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Bible verses about Trials, Shaping Power Of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 23:23-30

Some people draw a careless assumption from a surface evaluation of Exodus 23:20-33, leading to a shallow conclusion: that if the Israelites had just obeyed God, they would have marched into the land and taken it over without a fight. Such submission would have undoubtedly made their course easier and produced better results.

However, many other contexts show that God tests His people because He is preparing them for future responsibilities. Israel failed many tests. The march through the wilderness and the conquest of the Promised Land was a school, a vast, almost fifty-years-long training ground, for appreciating, using, and governing the Promised Land. This "schooling" included tests by which the Israelites could measure their progress, and at the same time, prove to God their growth and readiness.

We concluded that God's promises in Exodus 23 were indeed conditional. Their fulfillment depended on Israel's obedience, and part of that obedience was confronting their enemies, the people of the land, in warfare. The episode recorded in Numbers 13-14 reveals that the Israelite spies fully expected to have to fight the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, etc. They did not understand Exodus 23 as a free pass, as many do today. Their responsibility was to drive them out in cooperation with God, as He promised to be with them, enabling them to drive the people out, which they were incapable of doing without His involvement. But they refused to do their part.

They were to drive out the inhabitants even as we, in cooperation with God, are to confront and drive out old habits, attitudes, and loyalties. These are negative characteristics left over from our pre-conversion days. Christian living parallels this Old Testament instruction. This is one reason why the New Testament has so many illustrations and exhortations regarding Christian warfare.

Our warfare is in many ways different. It does not involve bloody engagements featuring swords, spears, or rifles with bayonets. It is a spiritual warfare, one that takes place primarily within ourselves. Nonetheless, it requires qualities such as loyalty, patriotism, courage, self-denial, vision, understanding, and sacrifice for us to be victorious overcomers.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Two)


 

Leviticus 2:2

Nearly forty times in the Old Testament, God declares how pleasing the aroma of a burnt offering is. This positive imagery of scent represents God's satisfaction in experiencing the proper worship of Him. In the meal offering, frankincense contributes to His satisfaction because it always accompanies the burnt offering.

Frankincense has a sweet fragrance, and honey a sweet taste, but the effect of heat—representing the pressure of trials—on them is vastly different. Heat corrupts, breaks down, and eventually destroys honey. This characteristic is probably why God did not permit its use in the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:11). However, frankincense does not release its greatest fragrance until heat is applied.

Incense has a long history of use in offerings to God. The priests used it daily on the incense altar, which stood directly in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holies of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, representing God's throne, stood. The incense billowed up in a smoky cloud, filling the rooms with a fragrant odor. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest burned incense in the Holy of Holies itself before the Ark.

Isaiah 6:1, 4 describes the vision Isaiah saw of God's heavenly dwelling place:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. . . . And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

The imagery of the smoke of incense and its fragrance, representing the prayers of the saints is well known. For instance, Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Revelation 5:8 confirms this: "Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

However, in the context of the meal offering, incense carries additional significance because of its overall meaning of dedication in service to man. Notice Jesus' words in Matthew 13:20-21:

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation of persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Incense portrays a person's attitude during his trials endured in service to fellow man. A person might be all sweetness and light until the hardship of service hits him, and he grows bitter and turns aside.

Frequently, a Christian's trials involve people, often those close to him: relatives, business coworkers, or social acquaintances. Nothing is more consistently difficult than interpersonal relationships. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." He tells the Corinthians, ". . . nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (I Corinthians 10:10). Finally, Peter advises, "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (I Peter 4:9). Frankincense represents the pleasant satisfaction God experiences when His children endure without grumbling the hardships of unstinting service, especially to their brethren.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Three): The Meal Offering


 

Numbers 23:19

Job remarks that, as God's creations and recipients of His benevolence, we have no right to complain when He allows us to endure afflictions or hardships. Even in these times, we still reap the benefits of His goodness because it is good for us to be afflicted, to receive correction, because these trials will eventually benefit us. The result will always show God's goodness.

Martin G. Collins
Goodness


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

God deliberately made difficulties for the Israelites to face. This is why a test never comes at a convenient time. The more difficult choices seem to come in times of hardship, when our loyalty is really in question and when it is much easier to serve ourselves. However, God wants us to sacrifice ourselves instead.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Job 1:6-12

Notice that God Himself takes the initiative in setting this up, choosing the antagonist (Satan) and defining the parameters of what could be done. Can we say in the face of accounts like this that God only permits difficult trials to occur? Can we say He is not actively testing His children to see what is in them? Can we say He is not actively directing Satan to carry out the calamities He designs?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Psalm 119:71

We can learn from this that God inflicts pain not merely because we sin. In other words, pain does not always mean that we are being punished; it can also mean that we are being shaped. The pain may occur because we are being formed and prepared for what lies ahead. We cannot be in God's Kingdom unless we are changing, living by faith, and becoming like Him. He is faithful to use pain to turn us into what we are to become. Otherwise, we will never be like Him. It is similar to going to school. School may seem hard, but there is a good purpose motivating the teacher's difficult assignments. So it is with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and Fasting


 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

Where one might expect righteousness (as in a court), one finds iniquity. But Solomon cautions, "Hang on. God will judge." Another important point to understand is that God's plan seems designed to show men how weak and meaningless they are in the overall scheme of life.

