By Dr. Foster H. Shannon
The knee replacement surgery, which I experienced on the 10th of January, and the accompanying slowness of recovery and pain has caused me to reflect again on what the Bible has to say about temptation, difficulties, and trials. The Bible makes it plain that all people will suffer in one manner or another, and that the end result can be beneficial. Suffering takes many forms: disappointment, failure, illness, financial losses, mistreatment by others, etc. The experiences of the unbelieving are not necessarily beneficial, but the difficulties of life can lead the believing to draw closer to their Lord. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 1:6,7)
One of the greatest of Christians, the apostle Paul, suffered from a thorn in the flesh. We do not know what it was, but it must have been severe, otherwise he would not have mentioned it. In II Corinthians, chapter 12, he tells of a special blessing; being caught up in the spirit to Heaven and experiencing marvelous things. But our Lord must keep the lives of even the best of Christians in balance. Thus, Paul writes,
“to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.”
God’s purpose for us is that we may grow in his grace:
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
Why do we need to be tested? As we look to the scriptures, we find good reasons:
1. To keep us from being conceited. Conceit is overweening self-esteem; having an excessively fine opinion of one’s self. All of us have gifts and abilities, and in some areas find ourselves more able than others. It is all too easy for us to think that we are not only more gifted and skilled–but that we are superior to others.
“Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
2. That we may never forget our need of God and draw near to him.
“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
3. That sanctification, our growth in grace, may continue as we reckon with factors in our lives that do not belong.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Our conclusion: Temptations, illnesses, disappointments will come. Some of our suffering, we bring on ourselves through our own sins, carelessness and bad decisions, but much of it comes from the world, the times in which we live. We are to draw near to God for comfort and strength; to seek his will; and to reckon with our faults
“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” (Psalm 118:5)
More about Foster… Foster H. Shannon, Brief Biographical Note Dr. Foster Shannon received his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Political Science, and went on to obtain a Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary, with emphasis on church growth. The Interim Pastor of True Light Presbyterian Church in Alhambra, CA until recently, he is the author of seven books and a Sunday School curriculum. As the President of Green Leaf Press, a non-profit Christian publishing company, established in 1981, he publishes and markets Christian books with special emphasis on Bible Study, Church Growth, and Christian Evidences. The website is: www.gogreenleaf.com. He enjoys riding his bicycle and swimming weekly. He likes both classical and popular music. He roots for the CAL Bears and the Chicago Cubs.
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