Anyone who has traveled on the sea knows that they can not always expect smooth sailing. Strong winds, storms, gigantic waves, fog, icebergs, reefs or dangerous rocks all pose hazards for the sea traveler. Neither can we as Christians expect to navigate through life with out encountering difficulties, challenges and obstacles. Each one of us will encounter test, trials and tribulations that place pressure on us either physically, emotionally, financially or spiritually. What can we do when trail and tribulations come into our lives? How can we prepare ourselves to face difficult challenges? Such questions as these were in the minds of Jesus’ disciple after an occasion took place when they were traveling in a boat across the Sea of Galilee. While Jesus was asleep a furious storm came up and almost sunk the boat. Often we are just like those disciples who did not have a clue what to do when they found themselves in this trial. Fortunately, the Lord was there to come to their aid. Yet, afterward he reprimanded them for their lack of faith. They had not yet learned to rely on God as their source.
The Apostle Peter reminds us no be surprised when trials, tests and tribulations come into our lives. You see, we have an adversary who wants to hinder our spiritual growth. He wants to keep us in bondage to fear, render us ineffective and deny us the blessings that are ours as God’s children. And he wants to keep us from reaching the destiny that God has in mind for us. The devil uses tribulations to make us doubt God’s promises and to steal the word of God that we have received into our hearts.
The Lord, on the other hand, wants us to use those times of trial and testing:
- to develop our faith in him as our source
- to put into practice spiritual principles to overcome our obstacles
- and to bring him glory as we triumph over the challenges we face
You see, it is not God’s purpose to knock us down but rather for us to rise to a higher level of spiritual maturity. It is God’s purpose, as Romans 8:29 tells us, for every believer to be conformed to the image of his Son. And the only way for us to reach those higher levels is to go through challenging situations; as the Apostle Paul told believers in Antioch that we enter God’s kingdom through many tribulations (Acts 14:22). It turns out that what happens inside us is more important that what happens to us. Remember that statement and let it let it take root in your spirit. That is the truth that the Apostle Paul wanted believers to in Corinth to understand when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:
For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we don’t look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18
What happens to us is not as important as how we respond to the events that take place in our lives. It is by responding in the proper ways that we are able to progress toward our dreams. God gives each of us dreams to strive for. Yet for a number of you those dreams has not yet been accomplished. You have encountered many obstacles and setbacks and now your dream seems distance and unreachable. Those are the obstacles that we see. But Paul reminds us not to pay attention to those things we can see because they are temporary; they are subject to change. Rather we are to fix our eyes on the end result, on the dream that God has given us.
Such was the attitude of Joseph. In Genesis 37 we read about Joseph and his brothers. Joseph, Isaac’s youngest son had dreams that one day his family would bow down before him. His brothers were jealous of Joseph and did not think much of his dreams. They conspired against Joseph and he ended up a slave in Egypt. Then he was falsely accused by his master’s wife and thrown into prison. Oh, things were not going well for Joseph. Yes, that is how it looked in the natural. But Joseph did not let his troubles dictate his response. Rather, he stayed faithful to God who was his source and he did not forget the dream that God gave him because Joseph understood that what happens to us is not as important as how we respond to the events that take place in our lives. He kept his eyes on what was still unseen. And look what happened. Those obstacles and setback were enough to hold back the dream that God wanted accomplish through Joseph. One day he was just a prisoner, called upon to interpret a dream for the king of Egypt and in an instant he was elevated to the position of Prime Minister.
Let us apply this to your life: Have tests, trails, challenges and difficulties kept your dream from becoming a reality? Maybe you have given up on your dream, but I’m here to tell you that God has not given up on your dream. You may be without hope or strength to pursue the dream that God has planted into your heart but the Bible tells us that, “but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint,” Isaiah 40:31. If we are doing our part, that is being patient and remaining faithful to the vision God has given us, then the Lord will continue working, often behind the scenes. And we can see now the end result that the Lord brought about in Joseph’s life.
