What the Bible says about
Enduring Trials and Tests
(From Forerunner Commentary)
How does God get knowledge? God tests the hearts and the minds. He creates circumstances and puts people to the test.
In I Peter 2:12, Peter speaks about people glorifying God in the day of visitation, which means "inspection," that is, their inspection by God. Why does a person inspect something? Because he wants to find out about it.
When a person goes to buy a car, he inspects and evaluates it. He will look at the tires, the engine, the interior, and condition of the body. He will test-drive it to find out what it will do so he can decide whether to buy it. We do the same with clothing, a house, and every major decision in life. We gather information so that we will know what to do with our lives.
God does the same thing. Now we can better understand what the ramifications of this are. There are times that God does not know for sure what people will do! He puts people to the test and watches to see how they respond.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 5)
The question is, "How near?" This question has to be asked because many times we feel that God has gone way off somewhere. But how near is He? We have to ask this because the Bible describes Him as a God who is both far and near; He is both at the same time.
He is far in recognition of His sovereignty and of His position in relation to the rest of the creation. He is far above us in that regard. He is over all and directs and controls everything, always with His overall purpose in mind.
If we desire to have a good relationship with God, we will have to take this last factor into consideration, because it affects our lives. He does everything with His overall purpose in mind. There are occasions when He may be "unable" to act in our behalf on one of our requests of Him, because other people's situations whose lives touch on ours must be resolved first. A clear example of this is the book of Job.
Job was totally unaware of what was being worked out through, around, and about him. Even Satan was having something proved to him by God, because He challenged him. In the vernacular of today, God said to the Devil, "Okay, Satan. See if you can break Job. I challenge you to see if you can break him."
Satan could not break Job. The man stood his ground, even though he got battered mightily in the process, not really understanding what was happening. He undoubtingly appealled to God, but He could not answer because other things were being worked out through, around, and about in Job, of which he was totally unaware.
Job was not privy to the conversation between God and Satan, nor to the fact that God was putting him through this in order that a book be written of his experiences, which could not be written until the episode had resolved. So Job had to go through a great deal of discomfort, pain, and emotional anguish while the whole situation played out. For a while, God was a God from afar.
Now that we have more understanding, and the Bible is complete, we realize that He was also a God who was near because He strengthened Job so that he could resist the temptations of the most powerful being to tempt mankind. Job stood up just fine.
Because this book has been written, and because Job endured this, we now have a clear picture why, at times, bad things happen to good people. We can also see that this book of Job shows that God has faith in us too. It does not work just one way. God was working from afar, with His overall picture in mind for mankind, and God was also working nearby.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)
Each comparison shows wisdom's significance to a successful life. The best way to perceive the counsel in Ecclesiastes is to recognize that it is written to God's converted children, not to the world. Solomon's thoughts, then, tie directly into instructions and commands in other parts of God's Word. Much of this is counsel to endure the trials of life patiently and meekly because God is directly involved in them right alongside us. Hence, over the long haul, our trials will have a positive result. Consequently, we are urged not to fall into the trap of unreasoning haste to “just get rid of the problem,” as it were. Knowing that Ecclesiastes is aimed at God's converted children, we grasp that the willfulness involved in haste is really nothing more than an expression of carnal pride.
Verse 8 bears explaining more thoroughly because it relates to a pertinent fact about these comparisons. They are not to be understood as absolutes but are useful helps according to the circumstances of life's trials. Each trial may present different nuances that we must think through. Though verse 8 seems to say otherwise, we know that the end of everything is most definitely, absolutely not always better than its beginning.
A clear example is sin. Sin almost invariably begins pleasantly, even pleasurably. As with Eve, the fruit undoubtedly tasted good to her, but God kicked her and Adam out of the Garden, and they died. Judas, too, was undoubtedly pleased with his work on the night of Jesus' arrest, but then he hanged himself. These examples are so clear: Sin never, never, never ends well.
Circumstances and projects can end well only when they begin with a good purpose right from the start. Even so, they may not end well. In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus provides an example of a good project ending badly:
When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, “I will return to my house from which I came,” and when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
II Peter 2:20-22 vividly illustrates how sin entering a project destroys its end being better than the beginning:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Thus, we can see that even good projects must continue in the right way for the end to be better than its beginning, showing that these comparisons are not intended to be absolutes.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Nine): Wisdom as a Defense
On this particular occasion, the Pharisees were at the synagogue ready to entrap Jesus for His use of the Sabbath. When He came to the man with the withered hand, they watched and waited, suggesting that the Pharisees expected Christ to intervene and heal the man. They resolved that no matter what He did, they would find fault with it, to use it as the ground of an accusation before the local tribunal. The rabbis allowed Sabbath healing in cases of life and death, but a withered hand did not meet the criteria.
From the beginning, the scribes and Pharisees had persistently opposed Christ's teachings because He exposed their hypocrisy, lessening their esteem and influence among the people. Jesus knew of their animosity toward Him even before they began to hinder His work. As the word "watch" implies, they were spying on Him, scrutinizing every move He made. Their hypocrisy was obvious.
