Steadfast Under Trial
If anything gives us the opportunity to be unfaithful to God it is trials. In the midst of suffering we are often tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and friendship, goodness and grace, and power and promises. We sometimes wonder if we will make it, how we will make it, or why God is doing this to us. We often turn to other things for security, especially when things seem utterly out of control. We are tempted to stop praying, thinking it’s no use, even wondering if God hears us, or cares about our trials. But turning away from God in the midst of trials is the worst thing to do. Instead, we need to run to Him. He is our faithful friend who is good and gracious. He is the promise-keeper who has the power to sustain us in our weakness.
In his epistle James encourages believers, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (Jas. 1:12). But James also warns believers. Trials, which are sent by the good, purposeful, gracious hand of God become temptations in the heart of fallen man. In the midst of various trials, it’s important to remember that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (v. 13). Instead, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (vv. 14-15).
The Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Only the Lord can understand it because He searches it and tests it (v. 10). But Jeremiah also tells us that believers have received new hearts as part of the new covenant (31:31-34). So how are we to think about our hearts? Although our hearts are new, they are not perfect, and this is an important distinction to bear in mind. Our hearts won’t be perfect until Jesus comes again. For now, we live with hearts that are prone to wander from righteousness to rebellion, especially during times of suffering.
Jesus teaches the same truth Jeremiah does. “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:18-19). Remember, James says that you and I have impure desires that lure and entice us to sin, which leads to death (Jas. 1:14-15). For example, when I am in the middle of a trial that has the potential to bring good to my life, if I turn away from the Lord instead of toward Him in trust, and I feed my impure desire, causing me to sin, I will experience consequences. For the true believer, sin doesn’t lead to eternal death, but our sin does affect our relationship with the Lord and with one another. Therefore, we must starve our impure desires and feed our pure ones, so that we will remain steadfast in our walk with the Lord.
When Jesus was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days and was tempted by the devil, He never succumbed to sin because He is the perfect Son of God (see Luke 4:1-13). He walked this earth in perfect obedience on behalf of God’s people. Too often we only remember that Jesus died for us. We also need to remember that He lived for us. When we sin “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). In the midst of temptation, remember that God has given us what we need to live a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). When you are in the midst of trials, don’t just throw up your arms and helplessly give in to your sinful desires. Instead, “draw near to the throne of grace” in order to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Jesus “helps the offspring of Abraham” as the “merciful and faithful high priest,” who “because he himself has suffered when tempted…is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:16-18).
Most likely, you are facing some kind of trial today. If you are tempted to doubt God’s faithfulness and friendship, goodness and grace, and power and promises, remember that remaining steadfast under trial results in a blessing. Look to God, the one from whom you “will receive the crown of life,” if you love Him (Jas. 1:12). In the midst of your trials, believe the word of the Lord, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.