Dear radio friends,
Everywhere the Bible teaches us that God will be faithful to His children in their moments of trial and affliction. The child of God who walks in faith in Jesus Christ knows that no matter how far down he may go into the loneliness of suffering or how it may appear that no one understands what he experiences, nevertheless, God will be faithful to him. The Lord will know our souls in affliction. And even when no human eye apparently takes pity, and friends depart, God’s faithfulness will be there.
We read in Deuteronomy 7:9 this about our God: “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him.” Again, Hebrews 10:23: “For he is faithful that promised.” That is so wonderful! The Lord will be faithful to us in every trial and affliction.
Very often the realization of God’s faithfulness to us comes in hindsight. It is when we look back upon our lives and upon those moments of trial and affliction that we see that God was indeed faithful. Although, to our shame, we have to confess that we were covered with doubt and fear at the moment when we went through that trial or affliction, we must also confess that God was faithful. Looking back over our life, we can only say: How faithful God is!
But there is more to the truth of affliction than just the truth that God will be faithful to us in affliction. For instance, we read in Psalm 119:75, 76 these words: “I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” Those verses are teaching us that God sends the affliction. The affliction does not just happen, the trial is not simply a product of chance, but God controls, He rules over our afflictions. God is sovereign over the afflictions that come to us in this life. That means that He rules over them, sends them, is the author of them, and uses them to attain His own good purposes in us. That is the truth of the Scriptures. “Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” Out of His faithfulness, God has done it.
Behind the immediate cause of our trial or sorrow or affliction, whether that is cancer or a drunk driver, the psalmist here is saying that we must see the hand of God controlling all things. Behind that sudden loss, that heart-breaking loss, what man calls an “accident,” is the wise and all-ruling hand of God.
Scripture teaches us that there are no independent powers outside of God’s control, with whom God must wrestle for control. Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” It is unbiblical to say, when we are sorely afflicted and those afflictions come into our lives, that the Lord had nothing to do with them. It is unbiblical, unbelieving, and irreverent to say that God has no control over the bad things that enter into our lives. He only wants us to know that He will be there, but somehow His hands were tied and He could not control what has happened to us. That is a totally unbiblical and ungodly statement!
But there is more. Not only does God control these afflictions, the Bible assures us also that God does this out of His faithfulness. In other words, that means that if God did not try us, if God did not send us at times into the valley of trial and affliction, if God did not do that, He would not be faithful to us. Not only does He control those afflictions, but those afflictions, when He sends them, are to be seen as an exercise of His faithfulness. Even as a parent will be faithful to his child to correct the child, and even as a friend will be faithful to another friend to admonish the friend when they are in ways of error, so God will be faithful to us and will show His faithfulness in afflicting us. The very affliction, then, is the fruit of the faithfulness of His heart, of His love. Perhaps the purpose of the affliction is to wean us away from dependence upon the world. Perhaps the purpose of the affliction was to hedge us up, put up bars to keep us from an evil way. Or perhaps the purpose of the affliction was simply to teach us that we must trust His mercies, we must abandon our own sinful self-will. In short, God afflicts us as an evidence that He will faithfully mold each one of His children after the image of Jesus Christ.
Do you know that? Do you know that about your afflictions and trials today? By nature, of course, we murmur, and in our rebellion we question the ways of God. We are ready to say to God, “This is my life, this is my body, my plans, my hopes. Keep your hands off.” We are sometimes very skillful in diagnosing why God will send afflictions to other people. Perhaps we are ready to say, “Oh, I can understand why God would do that to them.” But about ourselves – do we understand why God sends afflictions and trials into our lives? God does that in faithfulness. God is faithful when He afflicts us.