It was the patience and faithfulness that Joseph demonstrated that helped to bring him to the place where God could fulfill his dream. The same has been true for my life. When I was just 20 years old I understood that the Lord was calling me to be a missionary; yet I experienced difficulties and setback as I sought to follow his assignment for my life. Back in 1984 I graduated from a Baptist seminary in Kansas City, Missouri and I moved to a little town in the state of Ohio to pastor a little mission church. The church has not doing very well, and after I had been there a few months almost no one was coming so those in charge closed the mission down. I then moved to the city of Dayton, Ohio and continued looking for a church where I could work and gain the necessary experience I would need to quality to serve on the mission field. Yet I was repeatedly turned downed. So finally in 1987 I returned to my home state of Georgia and went back to school to study computer science. After graduating in 1990 I worked in the computer field for the next nine years. To me the dream of serving God on the mission field seem to be dead; I had been paying too much attention to the things that I could see. But God was at work behind the scenes. He was using that period in my life to prepare me for future he was planning. The Bible tells us that, “But as it is written, ‘Things which an eye didn’t see, and an ear didn’t hear, which didn’t enter into the heart of man, these God has prepared for those who love him’,” 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10. It also says in Galatians, “Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up,” Galatians 6:9.
It was in the late 90s that the proper time arrived for my dream to be accomplished. At that time the Lord begin leading me to making preparations to move to another country. I sold off many of my possessions and left my occupation as a computer programmer and move to Central America. It was there in the little country of Belize where I found opportunities to share the gospel, teach the word of God and begin fulfilling the dream that God had place in my heart.
So do not let the dreams that God has placed in your heart slip away. For all of us the Lord has a destiny and a destination. Though trials, test and tribulations will come into our lives, Christ reminds us in John 16:33 that he has overcome the world. Plus, we have been raised with Christ, the anointed one, to a new life and the Father has equipped us with his word and placed his Spirit inside of us. Thus, as we continue on the path to our destiny that God has for us we must not forget that that test and trials serve not to weaken us, but to make us stronger. They enhance us the same way a goldsmith refines precious metals. The Bible speaks about God refining us just like gold and silver. The writer of Psalm 66 tells us, “For you, God, have tested us. You have refined us, as silver is refined,” Psalms 66:10. And Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials, that the proof of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6, 7
The purpose of refining metals like gold and silver is to remove their impurities. We too have impurities in our motives and desires, in our speech, in our way of doing things. But the Lord can free us from those impurities as we learn to apply his word in our lives. And that is the choice we have to make whenever we encounter trials. We have the choice to either to react according to our human nature (that is the flesh) or according to the principles of God’s word. And this we can do if we learn how to apply the principles that God’s word gives for dealing with tests, trials and tribulations. It is a lack of knowledge, according to Hosea 4:6 is why God’s people perish. But that no has to be the case for our lives.
What then are the principles of God’s word that we can put into practice when trials, tests and tribulations come?
Determine that whatever event or issue you are facing is a test or trial
First, we have to recognize that what we are experiencing is a trial or test. Sometimes we do not see that the situation we are in calls for us to utilize our faith and the principles of God’s word. Often we think that we are able to handle whatever situations that arise in our lives according to our own strength and wisdom. Or we wait too long and allow circumstances to get out of control before we start utilizing God’s principles. It is too bad that we do not have a little device that would warn us that we are experiencing a trial and that we should not proceed without first connecting to the resources that the Lord has made available to us. When we fail to recognize that we are dealing with a test or trail we will be likely to make bad decisions the will make matter worse. Then we will start to feel pressure and start following the dictates of our flesh instead of the guidance of God’ Spirit.
