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 (A New Life in Christ)
Week 11: Overcoming Trials and Tribulations
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Week 11: Overcoming Trials and Tribulations

 

An upright and wealthy man had seven sons and three daughters. One day, out of the blue, some of his sons and daughters were kidnapped. As someone was coming to report this tragedy to the wealthy man, a fire erupted in the corporate skyscraper the man owned and used for all his business enterprises. The man watched as a blazing fire burned up all his most valuable business assets and killed many of his employees. Due to a technicality, the insurance company would later squirm out from covering the man’s losses. After the disastrous fire, someone called him up on his cell phone to tell him that the rest of his children were killed when a sudden tornado hit the house where a family gathering was taking place. The man is devastated by this sad turn of events in his life. His wife tells him, “Just curse God and die!” He refuses. Soon afterward, the man is inflicted with a skin disease that causes him to break out with puss-filled boils from head to toe. Later, some “friends” come to comfort the man by telling him to repent because he is a sinner who is just now being punished by God.

The Bible tells a similar story. The man who suffered these terrible things was called Job. After Job went through so many tragedies in such a brief period of time, he said, “My spirit is broken” (Job 17:1). Having your spirit broken is sort of like dying inside (Eccl 12:6). The emotional stress and anxiety that comes from human suffering can easily make us wish for death (1 Kgs 19:4). But as we go through life, there will be days when the emotional and physical trials of life seem too much for us to handle.

Everyone’s faith will go through tests. These tests will come in one form or another. Losing a loved one to death is a difficult thing to accept. Losing our sense of security because our finances are a mess and we’re neck-deep in debt is like living in a pressure cooker. Life won’t always be easy. Tests may come from places where we least expect it. For example, a brother in church that you have always respected may say or do something to hurt your feelings. You may be criticized when you try to serve God. But all these should not defeat us and make us lose faith. Jesus once said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). In this lesson, we shall study how to overcome the trials and tribulations that we encounter in this world.

Some Basic Principles

Don’t Be Surprised.

Sufferings come in many forms. Disasters. Loss. Persecution. Sicknesses. We as believers are not immune from the sufferings of this world. In fact, we are destined to suffer, especially for the sake of our faith (1Thess 3:3; Acts ; Mt 24:9; Jn -20). Therefore, Peter encouraged the believers who were scattered throughout the world, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1Pet ). With such a preparation, we will not be caught off guard when trials come to us.

Believers Benefit from Suffering.

As fire purifies gold, trials purify our faith so that our faith, “being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pet 1:7). While material comfort often makes us fall into spiritual slumber, trials discipline us and bring us closer to the Lord. Through trials, we develop Christ-like characters such as perseverance, patience, purity, and compassion. Not only so, when we suffer for the faith, we “partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1Pet ). God allows sufferings for our good. For those who love God, sufferings always have a good purpose. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor ). In view of the eternal glory that suffering is achieving for us, our trials become but light and momentary.

Cast Your Cares Upon the Lord.

Cast your burden on the Lord and as king David sang, “…He shall sustain you” (Ps 55:22). In difficult situations, we often forget that God is on our side. It’s easy to forget that God cares for us when we suffer because God is often the very one we blame our suffering on. Yet, we usually don’t realize how being able to feel pain, both physical and emotional pain, is actually a blessing. Although God doesn’t like to see us suffer, he allows suffering so that we may mature spiritually. Even then, we can always turn to him in our distress and cast on him all our cares because he cares for us (1 Pet 5:7). Not only does he sympathize with us, he provides us with the strength we need (1Pet ). Realizing how great the Lord’s love is, Paul claimed victory over trials of all kinds. God, who loves us so much as to give us his own Son, will be our constant help in trouble. Therefore, no suffering, however great, can ever separate us from the love of God (Rom -39).

Let Go And Move On.

When we face a difficult situation, we tend to tense up, get worried, and become depressed. Often, sorrow and anxiety sap our spirit to carry on. The wise king Solomon once said, “Banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body…” (Eccl NIV). This verse refers to both mental and physical trials. In trials, we need to learn how to let go and move on. We have to learn how to let go and move on because if we don’t our life, both secular and spiritual, comes to a standstill. A stagnant life, like a stagnant faith, is weighed down and essentially worthless (Prov ).

Light at the End of the Tunnel.

There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel for God’s faithful people. Faith and trust in God are the keys to mending a broken heart (Ps 28:7). He is a steady source of comfort and strength. The prophet Jeremiah once wrote about God’s heart towards his suffering people, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope…And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart” (Jer 29:11-13).

Suggested Guidelines

Respond to Discipline.

The first thing to do when meeting with difficulties in life is to consider what we can learn from the suffering. Perhaps we have shortcomings that we need to improve on. We may have drifted far from God without realizing it. Our afflictions may also be due to our wrongdoings. When we see where we fall short, we should correct ourselves and ask for forgiveness. Even if we have done no wrong, trials help us grow and reach spiritual maturity. If we respond to the Lord’s discipline with gratitude, we will “yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:4-13).