Christians should not expect to fare any better—in fact, we should count it all joy (James 1:2) because the "sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared" with the coming glory (Romans 8:18). In trying to uphold righteous standards, Christians are often watched by a suspicious and spiteful world. Jesus says, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. . . . But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. . . . They hated Me without a cause" (John 15:20-21, 25).
In order never to give the enemies of Christ a reason to blaspheme, our lives must be sterling examples of God's way of life. The Father gave Jesus a full measure of the Holy Spirit, empowering Him with the discernment and ability to know people's hearts. We need to rein in our thoughts and bring them under control. Every day a vast number of vain and worldly imaginations pass through the average person's mind. Others never notice them, but God does. Nothing is hidden from Him.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Withered Hand (Part One)
Before examining this promise, it may be helpful to understand what it does not say. Note how conventional wisdom would paraphrase this verse:
Because you consider yourself to be a Philadelphian, and because you are with the church organization that is doing the most to preach the gospel to the world, I will keep you from the hour of trial and will take you to the Place of Safety where you will be protected while all those who disagree with you will go through the Tribulation.
"Conventional wisdom" is not actually wisdom! It is what is generally held to be true by many, yet it may, in fact, be fallacious. This rendering of Revelation 3:10 is the conventional wisdom in some circles, illustrating how many take narcissistic liberties with this verse. It also shows why there is such an emphasis today on which church group is the best: because we are averse to pain and tend to try to avoid it. Thus, some convince themselves that they will be safe from what lies ahead because they are with the right church—rather than being right with God. This is extremely dangerous, as it indicates that they trust in the wrong thing.
The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are written in large part from a perspective of "if the shoe fits, wear it." In each, Jesus concludes with "he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"—plural—meaning we should glean all that we can from each letter rather than focus on our favorite one.
In this light, a way to approach Revelation 3:10 is that perseverance is part of what Christ uses to define who a Philadelphian is. Thus, an individual is a Philadelphian because he keeps His command to persevere, in addition to exemplifying the other things He says, such as keeping His Word and not denying His name (Revelation 3:8). In short, a person cannot conclude that, just because he is fellowshipping with a particularly faithful group, he will be carried along in its positive momentum and benefit from the promise of protection and other blessings. An unfaithful individual in an overall faithful group will reap what he sows, not what the rest of the group sows.
Christ says similar things in other places, as in Matthew 10:22: "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (emphasis ours throughout). He makes no mention of group membership but addresses the enduring individual. Similarly, in Matthew 24:12-13 and Luke 21:36, He emphasizes what we do as individuals—our personal faithfulness and endurance—rather than the merits of a particular group. Just as Laodiceanism can be found in each of us regardless of the church we attend, so each of us can persevere and courageously endure no matter where we fellowship.
David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?
Jesus Christ says that because some of His people have been keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the worst of what lies ahead. They have already proved their faithfulness to Him; He knows where they stand, He sees their track record with Him, and He will not require them to experience everything that the rest of humanity will suffer.
The word translated "kept" or "keep," used twice, plays into this. This word means "to attend to carefully; to maintain; to guard; to hold fast," and the way that it is used indicates reciprocity. We certainly want God to guard, hold fast, and carefully attend to us. We would prefer that He guard us and hold us fast far away from the destruction and torment that will come upon the world! But the flipside is that He wants us to do the same thing—keep, guard, hold fast—with regard to our responsibilities to the covenant.
In other words, if we want God to take an active interest in our well-being during that time, we should understand the principle of reciprocity and take an active interest in Him at this time. If we diligently guard the things He has committed to our trust, He will do the same for us.
Jesus' brother, James, provides insight into the perseverance that Christ wants us to have: "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" (James 1:2-4).
The perseverance that we will increasingly need as the end approaches cannot be developed all at once. Goofing off all semester and then cramming for the final exam rarely works in college, and it certainly will not work where our covenant and relationship with God is concerned. James counsels us to be thankful when our faith is tested, because all of those little exercises of faith not only prepare us for substantial trials, but also make us spiritually complete.
The upshot is that no man, by himself, has the strength to endure and persevere through what lies ahead. Without God, we are all dead men, physically and spiritually, but because "power belongs to God" (Psalm 62:11), we can tap into the source of true strength through our relationship with Him. He decides the circumstances of our lives. He alone knows what we need to survive the trials and temptations at the end. More importantly, He knows what we need to be prepared for eternal life.
Remember that God desires godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). He is creating sons and daughters in His image (Genesis 1:26; Romans 8:29). He is using His perfect creative genius to engineer the experiences and circumstances that we need to take on His image and have His eternal character formed in us.
For some, walking with God through the very depths of the end time is what they will need to become "perfect and complete, lacking nothing." A large part of that may be a result of the choices that they make now, and their tendencies toward apathy, complacency, or compromise.
For others who are already keeping His command to persevere, He will keep them from the hour of trial. It does not mean they will not see hardship: They must see hardship to endure courageously. But because of their constancy under duress—because God is not a stranger, and they are already accustomed to walking through life with Him and drawing upon His strength—they will be given a blessing of protection.
David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?
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