Webster’s Dictionary defines the three “T’s” this way:
Trial – a test of faith, patience, or stamina by suffering or tribulation; a source of vexation (irritation) or annoyance.
Trouble – to agitate mentally or spiritually; to disturb.
Tribulation – distress or suffering as a result of oppression or persecution.
I Peter 1:7-9 says, “…Though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ… receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.” In the end, we come forth: precious, valuable and exquisite – a true treasure of God, for His Glory!
Four brief character studies in God’s Word give us a glimpse of suffering while under trials, troubles and tribulation:
Joseph ~ In Genesis 37 we see that his brothers sold him into captivity to the Ishmaelites, to be carried away to Egypt as a slave. He was put into prison after being unjustly accused of accosting his master’s wife (Genesis 39), and was forgotten by two of Pharaoh’s officers after interpreting their dreams (Genesis 40). For thirteen long years he endured trials, troubles and tribulations. Then God moved on his behalf, promoted him to second in command over all of Egypt, and saved Joseph’s family from famine and annihilation. Joseph was donned with the ruler’s ring, garments, and gold about his neck (Genesis 41). He preserved his father Jacob and future generations.
Hannah ~ I Samuel 1 tells us that Elkanah had two wives: Hannah & Peninnah. The latter had children, but Hannah was barren. Much like Leah & Rachael with Jacob (Genesis 29, 30), two wives proved to be a snare to Elkanah. Both Hannah and Rachael were “favorites”, thus compounding the marital problems for both men. Elkanah was a devout man and yearly went up to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifices. He blessed Hannah with a double portion of the offering, but to no avail. Peninnah would provoke Hannah severely, causing her to grow sullen and live in misery. Year after year Hannah endured the relentless harassment and taunting by Peninnah, which ultimately drove her to seek the Lord more earnestly. After make supplication to God in a public prayer outside of the tabernacle, and being misunderstood by Eli the priest, she was blessed and released to go on her way. Nine months later she gave birth to one of the old testament’s greatest prophets, Samuel, who anointed King David.
Paul ~ Saul (Paul) was dramatically converted by the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus as he was carrying letters of destruction for those who were of the Way [followers of Jesus] to put them to death in Jerusalem. When Jesus selected Ananias to minister to Paul after his vision, He said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” After that time many attempts were made to kill Paul by the Jews (Acts 10:23), the Hellenists (Acts 10:29), and with Barnabas in Antioch where they were threatened, persecuted and expelled. II Corinthians 11 enumerates for us Paul’s many trials and troubles including being stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, lashed, and left for dead. There was sharp contention between him and Barnabas while on their missionary journeys that split up the pair, resulting in Paul and Silas teaming up to minister to the Gentiles. At the end of his life, while in prison, Paul addresses Timothy in his two epistles. As he encouraged the young pastor, Paul remained steadfast in his faith and mission, while acknowledging that all forsook him, save the Lord Jesus. Paul endured the constant pressure of a lifetime of trials, troubles, & tribulations, and yet he saw God’s purpose and sovereignty in all of it. Paul’s victory was this: “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (II Timothy 4:17).
A diamond must fall under the chisel in order to become a precious stone, and gold is never refined unless it remains in the fire. God never leaves the metal in the crucible longer than what is necessary for the burning away of the dross. He will do the same on our behalf.