As long as God’s church is in existence, there will be trials and tribulations. Why is this oppression and persecution part of life on earth? “The warfare against God’s law commenced in heaven. Satan was determined to bring God to his ideas, his way, to force Him to change the law of His government. This was the cause of the war in heaven. Satan worked upon the sympathies of the angelic host by his deceptive attitude, but he was expelled from heaven, and now he is determined to carry out on this earth the plans [he] instituted in heaven. If he can persuade man to be disloyal to the law of God, he will feel that he is revenged upon God. He strives to instill into the minds of men his masterly deceptions, thus perverting judgment and justice, trampling down the law of God. This work—the conflict between truth and error—lies at the foundation of the trials and tribulations that the children of God will experience. This is the ‘trial of their faith.’ ” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 37.
The Lord never said that such difficult events could be avoided. It is very clear in Scripture that we must go through trials and tribulations as we prepare for the heavenly kingdom. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2–4. Indeed we each may become the type of individual that will walk with the Lord and do His work. We will not be discouraged or stressed as we turn everything over to Him.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Verses 5–8. Because of doubt, man has no faith.
Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker on some cars that declares, “When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.” This statement is so true. There are many people in the New and Old Testaments of the Bible who learned, through the trials in their lives, to make lemonade out of lemons. They went from victims to victors in the Lord. They were able to face the most difficult trials and to gain victory through Jesus. The word of God is full of examples where something sweet was made from something that was bitter.
The book of James tells us that just as persons in the Bible triumphed, we too may have victory. There are several steps in life that we need to follow so we can be victorious. Four points to help turn our trials into triumphs are: 1. Count, 2. Knowing, 3. Let and 4. Ask. We need to understand these four points that are included in James 1:2–8, and discipline ourselves to follow them during every trial or tribulation.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” James 1:2. In other words, learn to say: “Thank You, Lord, for the trials that I am going through.” “Thank You for these difficult moments that I am experiencing right now.” Count those as joy moments. This may seem easy to say when we do not have anything going wrong in our lives. When everything is unstable in our lives, we may question why we should find joy moments and praise God for the learning experience. James assumes, in this passage, that we will experience trials. He tells us to count this all joy when we fall into various trials. He does not say if or but; he says, when we have them to count them joy. As Christians, we will experience trials, just as the Christians, right after Christ died, faced trials and tribulations. History is going to repeat itself.
The disciples were very aware of the situation after Christ died. They had also witnessed the Master going through His trial, persecution, and death. Remember, Jesus said that whosoever, of his own free will, wants to follow Him, should take hold of his own cross, deny himself, and know that to follow Him would bring trials, tribulations, and persecutions. (See Mark 8:34.) They had a fear of persecution. They realized that the only way to completely overcome fear was to turn themselves completely over to the Lord.
We need to pray to God, asking Him to turn our fear into faith. Ask God to turn the insecurities in your life and in yourself to security and trusting in Him. The Lord never told His disciples or us that it would be a free ride in the Christian walk.
“The Word does not say that we are to count it all joy when we fall under temptation, but when we fall into temptation. It is not necessary to fall under temptation, for temptation comes upon us for the trying of our faith. And the trying of our faith worketh patience, not fretfulness and murmuring. If we put our trust in Jesus, He will keep us at all times, and will be our strength and shield. We are to learn valuable lessons from our trials. Paul says, ‘We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope …’ (Romans 5:3–5).” That I May Know Him, 279. [Emphasis supplied.]
In John 16:33, the Scriptures give a discussion Jesus had with the disciples: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Jesus never promised a free ride. He desired for us to find peace in the world, as long as we give our lives to Him and trust Him. Then we will find peace. He tells us that there is no question that we will have persecutions, trials and tribulations while we are here in this world. After Jesus was crucified, Paul also talked to the Christians. “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. We must go through these tribulations, because the kingdom of God awaits us. We must overcome trials as proof to all that God’s obedient children worship Him at all times. We must determine to willingly follow Christ.
“We must be willing to be despised and trodden under foot here. We are soon to be exalted to a home in glory, a treasure in the heavens. Praise the Lord, we will go through and behold Him whom our souls admire. Press, press … to the mark of the prize. Have faith in God. Endure trials; be patient in tribulations. Pray, pray much. Keep the victory above the powers of darkness.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 131.