Even injustice and wickedness serve a purpose. Though they are painful for us to deal with, they provide a massive demonstration of our ignorance of our own nature, clearly revealing the overall character of mankind without conversion.

This is a tremendous benefit to the converted because they can always look at the world and ask, "Do I want those results?" If what we see in the world motivates us to fear God and follow the path toward His Kingdom—even though it might be painful, cause us to make a great many sacrifices, or put us under some kind of persecution or tribulation—it is doing a positive work for us if it helps to keep us on the track.

If there were no benefit from it, God would not permit it. If we did not know what evil was, we could not repent. The world shows us, in lurid detail, what evil is. We have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not we want to do the things that have produced this world. Even in the courts, we will see evil, and we see it even in religion. Solomon says we should expect it and not be overly frustrated by it. Instead, we should learn from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Daniel 3:19-20

The Bible shows that God has a pattern of throwing His people right into the heart of the fire, so to speak, at important junctures in history, or we might say right into the heart of the issues that pertain to His purpose. He does this primarily for His glorification, as a witness, and for our preparation. He forces us to confront challenges we might otherwise withdraw or run from.

He did it with Noah and the Flood. He did it when Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac. He did it with Joseph in Egypt, with Moses and the Israelites in the Exodus from Egypt and their pilgrimage through the wilderness. He did it with Daniel in the lions' den, and literally with these three men in the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar.

We find ourselves living in the end-time Babylon grown to the greatest extent of its evil, anti-God influence. We are confronted by the fact that His people of old came through their trials because God delivered them. Now we are commanded to "come out of Babylon." However, this is no longer literally possible, because it is a worldwide, organized system. We can still come out of it spiritually by resisting it, not allowing it to influence our decision making and therefore our conduct and our attitude.

We have read of the encouraging victories of God in behalf of His people. But we also have read of the evidence of Israel's weaknesses and failure, and it helps for us to understand their weaknesses, because we are cut from the same cloth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Matthew 5:10

Strong's Concordance reveals that "persecute" (Greek dioko) means "to pursue, follow after or press toward." Vine's Expository Dictionary adds "to put to flight or drive away." Only within certain contexts does it take on the sense of oppression, ill treatment, abuse, tyranny, and even martyrdom and murder. Persecution is aggressive and injurious behavior carried out in a hostile, antagonistic spirit, normally by a group, but occasionally by one individual toward another. It is often carried out with fiery zeal, as Paul remarks about his persecution of the church (Philippians 3:6), but the persecuted must always remember that the fiery zeal bent against them is, according to Romans 10:2, "not according to knowledge." Thus Jesus, while dying on the stake, asks His Father to forgive His persecutors, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

In the Bible, especially in the New Testament, persecution is so pervasive that it is presented as a more or less expected terror. Jesus, the epitome of righteousness, is also the focal point of persecution. As such, He clearly reveals persecution's source. In John 8 the Pharisees challenge Jesus' assertion of who He was, and the ensuing discussion leads to revealing its source.

The Jews claim to be Abraham's descendants and never in bondage to any man (though at the time they were subject to the Romans). Their statement is partly true. Jesus readily acknowledges they are physically Abraham's descendants, but He adds in verse 40, "But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this." He implies that, if they were truly Abraham's children, their conduct would display his characteristics, and they would not be persecuting Him.

Satan the Devil is the source of persecution of those bearing and living the truth of God (verses 41, 44). At times he undoubtedly works through people whom he has duped and inflamed to unrelenting anger toward God's people so that the persecution appears to be entirely of men. But the Bible reveals the reality of Satan as the source.

The church bears the brunt of Satan's persecution because, as the body of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), it is the group of people in whom Christ is being formed (Galatians 4:19). Jesus warns us that this will occur:

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21)

Thus, because of our relationship to Jesus Christ, persecution becomes our lot in life. Luke movingly describes this sense of solidarity and union with Christ during Paul's experience on the road to Damascus. Christ calls out, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Just three verses earlier, he writes, "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest." Paul had physically and psychologically abused the members of the church, but Christ considers any attack against His church to be an attack against Himself personally.

His disciples can count on persecution. In fact, persecution serves as a sign of the authenticity of his relationship to Jesus Christ, as Philippians 1:27-30 attests:

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

The Bible also shows that the disciple's response to persecution is a veritable litmus test to determine that authenticity. Notice these two passages:

» But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:20-21)

» Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:9-13)

Clearly, God will count as righteous those who respond to persecution in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 5:10-12

It may seem strange that Jesus passes so quickly from peacemaking in the previous beatitude to persecution—from the work of reconciliation to the experience of hostility. But we come to learn from life's experiences following conversion that, however hard we try to live peacefully or to make peace through reconciliation, some refuse to live at peace with us. Indeed, as this beatitude shows, some take the initiative to oppose, revile, and slander us. We must live with and adjust to the fact that persecution is simply the clash between two irreconcilable value systems. God has called us, selected us, to represent Him in patiently enduring and even overcoming persecution as part of our witness and preparation for His Kingdom.

