Most of us in our daily lives encounter trials at some point or other. Some are what we would call trivial in our experience, but that may be to us personally. We may just brush them off as some small obstacle that got in our way on a particular day; we deal with them and carry on. But to another person, those somewhat ‘trivial’ obstacles can become ‘giants in the land’ to deal with and last hours, or even days. It would be fair to say that many of us don’t really know how to deal with trials. Oh yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but as we face them, many of us struggle. How should the Christian respond to trials and the different emergences of life? How we respond as children of God should be very different to those who don’t know Him.
When we talk about trials, it is about the different situations that life brings across our path. It may be a health issue, perhaps some disease that you face, or that someone close to you faces. It could be in the form of a financial crisis, where you have about come to the end of the road with no way out, perhaps facing the selling of assets. It could be a family crisis, where death has struck at the home, or children are creating turbulence in the family nest; or it may be a smaller trial like a car breaking down on the road. It can be any conflict that takes us right out of our comfort zone and faces us which we have to deal with – a trial that tries our faith in God.
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
What does it mean to be careful? It means to be full of care. It could also mean be worried for nothing, or concerned for nothing, or anxious for nothing. Now is Paul saying as Christians we should just not care about things? That we should never be worried about the future, never concerned?
We have similar counsel in Matthew. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on...”
A surface reading of this text may appear that we should never have any concern. We arrive home and say to the wife, “My employer laid me off today,” and go off and enjoy the day and a few weeks later, the wife asks, “What’s the plan?” And our response is, “Well I don’t have a plan, because the Bible says ‘be careful for nothing.’” “Well what are we going to do?” “I don’t care, because the Bible says be careful for nothing.”
That’s not what the Bible is teaching here. Let us take a closer look to better understand what God is saying to us in verse 25 and verse 34. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on...Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself...”
Just like Paul writing to the Philippians, Jesus says don’t worry about food and drink and what you are going to put on. If tragedy strikes and we lose our home in a disaster and are left homeless, do we just sit on a block of our broken home and keep sitting there waiting for some miracle to happen with our children destitute and a broken wife?
Is doing something about it somehow a lack of faith, or is it contrary to the counsel of Jesus and Paul to be careful for nothing or take no thought?
Sometimes Delivered / Sometimes Not
As we consider some Biblical examples, we find varied responses from God to the needs of mankind facing trials.
We’re going to take a few stories in the Bible that illustrate how exactly we are to respond. A well known story is found in Daniel 3. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were to be reduced to ashes for daring to stand against bowing to Nebuchadnezzar’s great golden image. In Daniel 6 we find Daniel banished to the lions den for daring to continue worship to his God. These men did everything right and saw the mighty hand of deliverance literally fulfilled before their eyes. We well know the outcome of these two stories. An angel came to stop those lions’ mouths and Christ Himself set those boys free in the furnace. They were very much at the centre of God’s will and rested on God’s providence to see them through, and God did see fit to perform tangible, immediate miracles. We have taught, and still continue to teach our children of the wonderful deliverance in these stories – but we need to be careful that we don’t come to expect that God will just perform miracles of deliverance for us when we face difficulty and trial.
Upon further reading, the Bible does not teach that every trial and crisis finishes where everyone ‘lives happily ever after’ with miraculous deliveries.
We have the example of John the Baptist. John was faithful to his calling. His ministry was successful and right in accordance to God’s will. He didn’t do anything wrong, or go outside God’s will for his life or become unfaithful. But he was penalised for his faithfulness and put in prison. John expected to be delivered and as the weeks went by, his faith was tested and tried. He even sent some of his disciples to check whether Jesus, whom he had put full confidence in and even baptised, was the Christ. But God saw fit not to deliver John and he died lonely and apparently forsaken by God and man. It was certainly not the case in heaven’s eyes. Jesus made it very clear there was no man greater, born among women. John the Baptist died in Jesus, and he is awaiting the resurrection. John was as much at the centre of God’s will as was Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel, but God saw to deal differently in John’s case.
Stephen was stoned. He was definitely at the centre of God’s will. God could have delivered him. God could have intervened, as He has intervened so many times, but Stephen died a martyrs death. So it is not always that God will intervene with a display of physical miracles every time His people face trials. But it also doesn’t mean He is any further away from His children just because we can’t see His personal being, or the results of His power.
