Our Recent Posts

Archive

The Purpose of Trials

For 14 years I taught a weekly internet Bible study. During one of them a good friend of mine said something interesting that I believe is true:

“You know why I think God tests our faith? It’s not so He can see where we stand; He already knows. It’s so we can see where we stand.”

When I originally wrote this piece I was in the midst of a financial (and patience) trial. We had a Jeep and it had been out of commission for almost a month due to a transmission problem it experienced while I was coming home from a ministry trip. At the time it was still in Joplin, MO where it stranded me and that was costing the ministry a lot of money.

It also cost me a lot of frustration.

Many of us are in some trial at one time or another, so what I was experiencing is no more or less important than all those. Many of us are familiar with this verse:

“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)

I would like to look at it for a second and then look at why it is there and where it leads us.

The word “temptation” is not a perfect translation in this verse. It would be better translated as “trial”. It is a word that is used in metallurgy to describe the “proving” of metals in which stress is applied to raw metal...purging out impurities to render it more and more pure...and valuable.

“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.” (Proverbs 17:3)

So, when Paul says this: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man...” he is saying, “No stress designed to purify you has overtaken you except such as is common to man…”

The Greek word translated as “overtaken” is a word that means “to seize something...to take ownership of it” and isn’t that how these trials behave? Don’t they seem to want to possess us?

We cannot allow that! We BELONG to Someone else. We BELONG to Jesus.

“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)

Only Jesus has the right to work His ownership of us – not people and not satan and not trials.

The other thing pointed out by this portion of this verse (1 Corinthians 10:13) is that what is allowed to try us isn’t unique to us as individuals. When Paul says this: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man...” he is saying that other people experience it too.

There is some comfort in that for me because I know that other people will understand what I am going through since they have experienced it too.

“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)

Next, he says that “God is faithful” and that is a good word in itself; it means He is trustworthy. Another way of saying that is “He is worthy of our trust”. This way of saying it seems to speak more to me about His integrity.

The next part is juicy: it says that God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,” or God “will not allow you to be tried beyond what you are able.” He will not allow it, which means that He monitors all this and only allows to us things that will not be too much for us. It speaks of His involvement with us...with our lives. It speaks of his watchfulness.

Yet..........it doesn’t feel that way when trials hit...does it? Still, it’s true. It is how He is and it is what He does regarding us and trials.

So, God lets the trial come to us, I believe, to purify us...to work His will in us “but with the temptation will also make the way of escape…” Along with the trial, He adds something: an exit, the way of escape, and why does He do that?

Because He loves us He provides the exit....so we won’t use it.

Yikes! Doesn’t that sound wrong?

“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)

He provides the way of escape, “that you may be able to bear it (stay under the pressure of what? The trial!!!).”

I once asked the Lord to give me an image to help me understand it and He gave me a picture:

Two firemen run into a room that is overrun with flames. (They run into a place of trial...a place from which other people run out.) One has a hose and is spraying the room. That’s why he is there...to put the fire out. The other is facing the doorway and he has a hose too. He is there to spray the doorframe so they have a way of escape.

Because they know they can leave anytime they want to...both men are able to stay and not use the way of escape.

As I taught this one man in the study asked a good question:

“Why doesn’t God just say ‘trust me’. That's what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

My reply was that He does do that all over the place in the scriptures.

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:5)

“…he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain." (Isaiah 57:13b)

However, does that always work? It would if we did trust Him, but we don’t always trust Him so it doesn’t work at times (due to OUR lack of faith – not HIS faithfulness.)

A rule of thumb for me is that most of what God does with us...has to do with our weakness. So, He uses trials to our benefit. God transforms the things satan plans for our destruction into avenues of sanctification.

“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)

God transforms the things satan plans for our destruction into avenues of sanctification.

The Church in Corinth really did have a trial. It had to do with dealing with the destructive nature of an unrepentant sinner in their midst.

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles; that a man has his father's wife!” (1 Corinthians 5:1)

There was a man in the small fledgling congregation at Corinth who was sexually active with his step-mother and everyone knew it and no one dealt with it. So, Paul does. He tells them what to do

“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

What he does is tell them to exclude the guy from their fellowship. Then he explains his logic.

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people.” (1 Corinthians 5:9)

Now, in Corinth, that pretty much would describe everyone BUT the Christians. It was a godless immoral place but Paul clarifies what he had told them.

“Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:10)

He says, “If I meant the sinners of this world...you would have to go off the planet to get away from them.” These Christians had to function in the world (but not be of that world) in every day life, so the people to whom Paul was referring wasn’t the unsaved in their area; it was the Christians who might be sinning in these ways.

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

He is telling them that if a brother, a fellow Christian, will behave like this and not regret it he has to be excluded from fellowship.

I’ve heard many sermons on this topic that all seemed designed to justify kicking someone out. That is not why I am teaching on it now; I am just illuminating the trial in this true story so we can see what those people were going through.

This was a man who was one of them, a small beleaguered group of new Christians who were shunned by their Jewish and Gentile families and friends. For them to be told to kick out one of their own was hard for them to hear and even harder for them to do. Imagine that father having to shun his own son.

It was HARD….but right….to do - so, they did it.

Often when this is taught there is almost a gleeful mood among the leaders as if it is almost fun to do this to people but it isn’t fun for a true godly leader.

Listen to Paul discuss this matter in the second letter to Corinth.

“But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow.” (2 Corinthians 2:1)

It wasn't easy for Paul to tell them to shun that unrepentant man; in fact, it was VERY difficult for him - but it was the right thing to do.

“For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me? And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all.” (2 Corinthians 2:2-3)

He tells them that he wrote to them to do that so that their situation would improve, so there would be less sorrow. In other words, He did something painful in order to stop further pain. Then, he confesses how hard this was to do.

“For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you. But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent; not to be too severe.” (2 Corinthians 2:4-5)

He says, “The offender grieved YOU.” And Paul gave the solution to stop their grief. Then he says something deliciously grace-laden.

“This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7)

Paul wants them to draw the now ex-offender back into fellowship. Time has passed and apparently God’s plan for the man (and for the people) has worked.

Tragically, this is a tool that is all but lost in the modern Body of Christ. God’s plan is that there be the ONE Church in every place, yet the body of Christ has been shattered into many independently functioning sub-bodies in every area. For the purposes of this discussion this means that if a person is confronted about their unrepentant sin that person can merely pick up and move to another “church” where they can go underground with their sin.

They will not be affected by how God works through the body of Christ on the earth and, therefore, will not be motivated to repent. They remain among other Christians often inspiring them to sin without repentance (since there seems to be no earthly repercussions for their sinful ways.)

This has numbed one of God’s way