December 12, 2017

Amid Trials and Earthly Conflicts

Kathleen Barbee

It is interesting to watch people from diverse cultural, economic, educational, political, and social levels respond to threatening situations. Their responses, oddly enough, are very similar. Often trials and conflicts aid in bonding those who simultaneously experience such circumstances.

Christians must be especially careful during times of trial not to let their guards down to the subtle wiles of the Devil. We must bear in mind that Satan has no mercy or pity on us when hardships assail; on the contrary, during those times he becomes more vicious in attempting to defeat us. Therefore, we must gird our minds. We must not respond like the world. We must “put on the whole armour of God that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” “withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:11, 13), and remember that our “help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2).

Casual observation of the responses of the world to difficult circumstances brings about two areas of concern and one solution regarding the Christian’s response to hardships.

First concern: It seems that in recent years Christians increasingly respond to difficult circumstances and trials in much the same way as the world. During hard times many Christians turn to alcohol, ambition, complaining, denial, drugs, lust, withdrawal, worry, and a host of other fleshly excesses or extremes. These sinful responses reveal that many modern Christians are not resting in the Lord and His Word and lend insight into the prayerless lives of those who profess to know the Lord. Before a failure in action (sinful response) comes a failure in prayer. No prayer, no power (James 4:2; John 16:24); and where there is no power there is no victory.

The Lord has told us we will have difficult times: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). However, He has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5; cf. Josh. 1:5) and has promised to help us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1; cf. Ps. 50:15). God in His Word and through His Spirit supplies us with sufficient grace to meet all of life’s trying circumstances.

Second concern: Amid trials and conflicts Christians must be careful not to allow circumstances to give birth to relationships forbidden by the Lord. Often when hard times strike we have a defensive tendency to cling to those around us. This is not to say that we should not turn to godly companions (e.g., pastors, parents, spouses) for needed support and help. However, saints ought always to guard against clinging to the world. We have a direct admonition from our Lord in 2 Corinthians 6:17 to “come out from among them and be . . . separate.” One of the clearest examples during which this command is violated today is seen in the increasing and overwhelming number of Christians who seek help through “Christian” psychologists and psychiatrists. There is probably no other area in which the contemporary church has been influenced more. We have been force-fed a diet of watered-down humanism when it comes to dealing with the inner man.

Christians should not take advice from the world or those who, under the guise of Christianity, use the world’s means and methods to offer us help. It is acceptable for Christians to get advice from the unsaved about certain issues (e.g., the mechanical condition of a car, the value of a house to be purchased, medical advice); however, Christians should not consult the world about matters which are of a spiritual or moral nature, “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Cor. 3:19). “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1).

The solution: As Christians, we should make it a regular practice to consult the Scriptures for guidance and help in times of need. We must learn to interpret our world through the Word of God. The Scriptures are our map, and in them the Lord has graciously unfolded the way we are to take during our earthly pilgrimage. How should the Christian respond during hard times? The Biblical response to hardship includes seven components.

Reading. It is important that Christians search the Bible daily. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to us, calling us to daring faith, holy living, and spiritual conquest. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. … And take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14, 17).

Prayer. When hard times strike, we can petition God, our Father. We can ask Him to help us in and through rough times. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer. 33:3). Conflicts can sometimes be averted by prayer (cf. Jer. 26:19).

Confession. Sometimes we have conflicts as a consequence of our own disobedience to the Lord. When this is the case, it is necessary to confess any known sin in order to restore fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:9). This necessary step prepares us spiritually and positionally to approach the Lord with our concerns.

Counsel. Seek advice from a godly, mature individual whose life is marked by identification with fundamental Christianity and demonstration of the authority of Scripture.

Obedience. Determine to obey the Word of God (Ps. 119:9). Do right regardless of your outward circumstances. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Fasting. Sometimes we should fast when we are facing trials, temptations, or conflicts. Abstinence from food is a spiritual exercise of self-denial. It indicates a total submission to the will of God. Fasting can help us gain the strength needed to overcome the wiles of the Devil (Luke 4:1ff; cf. Mark 9:29; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). This Spirit-directed exercise should always be coupled with prayer.

Thanksgiving. “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Use the problem to your spiritual advantage. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

As the return of Christ approaches, Christians will face greater and greater trials and conflicts from the world. During these days of impending persecution, it is crucial that we respond in a way that glorifies the Lord, for trials of faith are productive only if we respond to them properly. Difficulties may assail a believer, but they have the potential to identify and banish from our lives those impurities that impair growth and service.

In suffering, the child of God becomes a partaker of Christ’s suffering. Christians, therefore, ought not be astonished about fiery trials and earthly conflicts. Joy in the life of the Christian does not come as a result of external conditions but as a result of confidence in the Lord.

At the time of original publication, Kathleen Barbee, MRE, was an Administrative Assistant at Duke University Medical Center and an active member of Calvary Baptist Church in Carrboro, North Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • July/August 1999. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

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