Few christians go through the whole of their christian lives without experiencing a time of trouble. Some, like our beloved brethren in foreign countries where it is forbidden to practice christianity, have never known a time of peace and freedom from danger. Some who have enjoyed years of blessing under the hand of God are suddenly hit by a time of trouble. So it was with Job who lost all his wealth and family in one day; then was struck down with a most unpleasant and painful disease. The day of trouble came to him ‘out of blue’. Some christians are persecuted just for being what they are. The Lord Himself made the matter clear, “Offences must come” (Matthew 18:7). The reference is to the hurt and injury that comes to the christian, from the unbelieving world, simply because he or she is a christian, . The world resents the christian simply because they dare to be different from themselves. The great Samuel Rutherford who experienced much persecution in Covenanting times, writes to comfort a friend who was finding the persecution difficult to cope with, and he tells her how unfriendly dogs often bark at strangers, but not at those they know. In the same way the world barks at those they see as ‘strangers’ in their midst. We should not be surprised when the world is offended even by our presence.
Why does the Lord allow christians to suffer for their faith? When the Lord says, ‘offences must come’, why does He use the word, ‘must’? Does He really mean that trials and afflictions are a ‘must’ in the christian life? Yes, that is exactly what He means. Why is this so? It is that even after a person is saved, and has experienced the great changes that accompany being saved, such as changes in inclinations, enjoyments, tastes, company, entertainments, and so on, God has further work to do on and in the christian, before they leave this world to enjoy the pleasures of heaven with Christ forevermore. This work is what we call ‘sanctification’. It is best described to us in the words of scripture: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom [be] glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21). The important words to notice and to learn by heart if possible are the words, “working in you what is well pleasing in His sight”. Notice particularly the phrase, “in His sight”. Let me explain.
We all have our own dreams of what kind of people we want to be, but God will almost certainly have different plans for us as christians. This is not an easy thing to accept. We are proud creatures by nature, and God’s plan for is will always involve a process of being humbled, and that is, being made more like Christ, who, “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”. Satan will come to you with his wicked whispers: ‘Don’t spoil you life, you can be a christian and still enjoy all the things of this world’. That is a lie that will never give you happiness. Far better to believe Christ, who says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” ( John 16:33). My dear friend, be of good cheer, and surrender to God’s plan for your life, especially in your day of trouble.