Facing Our Own Trials
Coming closer to home now, perhaps we have been practising the health message faithfully and we become sick and the sickness is unto death, do we have assurance that God is going to heal us? We cannot just presume that is the will of God, but we also cannot start to doubt and say, “Have I done the right thing. Have I been following the Lord. Have I really been taking the right position, because look what’s happening to me?” Perhaps the questions to really ask are of a different calibre. “Has this come upon me because I have brought it upon myself, by compromising my diet and health standards against counsel I know well, or have I been honestly progressing to the best of my knowledge, doing the right thing in God’s eyes?”
Now that we have explained the situations, we have to deal with them. Do I do nothing and wait for God to perform, or do I do all I can and more besides? This is where we can fall into two extremes. We will always have the individuals that rely too much on God to the point where they fail to do things that are within their reach, and we call that presumption - when we want God to do for us that which we can do for ourselves. And then we have another extreme, those who are so used to fixing their own problems, that they will exhaust every resource they can use humanly to fix the problem, and then will still lose sleep over it. They don’t know how to turn it over to God. They don’t understand where their part ends and God’s part in solving the problem begins. And so they fail to sleep, they are worried, they can become sick because their mind is constantly dwelling upon the problem. Here is worthy counsel, “Cast ye all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” ~1 Peter 5:7. But some just don’t know how to cast their care upon Jesus.
Let’s look at another Biblical example and find out how Peter handled a situation that was very trying for him. In Acts 12 we find Herod was very angry with Christians and he was out to shed blood. “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”
What a sad ending of one of the faithful apostles. This was one of the three that were very much a part of Jesus’ inner circle. We are not given a lot of detail of his death, but again, we find that God did not intervene. James died a martyrs death, there nothing recorded against him and as far as we can ascertain, he was at the centre of God’s will, but he died.
Further we read, “And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.” Let’s look and learn about how Peter reacted and how Peter dealt with this crisis.
“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” ~Acts 12:5. Here Peter finds himself locked up. He is fully aware James has died and he will be next on Herod’s hit list. Peter has two questions to answer. Am I here because I have brought this upon myself, or am I here because I am at the centre of God’s will? Only Peter can answer those two questions, just as we ourselves have to answer, because we all have our individual consciences to deal with, based on our previous studies.
So here is Peter, “... put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him...” In Peter’s case, how much human effort could really be put forth? How much could he really do? Yes, he could certainly pray to add to the prayers of the whole church. But in reality, what could he physically do? Pretty much nothing. What do we find Peter doing when all human resources have been exhausted? “The same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers.” There are times, as was with Peter in this situation, when every human resource is exhausted.
Resting in Faith
Bringing it closer to home, you’re out on the road and the GPS malfunctions, no mobile phone coverage, it’s the middle of the night, the car breaks down, there isn’t anyone in sight, you’ve opened the bonnet trying to find a cause. You’ve done everything you can to ascertain the problem and you find no solution, now what do you do? You rest in Christ and ‘go to sleep!’ Staying up all night, thinking about the problem, worrying about the problem will not bring about a solution. Every human resource has been exhausted. When that is the case, what should we do? We rest on the providence of God and we sleep. In fact in Peter’s example, he slept so well that when the angel came to wake him, verse 7 records that he had to smite him on his side. That’s the peace and rest that was Peter’s that night. Trouble? Yes, Peter was definitely in trouble. He was about to come before the law courts the following day, and even to lose his life, but here he is, the night before, sound asleep.
If you read the commentary on Acts of the Apostles, it says Peter was sleeping ‘the perfect sleep’ ~Acts of the Apostles, p146. In other words, Peter understood, “Lord I’m here because I’m at the centre of your will. You’ve allowed it, I don’t know why. James died, so I don’t know if I am going to come out of this alive, but I know I can be at peace because the situation is in your hands.” Think about faith from that perspective. Faith is not so much about being sure that God’s going to deliver you, but it is in believing that God is in control no matter what the outcome is. He will do what is best, not only for me, but for everyone that is involved in this situation, and then resting in that promise – that’s faith. Faith is believing that God loves us and knows what is best for us and resting in Him.
Peter didn’t know the angel was coming, because the angel didn’t come for James. James died. But in Peter’s case, the angel did come and deliver. That was God’s will. It was within His plan, but it’s not always the case.
“The Devil Made Me Do It”
Sometimes we can fall on hard times, perhaps a financial crisis for example and blame it all on the devil, or we can blame it on the Great Controversy, but in reality it can be because we have been irresponsible with our own finances. Or we could use the example of sickness. We come down with some disease and oh, how quick we can say “the devil’s out to get me, the devil’s attacking my body,” but in reality, we have been transgressing the laws of health. So let’s not always blame a crisis on the devil. Sometimes we need to take responsibility. There are times when we are in a crisis and it’s because it is of our own doing, we have brought it upon ourselves.
