True Christianity presupposes a total response to Jesus Christ and to His way of life. We must beware of lowering our moral and spiritual ideals. We need to behold again the glory of God’s character, the beauty of His moral law that stands far above the ways and codes of men. Insight into the narrow way and courage to take that road are required at a time when the world is distinguished by its departure from it. Jesus our wonderful Saviour talked about the Christian life in these words: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13, 14.
Traveling the Narrow Way
In commenting on these verses of Scripture, the servant of the Lord says, “Those who travel in the narrow way are talking of the joy and happiness they will have at the end of the journey. Their countenances are often sad, yet often beam with holy, sacred joy. They do not dress like the company in the broad road, nor talk like them, nor act like them. A pattern has been given them. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief opened that road for them, and traveled it Himself.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 127. Why are their countenances often sad? Apart from other reasons, the Christian journey requires that every person enter through a gate that is strait or difficult, beset with distressing circumstances. Also the Christian must travel a pathway, which is narrow or one filled with trouble, trials and tribulation.
One of the greatest problems we face is that while we acknowledge that Christ has redeemed us, we live much of the time as if we own ourselves. We go off on our own to do “our own thing.” But there can be no separation from our Lord without Satan’s moving in to take over. Failure to let Christ own us completely is responsible for most spiritual problems and lapsing into sin. If Christ is not master at any point, He is not master at all. If He is not the master of our pleasures, He is not the master of us. If He is not the master of our money, He is not the master of our life. This is why the apostle Paul says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” I Corinthians 9:27.
There is something very significant in this text to which the apostle wishes every Christian to pay careful attention; listen to what he emphasizes, “… lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” I Corinthians 9:27. The Greek word that Paul used in this text, which means cast away, is taken from bad metal and properly denotes those which will not bear the test or not standing the test that is applied to them. A “castaway” is a metaphor derived from the testing of metals and the casting aside of those which are spurious. This word castaway also means rejected after testing or unapproved. This is what Paul wants every Christian to understand and bear in mind that trial management by the Christian demonstrates the sincerity or genuineness of his or her profession. II Corinthians 11:23–28.
The apostle Paul had subjected himself to trials. He had given himself to self-denial and toil; to persecution and want; to perils and cold, and nakedness, and hunger. He had done this, among other things, to give his religion a fair trial, to see whether it would bear all these tests; as metal is cast into the fire to see whether it is genuine, or it is base and worthless. In doing this he had endeavored to subdue his corrupt propensities, and bring everything into captivity to the Redeemer, that it might be found that he was a sincere, humble, and devoted Christian. The element of trial patiently borne in the Christian experience clearly reveals the real Christian from the counterfeit!
From the book Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 44, we read these words: “Trials patiently borne, blessings gratefully received, temptations manfully resisted, meekness, kindness, mercy, and love habitually revealed, are the lights that shine forth in the character in contrast with the darkness of the selfish heart, into which the light of life has never shone.” How well you and I manage trials and temptations as Christians will ultimately determine who we are, the impact we make on unbelievers and where we spend eternity. Paul understands that he is traveling a pathway that is beset by trials and temptations, which is designed to prove his worthiness to bear the Christian name and his fitness for the heavenly home. This is why he keeps under his body and brings it into subjection to Christ.
God’s Workmen to Develop Character
We are reminded by the servant of the Lord that, “The trials of life are God’s workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace.” Ibid., 10.
In another place she states, “All our sufferings and sorrows, all our temptations and trials, all our sadness and griefs, all our persecutions and privations, in short, all things work together for our good. All experiences and circumstances are God’s workmen whereby good is brought to us.” Help in Daily Living, 30. Also, “Afflictions, crosses, temptations, adversity, and our varied trials are God’s workmen to refine us, sanctify us, and fit us for the heavenly garner.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 115.
So then, understanding the significance of trials and temptations why then do we murmur and give way to the devil so easily? This was not Jesus’ attitude neither was it Paul’s attitude! Jesus declared, “… for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. The narrative records, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to Him, He said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” Matthew 4:1–10.
Paul elsewhere in Scriptures talks of the importance of trial management in the life of the Christian, because this is one outstanding way, which recommends Christ to the unbeliever. We read, “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” II Timothy 2:10. To the young Timothy, Paul wrote, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Verse 3. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Verse 12.
So let me share with you a few reasons why God allows trials and tests to come to His followers. First, character must be tested to help us see our true selves. This is what the Lord revealed to His servant: “Tests are placed all along the way from earth to heaven. It is because of this that the road to heaven is called the narrow way. Character must be tested, else there would be many spurious Christians, who would keep up a fair semblance of religion until their inclinations, their desire to have their own way, their pride and ambition, were crossed. When, by the Lord’s permission, sharp trials come to them, their lack of genuine religion, of the meekness and lowliness of Christ, shows them to be in need of the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s command, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24), is the touchstone that discovers the quality of the experience. When a man’s inclinations or ambitious hopes are crossed, he reveals the spirit that governs him.” The Review and Herald, October 23, 1900.
Finding Strength in Trials
Second, the spiritual life is strengthened, reading from the book Christ’s Object Lessons, 61, the following: “Through conflict the spiritual life is strengthened. Trials well borne will develop steadfastness of character and precious spiritual graces. The perfect fruit of faith, meekness, and love often matures best amid storm clouds and darkness.” Also from The Review and Herald, August 6, 1889, we read, “It is coming in contact with difficulties that will give you spiritual muscle and sinew. You will become strong in Christ if you endure the testing process, and the proving of God. But if you find fault with your situation, and with everybody around you, you will only grow weaker.”
Patience in Trials
Third, the Christian needs to develop patience under tribulation and trials. From Manuscript Releases, vol. 19, 345, we note, “Patience must have its perfect work or we cannot be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Troubles and afflictions are appointed unto us, and shall we bear them all patiently or shall we make everything bitter by our complaining? The gold is put into the furnace that the dross may be removed. Shall we, then, not be patient under the eye of the Refiner? We must refuse to sink into a sad and disconsolate state of mind, but show calm trust in God, counting it all joy when we are permitted to endure trials for Christ’s sake.”
Fourth, through trials the glory or character of Christ is developed in His children. God’s servant points out that, “Through trials and persecution, the glory–character–of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The church of God, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. They walk in narrow paths on earth; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial and experience bitter disappointments; but their painful experience teaches them the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they are destined to be partakers of His glory.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 31.
Is it possible to be an effective preacher, pastor, evangelist, elder, church officer and church member and yet lose eternal life? It’s a serious question to ponder, but I am sure you know the answer! If your answer is yes, then let me ask you another question. Why is it possible? Paul gives the answer “… when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” I Corinthians 9:27. If we are unwilling to bring ourselves under the subjection of Jesus Christ, we will be unable to manage our own trials and tribulations and also fail the test.
The true Christian has the abundant life of Christ. We can be moving in a truth, in a religious body, and not really be of it. The church may enlist our services without our being a Christian. The outstanding quality of being converted to Jesus is enduring allegiance as a follower, a willingness to bring our whole lives permanently into line with Him and with His word. It involves unfailing love for God and man.
Never Give Up!
How are you coping under trials; are you failing often? Is your management of trials recommending your Saviour to a dying world? Have you given up because you are not able to endure, but just going through the rounds of Christianity? You don’t need to become discouraged, for Jesus says to you today, come unto Me. “I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed that thou might’st ransomed be and quickened from the dead.” Frances Ridley Havergal, 1858. Amen!
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.