Grown through Trials

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
– James 1:2-4 NKJV –

In his letter to a suffering saint, John Newton conveyed a precious truth of Scripture that few of us come to fully appreciate in this lifetime. By God’s grace, trials are good for us. Affliction forces us to depend upon the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and this is a marvelous gift. “By affliction prayer is quickened, for our prayers are very apt to grow languid and formal in a time of ease” (p. 220).

Daily trouble makes us cling to the promises of God in Scripture every day. The trials of this life help us to long for the next life. “When some of our dearest friends are taken from us, the lives of others threatened, and we ourselves are brought low with pain and sickness, then we not only say but feel that this must not, cannot be our rest” (p. 219). Our final rest is still to come.

The grace we receive from the Lord during trials, therefore, matures our faith and purifies our desires. It conforms us to the image of Christ.

As a result, we grow in unity with Christ and with our brothers and sisters in God’s family: we love Christ more and love sin less. We love our brothers and sisters more while loving ourselves less. The unity of our relationships grows as our faith grows. The unity of the church grows alongside the unity of our relationships. The Lord uses our trials to refine us personally and corporately. He gives us the grace needed to deepen the bonds of our fellowship.

Let us consider a few practical implications:

Rather than despising or running from our trials, let us trust the Lord in the midst of them. Let us pray for Him to purify us by them.

Furthermore, let us strengthen one another through trials. We cannot run from those who are hurting. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Suffering can be discouraging, so we should encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to count it joy when we face trials of any kind. The Lord promises to use them in our sanctification. We should remind one another of these vital truths.

(John Newton quotes are from Select Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011))