Life in the Spirit – Part 10 – One Problem, Three Solutions


Bible Text: Rom 5: 2-4 |


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Three passages in the New Testament directly address the issues  trials and tribulations:

One of those passage is by James, one by Peter, and one by Paul.

This is what James says (James. 1:2-4)

James speaks of various trials and notice he says “when” not “if.” Trials come in various colours and shades. Some are a light grey, like an irritation or a disappointment. This passage applies to all kinds of trials, from little annoyances which are part of everyday experience to the most severe suffering. From financial pressures, to injustice and oppression, disputes with believers, disputes with those who don’t believe.

Prejudice, gossip, illness and even death. When trials arrive, the believer is told to “consider it all joy.” Well it sure doesn’t mean that you’re going to find what you’re going through fun, in any way. But he is saying, “Make up your mind to consider this trial as something about which you should approach with expectation”. Something which presents itself as an opportunity for spiritual growth and maybe even a sign of God’s favour.

The Greek word for “testing” of your faith means not only tested but, “approved.” A bit like a manufacturer may run a product on a testing bench in order to prove that when sold it will do a task without failing because it has been proved to be reliable. James is talking about an approved faith, that is, a faith that has been found to be fit for purpose.

God will uses this type of faith to bring His children to spiritual maturity, either to develop something already in us that we will need more of in the future or to either add something to our character we currently lack.

That’s the insight James offers on the challenges of the spiritual life.

What then is Peter’s view (1 Pet. 1:6-7)

Like James, Peter writes also about “various trials.” He uses the same Greek word as James did for various, which means “many different coloured trails.”  The background events to what is being written here in Peter 1st letter was the news of growing opposition and persecution of believers in Asia Minor. Modern day Turkey Hostility and superstition were mounting and these believers were being slandered and attacked because of their faith (1 Pet. 3:14-15). They were also hated because of their decision to withdraw from what they considered the sinful practices of sacrificing to the Roman Gods or even the Emperor. Peter tells us, they were facing charges of disloyalty to the state. (1 Pet. 2:13-17). However, the startling point Peter makes is that when believers are grieved by all kinds of trials they are to “rejoice!”  That seem counter intuitive to me. But we are told the same in Matthew where it says “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven”. Our faith is more valuable than gold we are told. The choice of using gold as an illustration is deliberate because gold is tested and refined to reach higher and higher states of purity. Trials may indeed bring us to the end of ourselves however in doing so they may force us to depend on the Lord.

The faith that is developed will be rewarded, and the reward will be praise, honour, and glory at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We will stand before the Lord and hear that approval spoken out directly from the Lord Himself when he says, “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21; 1 Cor. 4:5). Pain endured now, produces approval and acclaim later. So that’s what Peter and James say, so what about Paul.

Paul says (Rom. 5: 2-4)

The Greek word translated “tribulations” in the KJV, or Suffering here in the NIV actually means “pressure” and is used figuratively of any distress, affliction, physical hardship, or sufferings. Today we would use the word “stress “, in a similar way. This sort of situation can be dangerous for us because it often provokes complaints, griping, and even grumblings against the Lord. It is not the trial itself that produces the perseverance it’s our reaction to it. It is the effect or our faith remaining firm through that trial which produces endurance.


Believers can rejoice in trials because they know that if they trust God and endure, they will grow to spiritual maturity today and receive glory in the future. James, Peter, and Paul are all saying the same in slightly different ways.

In his book Straight from the Gut, the autobiography of Jack Welch, one the 20th centuries richest and most successful industrialists he tells of growing up as a devoted Irish-Catholic. He was an altar boy, and, as an adult, his religion was so important to him that he was known to travel more than an hour to attend mass every Sunday. However, his commitment to faith changed the day his mother died of a heart attack. He writes, “I felt cheated, angry, and mad at God for taking my mother away.”  He claims still to believe in a God of sorts, but says he lost his heart for religion that day and no longer attends church. For him, his faith was not something that endured the trials of life.

On the other side of that same coin William Carey, often called the father of modern missions, faced a ministry disappointment of overwhelming proportions. In 1793, Carey began his missionary career in India. He laboured in that country for 40 continuous years, never once returning to his native England. Carey was a prodigious translator, translating portions of Scripture into over a dozen Indian languages. One afternoon after 20 years of working in that country, a fire raged through his printing plant and warehouse. All his printing equipment was destroyed, but most tragically, many of his precious manuscripts were completely consumed by the fire. Of course, Carey had no computer back-up files, no photocopies. Twenty years of nonstop work was gone within a few hours. How would he respond to this crushing devastation? Carey wrote to his pastor-friend, Andrew Murray, in England and said this:

The ground must be laboured over again, but I am not discouraged…. I have been supported under this affliction and preserved from discouragement. God has a sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases. We ought to acquiesce in all that God does with us and to us.”

20 years late he produced an even better translation of the scripture in the regional language.

There are two ways in which we may be brought to our knees before the lord, in this life It might be the mountaintop, or it might be the valley. On the mountaintop we might overwhelmed by God’s presence, and that’s a wonderful thing. In the valley we may feel overwhelmed by his absence. However, both places God may use to bring us to our knees. One, in utter awe, the other, in utter dependence, and both events can be a wonderful thing.  Either situation is OK if we remain faithful to Him.