I wrote recently the first post of what I am planning to be a short series of blog posts on the discipline of trials. I am drawing heavily from chapter 9 of Tony Reinke’s fantastic book on John Newton. In that chapter Reinke points us to various benefits of trials that John Newton gives to us. In the first post we saw that “trials drive Christians to pray.” In this post we will look at three more benefits of trials.
Trials Humble Proud Hearts
Reinke says that: “Trials are intended to humble us and launch a frontal assault on our pride.” Newton in one of his letters to another minister said: “It requires much discipline to keep pride down in us,…” It does indeed, because all of us as Christians are prone to be proud. Think about the apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh in 2nd Corinthians chapter 12. Why did God give him this thorn in the flesh? Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 12:7: “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” One author said: “How dangerous must self-exaltation be, when even the apostle required so much restraint.” God though in His goodness will send trials our way to humble us. As Reinke says, trials will set: “us free from the shackles of our own self-righteousness and self-importance.”
Trials Kill Worldliness
Reinke writes on this benefit of trials when he tells us:
“When rust and moth and robbers eliminate our securities, when cancer arrives, or when we find ourselves speechless in the company of a suffering friend, in this place we feel deep in our bones that this world cannot be the eternal rest our hearts long for. Trials remind us of the vanity of life, and the vanity reminds us that this world is fallen, and the fallenness reminds us that it is a deeply unsatisfying world…trials make us uneasy and set our hearts on things above, where Christ is (Col. 3:1-4).”
So, God in His goodness will sometimes bring trials into our lives to: “make us uneasy and set our hearts on things above,…” When this happens to us, we should see the goodness of God in these trials. Newton said: “Let us adore the grace that seeks to draw our hearts above!”
I remember a few years ago when Rachel Bowen almost died during one of our church services, but God miraculously saved her life. I remember that people in our church were greatly impacted by that serious trial that Rachel and Ben walked through and really our whole church walked through. Members in our church were thinking about eternity and the shortness of life. I know I was regularly thinking about death and eternity during those weeks after that happened.
Trials are Ice Water on Sleepy Souls
Reinke tells us that: “The Christian life is one of sobriety and wakefulness (1 Thess. 5:6). Drawing from Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, Newton believed we walk this life in danger of spiritual laziness.” My guess is that all of us as Christians know about this danger of spiritual laziness in our lives. I am sure we have all faced the temptation to coast in the Christian life and to go on auto-pilot, or to simply be lazy spiritually. When we begin to be careless spiritually, we will find that we will begin to dry up spiritually. As Mark reminded us in a recent sermon that spiritual dryness is a common problem. When we are growing spiritually dry and beginning to take a spiritual nap, God in His goodness will sometimes send trials our way. Those trials will be like ice water to our sleepy souls, to snap us back awake.
Reinke reminds us that: “Trials are medicines measured out with care and prescribed by our wise and gracious Physician. He proportions the frequency and the weight of each dose exactly to what the case requires.”