Trials come upon us in many different ways. Some of those ways could include accidents, the death of a loved one, illness, or losing something material. Trials could come upon us because of disagreements or with persecutions from a best friend or somebody else, even a church member. There are different types of trials, including moments when you feel disappointment with somebody or some circumstance. For the most part, all of those hard times and trials come because we are Christians.
We read in I Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Don’t think that this trial is not for you, because it is for you—to fix you or to change you! Some people call this “bad luck.” It has nothing to do with luck. It occurs because we are Christians, and as such, we need to face one trial or persecution at a time.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:12. We will suffer persecution because we are determined to live a godly life with Christ. Satan is very angry with us, and he is going to use anybody he can, even our families, to give us a hard time. Those who are loyal and obedient to God will be persecuted.
In Acts 5:41, we are told, “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Some of us can disengage ourselves from the world and from leaders. But, because we do this, they will say that we are declaring war against them, and they will cause us much trouble and persecute us. Are we willing to go through shame for the sake of our God? Jesus suffered trial and shame for us. Did He have the victory? Yes, He did, because after His death, His Father resurrected Him and restored all to Him.
Jesus wants us to develop the same kind of love that He has for His Father. Such love will conquer every problem or situation we may experience. Knowing this, what should be our response as Christians? “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:12, 13. The disciples understood this. Many people, who fall into frustrating times, scream, fuss and complain. During these times our Lord is trying to tell us to settle down and to trust Him through these trials. We must believe that He is working on us through the trials and preparing us for the kingdom of heaven. Trials and tribulations are the methods that Jesus uses to shape us for heaven.
“Don’t go to others with your trials and temptations; God alone can help you. If you fulfil the conditions of God’s promises, the promises will be fulfilled to you. If your mind is stayed upon God, you will not go from a state of ecstasy to the valley of despondency when trial and temptation come upon you. You will not talk doubt and gloom to others. … You will not do this, for you will have an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast.” The Review and Herald, February 27, 1913.
In Revelation 14:12, we are told, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The disciples were ready to face shame and persecution. Paul was the persecutor to begin with, but when he accepted Christ and was converted, he was the one who was persecuted. He saw the picture and accepted his commission. This same commission is for us to do to finish the work.
The attitude that we put into the commission given to us will definitely make the difference. “There are many in the church who at heart belong to the world, but God calls upon those who claim to believe the advanced truth, to rise above the present attitude of the popular churches of today. Where is the self-denial, where is the cross-bearing that Christ has said should characterize his followers? The reason we have had so little influence upon unbelieving relatives and associates is that we have manifested little decided difference in our practices from those of the world. Parents need to awake, and purify their souls by practicing the truth in their home life. When we reach the standard that the Lord would have us reach, worldlings will regard Seventh-day Adventists [us] as odd, singular, straight-laced extremists. ‘We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men’ [1 Corinthians 4:9].” The Review and Herald, January 9, 1894.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” Roman 5:3. Philippians 2:17 says, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” The Lord is happy to suffer for us. Are we ready to lose our lives and, at the same time, to rejoice over it? Each of us must be totally converted for the Lord. We must determine in our hearts to face whatever is ahead of us and to trust and obey Him. “For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.” Verse 18. There are trials in life that we must endure.
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” I Peter 1:6–8.
All of these things will refine us and purify our characters. We will be like gold refined by fire. This is the process through which we need to go. We need to develop this willingness to turn everything over to the Lord and allow God to work on us in refining and convicting us. He will show us that through Him we can face any trial. Trials become victories in Jesus’ name. We must be willing to surrender to the Lord, to be tested, and to rejoice in the Lord through all these trials and frustrations. We must develop a joyful attitude.
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:3. To develop patience, we need to be tested. Are we willing to be tested, or are we afraid we will fail the test? We must willingly open up ourselves for the testing of the Lord. In that way, we will develop patience to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
The right knowledge concerning the value of trials makes it possible to have a joyful attitude. All trials and strife test our faith. Faith will bring out the best in us. Just as fire purifies gold, the Lord wants to purify us. God tells us through the Scriptures that nothing polluted or contaminated will enter into the kingdom of heaven. In I Peter 1:7, we are assured, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” We have been given the privilege to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
A problem that we have is that when crisis develops, trials come and problems arise, we try to speed up and move the issue out of the way, to get out of it as fast as we can. But God tells us to stay calm and deal with the problem challenging us. By doing this, we allow patience to be developed in ourselves. May we all learn to deal with these trials. Once we learn to deal with these trials without losing self-control, we develop patience, trust, and obedience.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” II Corinthians 4:17. We should send up a prayer and ask the Lord to help us, not by removing the situation in front of us, but by helping us to learn patience and how to deal with the challenge. Trials will bring out the best in us, and we will mature in the Lord as we learn to overcome. We develop faith and patience in the Lord.
In the book of Job, we can read about all of the trials Job went through, and through all of these trials, he did not lose his self-control. Even though everything he possessed was taken away, one at a time, he made a statement to the world by his attitude. That is the attitude we must have. We must have the willingness in our hearts to allow the Lord to work in us. It is very important, when trials enter our lives, that we praise God and realize we have been given another opportunity to develop patience.
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Romans 5:3, 4. Hope is the motivation that will get us through the trials to triumph, knowing that our Lord is coming to take us home.
“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:4. When we have experienced and overcome all of the trials and tribulations in our paths, the Lord will declare that there is nothing missing in us. When we see our Lord face to face, the only thing we will be able to say is, “Praise to the Lord.”
To allow victory to take place over problems, the Lord wants to see self-control in us. Too often we want to get our trials and difficulties over quickly. There are times when it is best to humbly and patiently walk with them, saying, “Praise God! He is working on me.”
“Christ left His high command, took upon Himself the nature of man, and came to the earth to stand at the head of the fallen race, in order to show that humanity could withstand the temptations of Satan. He became the Head of humanity, to be assaulted with temptations on every point as fallen human nature would be tempted, that He might know how to succor all who are tempted. On this earth He worked out the problem of how to live in accordance with God’s standard of right. Bearing our nature, He was true to God’s standard of righteousness, gaining the victory over Satan. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet He was without sin.” The Upward Look, 172.
When patience has no opposition or opportunity, the Lord is working. Sometimes we get to the point where we say that we have nowhere else to go or that we can do nothing more. If we have faith in the Lord and patience, there will be a way out and an answer from the Lord. We must never let any doubts into our minds. We must be fully convinced that God will take care of every situation. Allowing these things to take place will develop maturity in us, and we will become very mature Christians for the Lord. We will develop solid characters and solid faith and nothing will shake us. This is the type of faith, character, and determination each of us must have for the Lord.
If we do not do these things, we are not allowing God to take complete control of our lives. When we say that we do not want to give up something, we are not moving forward. Day after day the same things will come into our minds. When we become Christians, we will not hold anything back that will block our growth. We will let go of it all.
We must learn to trust and to have faith with no doubts in the power of the Lord. Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding. (See I Kings 3:7–12.) We should ask the Lord for whatever we need. Ask the Lord for patience, for understanding, and for wisdom to deal with everything. We do not want to quit or to become cowards, but we must persevere, be strong, and be conquerors of each situation for the name and honor of Jesus Christ.
The wisdom that was given to Solomon was given him because of the way he asked. He asked unselfishly, requesting nothing for himself. We need to follow Solomon’s example and ask for wisdom, as did he. We need to ask for that faith. We need to ask the Lord to give us whatever we lack. Whatever our problems are or whatever our pressures may be, ask the Lord. We will learn to convert trials and tribulations into victories for the Lord. We need to have this conviction in our hearts with no doubting that the Lord will help. God can do it.
“When trials come, remember that they are sent for your good. … When trials and tribulations come to you know that they are sent in order that you may receive from the Lord of glory renewed strength and increased humility, so that He may safely bless and support and uphold you. In faith and with the hope that ‘maketh not ashamed’ [Romans 5:5], lay hold of the promises of God.” My Life Today, 185.
Pastor Domingo Nuñez is director of Outreach Ministry for Steps to Life. He is involved in the coordination of world mission projects and he travels extensively, encouraging the many home churches supported by Steps to Life. He can be contacted at: 316-788-5559 or by email at: email@example.com.