By Xiang Yang
One day, I read a fable. There was once a farmer who hoped that his wheat would not be affected by any terrible weather while it was growing, but would grow tall and strong in light winds and sunshine. But when his wish was realized and the time came to collect the harvest, the wheat held no grain. As it happens, if wheat is not baptized through all kinds of hard weather as it grows, it will not bear a rich harvest.
The growing of the wheat made me think of our own lives and how we also need to be tempered by wind and rain, otherwise we end up like flowers growing in a greenhouse, and we become very fragile, we fall at the first blow, and are unable to adapt to all manner of harsh environments and cruel realities. The Bible says, “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them” (Proverbs 1:32). When our environment is comfortable and easy, all we do is enjoy our flesh and we are simply unable to sincerely rely on God, look to God or draw close to Him. Our life entry can also stagnate, and when failures and setbacks befall us, we can very easily become negative and weak, we can lose our faith in God and, in serious cases, we can even deny and betray God. Therefore, if someone wants to grow in life, then they must undergo some setbacks, failures and tribulations. When we experience many hardships, we learn how to sincerely rely on God and look to God, we establish a normal relationship with God, and little by little we become composed and steady, and our will, our stamina, and our ability to judge things and handle problems all grow apace. We also become increasingly mature and we grow in life with each passing day. Therefore, we only grow by experiencing hardships and tribulations.
Similarly, to those of us who believe in God, undergoing hardships and refinements is God’s greatest blessing, for if we want to gain life, we must undergo hardships and suffering. The Bible says, “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried” (Daniel 12:10). “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but Jehovah tries the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3). There are many verses like this within the Bible, and they tell us that, only by experiencing hardships and refinements are we able to see our own true statures and discover our own shortcomings and deficiencies. At the same time, we come to have real knowledge of God’s will that lies behind His arrangement of these hardships, as well as of His disposition and what He has and is. Only by undergoing these hardships and refinements can our corrupt dispositions and the impurities in our belief in God be cleansed away, and only then can we be made by God into people who obey God, love God and satisfy God. Throughout history, those ancient saints and prophets were tempered through hardships before they came to have true faith in God and obeyed God, and only then did they earn God’s praise. Take Abraham, for example. God demanded that he give his son Isaac, who had been born to him when he was 100 years old, to God as a burnt sacrifice and, during this trial, Abraham gave up his most beloved only son in order to satisfy God. The sincerity and obedience he showed to God met with God’s acceptance, and God promised Abraham that the descendants of his offspring would multiply and increase, and Abraham became the father of many nations. Moses underwent 40 years of hardship in the wilderness, and not only did this suffering wear away his hot-bloodedness, but it also tempered his will and stamina, it perfected his true faith in God, and afterward, he became fit to be used by God. He bore the heavy burden of leading the Israelites out of Egypt and, by relying on his faith, he accomplished the commission God had entrusted to him. During the hardships and trials of his wealth being stolen away, his children meeting unfortunate ends and his whole body breaking out in painful boils, Job did not speak sinfully, and he believed that Jehovah had given him all he had and also that Jehovah had taken it away. No matter what God did, Job still extolled the name of Jehovah, and his faith, obedience and reverence for God were perfected through these hardships and trials. God blessed him, allowing him to hear with his own ears the voice of God, and He bestowed on Job even more wealth than before. Then there was Peter who experienced hundreds of trials and refinements. Those things within himself which rebelled against God, as well as his corrupt dispositions, were all gradually cleansed away, and there arose within him true understanding and love for the Lord. In the end, Peter was crucified upside down for the Lord’s sake, thus bearing a resounding testimony of obedience unto death and supreme love for God, and he became an example to aspire to for all who love God.
The Lord Jesus said, “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). Belief in God is a difficult, winding, bumpy road. As we travel along this road, we must undergo many trials and refinements, such as illness, poverty, being vilified by worldly people and so on. When these hardships and refinements befall us, are we able to hold our ground, not blame or misunderstand God, learn to accept it from God, and focus on learning the lessons and engaging in self-reflection, thus enabling us to grow in our lives? Actually, once we have passed through hardships and refinements, we can all truly appreciate that hardships are the greatest blessing that God can bestow on us! Only by undergoing hardships and suffering can we be rid of our corrupt dispositions and can our life dispositions then change. Only when our life dispositions change do we become qualified to receive God’s inheritance and obtain His promise!