When we read those verses, did you notice that it was very striking how they began? Verse 75: “I know, O Lord, … that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” I know that! That is, of course, the knowledge of faith. The psalmist is not then talking about something that he had learned through human observation or research or by comparing statistics. He is not talking about something that he has learned by walking through a hospital. But he is talking about something that he has learned from God, through God’s Word, something that he has learned and been assured of by faith. (Faith, of course, is union to Jesus Christ. Faith is to know and to lay hold of those things that are not seen, those things that are sure and true, the things of God.) I know that God is exercising His faithfulness when He afflicts me. I know that by faith. That is the same language that Job used in chapter 19: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Or the apostle Paul, throughout his epistles, in Romans 8 and II Corinthians 5: “I know whom I have believed.” We know these things by faith. By faith we have a certain knowledge, then. We know something about afflictions.
That word “affliction” means, literally, to bestow labor upon a thing, to oppress or push down or to till the ground. It refers to something that breaks up the soil and softens it so that the soil is made ready to receive the seed. Let us get a feel for that word a little bit and see how it is used in Scripture. It is used, for instance, in Exodus 3:7 where we read, “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows.” Pharaoh was afflicting the people of God in Egypt. He beat them with a lash. He drove them by taskmasters. He took away from them what they needed for daily life. He pressed them down in an effort to destroy them. Affliction, then, refers to a repeated blow, to something that would beat you down.
We read again, in Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” Many are the afflictions of the righteous. Various kinds. There are some afflictions that are common, that we share with others. There are also those trials and afflictions that are not common, that are unique and particular to you.
“I know, O Lord, that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” Not only has God done this, but there we are told why God is pleased to send afflictions and trials into our life. Where would you be if God did not correct you with trials and afflictions?
Our heavenly Father knows that as long as we are in the body of this flesh, and as long as we travel upon this earth, we are in need of correction. Affliction is part of God’s wise way of keeping us upon the path of life eternal. God’s afflictions sent to us are necessitated by God’s purpose. And God’s purpose, which is rooted in love, is that we be kept in Christ and that we be molded by God’s hand and prepared and fit for our place in glory. God says that these designs of His grace, these eternal plans that He has for us, can be accomplished in no other way than in that way of afflicting us, trying us, correcting us. We are taught, as children of God, to look upon those things not simply with a carnal eye and resent them, but in the light of faith, in the light of God’s Word, to see them as the messenger, as the servant of God, sent of God to accomplish a work in us. That is the way we have to look at our afflictions. We must not simply be stoical under the sovereignty of God. Then we would say, “I confess that God is sovereign. He rules over all things. Therefore the trials and difficulties that I experience, the pains and sorrows in my life – I confess they come from God’s hand. Therefore, I respond by saying, ‘Well, worry isn’t going to help. Nothing can change this. What will be will be.'” No, that is not the way we must respond. But we must see these afflictions as being ruled and sent by God as an evidence of His love. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” “I know, O Lord, that thou in faithfulness hath afflicted me.”
Are you beginning to catch what the Scripture is saying to you and to me today? Of course, apart from faith you cannot say that. You cannot understand that. That is because we believe, each one of us, that our own will and our own pleasures and our own plans are always right and the best. Therefore, when anything comes into our lives which would threaten our will or disrupt our plans or bring great sorrow to us, we would say these things are enemies, these things are wrong. You see, our sinful, rebellious self would sit upon the throne of our heart and we would say, “Everything, to be right, must be exactly my way.” But, by the grace of God, we say, “By nature, a fool was sitting upon the throne of my heart, a tyrant, that sinful, rebellious self. But now, by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, I have come under the rule of my loving heavenly Father. All things are in His hand. He hath loved me with an eternal and everlasting love. Therefore, because He is a righteous God, because He is a faithful God, because He is a God who sees His own eternal purpose for me, He is also the God who sends trial and sorrow and heartache and pain, sickness and cancer, crushing things into my life – death and sorrow. He does these things for the purpose of perfecting me, of correcting me, of molding me, of teaching me to trust in His mercy. I know, O God, that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
That will lead us to pray then, under those afflictions, that God’s merciful kindness may be our comfort. The psalmist goes on to say, “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” That is a prayer. That is a prayer that comes out of a moment of trial, a moment of affliction. That is true, too, and that is one of the purposes of God for those afflictions.
