Salvation through Christ does not mean that we will have a life free of trials. Rather, it is a guarantee that we will experience many of them. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:21-22). Tribulation often comes in the form of persecution, which is one of its meanings. However, it also means afflicted, anguished, burdened and troubled. These verses apply to virtually any trial that we experience on our life’s journey.
There is a particular attitude that is characteristic of believers in trials. Consider this early example of the apostles. “And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:40-41). The usual number of lashes that would have been inflicted on the offender was thirty-nine. Rejoicing would not have been the normal response of someone who would have just had stripes laid on them. We understand, though, that their rejoicing was not over the certain pain that they were experiencing at that moment. Their trial, in their minds, was set in the context of their intimate relationship with our Father through Christ.
Our trials today are set in that same spiritual context. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). By faith we know that none of our trials, however severe they may be, are without a purpose. The Holy Spirit working in us, by that faith, enables us to patiently experience all our trials in hope. We have the sure hope of the resurrection, just as Christ and all the faithful before us did, spoken of in Hebrews 11.
David wrote, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). If what David said is true, why aren’t all the faithful still living today? No one would have wanted to die of old age, of persecution or of sickness. Yet, all these before us have died of one cause or another in faith. God delivers us out of all our trials because we come to see them in the context of our relationship with our Father through Christ. The hope we have through faith supersedes any trial, whether to life or to death.