if you knew that the hand of the doctor is in the hand of the Living Savior?
Furthermore, the trials that come to us also come with the promise of His protection. Peter again wrote that we are “shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (Peter 1:6-7).
There is also the promise of His purging or cleansing. In spite of the fact that we would rather avoid times of difficulty, good always comes out of them. Peter talked about our faith as gold, which is put into the furnace and refined, but he said that our faith will never perish, though gold will.
Amy Carmichael used to tell of the village goldsmith who would take ore and put it over a clay tile, occasionally raking off the impurities. “How do you know when the ore is ready?” His reply. “When I can see the reflection of my face in the ore.” So is it with the trials that produce the imprint of our Father’s face in our lives.
Most of us, myself included, would just as soon skip the fire, but it is all part of the process that God uses to refine us and to demonstrate His power in our lives. The fiery trial produces the presence and purity of God in our lives, which the world can never understand.