We might ask the question: “Where would our prayer life be if God did not see the wisdom of afflicting us and sending trials into our life?” Those afflictions work upon our hearts and, by faith, cause us to plead with God, cause us to come to God. They also make our prayers focused. We see our great need for God’s merciful kindness, His loving pleasures, to be real to us.
The Word of God teaches us to put a very high premium upon the experience of God’s kindness and mercy. We are prone to devalue them. We are prone to value and set a very high price upon earthly things and those things that make our life easy. In other words, we are prone to put a high price upon the things that God gives. But the Word of God says that the things that He gives are not the great possession. The great possession is to know His merciful kindness. Then, whatever thing He sends you, you know that it comes in love. Without the knowledge of God’s merciful kindness, there is no blessing in the abundance of things.
So the psalmist is praying that he might enjoy the merciful kindness of God, that this might be His comfort. The idea of comfort is that you possess a great good which is far greater than all of your present sorrows and pains. This great good tells you that those sorrows and pains are working for your good. The psalmist says, “Let Thy merciful kindness be for my comfort. Let the knowledge of Thy love to me be that which comforts me in all of my trials.” God’s merciful kindness refers to the aspects of His love which come to us when we are in distress. God’s kindness is the aspect of His love which sees us in our misery and sees us in our woe. His kindness is His love to do us good in those miseries and those woes. “I pray Thee,” says the psalmist, “let Thy merciful kindness be for my comfort. Lord, I acknowledge that I am in Thy hands. I know that these trials are needed. I know that in Thy faithfulness Thou art working through trials and afflictions that I might attain my spiritual good. Now, I ask Thee, in the midst of this affliction, that I might have the experience of Thy merciful kindness, of Thy undeserved, yet sure, mercy to me in Jesus Christ.” Then all is well. Then, even if the affliction and the trial according to God’s will is to continue in my life, then all is well. All is well when we experience the wonder of God’s merciful kindness to us.
What do you really want? What is your true need, your real need? Our true need is the mercy of God. Possessing those mercies of God we are rich. Without them we are poor, we are desperately poor, we have nothing. But having them, we have all things.
So those afflictions are sent of God to teach us to pray right, to pray for what counts, to pray for the merciful kindness of God to be our experience and to be the power of our comfort.
Then we are ready to glorify God – in the affliction and in the trial. Then we know something that no natural man can know. We know something that nothing of this world can teach us. We know something through God’s Word. We know that God, through the afflictions, is preparing us for the highest good. That highest good is that one day, through Jesus Christ, we might stand before Him and take up that place that He has purposed for us in eternity, prepared for that place through the trials and the afflictions of this present time. Yes, when God comes to us and God afflicts us and tries us, when He corrects us for our sins, when He sends sorrow in our life, those things are most painful. But we know that they are not sent to destroy us. We know that through the cross of Jesus Christ. God has given His own Son unto the death of the cross where He bore our sins. And having done that, God says, “I swear to you that all things will be ordered by My hand in your life (not by chance, but by My hand), and they will be ordered in such a way as to work your salvation, to bring that salvation to My intended purpose, to mold and correct you. And I will do that especially in the way of trial and affliction.” Then those afflictions and trials will bring us to our knees. They will bring us to plead with God according to His will. It might be His will that the affliction and the trial cease, but, nevertheless Father, not as we will, but as Thou wilt. And in the time of the affliction, as we experience the trial, let, O Lord, Thy merciful kindness be for our comfort. Give us to experience that treasure of Thy lovingkindness purely given to us in love and grace. Let us experience that.
Then, under the affliction, we will glorify God. And under the trial we will return grateful love and obedience. This is why God is pleased to send you trial and affliction today, that His faithful purposes might be attained in you and that you might learn to comfort yourself in Him and in Him alone.
May God so grant it. Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. And we pray for a blessing of Thy word upon our souls this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.