Phil Cox


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

Home page
Recent Columns
Previous Series
Phil's background
Preaching engagements
Creation and science
Contact Phil

Stubbington Baptist Church
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation
Evangelical Alliance Basis of Faith

Play the hand you're dealt

3rd August 2006

Last week, we took a quick look at:

1 Peter 1v1-9
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

This week, I'd like to consider how best we can cope when the trials are upon us. I'm not claiming to have the final word on this, but this is as far as I've got:

We're each dealt a hand of cards. And we have to play with the cards we're dealt. In most people's lives, there are things that are obviously blessings, and things that are obviously trials. We need to take the same view as Job, who said in Job 2:10 "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?". Some enjoyable stuff and some trouble comes into everyone's life from time to time. That's how it is.

This is the first step to coping with a trial. Accept it. It is a trial. There's no point saying it isn't. And it is real. So we need to get on with it, not pretend it isn't there. And pray honestly - don't try to pretend to God that you're more spiritual than you are - He knows what you're really like. And He will move you on from where you are - not from where you're pretending to be.

Step two is this: remember that some of the cards are blessings, and give thanks for them.

Step three: Accept not only that the cards you have are the cards you were dealt, but accept also that God dealt them. This can be difficult to do. We're all tempted to ask questions like "Why would God want me to suffer?", "Why would God give me a desire for something and not let me have it?", "Why do bad things happen to good people?", "Why would God take away something I love?", "Couldn't I serve God more effectively if I was healthier?" and so on. We're all tempted to try to persuade God to do what we want. But if Peter is right (and he is) then the trials that we face are actually good things. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. This means that every trial we face has been designed by God especially for us, so that our faith may be proved genuine (and made more complete) and Jesus will be glorified by our faithfulness to him. When we're faithful while undergoing trials, it says so much more about our faith than when life is easy.

Step four: Embrace both the blessings and the trials. If you can accept that they are all God-given, then you can receive them into your life. If these trials are God-given, then they must be good for us - although they don't feel like it and we usually can't see how that possibly could be. In fact, although this seems so untrue, even the trials are blessings when seen from a long-term perspective. Romans 8:28 says we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

Step 5: Remember that the trials are God-given, and don't blame anyone who has hurt you. Rather forgive them, even if they meant to hurt you. Adopt the same attitude as Joseph in Genesis 50:19-20, "Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done". God does know how much it hurts. God does know how much you've been sinned against. And Jesus said that, if we want His forgiveness for our sins, we must forgive those who sin against us.

Step 6: Try to discern what lessons (if any) the trials are sent to teach you. And learn those lessons as fast as you can! In this way, you may be able to keep the trial as short as possible.

And pray for the trials to end, but don't lose your relationship with God because they don't end as soon as you want them to. God is good, and God does know best. And sometimes all we have is the knowledge that this is true, in the middle of the pain.

May God sustain you through you trials, and reward your faithfulness when the time is right.