My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Trials are beneficial to true faith

Nobody enjoys trials. Nobody will actually claim to like them. But everybody - yes, everybody - has to face trials. Of course we can try to hide, we can try to run. But I think that at least most of us know the truth that we have to go through them. Which does not make them easier to bear. Jesus told us that there would be trials and tribulations in our lives. Especially if we are His followers. So we try to brave ourselves for what is to come. But rarely we think about the lessons we can learn or the character we can gain. Very understandable. Last week I read in one of my parents' birhtday gifts to me, the complete works by Jonathan Edwards. And he had some very intersting things to share about trials. They really made/make me think. So here they are (from his "A treatise concerning religious affections"):

Such trials [as of the recipients of Peter's letter, see 1. Peter 1] are of threefold benefit to true religion. Hereby the truth of it is manifested, it appears to be indeed true religion. Trials, above all other things, have a tendency to distinguish true religion and false, and to cause the difference between them evidently to appear. Hence they are called by the name of trials [...]. They try the faith and religion of professors, of what sort it is, as apparent gold is tried in the fire, and manifested, whether it be gold or not. And the faith of true Christians, being thus tried and proved to be true, is found to praise, and honour, and glory.
And then, these trials not only manifest the
truth of true religion, but they make its genuine beauty and amiableness remarkably to appear. True virtue never appears so lovely, as when it is most oppressed: and the divine excellency of real Christianity is never exhibited with such advantage, as when under the greatest trials. Then it is that true faith appears much more precious than gold; and upon this account, is found to praise, and honour and glory.
Again, another benefit of such trials to true religion, is that they
purify and increase it. They not only manifest it to be true, but also tend to refine it, and deliver it from those mixtures of what is false, which incumber and impede it; that nothing may be left but that which is true. They not only show the amiableness of true religion to the best advantage, but they tend to increase its beauty by establishing and confirming it; making it more lively and vigorous, and purifying it from those things that obscured its lustre and glory. As gold that is tried in the fire is purged from its alloy, and all remainders of dross, and comes forth more beautiful; so true faith being tried as gold is tried in the fire, becomes more precious; and thus also is found unto praise, and honour, and glory.