Purified Through Trials

August 9, 1998 / No. 2901

Today we turn to Job 23:10. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Job has been struggling under the burden of his infirmities and afflictions. He cannot understand the meaning of God’s providence concerning him. He goes forward, but God is not there to hear his case, it seems. He goes back, but it seems as though he cannot find God there either. He goes to the left and to the right. Although he knows that God is everywhere present, it seems as though he is not able to form any clear conception of things in his mind. His mind becomes so confused, so discomposed with his troubles, that he seems to be a man in fright, at his wits’ end. And being in such confusion clears up nothing. He was at a loss to know what God had purposed to do with him. And we see at times here Job’s faith faltering a bit.

But his contentment, yet, remains. The steadfastness of his faith continues. God is a witness to his integrity. And even though he does not know the way which he goes, God knows that way. And Job’s confidence is that God’s way is good.

God’s thoughts are far above our own thoughts. God is God. He is exalted, infinitely exalted above all the things here below. But God is acquainted with our way. Friends may charge us of things of which we are not guilty. We may experience terrific afflictions, terrible pains. But God has a purpose and a reason for everything that we experience. And that is Job’s confession here in chapter 23: “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

When Job speaks here of the way that he takes, he is speaking of the course and the conduct of his life. The course of one’s life is something in which an individual participates passively rather than actively. That course has to do with all of the events around us over which we have really no control: sorrows, disappointments, health problems, trials, difficulties. It may include prosperity, wealth, joy, and much more. The course of Job’s life at this point was of great, great sorrow. He had lost all of his possessions and his children; his wife had forsaken him spiritually, pleading with him even to curse God and to die. His friends have shown themselves to be self-righteous and proud, providing no comfort. His body is covered with boils and he endures intense pain, so that every move he makes, even his attempt to sleep, is accompanied by terrible pain. Many of us have suffered, but our suffering, to a large degree, cannot be compared to that of Job here. Every aspect of his life seemed to be going contrary to the way which he would prefer.

But Job entrusts his case to Jehovah. Jehovah is the Judge. And Jehovah knows the way. He knows the way in which we must walk and live. Therefore the conduct of our life is determined by His will. He alone can place a desire in our hearts and motivate us to walk in obedience. He alone is the One who is able to work within us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Job knows that he has taken many false steps. He has walked down ways that have been less than faithful, ways which have been disobedient. He has questioned God’s wisdom and even cursed the day of his birth, as we find in Job chapter 3. Nevertheless, Jehovah knows that he has chosen the way of truth. That is the conviction of truth. And Jehovah has set him on this way of truth, guiding and leading him down that pathway.

Job confesses that God knows that way. Nothing is hid from God. Not only does God know the course; He has determined it. He sees and knows everything, including the heart and the inner thoughts. And God knows whether our motivation is to serve and to obey Him, or merely for our own personal pleasure and good. God knows what our goals are with respect to every action that we take. This can be viewed both positively and negatively. In most instances, perhaps, we would be inclined by our sinful flesh to view this as a negative thing. God knows when I have sinned. He knows when I went to the movie and reveled in all of the disobedience to God’s commandments. He knows when I attended the dances, when I sat drinking in the bar, when I found pleasure in the filth and corruption of the world. I may have fooled my family. I may have fooled my friends and parents. But not God!

But Job, rather than viewing it as a negative thing, views it here positively. The highest court of appeal is Jehovah. He knows all things. He knows the desires of my heart. He knows the inner inclinations of my soul. He knows that I am trying to walk with Him and that I desire to seek His will. I may be judged by my friends, by my community, by my family, but I know in my heart that I am trying to seek what is right and good in His eyes. Therefore I know, says Job, that the trial which I am currently experiencing is not flowing from God’s wrath, not flowing out of God’s hatred for me. I know that I am not sinless, but I know that there is a Redeemer, that God is looking down upon me in His love and mercy, and that I stand before Jehovah, the God of my salvation, the One who knows and has determined the way that I must walk.

