"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 honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).
When God has needed a strong character, a choice instrument for some noble or important service, He has nearly always sent him, for a time, to a school of hardship and trial. It is here that the sterling qualities of strength and energy and Christian manhood are developed. It is here that the strongest qualities of the soul are brought out. All of Gods great men of sterling Christian worth have obtained their parchment from some school of suffering and trial.
A glance over the past will remind us that the Holy Spirit has always developed the tallest characters through pain and suffering. Abraham was never the "father of the faithful," until after that difficult test on Mount Moriah.
Isaac is remembered for his endurance. Jacob was a supplanter until, between two millstones, the meanness was ground out of him.
Even Joseph, the most faultless of characters, had to reach his throne through the sorrow and shame of Egypts prison cell. See Moses starting his career like a waif upon the bosom of the Nile; and before he could enter upon his eventful public life, he had to go to school to God at the back of a mountain for forty years, and feed sheep for his board; and when his public service began, it was marked by all kinds of testings and hardships until he became the divine pattern of meekness through the things which he suffered. It was not so with Saul. He mounted a throne without a struggle; but his life was a failure, and his sun set behind a cloud as black as night. Solomon came to his place of highest honor with ease and splendor, and six hundred million dollars laid at his feet; but his life ended in disastrous failure. David was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains of Judah; but God said he was a man after His own heart.
Pauls great life was one long stretch of endurance, affliction, opposition, and trial. He said, "To this present hour we both hunger and thirst, are naked, are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace" (1 Cor. 4:11). He says, "We are counted as the filth of the world" (1 Cor. 4:13). But instead of complaining he saw in it a privilege to rise to higher heights of spiritual blessedness, where he could "see the King in His beauty and the land that is very far off" (Isa. 33:17). "Most gladly will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9). He was looking at our great pattern and Captain of our salvation, who is our highest Example of heavenly character and also of deepest shame.
Beloved, if we are ever qualified for soldier life, we shall have to take the rugged way, and accept gladly the painful discipline which will develop strength. Who are the men today who stand out as the heroes of the world? They are not the slick and self-indulgent society dolls and dudes, but the men who have courted the places of highest peril, hardship and exposure.
"The trial of your faith, being much more precious" (1 Pet. 1:7). Beloved, our trials are not accidents or calamities, but opportunities for learning profound lessons and preparing for nobler service in the battles of this holy war.
1. Trial and hardship reveal to us ourselves. It is in a trial that I get acquainted with myself. It is here I learn my insufficiencies, and find out just how much grace I do have. We would never know how much we can endure but for the test. It may be severe, but let us thank God for it. They are often Gods air-drills in His blasting processes for spiritual excavation, and this must precede the building of a tall character. We have no more real grace or salvation than stands the test of a hard strain. We may seem to have more in camp meeting or on Sabbath, or when emotions run high, but we do not have more than we practice at home and in trial.
2. The trial of our faith reveals the resources of God. It is here we come to know His all-sufficiency.
If He commands Israel to stand still when it would be easier to go forward, it is that they might see the salvation of God. When they were still, He could reveal His power. So when trials are too great for us, and we see it, and give it up, He comes in and performs the impossible. It was when Joshua resigned in favor of the Captain of the Lords host that victory was assured. If He leads Israel through a wilderness where there are no natural supplies of any kind, it is that He may teach her to lean upon His arm, and that He is adequate to all her needs. And if He leads us through a barren wilderness where there is nothing in sight, it is that He may teach us to lean heavy on His arm and walk with an unseen God.
Our deepest sorrows may be only water pots for Him to fill to the brim with the best of wine. Our most insurmountable difficulties are only opportunities for Him to show forth His matchless grace and power. If my trials are greater than yours, I have a greater opportunity to put on exhibition the Divine Christ. We have been exposed to things indescribable, that the power of Christ might rest upon us.
3. The trial of your faith is precious because trial provokes trust. Opposition is a divine incentive to faith. The eagle teaches her young to fly by tearing up her nest, hurling them out in midair, where, thrown upon their own resources, they must either fly or fall. It is then that they find the undeveloped power in their little wings. It is then they discover the secret of a new life. But for this trial they would never learn to beat their way through the pathless firmament and ride upon the wings of the wind in the very face of the sun.
So many times God takes away most desirable props and throws us out where we must either trust for larger things, or go down. How easy it is to lean upon things that we can see and feel; how hard to stand seemingly alone, or walk with an unseen God!
4. Trials send us to our knees in closet prayer. We are driven to pray. Trial sent Jacob to his knees at the fords of Jabbok.
It pressed David to find the secret place of the Most High. Trials have always constrained the saints to pray much. Did you ever have it harder than now? If so, did you not pray more?
5. Trial develops patience. "We glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (Rom. 5:3). Many have sought patience at the altar when they should receive the Holy Ghost and let Him produce patience in His own way.
We never would have heard of the patience of Job but for the awful trials he endured. This grace sparkles only under high pressure.
6. It is in trial and pain and suffering that we take on courage. In severest trials we lose our fear of suffering and dread of pain.
We come to welcome conflict, and think more of scars and victories than of ease and comfort. It is here we are made object lessons for the help of others and for the glory of God. It is here we show to the world what Christ can do for His children "spectacles unto the world, to angels, and to men" (1 Cor. 4:9).
When we have endured and suffered, we are better prepared to assist others. When we have found comfort in hard places, we can comfort others with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted.
Again, trials acquaint with a real Christ. Our trials are real trials, and not triumph. We may be triumphant in the midst of them and we may have the assurance of faith that perfect triumph will come; but for the time the trial is real, and our pain is real, and our tears are real tears, and these press us to the side of and to know a real Christ.
7. Trials are more precious than gold because they wean us from this world. While gold has the effect of making us settle down and be satisfied with this world, this world is not our home, and God lets trials come to remind us that we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth. Mr. Rothschild was the richest man in the world, but he lived and died in an unfinished mansion. He had power to frighten this nation by calling for gold. Yet one of the cornices of his house was purposely unfinished, to bear testimony that he was a pilgrim in the land. He was an orthodox Jew, and every Jews house, according to the Targum, must be left unfinished. The unfinished cornice says, "Beautiful as this is, it is not my home. I am looking for a city."
Beloved, does the unfinished cornice appear in your life? Do people know that you are a stranger, as were our fathers? Men build now and finish the house, as if they meant to stay forever. You can almost always tell a stranger from the way he acts. There is something about a mans bearing, his movements among men, which indicates whether he is a stranger here or a naturalized citizen. Beloved, let us ever testify that our citizenship is not in this world, but from above.
8. Trials increase our longing for the coming of the Lord. A minister, when asked about the "coming of the Lord" said: "When I was a young man in school, struggling for an education, and I could not pay my bills, and I had a hard time to get on, I used to lie on my face and cry and long for the coming of Christ; but now I have a good appointment and large salary, with bright prospects ahead, I do not want to see Him come."
Those who are in deep sorrow or protracted trial would be glad to see Him come.
9. In conclusion, let me say that trials and hardships and persecutions endured without complaint will win for us eternal crowns. The heroic soldier craves a post of honor, though reached through great peril, because he knows it will bring the applause of a nation and the lasting fame of history. He may be a true hero and win a great prize; but the time will soon come when his name will be forgotten and his chaplet will have faded forever. Not so with the Christian soldier. He may win a crown which will never fade and a fame which will never be forgotten. When the history of America is forgotten, and the records of time are obliterated, when the stars have fallen and the suns are all cinders, and the new heaven and the new earth are sweeping in their orbits of immensity, these lives shall shine and burn and blaze forever.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon