The Bible’s View
How Are Tests of One’s Faith Beneficial?
SERVANTS of God cannot escape trials. The apostle Paul wrote: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12) That persecution may come from friends, relatives, neighbors, the community or governmental authorities. It may include both verbal and physical abuse as well as interference with a person’s making a living. Additionally, true Christians share the problems that are common to mankind—sickness, disappointments, injustices and tragedy. All such trials put a person’s faith to the test.
Nevertheless, there are positive aspects about having one’s faith tested by trials. The apostle Peter called attention to this, saying: “You have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:6, 7) Thus the effects of trials on one’s faith are paralleled with the refining of gold by fire. The refining process reveals what is pure gold and removes the dross. Something comparable takes place in connection with our faith when we experience trials. How so?
Trials reveal whether our faith is genuine and has the strength to support and comfort us in time of difficulty. For example, an accident or a natural disaster such as a flood, an earthquake or a storm may result in hardships. Persons with limited faith may begin to worry unduly, to the neglect of spiritual things. Like those without faith, they may anxiously say: “‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’” (Matt. 6:31) On the other hand, persons with genuine faith do not give way to undue anxiety. They continue to be fully absorbed with spiritual things, confident that Jehovah God will bless their efforts to procure what they really need. (Matt. 6:32, 33) Their faith sustains them through difficult periods and prevents them from worsening their situation by needless worry.
The fact that trials can show up weaknesses in our faith is most beneficial, as we are thus helped to see the need to take corrective measures. A person does well to ask himself: ‘Why is my faith weak? Have I neglected prayerful consideration of and meditation on God’s Word? Have I taken full advantage of the provisions to assemble with fellow believers? Do I rely more on myself than I should instead of committing all my concerns prayerfully to Jehovah God? Are heartfelt prayers a daily part of my life?’ Such self-examination, however, is only the beginning. Effort must be put forth to strengthen one’s faith.
This may require that a person improve his spiritual appetite. Perhaps at the time of his becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ he had not as yet formed “a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Pet. 2:2) Therefore, though years may have passed, he may not have grown to spiritual adulthood and may still need the very milk for which he has never formed a real longing. (Heb. 5:12-14) The fact that a particular trial has clearly revealed a weakness in his faith should certainly prompt him to be far more diligent in examining the Scriptures, cultivating a real taste for spiritual food. He should strive to be like the righteous man described by the psalmist: “His delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.”—Ps. 1:2.
This calls for more than merely reading the Bible. It is especially important to take the time to think about what God’s Word is telling us and to apply the admonition given, yes, to find real pleasure in spiritual things. The disciple James wrote: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. . . . He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (Jas. 1:22-25) So, we need to consider what the Scriptures reveal about Jehovah God and his will and then reflect appreciatively on the loving heavenly Father that he is. As a result, our love for him will grow, our prayers will be more specific and personal and our faith in him will become stronger.
Actually, every trial that we may experience should remind us of how important it is to strengthen our faith. We should exert ourselves to remove from our lives any dross that would weaken it. We may need to fight pride, stubbornness, impatience, selfishness, love of ease and pleasure, worldliness or passion—things that could cause us to stumble under pressure.
The realization that faith is an absolute essential in our gaining God’s approval should serve as a powerful incentive to strengthen it. The Bible reminds us: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) Hence, we do well to include the substance of the following petition in our prayers: “Help me out where I need faith!”—Mark 9:24.
Besides aiding us to take corrective measures, tests of our faith can help others. For instance, when a Christian loses a loved one in death, his strong faith in God’s promise of a resurrection sustains him. He does not give way to the extreme expressions of sorrow common among persons who have no hope. While he mourns, his attitude and actions demonstrate that he is acting in harmony with the inspired counsel: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant concerning those who are sleeping in death; that you may not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope. For if our faith is that Jesus died and rose again, so, too, those who have fallen asleep in death through Jesus God will bring with him.” (1 Thess. 4:13, 14) When others observe the sustaining power of a Christian’s faith, they may come to appreciate that he possesses something truly valuable. This may stir within their hearts a desire to have like faith and may move them to take action to learn about God’s Word, and finally to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Surely, there are benefits in having our faith tested. Such trials enable us to see whether our faith has real sustaining power. We are aided to spot weaknesses in our faith, and this puts us in a better position to correct matters. Finally, our passing through tests successfully may aid others, also, to become disciples of Jesus Christ. So, may we do our utmost to maintain strong faith, faith that, after being subjected to one trial after another, “may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:7.