God is not without sympathy for the difficulties these challenges pose for us, but He calls us blessed, counseling us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is [our] reward in heaven" for successfully overcoming persecution. We should realize we do not earn the reward because we are doing only what we are supposed to do (Luke 17:7-10). But God freely gives the reward; He promises it as His gift.

We are to face persecution remembering "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). When it comes upon us, we should not retaliate like the world, sulk like a child, lick our wounds like a dog in self-pity, or simply grin and bear it like a masochistic Stoic. Our Savior tells us to rejoice in it because it proves the authenticity of our faith, puts us into a noble succession of towering figures of faith who have preceded us, and guarantees us great reward in the Kingdom. It may also put us into the company of many martyrs exalted in God's Word.

Above all, persecution for His sake brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of our Savior. Our love for Christ should be so great that we rejoice that it has come upon us on His account. If He suffered so much to give us this awesome future, why should we not gladly suffer a little for Him?

Persecution is a blessing in disguise designed to bring out the best of Christian character. From it we frequently become aware of weaknesses in our character. Persecution's pressures are humbling. They make us understand that our spiritual infirmities are so great that we cannot stand for a single hour unless Christ upholds us. How true are His words, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Persecution can also keep us from certain sins because it makes us more vividly aware of the impossibility of friendship with the world. Seeing we cannot have both the world and the Kingdom, it can help us set our resolve to live righteously. "And not only that," the apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:3-4, "but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

At first glance, persecution seems contradictory to the way and purpose of God. Though we certainly do not wish it upon anyone, and though we sincerely hope we do not have to face it, we can understand in the broad overview that, because of the enmity of Satan, it is inevitable. And in reality, it is a disguised blessing, designed to complete our preparation for God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

John 15:1-8

Christ came to this earth as THE BRANCH and fulfilled all righteousness, qualifying to replace Satan and rule as King over all the earth. He proved His worthiness by remaining in full accord with His heavenly Father, and bearing the spiritual fruit that makes redemption and salvation possible.

Likewise, we - whether natural or grafted in (Romans 11:17-24) - are also branches attached to the solid trunk of the tree, Christ. It is only by our abiding in Him - our attachment to Him - our close relationship with Him - that we produce any growth or godly works. As Paul writes in Romans 11:16, "If the root is holy, so are the branches." Our righteousness, works, and holiness come to us only because of our connection to Him.

Jesus says that God, in love, prunes us, chastens us, tries us, so that we become more profitable (see also Hebrews 12:3-11). He will do what He must to make us yield. But if we resist and eventually sever our connection with Him, we are fit only to be burned. God has no use for dead wood.

God wants us to use this connection to His Son to "bear much fruit," just as Jesus Christ did. Doing so proves to Him, to ourselves, and to everyone else that we are true Christians, disciples of His Son, the Branch. By this, we will glorify God and secure our place in His Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Branch


 

John 16:33

How glorious it would be to be free of the burdens of living in this dangerous, unstable, violent world, but as sons of God such is not our lot in life. God has called us to a life that runs counter to much of this world's practices and attitudes. As such, we are caught not only in general events and circumstances generated in the world, but also when we directly irritate and anger those close to us by determinedly following God's way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

Acts 14:22

"Tribulations" brings thoughts of trouble, anxiety, fear, and doubt. However, Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5 that those who have peace with God and access to Him

. . . glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.

This peace is not a kind of secular contentment that men can find by lowering their standards and expectations. It is both a gift from God to those reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ and a product of the Holy Spirit in us as we grow in a continuing, trustful relationship through the daily affairs of our life.

The Christian's outlook on life can be entirely different from those in the world, untroubled by the calamity they see all around them. This does not mean that the Christian's peace is a sort of magic or that he ignores the seriousness of the situation. Nor does it mean that the Christian achieves this wonderful quality instantly or that it is always constant. However, it is always available through faith because he has access to the Sovereign, Almighty God. He always has everything under control and is filled with love and wisdom that He is willing to use for our benefit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

When we are tempted, God will help. He will provide a way out, not to avoid temptation, but to meet it successfully and to stand firm under it. This is testing as permitted and controlled by God to produce sterling character that is a reflection of His own.

God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and successfully conquer. He challenges us to meet the temptations that spring up before us on the road of life, beat them down, learn the lessons, and move on to receive the crown of life. He promises to be with us every step of the way. We can be

... confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ... (Philippians 1:6),

when He will give us our reward (Revelation 22:12).

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

"Common to man" means that the trials that come upon Christians are the same as occur to all men. As we live life, we find that in most cases these trials are unavoidable. They just happen. If it happens in the world, we are part of what is going on in the world, and these things affect us unavoidably. God says that He will provide "the way of escape," implying that there is one right way out of each trial. There may be other optional ways, but Paul is stressing that there is "a way" and "the way." We want "the way," the one that God provides for us. The imagery is of an army trapped during a battle, but suddenly a mountain pass opens up before them to provide them a way out of their dilemma. This illustrates how Christians escape trials.

There is a reason for the Christian going through his trial. The trial God provides is good for him to experience. God wants to see what his reaction will be. Will he avail himself of "a way of escape" that he or the world might provide - or will he submit to "the way of escape" God makes available to him? Certainly, "the way of escape" will always involve the use of faith. God is testing the Christian's response to His declarations and His promises of faithfulness, and He wants to see if he will respond because God is faithful. Which way will he choose?

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 10:13

Demons can entice action and attitudes that will take us into sin, but God is holy. He never plays dirty; everything He does is fair. His actions are just, pure, right, and done in love. He does not tempt people to sin. If a person feels as if he is caught between conflicting pressures, impulses, and one of them is drawing him toward sin, it is certainly not from God. This is why John says what he does in I John 4:1-6. God's Spirit in us gives us the power to recognize truth, so we follow it.

A trial could come upon us not necessarily because of anything that we did or because something is wrong with us, but one could come upon us from this world or from Satan. God promises flat out He will never allow us to be tempted above what we are able to handle, and that He will always provide a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13). We are not without resources. We can recognize truth, and the trials that we fall into can and will be overcome with His help.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In these three verses, the concept of faith continues. For us, most important is "even though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." What is Paul describing here? It is the process of dying and renewing. The outer man—the shell, the body—is decaying. What causes it to decay? In the context, it is the trials of life—the perplexities, the afflictions, the persecutions, the solitude.

The outer man is decaying through the trials of life, while the inner man is being strengthened through the same trials. The energy of the body is spent in doing God's will, and it is being transformed into the energy of the spirit. Moses was so energized that Deuteronomy 34:7 says that at the age of 120, his natural forces, his vigor, were not abated.

We are aware of this principle because transformations of energy take place all around us every day. Energy from the sun strikes the earth, and plants transform that energy into leaves, flowers, and fruit. The energy of a river can be transformed into electricity, which in turn is transformed into light and heat—one form of energy turned into another.

Paul is saying that, if we yield to God, though it expends our physical energy, it will be transformed into Christ's likeness. We will become like Christ. The key is to expend our energy in doing the will of God, otherwise the right fruit will not be produced. Even though we have to sacrifice ourselves in doing it—we give up our time, our energy, our resources—what will be produced is spiritual energy. Our physical energy will be transformed into the beauty and power of the spirit until death, and then the resurrection will release the full power of the spirit. All along the way, the fruit of that process will be true conviction because we will know God.

We Christians have this treasure in earthen vessels. If we submit to God's discipline—expending ourselves and yielding to God in the little things day by day—we will see our conviction grow. Then, if people call us into account, we will not be worried because we know absolutely—because we have lived it. This is the kind of faith God wants us to have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

2 Corinthians 8:2

Our joy through trials is a result of suffering for Christ's sake. Of the persecution we must endure, Jesus says, "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!" (Luke 6:23). Through the Holy Spirit, God gives us His gift of joy as part of the process of spiritual completion.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

These verses show us two examples regarding prayer: First, it illustrates how God can respond to our prayers, and second, how Paul reacted to God's answer. We, like Paul, want God to remove our afflictions any time we are in discomfort, but especially when the affliction is chronic and, we feel, inhibits accomplishment. God's response to Paul, however, fit a far greater need, perhaps to keep Paul humble so that his many gifts did not become a curse. Instead, God gave him strength to bear up under the affliction, thus keeping him in a constant state of dependency for strength to go on. Paul humbly accepted this and continued his ministry despite his affliction, knowing it was fulfilling God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

1 Thessalonians 2:4-5

This was written to Christians. God tests our hearts. He wants to know, to find out, to see for Himself, through the circumstances that He creates or allows to occur, what our reaction will be. He does not assume; He does not presume that He already knows. God tests, and He is watching. This is why He can be a witness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 5)


 

2 Timothy 3:12

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous," the psalmist writes (Psalm 34:19). Peter supplies a partial answer to this in I Peter 4:12: "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you, as does Paul's statement in II Timothy 3:12: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." The psalmist, Peter, and Paul are all saying that persecution is a common lot—a calling—of all who strive to serve Christ faithfully.

The essence of persecution lies in subjecting the Christian to injury or disadvantage because of his beliefs. Persecution may take many forms, but it is more than someone merely presenting counter-arguments to the Christian's convictions. It is inflicting some injury on him, putting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in unfavorable circumstances.

Persecution can take on many forms within these broad areas. The injury can be to the Christian's feelings or to his family, reputation, property, liberty, or influence. It may deprive him of an office or position he held or prevent him from obtaining one for which he is qualified. He could be subjected to a fine, imprisonment, banishment, torture, or death.

It follows, then, that both Peter and Paul warn us that we who make a profession of Christianity must be prepared for persecution. It "goes with the territory." We are not to shrink to avoid it, but bear it patiently as Christ did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Hebrews 2:10

Where did this suffering come from? It came as a result of having to live in this world of despair that Solomon lived in and wrote about. He had to be subject to circumstances that were beyond His control. If everything had been under the control of a righteous person like Jesus Christ, many events would never have happened. But surrounded by sin and despite His righteousness, He was subject to the futility, vanity, and meaningless of this world.

