Trials - Do they prove you lack faith or help your faith become strong?
While the prosperity gospel teaches that faith will bring you health and wealth, the Scriptures tell a different story. The bible tells us that faith is more precious than gold and like gold must be refined in fire. In fact it says that faith will be proven genuine by suffering griefs and trials.
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials . 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Since the Scriptures teach that faith is proven genuine by trials does true faith really bring a life without trials? Does faith bring “a better life” with lots of money? Not according to God's Word. Think about it for a minute. How much faith does it take to believe in God when you are never poor, persecuted, or suffering? The truth is not very much. The time we need faith the most is when things are not going well, which is the very reason that faith during trials leads to maturity.
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We need trials to develop perseverance and perseverance works to make us mature and complete. Maturity requires trials. Trials then do not, as some claim, reveal a lack of faith. In fact we are supposed to build on our faith in the following manner. Note that perseverance is one of the things we must add to faith and remember that it takes trials to develop it.
2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance ; and to perseverance , godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
From this verse alone we know that faith is not something that will in and of itself gain us anything, health, wealth or otherwise. Faith is something that we must add to and build upon. First of all we need faith with goodness. Goodness here refers to “moral excellence” or “pleasing to God.” We must through faith alone believe in Christ but after we are saved we should be desiring to now please Him. Faith without seeking God's will rather than our own is not a mature faith.
To goodness we next add knowledge. Peter later tells us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18) and that is the knowledge referred to here. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is useful for training in righteousness and is what is necessary to be “thoroughly equipped.” Without increasing in the knowledge of the Lord through the study of the Word our faith will not grow and we will not become mature.
Next it says we must add to our knowledge self-control. We must ask ourselves; if we are hoping that our faith will lead us to a better life now, have we mastered self-control? Is it not godliness with contentment that we must seek? Paul warned Timothy against this very teaching:
1 Tim 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
We are to be content with having enough food and clothing. We must not try to use our godliness in order to get rich. That will, and has led men “into ruin and destruction.” Those teaching that godliness leads to financial gain have been “robbed of the truth.” In other words, they are teaching false doctrines and according to this passage such a person “understands nothing.” Instead we should seek contentment and self-control. Wanting more than we have and more than we need is not exercising “self-control.”
To self-control we add perseverance and as we have already discussed it is through suffering and trials that we develop perseverance. This is confirmed in Romans.
Rom 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance , character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
We must not only have to undergo sufferings we are told to “rejoice” in them and consider them “pure joy.” How can we rejoice in them if we are told they are due to our own lack of faith in God? We could not. According to Scripture the very opposite is true. Persevering by faith during trials is “evidence” that God is right and results in our being counted worthy, not unworthy, of His blessings.
2 Thess 1:4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
To perseverance we are to add godliness. It can not be our own form of godliness but must be the godliness that comes from the knowledge of the truth (Titus 1:1). As we have already shown, the love of money is not a form a godliness. We are to pursue righteousness and godliness, not be eager for money.
1 Tim 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness , faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Our godliness must come from the knowledge we have already built up through our study of God's Word. It does not come from seeking financial gain. When we have this true form of godliness, we must add to that brotherly-kindness and to that we add love. What do we know about love?
1 Cor 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
If we are wanting financial gain is that not self-seeking? Is it not boastful and proud to suggest that a person's financial status is a sign of their spiritual maturity? According to James, it is not the wealthy but the poor that are “rich in faith.”
James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
So, if we possess all these qualities; goodness; knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love we will be effective and productive. It takes trials and sufferings to produce these qualities and we are to consider those trials a pure joy and rejoice in them. If we truly seek godliness through contentment and self-control we will not be seeking the worldly form of prosperity. Those who do that are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten what the gospel was really all about.
2 Peter 1:8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
So the next time you hear a preacher tell you that you can have a “better life now” ask yourself what he means by that. If he means you will be wealthy remember these are the false teachers we are warned about in God's Word. They are “lovers of money” who have a “form of godliness” but deny its power. We are to have nothing to do with such men.
2 Tim 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money , boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
This does not mean that the Lord has led us to a life of destitution and that he does not want us to have anything of worth. He just wants us to discover what true wealth is.
Prov 3:13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, 14 for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies ; nothing you desire can compare with her