The Trial of Faith

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  3
Subject: Trials; Hardships; Faith
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave

The Trial of Faith

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Today we return to 1 Thessalonians 3 and our series entitled, Ready To Live, Ready To Leave. Paul was writing from Corinth to Thessalonica and he wanted the Christians at Thessalonica to be ready to live for Christ in a difficult world, and ready to leave when the Lord came for them. That is our challenge today. We must be ready to live for our Savior in season and out of season and also we must remain ready to leave this world whether by death of through the rapture. The message today addresses how we are to live for Christ till we leave to live with Christ.

Paul knew that the believers at Thessalonica were undergoing great hardships. What he wrote to them in chapter three of his first epistle addresses this issue. He desired that the Christians, who had only been saved for a short period of time, might be rooted and established in Christ. Paul’s burden for them at this point surrounded the issue of their faith and the trials that faith would have to undergo in the pagan, Roman city in which they lived.

Paul knew that suffering could create a pity-party attitude in a believer. This is a sad and incorrect response. I heard about a man who went to see a psychiatrist. The man felt he was suffering from an inferiority complex. The doctor promised to help. He did a lot of tests and then called the man in to give him the results. The doctor said, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is you do not have a inferiority complex. The bad news is you are inferior.

We can be sure that Satan will do everything he can to weaken our faith. Let us remember what faith is.

  • Faith is believing what God has said about what God has done.
  • Faith is believing what God has said about what God is doing.
  • Faith is believing what God has said about what God will do.

The Bible says that Abraham believed God and God counted unto him for righteousness. What does that mean? It means that Abraham believed what God said to him about a son, about becoming a nation, and about taking care of that son when he was called to take him up on Mt. Moriah. Abraham believed what God said about what he had done, was doing and would do! That is faith.

One might argue that we are called to believe in God and not what he said but listen to the call to salvation from the Book of Romans. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved." How about that! You must believe what God has said about what God did. You have to believe that God is doing something now in order to save you. You have to believe that God will keep His word and save you when you call on Him and believe upon Him in your heart. Faith is believing what God has said about what God has done, believing what God has said about what He is doing and believing what God has said about what He will do. Paul did not want the Thessalonian Christians to waver in their faith in God and His Word to them.

Now I want to share with you three important truths today regarding trials and tribulations that confront the believer. It is very important that you hear this today, because you are either in a trial now, you just came out of one, or you are about to enter one. You need God’s plan for dealing with difficulty in this life.

I. The Certainty of Trials

Paul knew that it was impossible for the Thessalonians to be without sorrows, suffering, trials and tribulations. Note with me how clear the Bible is on this subject.

Look at John 16:33, "In the world ye shall have tribulation. Jesus made it clear that believers should expect to experience trials and hardships." Though this is true, we sometimes have a false sense that because we know and trust Christ we will have it easier than others.

We read in James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." Note that James did not say if you face trials, he said "when" you face trials. James was pointing out that trails and sorrows are inevitable.

Now, look at one other passage on this subject. Turn to 1 Peter 4:12, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." Peter knew that it would be our nature to think that trials were strange in the Christian life. He warned us not to practice that kind of thinking. We must not think it odd, weird, or strange when we go through hardships and sorrows.

On February 15, 1947, Glenn Chambers boarded a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador to begin his ministry in missionary broadcasting. But he never arrived. In a horrible moment, the plane carrying Chambers crashed into a mountain peak and spiraled downward. Later it was learned that before leaving the Miami airport, Chambers wanted to write his mother a letter. All he could find for stationery was a page of advertising on which was written the single word WHY? Around that word he hastily scribbled a final note. After Chamber’s mother learned of her son's death, his letter arrived. She opened the envelope, took out the paper, and unfolded it. Staring her in the face was the question "WHY?"

Actually, though we are all prone to ask why when trouble comes, the truth is that the "why" of a situation is not the most important word. The most significant word in a time of trouble is "what!" What does God desire to do, what can God do, what will God do with this tragedy, this hardship, this problem. That is the question.

So, we begin by understanding that trials will come to all of us. Now let me say an important word about the difference in the trials of a Christian and the trials in the life of an unbeliever. The Christian can be assured that God is at work in his trials bringing about good. Just look at Romans 8:28. But, the unbeliever will have his measure of sorrows here, and then go out to a place where sorrow is everlasting, where God is not present, where hope is lost. Nothing could be more tragic than that. If I were not a Christian, I would flee to Jesus right now. He is the only way to bless you in the midst of life’s troubles here, and to one day deliver you from them forever. He promised a place without death, without tears, without pain, without sorrow, forever! Praise His name forever!

Let’s hasten to the next thought. We have seen that there is a Certainty about Trials, now note the...

II. The Concern About Trials

One cannot read 1 Thessalonians 3 without feeling that Paul was very concerned about the trials of the Thessalonian Christians. Why was he so concerned? Because Paul knew that their reaction to the trials would determine the results of the trials. Paul knew that

  • Trials can make you bitter or they can make you better;
  • Trials can be stumbling stones or stepping stones;
  • Trials can make you or break you;
  • Trials can drain you or train you.

It is our reaction to trials that determines the results of trials. Paul was concerned that the Christians in Thessalonica, who had not been saved very long, would not know how to react to hardships and would thus waste their sorrows.

One day a man saw a tiny ant carry a big stick along the ground. He bent down and watched the creature carry something heavier and bigger than his little ant body. Then he noticed that the ant came to a chasm, a small ditch, but one much to deep and wide for him to cross. He wondered what the ant would do. The ant gently but deftly laid the stick down and created a bridge across the ditch. Then the ant walked over the stick to the other side. The ant then picked up the stick and continued his journey. The man thought how that image could speak to him. What appears sometimes to be a weight can actually be God’s bridge to our future.

There was a man some years ago who had a ministry of visiting people in the hospital. He was such a help that hospital personnel allowed him to visit in all the rooms for just a few minutes. He often carried with him a little book entitled, "The Happy Book." The book contained positive Scriptures and powerful thoughts for people going through trouble. The man came one day to the room of a young woman who was bent in body and suffering in pain. He offered her a copy of the book but she refused. He told her the book could help her but she said she did not need a copy. Finally, before leaving the room, he asked why she would not take the book. With a smile that defied her pain she gently said, "I wrote the book." It was out of my suffering that God gave me those thoughts. The man left that room amazed. He had always thought that some healthy person without worry or hardship had written the book. It never occurred to him that only a sufferer could write such a book.

Paul was concerned that the Thessalonian Christians not miss this point. He did not want them to think that suffering was equal to uselessness. He wanted them to know that just the opposite was true, that suffering leads to service.

We have seen the Certainty of Trials, and the Concern in Trials, but now lets look at the...

III. The Conquest Through Trials

Trials, when properly viewed and correctly faced, actually lead to victory in our lives over Satan, the world and the flesh. In fact, a life without trials can harm us and defeat us.

Look at Deuteronomy 32:15, "Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior."

What a passage. Jeshurun mentioned here is the people of God in the Old Testament. God was saying that they grew fat and lazy because he gave them everything and that they turned their backs on Him! James 1:12 states, "Blessed is that man who perseveres under trial." It is a blessing to face trials if you know how to persevere in the midst of them.

Almost everyone would rather have sunshine than rain. But what do you think it would be like if it never rained again. There is such a place is in Northern Chile. Franklin Elmer, Jr., described a region between the great Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean where rain never falls. He wrote, "Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east; each noon it shines brightly down from overhead; evening brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen raging high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks are observed far out over the sea, the sun continues to shine on this favored and protected strip of land. One would imagine this area to be an earthly paradise; but it is not. Instead, it is a sterile and desolate desert! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there." Elmer then made this application: "Too often we long for total sunshine and joy in life. We have wished to be rid of burdensome responsibilities. But, like this sunny, infertile part of Chile, life without its burdens and trials would not be creative, productive, or challenging. We need sunshine and showers." The storm clouds of suffering may at times blot out the sun and threaten to engulf us. But the trusting Christian recognizes that in God's wise design and under His sovereign control they actually bring showers of blessing.

So exactly what can suffering do for us? What will the Lord do with our trials if we hold on to our faith? Let me suggest some things that are proven out through the Bible.

A. You Can Be A Better Minister

We are all ministers in one way or another. We minister to each other. Many of you have ministered to me in various ways. You have prayed for me. You have encouraged me. You have loved me. Now listen closely. There is one way in which we can minister even more effectively and that is when we have gone through a hardship and can have sympathy and understanding with someone else who is going down that same difficult path. Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:4-7, "Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."

The person who has been through a reversal in one area or another can help another who is currently going through that same problem. We learn through hardship how to love and help others who are hurting.

B. You Can Be A Better Witness

Adoniram Judson, the renowned missionary to Burma, endured untold hardships trying to reach the lost for Christ. For 7 heartbreaking years he suffered hunger and privation. During this time he was thrown into Ava Prison, and for 17 months was subjected to almost incredible mistreatment. As a result, for the rest of his life he carried the ugly marks made by the chains and iron shackles which had cruelly bound him. Undaunted, upon his release he asked for permission to enter another province where he might resume preaching the Gospel. The godless ruler indignantly denied his request, saying, "My people are not fools enough to listen to anything a missionary might SAY, but I fear they might be impressed by your SCARS and turn to your religion."

Yes, even the pagan leader knew that the scars of Judson would cause the people to hear him. When we have suffered, and we still love God, it causes others to listen to our testimony as never before.

C. You Can Be A Better Friend

When you have gone through hardship of one kind or another, you understand others better. You become less judgmental. Take for example, the family who has been through a marriage problem, they are less judgmental of others they see struggle with the same problems. Or think of someone whose child goes astray, that person is likely to be less judgmental of the family who has a child wander from the path. Hardship on the outside can give us a softer and kinder heart!

D. You Can Be A Better Child of God

Listen to the Psalmist. 119:67-68,

"Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I obey your word.

You are good, and what you do is good;

teach me your decrees."

Yes, affliction can make us better and cause us to be a more obedient child of God. When God tests me and tries me, He can bring me to the end of myself and cause me to throw all my trust on Him. He can bring me to a point of utter dependence upon Him! That is where I must be if I would be all He desires, do all he wishes to do through me!

Conclusion

Now some of you are thinking that you must be a pretty tough case. You are thinking that God has put you through some really difficult stuff, so you must be one hard believer for Him to train. Listen to this. God spent 25 years training Abraham before He gave him a son named Isaac. God spent 13 years taking Joseph through trials and troubles before he was ready to step up to a place of greater service. And if you think you have it bad, remember that God took 80 years training Moses before he was ready to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and that was just the beginning of his troubles.

So, how do we view our trials and troubles? Often we take the same view as the world. We say, "Woe is me." We must learn to trust the Lord, not depend upon ourselves and remember Romans 8:17-18.

Romans 8:17-18 states, "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Again 2 Corinthians 4:17 reads, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

So, now, let us come to Him and ask for His strength to endure our trials so that God may do in us what He needs to do so that He can do through us all He desires to do!