That does not mean that God will not be with us to help us through our crisis. But it also does not mean that God will bring about a solution, He may or He may not. Sometimes He will allow the natural course to run so we learn lessons, but if the case is that we have brought it upon ourselves, if we do expect God to help us, we first need to acknowledge where we have failed, where we have strayed, or by helping us, God is not really in fact helping us. He wants us to learn lessons from our mistakes. So there are trials that come upon us as a result of our own mistakes, our own irresponsible course and we need to acknowledge our mistakes to God and allow Him to take over and help us through, resting on His principles and promises.
Just like it was with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter here was at the centre of God’s will but yet he still found himself in a major crisis. This situation certainly would not seem a place to be relaxed in a sweet ‘perfect’ sleep. With knowledge of his fate the next day, bound between two soldiers by chains and more keepers before the door - Peter was sleeping.
Now we have an example in the Bible in Genesis 12 of a man that did not rest. “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.” ~Genesis 12:10. So here is the first crisis, a famine in the land. To Abram, it could seem ridiculous. God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan and then there is a famine. Abram could ask? “Lord am I here because I wanted to be here. Did I get myself into this mess, or did you call me here, am I at the centre of your will?”
Did God call Abram to the land of Canaan? Yes. So was Abram at the centre of God’s will? Yes. So was Abram in the crisis because he was irresponsible? No. What did he do? He acted and did very well - at least initially. He worked on a solution to feed his wife and extended family and livestock, he went down to Egypt. God doesn’t expect us to just sit back, fold our arms and wait for an angel to come and resolve the problem. He has given us a mind to think, reasoning powers, hands with which to work and resources within our reach with to do something about it. So what’s the problem? It wasn’t so much that he wasn’t doing something about it, but Abram, when he had exhausted every resource took matters into his own hands, when really he came to the point where he needed to turn it over to the Lord.
Now Abram finds himself in another crisis? When Abraham sought a solution by going down to Egypt, he was doing exactly what God would have him do. Nothing wrong with that. Food was scarce in the land of Canaan and so he took his family to Egypt. Perfectly acceptable. Why is it that when Abram got to Egypt and is now facing his second crisis, that God disapproves?
“And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.”
Here is where Abram falls away from God’s favour. He is working so hard to find his own solutions that he begins using resources that God has never approved – lying. It didn’t go well for Abram in Egypt when he used his own methods to work things out.
When we use tools as resources that are directly in conflict with God’s principles, that’s when we have gone too far in finding a solution. So when do we rest and turn it over to God? When we have done everything we can do within our reach that God can actually sanction, then we turn it over to God. When we get to the position when we actually break His commandments to get ourselves out of the crisis, that’s where God says, “Okay, you’ve done enough, now you just rest, now you just wait, now you just trust.” And that is what the people of God are going to face in the final hours of earth’s history. It will be tough in the last days, severe trials will come upon us, and we must do all we can for ourselves, but when the law of the land crosses over the law of God, we have to take our hands off and let God take over – rest in His love and promises.
There is no guarantee that God is going to operate miracles and deliver us in the times ahead. There will be martyrs, there will be hunger, even amongst God’s faithful people. We have to keep in mind the stories of the Bible where deliverance was not granted, like that of John the Baptist, James the brother of John, and Stephen. Because if we come into the final hours of earth’s history with false expectations: expecting God to do for us what He did for Daniel and his three friends, we may be tempted, when things get really tight, to do like Abraham – become discouraged and compromise principle to change things to what we feel will be better.
For Our Learning
We have learned from this article that we should never worry, we should never be careful or anxious for anything, but that does not mean we do not do our part. When we do our part, we don’t use resources that will lead us to break one of God’s commandments, or compromise one of His principles.
We’ve also learned that when we are in a crisis, we must ascertain whether or not we are in that crisis because we have been irresponsible, we’ve brought it upon ourselves, or is it because we are at the centre of God’s will. In either case God is willing to work with us and for us even if the problem is related to our own bad choices. But before God can help us we must acknowledge our fall and total dependence upon Him. If we are in a crisis, a health issue, or some type of disease; there may be cases where God will heal and intervene, but He also knows the best for us and we leave that judgment in His hands.
I personally found this message gave me many answers in dealing and handling with the struggles in my life, and this is only part one of three. I pray this message may help every one of you too. May this enthuse each one of you to watch parts two and three to enhance your Christian journey.
Be of good cheer dear friends, Jesus has overcome the world - and so can we, if we remain at the centre of His will.
Based on ‘How to Meet a Crisis’ Part 1 by Diego Silva presented at North Island Summer Camp.