For us to respond correctly and appropriately to all the difficulties we may face we should recognize that test and trails are coming into our lives all the time and in all form and sizes. They could be dramatic or subtle, short or long lasting, slightly irritating or completely devastating. They may cause us to feel fear or uncertainty or hostility or frustration or impatience at times when things are not going the way we would like and/or people around us are not behaving the way we would like. Basically, we can say that we are experiencing a test or trial whenever we feel pressures that cause us to respond according to our flesh rather than according to God’s Spirit or whenever circumstances or people make us feel worried, anxious or uncertain about our goals, our future or our loved ones.
Resolve that the outcome of this test or trial will be for your good
So if we can correctly perceive when we are experiencing a test or a trial then we will not be caught off guard; we will be in a position to employ all the resource that God has provided for us to deal with our challenges. Which then brings us to the second principle, that when we encounter a test or a trial, we start should rejoicing. We should rejoice not because of what is happening to us, but for what overcoming this challenge will do for us. It will cause us to grow spiritually, physically and mentally and become stronger. God want us to become more like Christ. The Apostles James tells us in James 1:2, 3:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
James is telling us to do what does not come normally or easily. Our flesh does not want to rejoice. You may protest, “I do feel like rejoicing.” That is the point. To overcome any trial, test of tribulation we have to walk by faith and not by sight because God is our source. We do not go by what we see, hear or feel but by the principles of God’s word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we start rejoicing in the mist of our trial we unleash unseen spiritual forces in our behalf. Do you remember the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20? A vast army was on its way to Jerusalem. So Jehoshaphat gathered the people together to pray for deliverance. And the Lord answered and told them the battle was not theirs but his. Then the next morning Jehoshaphat, the army and the people marched out to see God’s deliverance. And they placed men in front of the army to sing. And when the opposing army approached look what happen when they began to sing praises to God:
When they began to sing and to praise, The LORD set liers-in-wait [ambushes] against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were struck. 2 Chronicles 20:22
The enemy was defeated as they rejoiced and sang praises to God. The people of the kingdom of Judah did not know it, but they were utilizing spiritual principles such as Revelation 12:11:
They overcame…because of the word of their testimony….
And Romans 4:17:
…God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were.
You know, any one can praise God after a great victory. But it is the ones who are confident in their God that can praise him before the triumph takes place. We are not following what we can see, hear and feel from the world’s reality. We are leaning to live according to God’s reality. It is a choice that we can make. Even though we may feel crushed or anxious we choice to rejoice because we are expecting something better to come in spite of our circumstances. And just think how upset the devil gets when instead of getting fretful and anxious we start praising God and start saying positive things about the outcome of our trials. Oh, he does not like it at all. But he can do anything about that because by rejoicing we have demonstrated that he can not defeat us! So when trials, tests and tribulations come we need to keep reminding ourselves to maintain an attitude of victory rather than an attitude of defeat since God is our source. We are able to take charge of our destiny by rejoicing. Get excited for the victory that going to come and for the spiritual development that is taking place in your life. You are advancing in your spiritual maturity.
Conquer self and the desires of our flesh, seek to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives
Yet, if we are going to see true and lasting spiritual growth in our lives and victory over our circumstances, then we must deal with the wants and desires of our flesh. Thus, the third principle for dealing with test and trials is to conquer self and the desires of our flesh. Often in situations like these we react emotionally, according to the desires of our flesh, without realizing that our dilemma can not be solved not by threats, hostility, worry or pressure but rather by responding in faith, demonstrating Christ’s love and walking according to God’s Spirit. The Apostle Paul list the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:16-21:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one other, that you may not do the things that you desire. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul adds in Romans 8:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace…Those who are in the flesh can’t please God,” Romans 8:5, 6, 8
Paul says that living according to the flesh is a way of thinking. It is a way of thinking that is contrary to God and his word. So those impulses that we feel in times of pressure are not best ways for us to respond. Later on in Romans 8 Paul reminds us that we are more than conquers. So we need to conquer our flesh. Rather than following its impulses we should walk according to the Spirit of God. Jesus told us in John 6:63, “It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.” How can we learn to walk according to the Spirit of God? By walking according to the word of God. As we continue to walk according to the word of God, our thoughts will line up with God’s thoughts and our ways will line up with God’s ways Once we have learn that we can put our flesh into subjection to the Spirit of God then we are free from the hindrances that try to discourage us from following God’s will and we will be ready to receive the wisdom and guidance that we need to overcome our test or trial which brings is to step four.