What did He do? He rose above it because He believed and lived the principle that is found in Romans 8:28.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Hebrews 4:14-15

Christ's physical life was not spared the calamities we commonly face so that He would be prepared for His responsibilities within God's purpose. He was made to share our experiences to perfect, complete, or mature Him. In other words, if we might have to flee for our lives, then God was not going to excuse Jesus from that kind of a trial. He allowed Jesus to get into situations where indeed He might have to flee for His life. Did Jesus just presume that God would rescue Him because of who He was? No. In writing this, the apostle Paul wants us to understand that Jesus sinlessness was the result of conscious decision and intense struggle, not merely the consequence of His divine nature or the Father's protection or intervention.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 2)


 

Hebrews 12:1-4

We can learn a great deal about why patience is so vital by comparing the process we are going through to an artist sculpting a work from a piece of marble. Chip by chip over a period of time, an artist uses hammer and chisel to shape a conception from a raw slab of rock until the finished figure is revealed. God is doing much the same with us except we are living, raw material with mind, emotions, and the liberty to allow or disallow the Artist to continue. If we are impatient, not allowing the Creator to complete His artistry by our constant yielding to His tools, we will never be perfect and entire.

It is easy for us to magnify our burdens. Notice, however, what grumbling did for the Israelites in the wilderness when God finally responded. Would we rather have our trial or grumble and receive what the Israelites did? We must begin to cultivate the habit of thinking of life, including all of its trials, as being God's way to shape godly character in us.

James makes what seems to be a paradoxical statement in James 1:2: We should count our various trials as joy. Why? Because verse 3 says that doing so produces patience! We need patience so God can mold us into His likeness. Even God cannot produce godly character by fiat. James is teaching us that we should not measure the experiences of life by their ability to please our ambition or tastes but by their capacity to make us into God's image. If we have any vision - and a zealous desire to live as God does - we can welcome our trials as steps in God's creative process and meet them with patience and hope.

Perfection in this life is to become what God wants us to become. What could be better than that? If we understand that our lives are in God's hands as He molds and shapes us, then the meanings - the eventual outcome - of joy and sorrow are the same. God intends the same result whether He gives or takes. The events of life are merely the scaffolding for shaping us into His image, and we should meet them with patience as He continues His work. This will work to flatten out the emotional extremes we tend to experience.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

James 1:1-4

James addresses his book, "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." Since the breadth of this address does not indicate that the people were enduring any common experience, James is likely giving counsel of timeless and general application that is indispensable to growth in godly character to all sorts of people under every circumstance. At the very beginning he writes,

My brethren, 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. (1:2-4)

Is patience that important? How important is it that we grow to be perfect and entire? James is clearly saying that patience is a vital ingredient to achieving this. Notice that he does not perceive patience as passive. It works! The fruit of its work can be either another virtue it is producing or in preserving itself, for that, too, is sometimes necessary.

Patience is not merely a fixed determination to hold our place in the teeth of the wind, but to make actual progress in spite of it. A ship may ride out a strong wind with a snug anchor and strong chains, yet another may set the sails to take advantage of the wind to bring it closer to its destination. It is this latter attitude that James is bidding us have and use.

Christ is a good example of this. Luke 9:51 says, "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." All His life the shadow of His crucifixion hung over Him, yet without faltering, swerving, or resisting, He took every step of His path and nothing turned Him aside because He came into the world for that hour. His resolve never broke. He would not blench from carrying out His duty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

James 1:2-4

"Testing" is dokimion, meaning "to prove." Dokimion describes the process of proving sterling coinage, that it was genuine and unalloyed. We can conclude, then, that God's testing process has the goal or aim of purging us of all impurity, to make us "perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (verse 4).

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

James 1:2-4

1. Trials should produce growth. Just as we prune a shrub or tree to force it to grow into a more perfect form, so God does with us. William Barclay makes an excellent comment on this:

. . . these tests or trials are not meant to make us fall, they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger. Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them.

Notice that trials should produce growth, rather than that they will produce it. Sometimes, we just do not learn the lesson; we fail; we regress; we sink into self-pity. This leads me to another lesson learned.

2. The fruit we produce depends on our outlook. This does not imply that anger and depression are not normal human emotions. They are. With any trial, you wonder why. You evaluate your actions, your mistakes, your sins. You repent, fast, and pray. You cry out to God with more emotion than you knew you possessed. If you are normal, you have moments of anger, perhaps even doubt.

Here is where we can produce fruit or destroy it. With God's help, we must forcibly evict these carnal thoughts from our minds. We cannot allow seeds of doubt to germinate, and if they do, they cannot be allowed to grow. We must look forward and deal with the situation.

Paul writes:

. . . we know for certain that He who raised the Lord Jesus from death shall also raise us with Jesus. We shall all stand together before Him. All this is indeed working out for your benefit, for as more grace is given to more and more people so will the thanksgiving to the glory of God be increased. This is the reason why we never lose heart. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. (II Corinthians 4:14-17, Phillips)

So it is good advice that we not resent our trials or bemoan our fate or the state in which we find ourselves. As James says, "Count it all joy," which brings us to the next lesson.

