“Trials are Essential if we Hope to be Christlike.”
Life starts by trials, the trial of giving birth and the trial of being born. We continue on
through childhood stumbling from one form of trial to another. This is proceeded by the
teen years with trials associated with siblings, peers, teachers and parents. Then onto the
years where we enter the workforce/mortgage/marriage/children. Middle age comes with
the trials of loss of one’s youth and the children moving on etc. Then on to old age and the
trials of loss of energy, memory, and health. Peppered throughout this time line may be
among other things death, divorce, unemployment, disability or illness. Finally, if we are
blessed to have lived a long life, the last trial for us is death itself.
It’s one of the tragedies of life, that some are taught that as soon as they are converted, all
will be well. No more sorrows, pain, and loss. I can understand the desire to believe this
lie, especially if their conversion had been a painful one, but it’s tragic to think that this
train of thought will lead them, sooner rather than later, into great hurt and confusion. The
real loss however is their lack of knowledge and understanding of who Jesus, their Saviour,
really is. This is one instance where suffering trials are definitely beneficial and essential for
Christians to mature in understanding and be more Christlike.
What is Christ like? The fruit of the Spirit given to believers will start to give us insight into
what a perfect human being might look like. Love, joy, peace, self control and happiness
( ). Add to this list perfect obedience to the Father, perfect fellowship with Him, perfect
holiness, etc., and we will not only see what Jesus’ likeness should look like, but we should
notice immediately how unlike Him we really are. So how do we become Christlike? Well,
its’ a learning process. Our Teacher is the Holy Spirit, His classroom is the world where you
live, His curriculum is the Bible and His chosen methods are mostly through trials.
Why are trials essential? Well, there are a number of reasons God allows trials in our lives
and there is a tension between suffering for righteousness sake and suffering because of our
sins. One reason may be to teach us to be humble. Another might be to wean us from our
dependency on the world; yet others could be God’s way of correcting us, expose our sins,
test the strength of our faith or help us look forwards to heaven. Trials can show us who
we really love or teach us to pray. Enduring a trial might help us to love the brethren more.
If we struggle with our sin and suffer trials that are common to all men, we can use this
understanding to show love and compassion to man. This outworking fruit of the greatest
commandment of God, ‘To love your neighbour as yourself, ( ) is beautifully stated by
Binnings. ‘This is the highest point of conformity with God, and the nearest resemblance
to our Father. To be like Him in wisdom, that wretched aim did cast men as low as hell;
but to aspire into a likeness in love lights up the soul as high as heaven even to a mutual
indwelling.’ (Christian Love, Hugh Binning, p10)
We can look to the Bible for the results of God testing His saints. Job is a good example.
Not only did God bring him through his trials a wiser man, but Gaebelein notes the
following... ‘The purpose is not just to test Job as an end in itself, but to give Job the
opportunity to honour His lord....The primary purpose of Job’s suffering, unknown to him,
was that he should stand before men and angels as a trophy of the saving might of God.’
(The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E Gaebelein, p880-881) God can also teach us
aspects to His character through our trials. He showed Job that He is his Jehovah Rophe.
This is a name used in the OT sixty times and it always means to restore, to cure or to heal.
By the time Job was restored to full health he knew God is a way he never knew Him before.
It is essential that we grow as Christians and to grow means that we must go through trials,
learn from them and then produce the fruit of these trials which is the fruit of the Holy
Spirit. This in turn leads to be Christlike.
Trials are vital in the lives of our Pastors. Without them they wouldn’t preach of the Word of
God half as effectively as they do. I should think there would be nothing like a trial to drive
a Pastor to his knees and nothing like a trial to help them to empathise with their flock. In
a biography about Spurgeon, Douglas accredits suffering as one of his teachers; ‘He was
well versed in the three things which according to Luther, made a minister: temptation,
meditation and prayer. The school of suffering was one in which he was deeply taught.’ (The
Prince of Preachers, James Douglas, 1894 – Spurgeon. A New Biography, Arnold Dullimore,
P176) The Apostle Peter was a man who had to go through some very hard trials before he
was entrusted with the care of Christ’s flock. On this subject Sibbes says, ‘After conversion
we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks.... Thus
Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly (Matther 26:75). This reed, till he met with this
bruise, had more wind in him than pith when he said, ‘Though all forsake thee, I will not.’
(Matthew 26:33) The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so
much as their falls and bruises do.’ (The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes, P5) We also need the
good fruit that trials produce in the lives of Christians to enable us to stand firm against the
Devil and cope with the plague of trials that threaten to engulf and split our churches.
Lastly, I would like to highlight another trial, death. Christ suffered and died in a way that I
cannot properly describe here, and he died well. If we hope to live a life of obedience and
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and follow that life with a death that would be Christlike, then
it is essential to allow God to bring us through our trials successfully and joyously. How
can we hope to trust and have any comfort in Jesus during our time of death unless we
have trusted Him to successfully take us through other trials during our lifetime? Where
on our deathbed will our comfort come from other than from scripture? Ryle has this to
say, ‘Chapters, passages, tests, promises and doctrines of scripture-heard, received, believed
and rested on-these are the only comforts I dare promise to anyone, when he leaves this
world.’ (How readest thou?, JC Ryle, P50) John Bunyan’s ‘Stand Fast’ is a good example of
how we as Christians would like to die, giving testimony to a life where God guided us and
helped us, where He lead us through difficulties right to the end.
I can’t help but feel a lump at the back of my throat when I read some of what Stand-Fast
said while crossing the river (of death), ‘I see myself now at the end of my journey, my
toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head that was crowned with thorns,
and that face that was spit upon, for me. I have formally lived by hear-say and faith, but now
I go where I shall live by sight and shall be with Him, in whose company I delight myself.’
(Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, Penguin classic, P277)