Ask God for wisdom
Rather than following the desires of our flesh, we need to pray. In test and trials often we pray for deliverance, but we do not recognize that God expects us to play a role in our deliverance, that we learn to respond correctly and become stronger. If God instantly delivered us from every test and trial we would never grow. Rather what we want to do for step four is to pray for guidance and wisdom to deal with our test or trial as the Apostle James tells us in James 1:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8
James reminds us that no matter how difficult are circumstances are, God always offers us his guidance. His ways, you see, are high than our ways. He has ideas and solutions that we have never thought of. However, we often forget to ask God for guidance. Instead we try to handle things though our own knowledge and understanding. But that does not always succeed as we would like. We do not have perfect knowledge or insight. But the Lord has all the knowledge and insight that we need. And he is willing to share it us. All we have to do is ask, in faith, without thinking that he will not respond to us.
Guard your heart
Thus, in any situation we can gain all the insight we need if we seek the Lord for guidance. We take the guidance of God and apply it while remaining stable and calm. We have to keep doubts and worries from coming into our hearts and overwhelming us with fear which brings us to step five: We must guard our hearts as Solomon tells us in Proverbs 4 because our hearts are the well spring of our wellspring of our lives:
My son, attend to my words. Turn your ear to my sayings. Let them not depart from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to their whole body. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:20-23
A wellspring is the source or beginning point for what is produced in our lives. It is from the heart that we develop the attitudes that govern our lives. Jesus expands our understanding of this principle in Luke 6:43-45. He said:
For there is no good tree that brings forth rotten fruit; nor again a rotten tree that brings forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For people don’t gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.
Our ability to visualize or imagine is in our hearts. Often when trials and tribulations come we have a tendency to imagine the worst that could happen. Some friends of ours, a missionary couple, told us of another missionary family where the wife was fearful that they would die while traveling in a foreign country. And that is just what happened; the entire family died in a plane crash. Jesus explains that what is produced in our lives comes from the contents of our hearts. Whatever is in abundance in our hearts and spoken by our mouths is what we get. That why I have a message entitled: Confession, we always get what we say.
It is necessary for us to guard our hearts, to keep out things such as doubt, grief, dread, anxiety, depression and fear.
How do we guard our hearts? Peter tells us to cast all our care: “Casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7. We transfer the responsibility from our care on to God and leave them with him. It like when Dora receive a bill, transfers it to me and I have to pay it.
Paul tells us to guard our hearts by utilizing the peace of God: “In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus,” Philippines 4:6, 7. So it is through prayer that we transfer our care over to God and we thank him for the answer. We do not need to pray over and over rather, whenever we feel anxious about our test or trial we just thanking him resolving the situation and receive his peace by faith.
And Jesus explains that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). So we keep our hearts filled with the word of God then there will not be any room doubts and fears when they try to enter.
Develop the right attitudes that will carry you on to the end of your test of trial
Then for step six, we need to develop the right attitudes. From what is in our hearts we develop attitudes that govern our conduct. And our attitudes and conduct will carry us to the end of our test or trial. What then are the proper attitudes should we maintain towards God, towards others and towards those who have wronged us? Is it correct to think God is trying to cause us trouble because of the trial we are going through? No, as we said earlier, God is on our side and wants to see us come through this test or trial victorious. What about our attitude towards others? Paul tells us in Philippines 2:
…doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Philippians 2:3, 4
In you tests or trials do not forget that others are still important. Treat them special, as more important than yourself. You will be demonstrating the love of Christ. And that love will come back to you. And what should be our attitude towards those who have wronged us? Jesus teaches us in Luke 6:27, 28:
…But I tell you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.
