David, Job, and Jeremiah all spent time pondering the seeming inequities of life, and those writings are where we spend our time mulling over the matter. It dawned on me one day last week, that after Christ came, you seldom see any writing on the subject at all. Suddenly the question comes with answers. Suddenly people see a reason for their troubles. Suddenly it all makes sense to them. Why is that?
Christ created a hope that was only dreamed of in the Old Testament; a hope that the faithful looked forward to with anticipation, but were never allowed to see. The early Christians, many of whom were never even brought up with the notion of the true Jehovah God, quickly gained a perspective that actually turned tribulations into a reason for rejoicing. Why? Because they presented opportunities to serve God and to serve others. That is what being a disciple of Christ is all about. That is what they had committed their lives to. Of course they were happy when an opportunity arose.
Paul was thrown into prison. Surely Satan meant that as a means to keep the gospel from spreading. How did Paul see it? I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear, Phil 1:12-14. Paul managed to find two good reasons for being thrown into prison—he could preach to those he had never reached before and others were preaching even more.
No, it is not easy in the midst of pain and sorrow, in the middle of worries that spin uncontrollably in your mind all night long to find the opportunity in a trial. Yet that is exactly what Paul’s example shows we should do. Surely we can find opportunities when tribulations assail us, especially considering how small they are compared to Paul’s.
Are you suffering with a terrible illness? How many of these medical people you now see every day would you never have met otherwise? Now you can show them what faith means. They might never have seen it otherwise. Certainly the ones among them who never even pick up a Bible wouldn’t have.
Are you shunned for your stand for morality? Perhaps there are others watching who might now have the same strength due to your example. Perhaps one of them will ask you about it and you will have the chance to teach him, or to invite him to an assembly of saints, a whole group of people who feel like he does, which will give him an instant desire for the fellowship you enjoy.
Can you see in just those examples and Paul’s that trials may be Satan trying to take you down, but they are also God trying to pull you up, trying to give you a reason for your faith and the legs to stand on when anyone else might simply cave? Can’t you see that in tribulation God is allowing us to do the thing we claim to be most important in our lives—service.
Tribulations are opportunities to serve. Repeat it like a mantra. Then put it into action. If we don’t, then have we truly become disciples of Christ?
Seize the opportunities. God only parcels them out to those he loves.
"Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. Job 23:8-10.