3. Joy comes after, not before, the trial—and often not during it. No sane person sits around, wishing he had a trial. That is absurd. No one is ecstatic to find himself encompassed in pain. Only when you have faced your troubles and started to fight can you begin to see even a glimmer of a positive result at its conclusion.

James' advice is to count or consider our trials joyfully. The Phillips' version continues, "Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce endurance" (James 1:3). These words reflect a passage of time. Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus endured the cross "for the joy that was set before Him." He thought nothing of the pain and shame because of the joy He knew would follow His suffering. Joy came afterward.

Verse 11 says, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Here is convincing proof that joy is primarily post-trial.

Yet even this joy is not the ecstatic, "Hallelujah!" kind of joy. Chara means "cheerfulness" or "calm delight." God's Spirit does not produce in us a gloating, "I did it!" kind of emotion, but a cheerful peace of mind, an awareness that we survived and grew. We feel a kind of satisfaction that God has pruned us so that we might become more like him. This process helps us to appreciate our lives more, and to be more thankful, understanding, and sympathetic to the plight of others.

A lady with a long-term illness once wrote to us about her trials. As she came slowly out of her personal struggle, she passed on to us several things that we found to be true. One line she wrote is very true: "I never realized how wonderful it is to be able to do ordinary things until I couldn't do them." She had "never realized." Yet now, because of her trial, she counted or considered her situation and found joy in a simple act.

By sharing this with us, she gave us hope and encouragement. We saw this new perspective as positive. This is fruit borne through testing. It is God's refining process at work. He is removing impurities.

As hard as it seemed, after giving them much prayer and thought, we found that each trial was specific to us. It was what we needed to make us more like God. We did not see this initially, but through perseverance and growth, it became clear.

This is why we are happy that God has chosen us to suffer whatever trials He may allow. As James goes on to write:

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

James 1:2-3

We are counseled here by James, who was Jesus' brother. Hardly anyone knew Jesus as James did—he grew up with Him. He was able to watch Him over the course of His entire life, and so he knew the mind of Christ exceedingly well. James says that we are to consider trials as a reason for great joy because trials are capable of producing good results. However, we must understand that trials do not automatically produce good results. They can easily make one bitter rather than better. Whether one comes out better for the experience depends upon how faith, hope, and love are used. How the trial is used is the issue, and whether faith, hope, and love produce a higher level of spiritual maturity. What determines whether they make us better rather than bitter is how we use them.

James describes a person surrounded by trials of many kinds. We live in that period when iniquity abounds, and we are admonished by Jesus that we will need endurance during this time (Matthew 24:12-13). We are assaulted by many kinds of trials, and they will increase. James is concerned about whether they will produce perseverance in us.

The King James version renders this word as "patience." That may be an acceptable translation, but it is not really correct. "Perseverance" or "endurance" is better, as most modern translations translate it. This is because the Greek word that equates to our "patience" is passive, meaning that one is merely waiting something out. But the Greek word used here, hupomone, indicates activity rather than passivity. The person is not just waiting for something to happen, though he is patient in what he is going through.

Commentator William Barclay defines hupomone as "having the quality to stand, facing the storm, struggling against difficulty and opposition." It is a quality that makes progress against a trial, rather than merely waiting a difficulty out. James is focused on the testing of our belief and trust or faith. There is also hope that comes from faith, which acts as a motivator to sustain the struggle against the difficulties of life.

Hope is not directly mentioned here, but James does mention endurance. There is no active endurance unless one actually desires to accomplish something, and he has the hope of good to come from what he is enduring.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Perseverance and Hope


 

James 1:12

"Temptation" is from the Greek noun peirasmos, which can refer to trials or tests with a beneficial purpose or effect—or to trials or tests designed to lead to wrong doing. The outcome depends on how the tempted person reacts. Temptation of itself is not sin; one must accept it before it results in sin. Thus, it is a forerunner of sin, warning us that the potential for sin is not far away.

Martin G. Collins
How Does Temptation Relate to Sin?


 

1 Peter 1:1-5

First, Peter reminds us who we are. The term "elect" is the very ground of our comfort because it means (when connected to the foreknowledge of God) that God knows us personally. A lot of people would like to know that the President of the United States knows them personally, but God knows us!

Some like it to be known that they are known by some person they respect very highly. Whether the person is a millionaire or a billionaire, a well-known athlete or entertainer, or somebody well known in the area, people like to drop names. Peter says if there is any name you want to drop, drop God's. He knows you!

Before God called us, He watched our lives because He wanted to make sure that we would be able to work with Him and that He would not lose us. He is sure that with His help we can make it. He can prepare us for whatever He has in store for us.

That is the ground of our hope. God knows us, and because of this, He will do things for us. He is in the position to do them. All He has to do is give the word. God can open any door anywhere for us. And He will do what is right for us.

Peter goes on in verse 3 to say that He is the Author of an act of mercy by which He has given us a sure hope of being brought into our inheritance. Even though we may have to go through sore trial, it can be done! God has not given us something impossible to do. He has begotten us again to a living hope.

Our hope is living because Jesus Christ is alive! He is our High Priest. And He loves us in a way that we cannot even begin to understand. He loves us so much that He gave His life for us. He loves us so much that He is willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we will be in His Kingdom. We have access to the highest of all places. We have friends who have names and power so awesome that there is nothing greater.

We do not need to fear what is coming because God is able to bring us through it. If we had to face it ourselves alone, there would be no hope for us.

The apostle calls our inheritance "incorruptible" (verse 4). The contrast is being made between Canaan or Palestine and the Kingdom of God. Which is better?

Lastly, it is "undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation." Kept can easily be translated "guarded," "surrounded," "hedged in." God is watching out for us in a way that He is not watching out for this world. Because we are the apple of His eye, and because He is preparing us for something, Jesus Christ will faithfully discharge His duties as High Priest in our behalf. He is guarding us—protecting us—from the worst of what is going on around us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

1 Peter 1:3

The strength of our hope rises or falls on how dependable we perceive our expectation to be. The reasons we believe our expectation to be dependable are thus decisive to whether we will be motivated.

Ours is a living hope because Jesus Christ and the Father are alive. They exert sovereign control, and They cannot lie. Because our hope is revealed, grounded, sustained, and directed by God, we can know that all things work together for good for those who are the called and love God (Romans 8:28). Our hope, then, should not be ephemeral wishes or dreams based on wishy-washy sentimentality, but the solid realities of God and His Word. Our hope flows from an inexhaustible Source, and therefore no trial should ever quench our optimism for future good. Hope is our response to His work in us expressed in trust, patience, endurance, and eagerness to continue.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

1 Peter 1:3-13

These verses link the unveiling of Jesus Christ with our future and all that the Father is working out. Verse 3 recalls to us our status as children of God, reminding us that our hope lies in the resurrection from the dead, when we will be composed of spirit, able to inherit the Kingdom (see I Corinthians 15:50). God Himself safeguards this perfect inheritance, which can never be diminished, for all those who are regenerated and endure to the end.

Verse 5 reminds us that our salvation will be revealed "in the last time." This gives us reason for great rejoicing, even though various trials may grieve us. Those trials are necessary, Peter tells us in verse 7, so that the genuineness of our faith—the tried and proven character of our faith—may be found when Jesus Christ is unveiled to the entire world (cf. Luke 18:8).

Verse 8 points out the contrast that, at this time, we do not see Him with our eyes because He is still veiled, hidden from the world. His revelation has not yet occurred. Even though we cannot see Him now, we still love Him and can still rejoice because we know that the Father will soon send Him back to this earth. Then, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7).

Verse 13 summarizes what we should be doing as a result of this understanding. We need to brace ourselves mentally, and think, plan, and act seriously and circumspectly, setting our hope wholly on the divine favor that the revelation of Jesus Christ will bring to us. For concurrent with the apocalypsis of Christ is the salvation of the saints, both living and dead.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?


 

1 Peter 2:19-21

Peter is not saying that suffering is a commendable thing. What is commendable is that one has submitted to God's will and that he is suffering, not because he did something wrong, but because he did something right. In addition, he is not striking back, which is what his emotions would lead him to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 Peter 4:12-13

When a trial comes upon us, we tend to think, "Why me? What have I done wrong?" We may have done nothing wrong. Trials are necessary for growth.

Imagine being a college student, knowing that your progress needs to be measured. How can that be done without testing or examination? If we do away with tests, how do we gauge growth?

Mike Ford
Joy and Trial


 

1 Peter 4:17

Most people regard judgment as something that occurs only at the end of the age. However, the Bible shows that Christians are being judged today. As in human courts, judgment is a process. Judges do not render decisions without getting the facts and pondering all the evidence. Today, God is putting Christians through trials and tests to see if they will be faithful to Him and His way of life.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

1 John 4:8

Every thought, every word, every act of God is an expression of love. God is sovereign, and He has the right to do whatever He wants. This would be tyranny except for one simple fact: Everything God does, whether seemingly arbitrary or not, is motivated by love. Even our trials are supreme acts of love as Hebrews 12:5-11 and Job's experience show.

Herbert W. Armstrong once said about Job: "Job was one of the hardest men for God to ever bring down to repentance that has ever lived on the face of this earth." As terrible as the trial was, Job needed it for salvation. Psalm 84:11 says that God will withhold no good thing from us. To withhold that trial from Job would have been withholding a good thing, making God guilty of hating Job (Proverbs 13:24).

Only God is wise enough to allow us to go through a desperately needed trial while simultaneously using it to accomplish His other purposes as well. In the worsening times ahead, God will not use some of us as cannon fodder for His purposes, though He has the right to do it—He made us. Because of His love for us, He will allow us to face trials because we need them to perfect us. After all, "all things work together for good" to those called (Romans 8:28).

How will we survive spiritually if we are among those God chooses to be persecuted, possibly tortured, and killed? Only because we believe that God loves no one more than us, and for this reason, we will know that what we are enduring is for our good and will bring about His purpose.

