“Through Many Tribulations”

The Bible does not promise Christians an easy and trouble-free life. Are the rewards God offers worth the personal sufferings and trials Christians face?

Jesus Christ declared that His way is “difficult” and His gate “narrow” (Matthew 7:14). God allows Christians to have trials and serious problems even though we are striving to obey and please Him.

Difficulties and trials promised

During his first missionary journey, the apostle Paul spoke to those being converted, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus also declared in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

In his first epistle the apostle Peter encouraged his readers, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The ultimate result of these fiery trials is “exceeding joy” when Christ appears in His glory and gives similar glory to true Christians.

Why does God allow trials?

There is a vital quality that God desires in all humans before He allows them to enter His Kingdom. This super-important quality that God cannot create instantly is holy and righteous character. This kind of character must be developed in each Christian before he or she can receive the reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

What is righteous character?

One of the 20th century’s most powerful voices in biblical education, Herbert W. Armstrong, suggested this definition: “Perfect, holy and righteous character is the ability in such separate entity to come to discern the true and right way from the false, to make voluntarily a full and unconditional surrender to God and his perfect way—to yield to be conquered by God—to determine even against temptation or self-desire, to live and to do the right … even after severe trial and test” (Mystery of the Ages, 1985, pp. 69-70, emphasis original).

Trials and tribulations are the main means whereby Christians develop righteous character. Trials are part of the training process God’s future children must experience during this present physical life (Hebrews 12:9-11).

The author of Psalm 119 understood the importance of his personal trials: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” Furthermore, “it is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Psalm 119:67, 71-72).

The writer of the book of Hebrews was aware that God never corrects or allows Christians to experience trials except for the good of those involved. He wrote, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens. … If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons. … Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11).

Bearing much fruit

In John 15:1-2 Jesus Christ used an analogy of a vine to illustrate the need to become better Christians: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Our Heavenly Father is glorified when we bear much fruit (verse 8). He knows which aspects of our character need pruning so that we can grow even more, in order to reach our incredible potential.

The apostle Paul encouraged the young evangelist Timothy: “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him [symbolically through the process of repentance and baptism], we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

These are promises that we should not ignore!

Deliverance and our ultimate reward

The awe-inspiring plan God has designed for mankind shows the love and concern He has for those who are willing to surrender their lives to Him.The awe-inspiring plan God has designed for mankind shows the love and concern He has for those who are willing to surrender their lives to Him. Notice these remarkable verses from your Bible:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed [lavished, New International Version] on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2).

Consider what these verses proclaim.

The word behold basically means “all of you pay special attention to this.”

“We shall be like Him”—fashioned like Him, both outwardly and inwardly—powerful, dazzling spirit-filled bodies with brilliant, clear-thinking minds. We are given a description in Philippians 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed [fashioned, King James Version] to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” All things will be under His control.

Verses 1-2 of 1 John 3 refer to God as “the Father” and true believers as “children.” Clearly, this depicts a family relationship based on love between the Father and His children. Christ taught His disciples to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9). At Christ’s return, true Christians will be resurrected to immortality and are referred to as “sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). They will be endowed with glorified spirit bodies as members of the family of God.

Furthermore, 1 John 3:3 states: “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He [Christ] is pure.” Surely there can be no greater motivation for Christians to “purify” themselves than to seek to please the Father and have a burning desire to be more like Jesus Christ for all eternity.

Biblical examples of faith and endurance

The apostle Paul at the end of his life had a clear focus on his incredible reward and potential: “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Abraham, the father of the faithful, “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He believed that God would fulfill His promise to bring the New Jerusalem from heaven to the earth, and that he would have a part in God’s future government, which will be established in and flow out from the city (Revelation 21:10-27).

While in Egypt, Moses made a spectacular choice to reject the temporary “pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward … for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Other individuals of faith in Hebrews 11 “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Instead of setting their aspirations on things of this world, they declared “plainly that they seek a homeland”in other words, the place God has prepared for His faithful servants (verses 13-16).

The change from physical to spirit bodies

Job confidently spoke about a future “change” that he looked forward to: “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes” (Job 14:14).

What change?

God gives us an opportunity to be part of His government and His family that will bring about incredible changes.Thousands of years later the apostle Paul under inspiration provided an answer. Writing to members of the Church of God at Corinth, he stated, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.” He continued: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed … at the last trumpet [when Christ returns]. … The dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52). Yes, a change for faithful Christians is ahead.

Then, finally, there will be deliverance and victory!

Top priority in our lives

Paul encouraged the elect of God in the city of Rome, naming them “heirs of God,” but in more dramatic terms: “joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” He continued, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18).

Once we understand the awe-inspiring purpose of God, we can echo the words of Paul when he answers his own question in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” His answer? “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verses 38-39).

God gives us an opportunity to be part of His government and His family that will bring about incredible changes. Notice how He will make all things new: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

If we understand God’s plan and purpose for each of us—our ultimate potential and destiny—it is up to us to decide if we want to be part of His plan. God’s offer is the greatest opportunity that can be offered to anyone. Can you think of anything that is more amazing and wonderful?

Back to the question asked at the beginning: Are the hardships, sacrifices and trials Christians face worth the effort? Certainly, if you value and cherish the reward God promises those who are willing to place Him first in their lives and endure to the end, no matter how narrow and difficult the road may be!

The choice you make will have a lasting impact, not only in this life, but for all eternity. May you be a “good and faithful servant” who hears Christ’s words at His return: “Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

About the Author

André van Belkum

Andre van Belkum

Andre van Belkum currently serves as the pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Previously he pastored congregations in southern Africa, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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