Facing trials of various kinds


[‘encouragement’, ‘exhortation’, for life and ministry]

January 2023

Peter Adam


Dear friends,

We all face ‘trials of various kinds’, and different trials at different times in our lives. These include personal trials, trials suffered by family and friends, the general trials of living in our place and time, the trials of being a believer in Christ, and the trials of our ministry.

We may face immediate and great trials. We may face the constant long-term trials which drain our energy, reduce our expectations, and remove our joy.

Our own lives are a test of faith: but so is all love, and ministry, evangelism, and prayer. Doing any ministry means a further test of faith, for in any ministry or prayer we have to trust that God is able to change people and situations, and that God wants to use us, our prayers, our lives and our words to achieve his good purposes.

We need a deeper faith to face deeper trials, when we face great adversity, when we suffer, when others we love and care for are in trouble, when Christians are sinful, when our church has lost its way, when believers fall away, when our society seems to be going from bad to worse, and when there are seemingly insurmountable sins and problems facing humanity and our world. The more responsibility we have, the greater our trials, and the more faith we need. The more we suffer, the more we love people, the more we need a deeper trust in God.

For Paul, ministry itself is hard work, hard labour, a constant struggle: ‘I want you to know how hard I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea …’ [Col 2:1 NIV11]. He suffers persecution from outsiders, and he suffers rejection, disloyalty, and hatred from those who are in the church, including those he has served. He suffers from incidental events in his ministry, including being without food, and shipwrecks! [2 Cor 6:3-10, 11:23-33, 2 Tim 1:15. 3:10-11].

The more we fill our minds, our prayers, and our ministries with hope that God will indeed fulfill his great global gospel plan, the deeper faith we need in the power of God.

God uses trials to test our faith for our growth and our good and for his glory.

… now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed [1 Pet 1:6,7].  

Or again,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything [Jas 1:2-4].

Our trials show us that we need a deeper trust in God, and our trials are the means God uses to deepen our trust in him, to grow us in perseverance, and to prove the genuineness of our faith to others, to ourselves and to him.

What are some destructive responses to trials?

  • We panic when things go wrong, or when good things don’t happen.
  • We don’t pray.
  • We cut back our expectations about life, and people, and ministry, and evangelism, and God’s global gospel plan, and everything. Cynicism is how we protect ourselves from the pangs of disappointment.
  • We limit the range of what we pray for, so we are less likely to be disappointed.
  • We blame others: or we blame ourselves.
  • We may continue with formal faith in God, but lose our trust in him.

When we find our faith is tested, we may respond by deciding to trust God more, and asking God to help us to trust him more. Both these are worth doing, and it is better to do both than just one of them!

But if you need a deeper trust in God in every area of your life, or because of a particular trial or the long accumulation of trials, you may find it helpful to tackle the issue more deeply, by using a wider range of resources.

You could use this program every day in your prayers; or you could use it once a week; or you could use it for an intensive time of prayer at regular intervals, alone or with others. Use it as long as you need to!

1. Read the Bible!

Read Bible passages which remind you that God is a great and mighty king, that he rules his creation in power, glory, love, and compassion, that nothing in the universe happens outside his control, that he holds all things together in Christ; that he will achieve his great global gospel plan, that Christ will build his church, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe, that God grows our faith by testing it, that he works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose, and that he will bring all things together under Christ his Son. Read the accounts of faith in the midst of trial, including in the Old Testament, the Gospels, Acts, the life of Paul, Hebrews 11 and the book of Revelation.

2. Confess your sins!

Reflect on the possibility that you have been one of the causes of your trial, or that you have sinned in response to the trial, or that your sinful response has intensified the trial or contributed to its continuation. It may be that you have not sinned in this way, but it is wise to consider this possibility. Unconfessed sins, especially unconfessed habitual sins, weaken our resolve and success in changing our deepest reactions. Confess your sin of general unbelief, and also your habitual areas of unbelief, and your recent specific sins of unbelief and the bad effects of these in your life and ministry. Receive God’s forgiveness for general tendencies and specific sins.

3. Lament and pour out your heart to God in grief!

Lament the present sin, suffering, injustice, vulnerability, fragility, frustration and ineffectiveness of the world and the church, and in your own life and the lives of people you love. Express your deep sadness and sorrow about this, without taking on responsibility for all of it!

