Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 1:6 NKJV)
I believe that there’s purpose in pain.
In God’s Word, we’re reminded that there will be tremendous difficulties on this earth. In John 16, Jesus warns us that this world will bring great trouble. But there is a reason that He tells us to be of great cheer.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NKJV).
As believers, if we’re to take up our cross and follow Christ’s example, we will be dying to something. The cross was an instrument used to put Jesus to death. However, Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t a moment of defeat. He rose again in victory, conquering death. As we die to ourselves–that is, our old, sinful ways–we, too, are rising from death, becoming the people He called us to be.
Oftentimes, the trials meant to destroy us are the instruments God uses to perfect us.
God is not the author of evil or confusion. As John 16 tells us, the world will have its own tribulation–He, however, is the One that has and will overcome it.
Consider the events that occurred when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace.
In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon creates a golden statue that he commands all people to worship. However, three of the many Israelites taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar refuse to do so. Because of their disobedience to the King, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment.
Six hundred years before Christ was born, these young men declare their allegiance to God:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 16:16-18 NKJV).
In this passage, we learn that they know what God is capable of; they state that God could save them from this horrifying circumstance (v. 17). But in case He chooses not to, they set their minds to remain loyal to Him, even if it cost them their lives.
These men were eternity-minded. They had faith in God, knowing earth was not their home. Thus, even the most painful trial, which would be temporary on earth, could not outweigh the glory that was to come in their eternal home, heaven.
And their trial becomes even worse. In verse 19, Nebuchadnezzar is so angry that they refused to obey him that he instructs that the furnace be seven times hotter than it was before. In fact, the furnace becomes so hot that the men who bring those three up to the furnace die in the presence of the flames (v. 22).
Death seemed imminent. However, God was in the midst.
As Nebuchadnezzar watches Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the flames, he notices a strange occurrence: “‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’” (v. 25)
God appears with them in the fire, and He delivers them from it, not hurt–untouched and unharmed.
The results of this event are astounding. King Nebuchadnezzar, who once decreed a manmade idol be worshipped as a god, acknowledges the one true God and makes a new decree, pointing others to Him:
“Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this” (v. 28-19).
Nebuchadnezzar was right. There was no other God who could do the impossible rescue that had just been done.
It would have been easier for the three men to worship a false idol and avoid risking their lives, but their commitment to God allowed Him the space to do the impossible for them. Plus, the other Israelites held in captivity were freed–and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego received a royal promotion from the king (v. 30).
Ultimately, this fiery test brought freedom and pointed others to the Lord, opening up the opportunity for more people to choose an eternity with Him.
God can provide miracles through our fiery circumstances. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were rescued by God in the fire, and they were promoted because of their God. Nevertheless, I believe the ultimate goal is that we’re pointed closer and closer to eternity.
When I experience drought, I then know how much I need rain. Earthly trials remind me that my final home is with my Savior in heaven. Earthly trials remind me that nothing can bring me satisfaction like God. Earthly trials remind me how my time here is fleeting.
As a child of God, you have a secure promise. Through everything you encounter, God is forming you to become perfect and entire, complete and lacking nothing. He is developing you for His eternal kingdom.
This work begins at the moment of salvation, until the day you are united with your Savior. Philippians 1:6 promises this work will be done. You are God’s handiwork, and God will finish the work He started in you. God takes responsibility as Creator to perfect His creation.
Our responsibility is to humble ourselves and follow Him. The flesh lives for now, but its consequences are lasting. However, when we commit to Christ in our troubles, we are preparing for eternity. Your obedience can win souls for the kingdom, and God will reward you for honoring Him.
These trials are precious, vital times in our faith. God takes the old and makes it new. He takes the pain and makes it purpose. We must get ourselves out of the way, so that God can form us into His perfect creation.
And be of good cheer in this world you’re passing through, because your Father in Heaven has overcome it.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV)