2 Reasons We Experience Trials and How God Wants Us to Respond

It’s not fun to experience hardship, but it is oddly helpful to know it has a purpose. Are you going through or just getting out of a season of pain? See what God has to say about this hardship and your response.


Wednesday in the Word

Come with me as I walk through a passage of Scripture phrase by phrase, reviewing its context, interpreting, and offering an application. Some of us - including me - learn best by watching somebody else. That’s what I am inviting you to do today as I study through Hebrews 12:1-11:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

*** This passage addresses two types of hardship: opposition for living righteously and the consequences of our own sin. It is not a comprehensive view of the Bible’s position on hardship. I know many of you have suffered due to another’s sin against you at no fault of your own. This walk through Hebrews 12:1-11 may not address your situation, and in no way is meant to make light of your pain or misplace blame.

Reason #1: For the Sake of the Gospel

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Our passage begins with the word “therefore”, which should trigger the question, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” Let’s take a look at the context. Hebrews 11 is often called the “Hall of Faith”, because it is full of stories about God’s people living righteously in a sinful world. Their actions displayed great faith.

Most Christians experience these two type of trials, and here is how God wants you to respond... | Scripture Confident Living

Hebrews 12:1 calls this list of faithful God-followers “a great cloud of witnesses”. These are the men and women that stood up for their beliefs. Their example should spur us on to living fully dedicated to our faith. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to… 

1. Get rid of anything that hinders us and sin that so easily entangles:

What are the things that distract you from Christ and His Kingdom? What sin is keeping you from following Him completely?

2. Run with perseverance:

The path of faith is laid out for us in Scripture. Take it! Run the path with all your might, persevering even in trial. Ask your runner friends about those hills that make their lungs burned so hard they want to give up. Perseverance is what gets you to the finish line. But how do we push through? The author’s main advice is this: Fix your eyes on Jesus! Don’t lose sight of Him! Why? He is the author and perfecter of your faith. It’s not you. We often mistakenly think that growing in our faith is all up to us. Instead, the Bible tells us time and time again that while we hold some responsibility, it’s ultimately God who leads us to faith and perfects it until the end.

2b For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Whatever opposition you have faced for living faithfully for Jesus, it likely has not taken on the extent that Christ Himself experienced. He endured crucifixion - the pain and shame of it - for our sake. He did not deserve punishment of any kind. Yet, He willingly took this route in order to pay for our sins, overcome death on our behalf, and sit at the right hand of the throne of God interceding for us. 

So whenever you endure opposition, remember that Christ endured even worse for your sake. He laid down His life to save you. Allow your heart to be filled with thanksgiving and hope, so that you don’t grow weary or lose heart. Keep your eyes on Jesus and run the race!

Reason #2: For the Sake of Your Faith

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

There are two types of hardship you may be facing: opposition to your faith (like the believers mentioned in Hebrews 11) or consequences for your sin. The author of Hebrews transitions into this subject by reminding us that Jesus, who has never sinned, shed blood for us while we - well, the Hebrews… but this is true for most of us, too - have not yet suffered to the point of shedding blood even though we have sinned plenty. 

God disciplines us like an earthy father disciplines his children. The author of Hebrews introduces this thought by quoting Proverbs 3:11-12, which warns us that God’s discipline is an expected part of our relationship with Him. Did you notice that he (and Proverbs) calls this fact an “encouragement”? Why would we find it encouraging to know that God will discipline us?

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 

God’s discipline should be an encouragement to you because it shows that God is treating you like a loving father treats his child. In fact, if you never experience God’s discipline, you may wonder if you even are a child of God. Wow! That’s a strong statement. Linger on that for a while. We can be encouraged by God’s discipline because it’s a bi-product of being His child.

9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

There is a second reaction we should have to God’s disciple: submission. We all (hopefully… to some degree…) respected our natural parents’ discipline and understand that it was meant for our own good, to raise us up to become mature, responsible adults. If that’s our reaction to our earthly parents, whose approach was marred by sin, how much more should we joyfully submit to God’s discipline. 

Hear this, Christian: God is disciplining you for your own good, in order to grow your faith, and to reunite you with Him. He does not discipline us imperfectly or in anger, but for the sake of our faith.

11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Look, I know when you are in the middle of it all, you may say, “This is all fine and dandy, but learning these faith lessons is hard.” Yes, it is. I get it. So does God! Discipline is never pleasant in the moment. It’s painful and difficult. It is often not until we have made it through that we see all that we have learned about trusting God, living righteously, and advancing His kingdom. 

Here is a hint: If you keep your eyes on Jesus, you can remember this very truth even in the midst of your trail. Whatever you are facing now will make your faith stronger. God is equipping and growing you.

So, let me ask you: What has God been teaching you lately? 

In January, I shared that this year I have been asking God to teach me to stay calm in the storm. True to form, He has come through with powerful lessons as stressful work situations, sicknesses, and discipline issues with our kids all seemed to collide and forced me to rely even more on the Lord rather than my own strength. He has come through and brought relief, success, and guidance at every step. It’s not always fun, but I truly love being taught by God. How about you? Share in the comments below.

If you’ve enjoyed this walk through Hebrews 12:1-11, be sure to subscribe to the “Wednesday in the Word” blog post category, or learn how to study a passage similarly with the FREE ebook, “10 Steps to Approaching the Bible with Confidence.” Sign up below to download your copy.