In saying that, Job is not justifying himself nor excusing his sin, but merely stating that this way of suffering, pain, and sorrow is known to God. It has been ordained by God. It is not by chance or by fate. But God knows perfectly the way that I must walk.

When the way of the child of God is difficult, God leads, He guides. He never turns His back upon His children but He knows the way of the righteous. He walks with them. Job seems here to have reached the depths of darkness and despair. The friends have spoken repeatedly. It seems as though all have forsaken him. But now Job confesses that there is One who knows the way he takes. Though his friends believe that he is a desperate sinner, a wicked man, and that his wickedness is the reason for his punishment, Job knows a Friend who sticks closer than a brother. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth him. Thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever. Forsake not the work of thine own hands, as the psalmist expresses in Psalm 138:8.

And Job knows, he confesses by faith, that God has a divine purpose for this suffering. When He hath tried me! Those who are in the depths of darkness with Job; those who know not where to turn to find God any longer; those who try to keep the way of the Lord but who know that they are being tried-they insist by faith that God has a purpose which He maintains and that He keeps us faithful. Sorrow and darkness may cover our hearts. At times it becomes very difficult to maintain our daily work and life. We find ourselves spending many, many hours in tears and in sorrow. It seems as though our prayers are not reaching the throne room of God. But by faith we believe that it is God who is trying us. A trial comes from God, not from the devil. A trial is the means by which God leads and guides and strengthens us for our path ahead. A trial is the expression of God’s love and mercy toward His children. God only tests and tries those whom He loves. A trial is motivated by God’s love. Its purpose is that those individuals who are the objects of such testing and trying may grow closer to Him. A trial can come from anything: from birth defects, from losses, from health problems, from suffering the consequences of our sins, from broken relationships, from financial difficulties. All of us have specific trials through which God is leading us-some more severe than others; some more private than others. But we must know that these are trials. They are expressions of God’s love, God’s compassion for us as His children.

And that trial is always temporary. When the purpose of God is accomplished, then He brings about reconciliation and healing. When the purpose of God is accomplished, He takes us to be with Him. Some trials may be more permanent from the point of view of this life. But as soon as we die, they are all over. For the trial comes from God, motivated by love, with a desire to lead and to guide us down that way of holiness and righteousness, with the desire to bring us closer to Him and to prepare us for our eternal blessedness.

God sends specific trials in the lives of His children. As He ordained and sent this trial to Job, so He sends us trials and afflictions. And those trials are rooted in love. They are rooted, therefore, in the cross of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ had not died for us and rose again, we would not be experiencing trials. Instead we would be the objects of God’s wrath and hatred. And all that which we would experience would be punishment for our sins and for our wickedness.

But Jesus Christ came. He took upon Himself the punishment of the sins of His people so that that burden of sin is gone. The guilt and shame of sin have been removed. And Jesus Christ, now, works in our hearts to give us obedience and holiness. We remain in the realm of sin and temptations. The ties of this earth are so strong. The pressures to conform to the lusts and passions of this world are intense. God, therefore, out of His infinite love for us His children, has ordained to use trials to test and to strengthen us, to strengthen us in our ability to live a life of obedience for Christ’s sake. These trials are motivated by and rooted in the love of Calvary.

There are times in our lives when there is no other way for us to mature and grow. Due to our sinful inclinations and natures there are times when we need trials. We need tests as that means by which God will keep us obedient and faithful to Him. Every individual saint has a different need. Some God puts through a hotter fire than others. But God’s purpose is the same: to prepare His people to submit to Him through all eternity. The trials which they experience are not because they are more sinful than others, but because God has sovereignly ordained a purpose and a plan for every one of His children, some to experience more trials and sufferings, and through that to know the joy of eternal heaven. Others have to endure, perhaps, less in the way of trials and suffering. But all will enjoy the full blessedness of heaven. Though the cup of suffering for some is smaller than others, God will see to it that the cup of blessing is filled for every one of His saints. And every one of His children will know the full blessedness of heaven.