Take Your Weakness As Your Strength.

Sometimes trials are physical as well as emotional. Despite our fervent prayers for healing, God may not always heal us physically like we’d hope he would. We have to learn to humbly accept God’s will. We have to learn how to embrace our human weakness before we can become strong in the Lord. The apostle Paul had a physical ailment he called a “thorn in his flesh” and a “messenger of Satan to beat me.” Physical afflictions are a way to beat our self-will down and humble us. We often need to be physically “beaten” and tried by illness before we can develop humility and trust in our character. So physical affliction is one of God’s tools to develop our character and faith—a tool every disciple should be aware of. We must learn Paul’s lesson. When he prayed for the thorn to be taken away from him, God didn’t seem to be listening at first. But later Paul would learn that God had this to tell him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). It’s a hard lesson to learn, understand, and accept, but we must learn that it’s only when we’re weak that God can work through us effectively. When we can finally embrace our human weakness and rely on God’s strength to overcome our trials and tribulations, God’s strength becomes our strength.

Seek Others And Don’t Isolate Yourself.

Trials often mean suffering, and, in suffering, you will often feel as if you’re waging a lonely battle. But emotional struggles don’t have to be lonesome one-person affairs. The Bible says, “Two are better than one…And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:9-12). It’s harder for outside circumstances to break your spirit if you have other peoples’ emotional support to help you through difficult times.

Encourage Others With Good Words and A Cheerful Face.

Unless you have an extremely sad and difficult life, you won’t always be broken-hearted. One day your broken heart will heal. At that time, you may even be able to help someone through their difficulties. It is written, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Prov ). In the same way, a dreary face can depress, while a cheerful face can uplift (Prov ). Encourage others with good words and a cheerful face. By doing so, you just may lighten up your own day in the process.

Write down other guidelines that have worked for you.

Write down new ideas that could work for you.

Questions

1.      If you become a Christian, you will not experience suffering for the rest of your life. T/F

2.      Memorize John 16:33 and write it down.

3.      When we face an emotionally difficult time of suffering or trials, we should not just keep thinking about how bad our life is. T/F

4.      When we are in suffering, we should isolate ourselves and try to work things out alone. T/F

5.      When we suffer, it means that God longer cares about us. T/F.

6.      List at least 3 principles that will help you to overcome trials and tribulations.

7.      How is it possible that a sorrowful person can bring himself or herself to cheer up another person?

8.      Why was Paul able to say that nothing could ever separate him from the love of God? (see Rom 8:28-39)

9.      Go back to 2 Cor 12:9. What did God tell Paul?

10.  Study Psalm 55:22. Do you have a testimony to share? Write it down.

Case studies

1.      Barbie was brought to the church by Nancy. Nancy always patiently answered her questions when she had doubts. Nancy fasted and prayed for her until she finally received the Holy Spirit. Nancy also helped her financially when she was in debt. Barbie was deeply moved by Nancy’s Christian love, and decided to be baptized. After believing in the Lord, Barbie became a very fervent sister. She studied the Bible diligently and prayed earnestly. With such a progress in her faith, she was soon assigned to teach the Elementary class at church. One day, as she walked down the hallway, she heard two sisters talking in a room. “Barbie is a good sister, but I don’t think she should become an RE teacher so soon. I mean, she is still a spiritual baby.” Barbie stopped and listened. She couldn’t believe her ears. The voice was Nancy’s! She was deeply hurt. She resigned from her work as RE teacher and stopped coming to church. “Now I know that all church-goers are hypocrites!” She resented Nancy and vowed never to see her face again.

What went wrong in Barbie’s faith? If you were Barbie, how should you overcome this feeling of hurt?

2.      Brian and his family were recently baptized into the church. They have been fervent believers for many years now. One day, however, Brian goes in for his medical checkup and discovers that he has prostate cancer. Brian, who is a father of three children and has a lovely wife, is emotionally devastated by the shocking news. Brian, who feels the news is as good as a death sentence, goes through a stage of serious depression. He begins to blame God for his misfortune and cannot come to accept the reality of his illness. He decides that he and his whole family will never again step into a church or worship God anymore. Without any peace in his heart, Brian is prone to raging around his house. He left his job and often breaks things in his house. While his wife and children understand why Brian is so upset, they don’t know how to help him. If you were one of Brian’s close friends at church before, and Brian’s wife and children come to you for help, what would you do?

Activity

1.      From your observations of trials you face in your everyday life, make a list that you can evaluate on a Biblical/spiritual basis. Write down an action that creates some emotional turmoil in your life. What emotion or emotions does it evoke? Write a short description how you think you deal with the emotional turmoil the action causes in your life. An example has been done for you. Don’t forget to examine the way you deal with the emotion(s) evoked by the action.

Action

My parents scream and yell at me all the time.

Emotion(s) Evoked

It makes me feel angry and sad at the same time.

How do I deal with it?

Sometimes, I yell back at them. Other times, I keep quiet and then take it out on my friends later.

 

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Publisher: True Jesus Church
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