Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

104. ARE THE TRIALS OF LIFE A TEST OF FAITH?

 

Never confuse the destructive vicissitudes of life with a test of faith.  Most often, what we call a test of faith is just the inevitable consequence of living in an evil world.  

By the substitutionary atonement, God redeemed or bought-back all creation from the bondage of Satan, who now no longer owns it (Luke 4:5-7), and offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all persons. But Satan was not a willing seller and will never acknowledge the legitimacy of the sale.  He believes his property was stolen from him by a phony purchase.  He is battling God to retain possession.  Creation, for example, may be legally free from the bondage of evil but it is not free from the influence of evil itself through Satan and his minions who will never relinquish possession without a fight.  Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence which caused all creation to be engulfed by the bondage of evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them.  When restoration and repossession are complete, nature will be violent no more (Isa 11:6-9, 65:17-25; Rom 8:20-22; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1-4).  But for now, each human body is a small portion of creation and is under the influence of evil.  But God does not cause us to become grieved, broken, sick, crippled or maimed to strengthen our spirit, bring us closer to Him, teach us a lesson, give us a new perspective on life or make us stronger witnesses.  God is not giving us these trials of life as a test of our faith.  These things happen because Satan is the prince of this world and he would like to destroy our lives.

 

Never confuse the inevitable consequences of our own sin with God’s judgement.

Without question, God offers the great gift of salvation to every person who will ever live regardless of the breadth and depth of sin.  But what about the multitude of injured and broken lives left in the wake of our own sinful behavior?  After we ratify the sin nature as our own, at the age of accountability, damage begins to accumulate in the lives of those around us as we drag them into the muck of evil.  Can damaged lives be repaired?  Can wrecked lives be restored?  We pray, “Almighty God, restore to wholeness whatever has been broken by my sin.”  Unfortunately, most lives that are broken by our sin cannot be restored to wholeness.  Paul could not restore Stephen to life.  John Newton could not restore the lives of the dozens of slaves who died by his hand.  You cannot restore to wholeness the lives you have damaged by infidelity, divorce, alcohol, drugs, gambling, lying or cheating.  Sin can be forgiven by God and man, but the consequences stand!  In general, I cannot repair, reconstruct and restore lives damaged or broken by my sin.  I can only confess my sin with remorse in my heart, ask forgiveness and move forward as an instrument of Jesus Christ. 

The guilt, penalty and pain caused by one individual’s sin against another can morally be borne either by the sinner through justice or by the victim of sin through forgiveness; either the sinner pays the price of justice or the victim pays the price of forgiveness.  The victim cannot forgive the sinner without paying a price.  In other words, there is no serendipitous land of cheap forgiveness where we simply forgive one another by overlooking a few inconsequential faults at no cost to us.  While forgiveness usually brings a sense of peace and relief to the victim of sin, the victim can also bear great burden and pain.  The consequence of sin may last a lifetime.

 

Consider the grief we inflict on Jesus Christ.

The penalty of sin cannot be transferred to a third party.  When we say that Christ died as our substitute, we do not imply that He was simply a third party who stepped in between God and man.  Christ was not a third party in the affair at Calvary.  He was God against whom every sin is committed.  When God the Son said, at Calvary: “Father forgive them” instead of saying “Angelic hosts, destroy them,” He, as the victim, bore the guilt, penalty and pain rightfully due every person who will ever live.  Jesus not only bore the guilt and penalty for your sins but he took a step further.  Since your guilt is canceled and your punishment remitted, He said that you can be accepted before God as righteous.  You can, therefore, stand before God as if you had never sinned; you are thereby justified.

A life of faith is not a life of sentimental enjoyment of His blessings.  Faith means we will remain true to God whatever happens.