Monday, February 02, 2015

“What You Get Is Not What You See”

First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"What You Get Is Not What You See"
For the week of February 7, 2015

Why Does God Permit Trials?
Sister Grant was distraught and frustrated. She could not understand why her life seemed to be a never ending "drama." It seemed like one crisis engendered another. She asked herself, "Why would God do this to me?" But of course, there was no answer. When she queried the pastor, his response was, "Those who are faithful to God will not see so many trials in their life; trials are a sign that God is not favoring you, which means that you are living in Sin." Disappointed, Sister Grant met with some supportive and prayerful co-workers. After sharing her story, she was surprised to discover that most of her colleagues seemed to be in a similar situation. However, not one of them could determine what they had done wrong. They were doing all of the things that their Pastors said they should do. They were faithfully attending church, tithing, returning offering and active in church programs. Why was God not blessing them?

The youngest in the group, Ms. Bradley, waited until all the other ladies finished speaking, and then asked them this question: "What do Job, most the prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles have in common?" They were all silent looking at her, suspecting that she had an answer. Ms. Bradley understood their silence so she continued, "They all suffered."  "Were they not faithful?" The ladies all looked at each other while murmuring possible answers to the question. After, a few moments, they all agreed and said, "Yes they were faithful." Ms. Bradley replied by asking, "Then, why did God allow them to suffer? Could it be that we have it all wrong? Why would God treat us any differently?"  The giants of faith suffered through trials (Hebrews 11). Yet, God favored them. This is an issue that all of humanity struggles with, "why do bad things happen to (allegedly) good people, and why does God permit suffering?"
[It turns out God uses trials for our good.] However, in order to answer the questions at hand, let us look at several sources to see what they have to say. To commence, let's read a statement from Ellen White:

It is for our present happiness and future good that God subjects us to trial. The greatest blessing that His wayward children have is the correction that He sends them. When called to pass through trials, we may know that thus God is striving to lead us to know Him and to place our trust in Him (ST, December 30, 1903 par. 1).
Trials are used of God to purify, correct, chasten, and demonstrate His love for us. (See Hebrews 12:6). Let's read a statement from Ellen White's Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, "The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace" (p.10).

This is perhaps why James has said regarding trials, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2 – 4, NKJV).  Peter has further admonished us in 1 Peter 1:6-7,
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:"

These verses tell us that suffering is not in vain, and that trials are neither random nor chaotic, but serve a divine purpose. One of the main functions of a trial is to produce genuine, pure faith in the followers of Christ, "without which it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). Stated in another way, trials teach us to depend on God to overcome temptation and to endure the pain and suffering that sin brings to us, until we receive the promise of the kingdom.

This does not mean that we should go around finding trials and needlessly suffering. This will come to us as a consequence of living, whether we look for it or not (Matthew 6: 24). We should, however consider one thing. As we read from James, trials produce patience that yields completeness in Christ.  The rich, young ruler, and Laodicea, were lacking something (Mark 10: 21; Revelation 3: 17).  Could it be that they refused to suffer?  It is the fool who rejects correction and hates the One who corrects (Proverbs 9: 8; 15: 5). We would do well to remember that even Christ was made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2: 10).

When the people of Israel were in the wilderness, God was with them. Yet, they were not exempt from trials. We all know how good and generous God was with them. But time and again, "…when brought into difficulty, they broke into rebellion, distrusted God, and complained that Moses had brought them and their children out of Egypt only that they might die of thirst in the wilderness" {RH, April 7, 1903 par. 2, 3}. Take the experience at Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7).  Ellen White says that,

It was by the express command of God that the children of Israel encamped at Rephidim. He knew of its lack of water, and He brought His people hither to test their faith. But how poorly they proved themselves to be a people whom He could trust! … The lesson is for us. Many think that in the Christian life they will find freedom from all difficulty. But everyone who takes up the cross to follow Jesus comes to a Rephidim in his experience. Life is not all made up of pleasant pastures and cooling streams. Trial and disappointment overtake us; privation comes; we are brought into trying places. Conscience-stricken, we reason that we must have walked far away from God, that if we had walked with Him, we should not have suffered so. Doubt and despondency crowd into our hearts, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. Why does He permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if He did, He would remove the difficulties from our path. Is the Lord with us, or not? (Ibid.)
The greatest difficulty in our path is self.  God designs our trials to remove self.  And, while we are in trials God does not abandon us. So, let us be comforted, Christ suffers with us. We are not alone. Christ is with us until the end (Matthew 28: 20). He is our sympathizing High Priest (Hebrews 4: 15). Be assured that God will not put us through anything we would not choose if we knew the end from the beginning (RH, March 7, 1912 par. 1).
-Raul Diaz