Believers who live for the Lord and pray in faith, can expect God to answer their prayers and bring His intervention, provision and blessings. But this doesn’t mean that they’ll ever be exempt from problems or the possibility of calamity or tragedy. Scripture says that the “rain falls upon the just and unjust” (Matthew 5:45), and those who follow Christ will also experience many temptations and trials... some so severe that their faith may be tested to its limit.
Something believers can be sure of, is if we have trusted Christ with our life, He is in charge of everything that happens to us... and even though there may be moments of great difficulty, He promises at least three things:
(1) That He will not allow anything to come upon us that is more than we can bear. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
(2) That “all things,” whether good or bad, will work together for a good result in our life.“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
(3) That He will eventually answer our cry to deliver us from our afflictions, either by removing them, and/or by giving us the peace and strength to endure.“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalms 34:17-19).
As we have often said, temptations and trials are common to all believers, because they are necessary components to our faith in God. Faith that is untested, is not really worth anything... any more than raw gold ore that has not yet been purged and refined in the smelting furnace. Thus, trials serve that purpose, of testing and refining our faith, as the Apostle Peter wrote, “greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Many of those to whom Peter wrote, seemed surprised by the persecution and trials they experienced, as though they didn’t expect their faith to be contested or challenged. However, this must be anticipated. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Whenever you pray and apply faith in God for any reason, you must expect your faith to be contested by doubt, unbelief, or by Satan causing delays or complications. In his devotional,My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, “Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict... Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith.”1
One of the most extreme examples of faith tested, can be seen in the life of Job, described the biblical book bearing his name. While the kind of ordeals that befell Job may not be typical of the daily problems most believers face, all of God’s children will experience temptations and trials, some so severe that their faith will be pushed to the edge.
According to scripture, Job was the wealthiest man of his region and had a remarkably blessed life. He was also an outstanding follower of the Lord, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). And ironically, it’s for that reason, he was singled out and allowed to be tried by the devil.
Once God gave Satan permission to try him, Job essentially began experiencing the loss of everything he had, including his health, the support of his friends and even his wife. We don’t how long the ordeal lasted, but scripture only refers to months (Job 7:3), while Jewish tradition suggests a year or longer.
First, Job’s 1000 oxen and donkeys were stolen and his servants were killed (Job 1:14-15). Fire then fell from the sky and consumed his 7000 sheep, killing more of his servants (Job 1:16). Then his 3000 camels were stolen, and even more of his servants were killed (Job 1:17). Following this, a great wind destroyed a house, killing Job’s 7 sons and 3 daughters (Job 1:18-19). (Whew! It exhausts me just to recount all this calamity!)
And what was Job’s response? He grieved deeply over the awful things that were happening, but he refused to blame God in the least. “Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1:20-22 NLT).
But the ordeal was not yet over. Job was then smitten from head to toe with painful boils (Job 2:7) which caused fever and blackened his skin (Job 30:30). And although he was incapacitated, rather than encouraging him his wife then traumatized him further with criticism. She even told him to give up... to curse God and die (incidentally, she is never mentioned again).
And finally, Job is visited by three so-called “friends” who add to his distress by piling on with false accusations and judgmentalism. Eliphaz accused Job of harboring secret sin as the reason for his calamities (Job 4:7), Bildad similarly accused Job, even suggesting that his children had also been to blame (Job 8:4). And Zophar was even more condemning, calling Job a liar for defending himself (Job 11:3-4), and referring to him as “wicked” and a “hypocrite.” They obviously hurt Job deeply, who called then “miserable comforters,” and replied, “How long will you torment my soul, And break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2).
Job lost everything... the lives of his 10 children, all his livestock, all but 4 of his servants, his health, the respect and support of his wife and friends. And if it ended this way, this would be a dismal story, but thank God, it didn’t!
Despite everything, Job never lost his integrity (Job 2:3), never cursed or spoke improperly against the Lord (Job 2:10, Job 42:8) and held steadfast to his faith and trust in God (Job 13:15). And because of his faithfulness, God not only restored, but multiplied everything he had lost (Job 42:12-13).
Interestingly, God finally “turned the captivity of Job” and brought the ordeal to an end, when Job “prayed for his friends” who had been so brutal and condemning (Job 42:10). I’ve always suspected that the emotional toll from these false comforters, may have been the most difficult thing he endured. And by choosing to pray for them, and not allowing himself to become bitter, put himself over the top in God’s eyes. “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
This is the amazing part of this... and the lesson we learn about trials. Not only did God restore Job, but He doubled what he had before... even his years of life upon the earth. It’s believed that Job was around 70 when his testing began, and lived 140 more years. “Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters” (Job 42:11-13 NLT).
The history of Job’s life shows us that even the most devoted followers of the Lord are not exempt from the possibility of horrendous trials or difficulty. However, we also know that God will not allow us to suffer anything without purpose, and will use whatever challenges to help make us stronger and to bring about promotion in the end. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT).
“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1 The Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, 1935
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