Some seem to think God's people meet no trials or tests but are blessed with continual smooth sailing. In my personal responsibilities in the conduct of this great, important, always-growing Work of God, I have not found it a smooth, easygoing road with no difficulties. I have encountered repeated trials, problems, tests. There have been critical crises. There has been real persecution. There has been deliberate, vicious, lying, unprincipled misrepresentation. One enemy printed and circulated a list of twenty things he claimed I believed and taught — and I didn't believe or teach a single one of them. In this Work of the living God there has been deceitful, malicious, ruthless opposition. Obstacles have had to be hurdled frequently. Problems constantly require solution. It has required unwavering faith, perseverance, determination, constant prayer for guidance, and reliance on God for both direction and protection. Does the Bible teach smooth sailing for true Christians whom God is using? Did the men of God, whose lives pleased God, as recorded in the Bible, have only an easy time of it, or were they constantly meeting trials, tests, troubles of every sort — being continually forced to cry out to God for deliverance? And why? Listen to God's own instruction:
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Eternal delivereth him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19). "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.... They are not in trouble as other men... Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches... For all the day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning" (Psalm 73:3-14). "We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12). "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (II Tim. 2:12). "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer" (II Cor. 1:5-6).
But is God unfair? Does He hate Christians and punish them, while He loves the ungodly and prospers them? Not at all! There is great purpose in the trials, tests, tribulations, and sufferings the Christian must endure. For these are the very means of strengthening character — of developing fine, upstanding, strong Christians. God does not bless the ungodly with wealth — they acquire it usually in one or both of two ways: by setting their hearts and minds on acquiring it, and following through this purpose to the exclusion of all else, until, without realizing it, the pursuit of money becomes the pursuit of their god, destroying the soul; or by dishonest means. But God does bless those who seek Him first — not always with great money and wealth, but always, in the end, with material prosperity they never would have had otherwise. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness," admonished Jesus, "and all these things [material prosperity in shelter, food, clothing, etc.] shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33)-That is Jesus' promise. God loves to see His servants prospering. He says so through David and John. He corrects and chastens every son whom He loves. He allows His true children to suffer much — to fall into troubles, difficulties, to face trials and tests for their strengthening. But if we endure these tests, hard though they may be — and if we seek first our God, His righteousness, and His Kingdom, putting material interests second in our hearts, then in His own due time God will always prosper His children even in a material way! "But we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (Rom. 5:3). Therefore it produces good in, and for, us. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations" — alternate translation: "trials." "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (James 1:2-3). "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you: but rejoice" (I Peter 4:12-13). If you had to choose between receiving gold valued at $50,000 or a great trouble to test your faith, which would you choose? The gold? You'd make the wrong choice if you did. God says, through Peter: "...the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it [the trial of faith] be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7). Moses suffered affliction in order to lead the children of God, choosing this rather than the riches of the king's palace and the pleasures of sin for a season. David suffered constant criticism and false accusation, his enemies continually tried to unseat him, and his trials were so great sometimes it seemed God would never come to his rescue — yet God always did! Truly these trials teach us to be patient — for it often seems an eternity before God finally delivers us. How often I have experienced this personally. Yet, always God has intervened before it was too late! God chose Paul to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and the Lord said, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:16). And late in life Paul wrote: "In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments" [people probably would call Paul a crook, a racketeer, an imposter and a jailbird today] "in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings" etc. (II Cor. 6:4-6). Paul outlined more of his troubles and sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-28. Perhaps a chosen servant of God may be called upon to endure more trials, troubles, and tests of faith than other Christians — but every Christian shall suffer persecution, and meet fiery trials, sorrows, troubles, tests of faith. All our readers who are Christians will understand. Let us not murmur or grumble. Let us have faith, and endure in our faith patiently. All these problems, troubles and trials are allowed to test us, strengthen us in faith and character, and prepare us for joy eternally in God's Kingdom. Paul wrote: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).