Fortunately God does not ask us how or when we want to grow. He is the master teacher, training us when and how He deems best. He is, in the words of Jesus, the Gardener who prunes the branches of His vineyard. The healthy vine requires both nourishment and pruning. Through the Word of God we are nourished (Psalm 1:2-3), but through adversity we are pruned. Both the Hebrew and Greek languages express discipline and teaching by the same word. God intends that we grow through the disciplines of adversity as well as through instruction from His Word. The psalmist joins adversity and instruction together in God’s training process when he says, “Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law” (Psalm 94:12).
God is at work in each of His children, regardless of how aware of it we may be. One of the most encouraging passages in the Bible is Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God is at work in us, and He will not fail to carry on to completion that which He has begun. He will “work in us what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:21).
Horatius Bonar, a nineteenth century Scottish pastor, wrote, “He who is carrying it on is not one who can be baffled and forced to give up His design. He is able to carry it out in the unlikeliest circumstances and against the most resolute resistance. Everything must give way before Him. This thought is, I confess, to me one of the most comforting connected with the discipline. If it could fail! If God could be frustrated in His designs after we have suffered so much, it would be awful!”
But God cannot be frustrated. He will carry on to completion that which He has begun. As Bona also wrote, “God’s treatment must succeed. It cannot miscarry or be frustrated even in its most arduous efforts, even in reference to its minutest objects. It is the mighty power of God that is at work within us and upon us, and this is our consolation…All is love, all is wisdom, and all is faithfulness, yet all is also power.”
That God cannot fail in His purpose for adversity in our lives, that He will accomplish that which He intends, is a great encouragement to me. Sometimes I do fail to respond to difficulties in a God honouring way. But my failure does not mean God has failed. Even my painfully sharp awareness of failure may be used of God, for example, to help me grow in humility. And perhaps that was God’s intention all along.
God knows what He is doing. Again in the words of Bonar, “He knows exactly what we need and how to supply it…His training is no random work. It is carried on with exquisite skill.” God knows us better than we know ourselves. What we think may be our greatest need may not be at all. But God unerringly knows where we need to grow. He carries on His work with a skill that far exceeds that of the most expert physician. He correctly diagnoses our need and applies the most sure remedy.
Every adversity that comes across our path, whether large or small is intended to help us grow in some way. If it were not beneficial, God would not allow it or send it, “For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men” (Lamentation 3:33). God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.
God never intended for us or made provision for us to stop in our spiritual growth. God’s purpose for us is that we grow and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives to reflect more of Him and less of us. Sometimes we become complacent in our spiritual growth. We feel that we have reached a place in our walk with God that we no longer have a need to grow or go any deeper in our walk with God. God will allow adversity to come into our lives to move us forward in our walk with Him and cause us to grow. How we respond to our trials will either make us or break us. If we will submit ourselves to God during times of adversity we will discover something about our God and ourselves.
God has a purpose for every trial that comes into your life. Nothing happens to you without God’s approval or purpose. God has the power to work things out to your good. Regardless of the circumstances you are facing God can make all things work to your good and to your benefit. God’s perspective is not the same as yours. God sees the purpose and outcome of your trial. All you and I see is the pain and the problem. God sees the future while all you and I see is the present. God’s promises His presence in the time of your trial. God will never leave you nor forsake you.
We will discover what our view of God really is. We will discover what our weaknesses and our strengths are. We will discover what our priorities really are. God’s command or my comfort. God is going to have a people that have been tried and proven. God is going to have a people who have learned to grow through adversity. God is going to have a people that are willing to change in order to become more like Jesus in their lives. God tests us to bring out the best in us. Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea (SWIM)