Trials of Life
The Scriptures tell us that God knows the hearts of men (I Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). If God knows whether we have chosen to follow him or to follow Satan, then what is the purpose of the trials that God may send our way?
First, consider who benefits from these tests. It is men who benefit from the trials. We may claim to believe, we may think we follow our Savior, but until we have to stand with Him in the face of trials, we cannot be sure of our faith. Peter thought he would never leave or deny Jesus (Luke 22:33), but when the terror of Jesus's arrest and trial actually came, Peter denied all knowledge of Jesus (Luke 22:59-62).
The offering of Isaac by Abraham, recorded in Genesis 22, was a test by God. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we learn that Abraham considered the command a sentence of death for Isaac. He fully intended to obey the command. It was Abraham's belief that since Isaac was the child of promise, God intended to raise Isaac from the dead. The Almighty God knew Abraham's faith without putting Abraham and Isaac through this pain, but would Abraham, Isaac, or anyone else be certain of the extent of Abraham's love for God and his full trust in God until Abraham raised the knife to carry out God's command? God may know, but we cannot look into the heart of a man. It is only by the actions that a man carries out that we can determine the faith of a man.
Similarly, God could have delivered the promised land to the Israelites without any work on the part of the Israelites. He could have sent a disease through the land and wiped out the entire population. After the disease ran its course, the Israelites could have walked in and settled into the empty cities. There would have been no risk of life while battling their enemies. However, God wanted each Israelites' faith tried. Each Israelite would know where the land came from and value their possession. It could not have been easy facing larger and better-equipped soldiers who were fighting to preserve their homes. Even if each Israelite believed God's promise, does that mean that he would survive this particular battle? Would they wonder if they would be destined to enjoy the promised land? In other words, if God just handed them the promised land, would they have known for sure where they stood and on whom they must depend?
Even simple things can be a test. For example, most of the religious world sees no necessity for baptism. Why should a person be dunked underwater when God already knows the condition of each man's heart? When we say we believe, is that not enough? However, consider this: Abraham had to act on his faith to show where he stood. Each Israelite had to face the enemy to let it be known where he had placed his faith. In the same way, we must act on our faith to perform what may seem to be an unnecessary act to receive salvation.
Abraham could have declared his faith in God from every housetop, but if he had failed to sacrificed his son, he would have shown that his faith was weak. We too may declare our faith in Jesus, but if we cannot perform the simple act of being baptized for the remission of our sins, then we too have shown the world that we have failed God's test.
Baptism is not the only test that a Christian must face. Each day, in many ways, the Christian must face daily battles against Satan and declare his faith in the Son by standing with Him. If an Israelite's faith failed in battle, he may have died physically. If a Christian's faith fails him, he may die spiritually. However, when a Christian passes the test, he is made stronger. Even a failure can show a Christian his true condition, his need to rely on God, and his need to grow stronger. If a Christian will ask for forgiveness and try again, God will make him stand (Jude 24). In this way, trials purify a Christian's life as fire purifies gold (I Peter 1:7).
Trials are never easy or enjoyable, but we need to view them as an opportunity to show where we stand before God (James 1:2-4). They are a chance to find out where we need more work in our life. Some of you reading this have not yet obeyed God's calling to become a part of his people. I don't know why you hesitate, but why don't you this day show your faith and stand with your God?