Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 PETER 1:3–7, ESV
Because of God’s grace and regeneration, believers are changed forever. However, they are not immediately at the spiritual maturity level that God desires for His people. Therefore, from that point until they go home to be with their Lord, all genuine Christians will go through a series of tests and trials that put pressure on their faith….
This pressure is spiritual, but the circumstances applying it come from all directions and sources. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh that put such pressure on his faith that the testing brought him to the point that he implored the Lord to take it away three times.
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV)
We do not know what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was, but it resulted in him being in a severe test. This test caused him to plead with the Lord three times to take it away. However, notice that God’s response was to allow the ‘thorn’ while sustaining Paul by His grace in the midst of it. What was Paul’s response to that? I know that when I was a younger Christian that I would read this passage and wonder where God’s grace was in my tests and trials. However, nowadays things are different. I still do not like suffering, but I have learned that I am a Christian for God’s glory and for my Lord’s sake, not for myself at all. That realization finally began to sink home with me in August 2004 after an 8-month boot camp with God drawing me closer and closer to Him over that time. I was truly amazed at how my conceptualization of suffering changed after that. I am nowhere near where I would like to be in this. No matter how severe our trials are, God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness.