Have you ever been through any trials in your life? Sure, we all have. Oftentimes we think the trials we face may be due to something we are doing wrong; that God is trying to show us correction or discipline us. The examples of people and even nations in the Bible having to be brought low before they receive correction are extensive. But the nature of trials is not so cut and dry.
Perhaps the clearest example of this is with Paul. Acts 7:58-Acts 8:3 shows Paul before his conversion actually holding the cloaks for those who stoned Stephen to martyrdom. Paul was energetically persecuting the Church of God for years after this going from town to down and dragging believers in Messiah back to Jerusalem to be jailed and punished for their faith. Paul had to be stricken blind and visited by the risen Yeshua in order for him to be converted. He had to be brought incredibly low before he, an incredibly educated Jew and Roman citizen, could admit his errors and convert.
However, being brought low was just the beginning. Paul had to publicly and repeatedly repent. He had to prove to the brethren that he was no longer a threat. Surely they must have been scared to be in the same room as the guy who delivered so many to the Jews. Then Paul had to go on to be punished in the same manner that he punished others. Beaten, whipped, stoned and left for dead. But the lesson was not just for Paul! It was for the brethren as well. They had to trust Yahweh and the Spirit to believe that they would be protected and they had to forgive the very man that had persecuted them. This is a very hard thing to do my friends. Forgiving and trusting someone who has a history of violence or destructive behavior is one of the hardest psychological hurdles for people to cross despite Yeshua telling us we must do so 7 X 70 times.
It’s also very easy to see other people’s trials as punishment by God. This is a trap that has existed for a very long time. When we see people begging on the side of the road for coins our reflex action is to assume they are charlatans. When we see people who have made bad decisions suffering for their poor judgment thoughts like “well, that’ll teach ‘em” creep in to even the most compassionate among us. But what does Yeshua say about these things?
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:1-3
Do you see the accusatory attitude in the disciples? They assumed because the man was blind that it had to be because of his sin or his parent’s sins. But the man was born blind, perhaps in excess of 30 years prior, for this one moment in time. God had a plan. How many eyes do you think were opened on the day that this man received his sight? Those disciples had their eyes opened much more than the blind man. His disability was put on him so that many would be able to see righteousness working.
This attitude check about those who are less fortunate is part of the judgment of Matthew 25:31-46. In fact, it’s the ENTIRE basis for the judgment! What do we see about the character of the righteous when Yeshua sits on His throne and starts separating the sheep from the goats? The righteous are the one who ministered to those less fortunate. The trials of the infirm, the malnourished, the poor, and the prisoners are a test for those more fortunate.
Yes, brethren, God has a plan for each and every person on planet earth. These plans are intertwined with others and their relationships. When we see someone in a trial, our reactions are recorded in the books. When we are in a trial, we also must give glory to the Most High. Because, like Joseph said so long ago, God meant it for good.