4. Remind yourself of the eternal rewards given by God to those who suffer now for his sake.

We need to grow our awareness of the Biblical contrast between our life in this age, and our life in the age to come, when Christ returns. Our neglect of our glorious future leads to despondency about our present sufferings and trials.

Paul writes,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal [2 Cor 4:16-18].

5. Praise and thank God!

  • Praise and thank God for who he is, for the greatness of his power, glory, compassion, love, and care for his creation and especially for his people.
  • Praise and thank him that our trials of life and of faith are a sign of his love, and the means he uses to grow and strengthen our faith. [Meditate on Phil 1:29,30, 1 Thess 1:4-10, Heb 12:4-13, Jas 1:2-5].
  • Praise and thank him that suffering now in Christ’s service and for his sake brings future joy and glory. [Meditate on Mark 10:29-30, 2 Tim 2:11-13, 4:6-8, 1 Pet 1:6,7].
  • Praise him that he honours those who suffer for him [Meditate on 1 Pet 4:12-14, Rev 2:8-11].
  • Praise him that he uses suffering to achieve his gospel purposes in the church and in the world. [Meditate on John 12:23-26, Acts 9:15,16, 2 Cor 6:3-10,11:16-29, Col 1:24,25, 2 Tim 1:8].
  • Praise him that our weakness is made perfect in the power of Christ, so that we can boast in our weaknesses. Christ said to Paul, ‘”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me’ [2 Cor 12:9].
  • Praise him that all things work together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose, and that this includes using the malicious actions of others for good. [Meditate on Rom 8: 28-39, and Gen 50:20].
  • Praise him that his boast about his servant Job was justified: even if Job doubted God in the midst of his sufferings, God did not doubt Job! [God boasts about Job’s faithfulness in 1:8 and 2:3, and affirms Job in 42:7,8,10,12].
  • Praise and thank him that he loves to forgive us our sins, to cleanse us from them, and to protect us from Satan and his accusations and tricks. Praise him for the wonderful and powerful atoning death and resurrection and ascension of his Son, and for the promise of his return.
  • Praise and thank him that he is a trustworthy God, faithful to his covenant promises in Christ, and that all his promises find their ‘Yes’ in Christ [2 Cor 1:20].
  • Praise him that one day he will bring all things to unity under Christ [Ephes 1:10].

6. Tell God that you trust him and resolve to trust him.

All our negative responses in times of trial are fundamentally the result of our weakness in trusting God. Telling God that you do trust him affirms your good relationship with God, honours God, and strengthens you to trust him.

‘Into your hands I commit my Spirit’ … ‘I trust in you, O God, I say, “You are my God”. My times {circumstances} are in your hands’ [Psalm 31:5a,14,15a.]

Follow Jesus, who when he was suffering unjustly, ‘entrusted himself to [God] who judges justly’ [1 Pet 2:23′.

Resolve to trust him more and more, as a general habit of life, and also to trust him in the particular areas of life and love and ministry where you find it hard to do so. Tell him that you resolve to trust him.

7. Ask God to help you trust him!

Ask him to help you trust him more and more, to shape you so that trusting him becomes habitual, and to keep turning away from other ungodly and so unsatisfactory responses. Name those responses to God, and ask him to stop you doing them. ‘I believe, help my unbelief’ [Mark 9:24].

8. Ask others to pray for you!

We need to learn to trust others enough to ask for their help, and to trust God that he will use their prayers in strengthening our trust in him. Make yourself accountable to them, and encourage them by telling them how God is answering their prayers.

9. Fix your eyes on Jesus! Consider him!

For he is the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart [Heb 12:2-3].

10. Pray for the people causing your trials, and for those who are suffering greater trials that you are.

Pray for those who are persecuting you, or causing you trouble or distress, accidently or intentionally. Pray that God would have mercy on them, bring unbelievers to faith in Christ, and bring believers to repentance and/or changes in attitude and actions. Pray that God would bless them. [Meditate on Matt 5:43-48, Rom 14:14-21, Phil 1:29,30]

Pray for believers who are suffering in their daily lives more than you have ever suffered, for those who have lost family or jobs because they are Christians, and for those facing death for the sake of Christ.

You may also find these resources on this topic helpful.

With warmest good wishes and prayers for you amid the many complexities and demands of life and ministry,