We are not to allow ourselves to be overcome by evil. That is, we do not imitate the ways of those who do evil things. Instead we respond to evil by doing good: praying for, performing good deeds for and blessing those that have wronged us, not necessarily because we feel like it, but out of obedience to Christ. We are not going by what we see. We are living victorious now, before we see our breakthrough.
Make positive confession about your situation
Thus we are guarding our hearts, filling them with the word of God and develop the right attitudes but what about our mouths? What should be coming out of our mouths? Should we complaining about our circumstances or cursing our lot in life? No, if we recognize that God is our source then we should be speaking positively about the outcome of our circumstances. Jesus said in Mark 11:23:
For most assuredly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says.
Jesus tells us that what we believe and speak out of our months is what comes to pass in our lives. Thus, what we say about our circumstances is important. So stop call things as they already are. Do like God in Romans 4:17: God calls the things that are not, as though they were. This is the law of confession. Just like when God said in Genesis 1 “Light be” and light was, so let us start calling ourselves the healed, the delivered and the victorious!
Finally, we need to recognize that we should never give up; we always must persevere. The Apostle James tells us:
Take, brothers, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10, 11
The prophet Daniel had to persevere. He sought the Lord for an answer to fate of Jerusalem after it had been conquered by Persia. In Daniel 10 we read that God sent an angel in response on the very first day when Daniel began to pray. But the angel was delayed 21 days by a demon, the prince of the Persian kingdom. But if Daniel had given up, he would not have received the answer to his question. Joseph preserved too. He never lost hope of the dream that God had placed in his heart. Even when he encountered disappointments and setbacks, he did not give up. He kept the Lord as his source. It turns out that while he did not see any progress in his situation, God had been working behind the scenes. We should not give up either because in response to our faith God is making things happen behind the scenes for us. Just like when Dora and I met. God had been working behind the scenes getting all the necessary conditions to line up. Dora had been living in Esquel for seven years and I had been in Belize for six years. Both of us had to be obedient to the voice of God so that we would be in the right place at the right time for our lives to intersect. You must persevere also if you want to achieve the victory that God has in store for you. Nothing of value is ever achieved without perseverance.
So there you have the principles from the word of God that will strengthen and guide you when test, trials and tribulations come:
- Recognize that whatever event or issue you are facing is a test or trial
- Resolve that the outcome of this test or trial will be for your good and start rejoicing
- Conquer self and the desires of our flesh, seek to fulfill God’s purpose in your live
- Ask God for wisdom
- Guard your heart
- Develop the right attitudes that will carry you on to the end of your test of trial
- Make positive confession about your situation
- And persevere
Just like Joseph we too can overcome the tests and trials that we face. Everyone will encounter difficulties and hardships in their lives but only those who learn to respond correctly knowing that God is their source will obtain the victory that God has waiting for them. We can realize the dreams that God has planted in our hearts and fulfill our destinies when we understand that what happens inside us is more important that what happens to us. Our task when tests and trials comes is not to run and hide but to stretch our faith, overcome our flesh and keep ourselves in line with the principles of God’s word. Then when we are victorious, when we have demonstrated that we are steadfast in the face of tests and trials then promotion comes. God takes us to places, positions and opportunities that we could not have reached on our own. Joseph did not become prime minister of Egypt through his own cleverness or scheming. He became prime minister because of his obedience and faithfulness. Peter tells us, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time,” 1 Peter 5:6 When we place ourselves under God’s rule and follow his principles then we can expect him to bring those new opportunities and new positions of responsibility to us. You too will experience promotion as you develop the knowledge and skill to handle tests, trials and tribulations when they come into your life. Amen.
Copyright © 2008-2011 by Alan Pasho. All rights reserved.