The Purifying Power of Tribulation

Gospel Trumpet, February 23, 1922.

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The Purifying Power of Tribulation.

The Purifying Power of Tribulation (audio)

By G. K. Ouzounian, CAIRO, EGYPT.

 “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.” (1st Thessalonians 3: 4). Tribulation prepares a wholesome soil of virtue in our soul where patience, experience, and hope take root and strongly flourish. It is by tribulation chiefly that the heart of man is purified, and that the thoughts are fixed on a better state. As the air can not be cleansed without the winds and thunder, and the gold can not be refined from its dross without fire, so the heart of man can not be purified without tribulations and afflictions which are, generally, appointed by God.

       Christ said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33). Paul and Barnabas said, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts14: 22). David says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalms 34: 19). And we read in Isaiah the following statements: ”And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers”; ”Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 30: 20; 48: 10).

Rejoice in Tribulations.

We are commanded to rejoice in our tribulations: “Let us also rejoice in our tribulations” (Romans 5: 3, R. V.). But why are we to rejoice while in tribulation? Because of what the tribulation is accomplishing for us. “Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5: 3, 4). Doctor Davies says, “Patience is the calm, fretless dignity of the soul, amid the wild tempests and agonizing sufferings of this mortal scene.” We have need of patience with ourselves and with others; with those below and those above us, and with our equals; with those who love us, and those who love us not: for the greatest things, and for the least; for sudden inroads of trouble, and for our daily burdens; in disappointments, or the breaking of the heart: in the weariness of the body, or the wearing of the soul; in our own failure of duty, or others failure to us; in everyday wants, or in the aching of sickness, or the decay of age; in bereavement, losses, injuries, reproaches; in heaviness of the heart, or its sickness amid delayed hopes. Christ, our perfect pioneer in this life’s journey, said emphatically, “In your patience ye shall win your souls” (Luke 21: 19, R. V.).

Tribulation Produces Hope.

As for the Christian hope, it is a palliating and active grace. “Who, [God], according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance  incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1st Peter  1: 3 – 5, R. V. ). As our life is a troublous sea, we should have a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul while voyaging in our bodily vessel in order to stand steady in a storm; and Christian hope is that single and stable anchor which we get “through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures” (Romans 15: 4, R. V.). No one has any real enduring hope of salvation either for himself or any one else unless he has endured tribulation and thereby obtained a deep experience.

Rich Experience.

Experience is the Christian’s capital. It is “more precious than gold that perishes” (1st Peter 1: 3 – 7, R. V.). The fiercer the flame, the purer the gold; so the more testing the trial, the more precious the experience. When Lassus, one of the wise men of Greece, was asked what was necessary to render life pleasant and comfortable, he gave this laconic answer, “Experience.” It is, indeed, an excellent school-master, and there are few beneficial experiences but are obtained through a fiery tribulation. Some Christians think it very strange that they should have much tribulation in this world and be severely tried. But a Christian without affliction and trials would be, indeed, a strange Christian; a dough prepared for bread, but not yet cooked in the oven. Christian experience grows fat feeding on trials and tribulations.

Cleansing from Earthliness.

The Lord permits trials and tribulations for the purpose of cleansing us from earthliness, from selfishness, from harsh, un-Christ-like traits of character. He suffers the deep waters of affliction to go over our souls, in order that we may know him, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and in order that we may have deep heart-longings to be cleansed from defilement, and may come forth from the trial purer, holier, happier. Often we enter into the furnace of trial with our souls darkened with selfishness; but if patient under the crucial test we shall come forth reflecting the divine character. When his good purpose in the affliction is accomplished.

”He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Psalms 37: 6). Job presented, in his tribulations and trials, a striking example of this wonderful truth. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy.” (1st Peter 4: 12, 13, R. V.).

Each Trial Is Tested.

Another great reason for rejoicing in tribulation is found in the fact that the Lord has full charge of training us through trial. Do you think, dear reader, the devil has control of your trials? If you do, you are greatly mistaken. God permits our trials. But does not the Bible say that God tempteth no man? ( James 1: 13 ). Certainly it does, but there is a wide difference between temptation and trial. Satan tempts to tear down and destroy. The Lord tries us to build us up and make us strong. It is true also that some of Satan’s temptations are allowed to come to us as trials, which the Lord sees are needed to strengthen us. The Lord in such circumstances stands between us and the temptations of Satan and tests each temptation, and permits to pass him and come tous only those which will be beneficial as trials to strengthen our faith. If we are walking in the light, no temptation will ever come to us from Satan which has not first been carefully inspected and measured by him who knoweth our frame,” and “remembereth that we are dust” (Psalms 103: 14).

Murmur Not.

All this being true, how dare we murmur at any trial that ever comes to us? If we murmur, against whom shall we murmur? Since all our trials are permitted of the Lord it follows that if we do any murmuring we must murmur against the Lord. But if we are unwilling to murmur against him, then all murmuring must cease forever. All murmuring against members of the family against members of the church, against neighbors, or against any one else on earth, living or dead, must cease forever. Paul, writing to the Corinthians warns against murmuring such as that of the Israelites, who were destroyed; and then adds, ”There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 10: 13).

It was the Lord who led Israel to the Red Sea. Up to the Red Sea experience the Israelites had walked by sight. God had first wrought in that sea a wonderful miracle before asking them to believe; but “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2nd Corinthians 5: 7). The Lord continued to give to the Israelites trials through which they should be purified; but most of them continued to complain of

the trials until their carcasses fell in the wilderness.

Dear reader, “all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1st Corinthians 10: 11).

The Lord knew how vital to Christian life and growth trials are; and how natural it would be to regard them as strange, and consequently to murmur at them; hence the Lord has plainly and positively stated that it is he himself that chastises, and that it is an experience “whereof all are partakers,” “that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12: 5 – 13).

Now, beloved, forever remember that you must be tried, and forever remember that the Lord himself has complete control of the trials which are to try you, and that he “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” Therefore, “my son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12: 5, 6, R. V.).

If you will remember this truth, your hands will no longer hang down in discouragement, nor your knees tremble with weakness, nor your path be crooked with failure; but you will see yourself, by faith, among those come out of the great tribulation, who are arrayed in the white robes, and your heart will be of good cheer.

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