Say you went to get into your car and had a flat tire this morning. Is that a trial?
You found out the thing the doctor removed is cancerous. Is that a trial?
You got a call from your bank and your credit card is being used to buy furniture in Mexico City. Is that a trial?
You bent down to pick up the morning paper and couldn’t straighten up? Is that a trial?
Your daughter called and your son-in-law just lost his job. Is that a trial?
Then she says, the two of them and your six grandkids, four dogs and a parakeet are moving in with you. Is that a trial?
What’s a trial? A trial is simply an event that causes a disruption to our lives. Something that just happens, ordinary to life. But it presents to us a decision for how we’ll handle it. How we handle the trial becomes a test.
A test is an opportunity to see what choices we’ll make under certain stresses: how we’ll respond and what the outcome of our response will be. A trial is neutral and cares nothing about the outcome, but the test, brought on by the trial, is intentional and has a specific purpose.
The test is usually a simple pass/fail, not a percentage of how much we get right. In school 70% was considered average. It was acceptable. But throw your grandson up into the air and catch him only 7 out of 10 times. How acceptable is that?
Satan intends to influence us to fail the test. God wants us to pass. So within each trial are opportunities for our downfall or for our success. Our response determines the outcome.
During a trial, Satan will take advantage of us through temptation. His goal: to weaken our resolve to remain faithful to God—to get us to sin against God.
James 1:13-14 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. His own compulsions.
Key word is enticed: lured.
We know his objective is to kill, steal or destroy, but Jesus told Peter how he might accomplish that in his life: Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."
How would Satan sift Peter like wheat? By tempting Peter in an area where he is prone to defeat. Peter is an easy target because of his arrogance, aggressiveness and explosive personality. All Satan has to do is suggest to Peter to act like Peter and he’ll pretty much take Peter down in failure.
During our trial, do we give Satan an easy target for temptation? Satan starts poking us in that sensitive area where we struggle, encouraging an unguarded response. Cussing out the paperboy for throwing the paper in the rosebush. Panicking when the doctor suggests we have a serious problem. Having a meltdown when we crash through the gate at the entrance to Bentwater.
Trials are neutral. They are an intrusion into our lives, sometimes just an inconvenience, other times life-threatening. But regardless of how intense they are, Satan will use them to defeat us, leaving us condemned, guilty and oppressed.
But God will also use trials. For Him they create an opportunity for us to demonstrate faith by trusting Him. He uses them to help us grow. James said: James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
When God uses a trial, He’s giving us a faith exercise to help create endurance, strengthening our trust muscles, to help us better depend on Him, regardless of the severity of the trial.
- A flat tire isn’t a big deal, but handled wrong it can bring out our ugly side.
- A personality clash isn’t a big deal, but unchecked it can destroy friendships.
- A bad result from a medical test can be a big deal, but it doesn’t have to ruin our lives.
God doesn’t plan everything that happens, but in everything that happens God has a plan.
Jer 29:11-13 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
It’s a plan to get you through the trial. This doesn’t mean you’ll fold your hands and say “Verily, verily,” as your car careens off the road. I’ve thought of how I’d like to go out. I think I’d like to go out like my grandfather in his my sleep. Not like the passengers in his car screaming as he drove off the edge of the cliff.
I will still react to the suddenness of a trial. Maybe physically, maybe emotionally, but especially spiritually. But how we deal with it is our choice.
Tolstoy: “We cannot prevent birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from making nests in our hair. Similarly, bad thoughts sometimes appear in our mind, but we can choose whether we allow them to live there, to create a nest for themselves, and to breed evil deeds.”
Flight preparation info: if the cabin loses pressure, a mask will drop down from the ceiling. Place it on your face and breathe normally. Maybe after I’ve screamed all the oxygen out of my lungs. And breathe normally?
Trusting God’s plan doesn’t take all the emotions out of my trial. It won’t make the pain go away. But it will give me an assurance I’m not going through this alone. God has a plan and I don’t have to lean on my own understanding in order to get through.
There are trials that happen just because things happen. Within the trial comes the test. The test is how I will respond. While Satan uses the trial to break us down by tempting us to sin, God uses the very same trial to build us up by providing an opportunity to trust Him.
How do we respond? We commit our works and ways to the Lord by rolling the burden of that trial over onto the Lord.
So there are trials that produce tests. There are also tests that produce trials. These are deliberate events brought on by Satan’s devious activity as he prowls about maliciously targeting us for temptation. Or they can be God’s intentional desires designed for our ultimate benefit.
When there is an area of our life that needs some work, God will orchestrate circumstances that allow us to focus on that area.
A guy isn’t listening to his wife. God says, let’s turn up the heat in that marriage to show that husband what he’s doing wrong.
The other day, Jan came into the living room and yelled, “Have you not been listening to anything I’ve been saying?” I thought: that’s an unusual way to start a conversation.
When God sees an area in our life that needs refining, reshaping, tweaking, filing down, He creates a situation that takes us to the very spot that needs attention.
Now, if Job is a friend of yours, don’t be offended. Job was a good man but he had a place within his heart that made him think God owed him for how good he was. He worked hard at maintaining that place.
The story of Job isn’t about how to suffer. It doesn’t teach patience other than the fact that Job didn’t kill his friends for their stupid comments and insensitivity to his pain. It isn’t a textbook on how to deal with difficult times. It is the story of a man seeking answers for why he’s suffering and his four friends who suggested he look where they find their answers. That makes it a highly important book. It asks us: Where do we find our answers for how we deal with difficult things we’re facing?
In whatever you’re going through, go with the upward lift. Seek God’s wisdom. Ask Him to show you what all of this means and how you’re to handle it.
It may just be a trial, ordinary to life, but with opportunities to remain faithful to God. If so, surrender it to Him.
It may be a test, specifically designed by Satan to defeat you or by God to fix an area of weakness in your life. If so, surrender it to God.
Either way, our approach is the same: commit your life issues (your works and ways) to the Lord, rolling the burden of the trial or test over to Him. I must believe God holds the answer for what I’m going through.
- Trusting God without reservation is a challenge.
- How we are conditioned to deal with our problems often fights against trusting.
- A drowning man cannot be saved until he quits fighting to save himself and submits to his rescue.
- When we submit to God, He changes us, our circumstances, or both.
- But, as long as we trust in our own opinions rather than seek the wisdom of God, we will never find the answers that turn the trial or the test into blessing.