As children, we were disciplined by our parents. As it happened, how often did we thank them for the love they were showing us? As parents, we have disciplined our children. How many times have they ever said, "Thank you"? Most likely, the answer to both is, "Never!"

Do we discipline our children out of love or hate? Love, of course. Then why do they not say, "Thank you"? At the moment it is happening, they cannot see—they do not believe—how much we love them. It is a hallmark of youth or immaturity to be blind to the big picture, to see only what is directly in front of them. Hopefully, in times of trial, we are not children in a spiritual sense.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

1 John 4:18

If understanding how much God loves us and believing in it are so important, how can we tell where we stand in the strength of that belief? Verse 18 begins to answer that question. Fear and worry signal that we are not yet perfect in our belief in how much God loves us. If we believe that the God of infinite power and wisdom loves no one in the universe more than us, what do we have to fear or worry about?

What good parent does not use all the resources available to ensure the well being of his or her children? We are in the minute-by-minute care of the great God (Matthew 10:29-31). "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). Similarly, Isaiah 43:13 (CEV) records an important promise from God: "I am God now and forever. No one can snatch you from me or stand in my way."

Nothing outside of us can stand in His way of accomplishing His purpose to save except ourselves (John 6:39-40; 10:28; Philippians 1:6). As difficult as Job was, God knew exactly what trial was necessary—in his case, a quite painful one—to get the right result. He knows the buttons to push and the pressures to apply to set each of us straight. Job 36:15 (Today's English Version) tells us, "But God teaches men through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes."

A second sign of our lack of faith in His love is how we respond to trials. If we believe in how much He loves us, then we know the trial is for our good. Because of His love, we should know that a trial is not just an arbitrary act without rhyme or reason. Because He is God, it cannot be an accidental circumstance happening without His awareness or concern. It definitely cannot be an act just to make our lives more difficult. These might be the thoughts of a child while receiving a spanking, but they should not be ours.

A third way to measure the strength of our faith is to list the things that would make our lives better yet seem to be out of reach. For some, it is money; others, a job; and still others, a mate. Psalm 84:11 is a verse we can use to get the right perspective: "No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."

If we are walking uprightly, our lack of a desired thing is in itself a good indication that at this time it is not good for us, no matter what we might think to the contrary. Otherwise, this verse cannot be true. Getting what we want rather than what we need can be spiritually lethal (Revelation 3:17).

A final way to measure our faith is to examine if we ever feel we love ourselves more than God does. A person with this attitude begins to take things into his own hands because he cannot trust God to do it—he does not believe how good God is and how much He loves him. To doubt the depth of God's love for us is to deny God and the very essence of who He is—love.

This describes Satan's attitude, one that could be considered insanity. Human nature, which mimics Satan's spirit (Ephesians 2:2) is suicidal, wanting to sin even though it knows the result is death. Thus, because human nature contains this spirit of self-destruction, God always loves us more than we love ourselves.

It is vital that we build our faith in God's love for us and realize just how special we are to Him. He loves no one else in the universe more. I John 4:17 promises that perfecting our faith in God's love for us gives us the power we need to face our trials, our day of judgment, boldly. In doing so, we will be imitating the faith Jesus Christ exercised in facing His trails, showing absolute faith in God's love for us.

Pat Higgins
Faith to Face Our Trials


 

Revelation 1:9

This verse emphasizes the overall importance of patience. James 1:2-3 shows that patience allows the trial to become completed and produce the right thing.

John emphasizes the word "kingdom" (Greek is written emphatically to draw attention to certain words). The other two words, "tribulation" and "patience," are like parentheses on both sides of the word "kingdom." What this does is to cause the word "tribulation" to define the path to the kingdom! Think of tribulation in terms of trials and pressures that arise as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, our journey toward God's Kingdom, and our faith that we will be a part of it. The way to the Kingdom of God is through trials. We will not just skate along because God has created work for us to accomplish in our lives so that we might be prepared for the Kingdom. If we are not prepared for it, we will not be there.

The way of preparation is for God to put us through trials, just as if we were going to school. We can think of trials in terms of lessons that need to be learned, character that needs to be built, attitudes that need to be adjusted. All of these put pressure on us. So tribulation—pressure or trials—is the path. "All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (II Timothy 3:12). We are going against the flow of the world, and God has designed it this way to prepare us for His Kingdom. Thus, there will always be pressure on us.

Pressure is the way to the Kingdom, and patience is the necessary element for making it. If we are impatient, we will not be there! Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith is needed when we do not have what we desire—the Kingdom of God. There is no need for faith if we do not have to wait! Patience is required while we are waiting. It is that simple.

The way to the Kingdom is through testing and trial, and the way to succeed in testing and trial is to put our faith to work by being patient! That is the path that will exercise our faith. God will see that it is there, and His creative efforts on our behalf will work. All of us must have patience. It is there, but it has to be activated. We have to trust that God really wants us in His Family, and if we want to be prepared for His Kingdom, we had better start using patience.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Revelation 3:17-19

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

 




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