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Many of you have probably heard of the axiom, “Trials will make you more like Christ.” But the more I think about it, I realized that this is not necessarily the case. In fact, I have been guilty of preaching this misnomer for years. Even in my counseling sessions, I have encouraged people to have the perspective of enduring through trials because it will produce Christ-likeness.
It is important before I proceed that I establish what I am NOT saying. I am not saying that trials “cannot” make us more like Christ. The Bible teaches that trials can produce character (Ro 5) and there are whole books that talk about the benefits of trials (Job and 1 Peter). Anything is possible. What I am referring to is the “assumption” that just because we go through trials that somehow we will “automatically” become more like Christ.
Being out here in Indonesia, I am coming to the conclusion that trials do not necessarily make us more like Christ, but it reveals more of who we really are.
Think of it this way:
Why is it that when two different people go through trials, one can really go through it with joy and hope and then be transformed by it, while the other person will get bitter and even turn away from God. If trials are really supposed to make us more like Christ, then the outcome of the two people should be the same; but this is not always the case. In fact, it is more common to see people turn away from Christ.
I want to propose that trials are more revelatory in nature. It simply reveals who we really are and where we are in our relationship with Christ.
As we go through trials, we have a choice. We can either humble ourselves and conclude the truth of who God is (that He is Sovereign, loving, purposeful, etc) or we can turn self-centered and deny everything we know and learned about who God is. Honestly, there is really no middle ground; and too often we find ourselves wanting to trust in God, but we constantly lean towards what is natural in the flesh.
This is why we have a lot of practicing Christian-Atheist – Christian in our heads, but in practice, we are Atheist because we live as if God does not exist.
Therefore, trials are more like a catalyst to reveal who we really are. Trials should spark a greater dependence on God and inspire trust in God’s promises. It is like every sports team that prepares during the pre-season and regular season. All the months and years of practice come down to the championship game.
In the championship game of trials, all the devotion times, all the prayers, all the bible studies of who God is, all the church gatherings, all the blessings that we have received from God, come down to that moment of what we will do when trials come our way. Once again, there is no middle ground. We will not win the game by just holding on to the ball and wishing that we made the shot. We have to make the choice whether to trust in Him or trust in ourselves.
We were destined for greatness. If you don’t believe me, just look at the cross. It is game time and we want Christ to be glorified in the midst of our trials, so we need to do our part as God is already doing His part.
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).