God, in order to work that work, chastens His children. There are times when we fall under that chastening hand of God very, very severely. There are times when we, with Job, express a weakness, an unwillingness to submit to God’s will. We do not appreciate nor do we desire those trials. There are times when we cry out, Why me? Why must I experience such intense suffering and sorrow? Why must I experience these losses, when I look at my spiritual Christian brother who has far less suffering than I?

But a far better question would be, not, Why me? but, Why Job? Job, more pious and godly than I! Job, a man after God’s own heart. Why Job?

And God has given us the answer to that question. God saw fit to give us an insight into heaven that we might see the purpose behind the trials which Job experienced, and, therefore, might also see the purpose behind our trials. God tested Job to show the devil and all the world the power of His preserving grace to strengthen and to keep His children. And God tested and tried Job to strengthen even his faith and to teach him to look up to find his strength, his confidence in God alone.

When we are sufficiently tried, we will come out of the furnace. The church will not be destroyed. The church will not be left consumed. But the trial will have an end. God will not contend forever. But when His purpose is accomplished He will restore the expressions and experience and awareness of His love and grace to us in even a far greater measure.

He will make us as gold. We have a long way to go in order to become like gold. There are within our hearts and lives unfaithful members. There is carnal seed within us. There is sinful flesh within even the most faithful. The children of God call upon God in their distress. They cry out to Him for deliverance, confessing their strength and trust in Him. And God answers their cry: You are my people, fear not. I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name. Thou art mine. When you pass through the rivers I will be with you. When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. But I will use that trial and affliction to bring you to come out as gold.

Trials are for our benefit. By faith, Job was able to have that confidence. When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Zechariah 13:9 expresses that: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” And I Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

A dynamic result will occur. The saints will come forth as gold-pure and precious to the refiner. Currently there is so much impurity within us, so much dross: rebellion and stubbornness, unwillingness to humble ourselves fully before the will of God, pride. But God uses the trials, the struggles here below, to remove and to lessen all of that rebellion. He uses the trials to bring us to cast ourselves completely upon Him. We cannot depend in any way upon our own ability as Christians to maintain a close walk with God. Not on our own ability as fathers to raise our children in such a way that they will be faithful. Not in our ability as mothers to instruct our children and to lead them in such a way that they will never stray. Not on our ability to solve all of the problems that we see around us. But we must cast ourselves to the ground in total submission to God’s will, praying for Him to uphold us.

God demands total dependence upon Him. He works within our hearts that complete willingness, by His grace, to submit and to cast ourselves upon Him. When we are weakest, according to the flesh, we are powerful according to the spirit. When we have gone through the fires of affliction, when we are worn out, ready to collapse in despair, then we will be as gold-that which has been through the fire, purified, precious. The benefit of our trials is for the glory and honor of God, but also for us. We will be changed profoundly. We will be more valuable and precious. Not in the eyes of the world. They will, perhaps, not even acknowledge that we have changed. But in God’s eyes. We will be of greater service in the kingdom of God while in this world and through all eternity. Better equipped to serve as a faithful officebearer, better equipped to live and walk as a Christian, better equipped to be a faithful husband or faithful wife, better equipped to be a witness of God’s grace and mercy.

And that trial will have taught us spiritual truths which will be as an enduring metal, as gold. I Corinthians 3:13 teaches that in the last day all of our works will be exposed to the holiness of God. All of our own works will be burned up. But that which measures up to the preciousness of God’s righteousness and holiness, that which God has worked within us through our trials and afflictions, that will survive the test and remain.

The fruit of our trial will be that you and I will be of more and more value for the kingdom of God. Let us, therefore, be confident that our present troubles will end and that they will end well. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation. For when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (James 1:12).

Let us pray.

Our Father who art in heaven, strengthen us in the midst of our trials. Cause us to have the confidence that though we be tried, though our trials seem so difficult in the present, Thou art indeed using it for our good and for our spiritual blessedness. Therefore there is indeed a purpose in our afflictions. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.