"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."—1 Pet. 4:12,13.
PERHAPS few have learned to value the discipline of the Lord as did the faithful Apostle who wrote these words. While he as well as others realized that no affliction for the present seemeth joyous, but rather grievous, yet knowing the ministry of such discipline, and recognizing it as an additional evidence of sonship to God, he rejoiced in being a partaker of it.
But why is it that fiery trials must come to us? Is there no way of gaining the crown without these crosses? No, there is not; for if ye receive not the discipline of trial whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Trials of faith and patience and love and endurance are as necessary to our development and our fitting for the high position to which we are called, as are the instructions of the divine Word and the special manifestations of divine grace. The blessed sunshine and shower have their benign influence, but none the less the cloud and the storm; but we need ever to bear in mind that the cloud has its silver lining, and that God is in the whirlwind and in the storm.
Like water upon the parched earth, and like sunshine to vegetation after winter snows, so the message of divine truth comes to us and with it the blessed realization of divine favor. In the joy of our new-found treasure we are apt to think at first that we have actually entered the Beulah land of joy and peace where sorrow and trial can never more come to us. But no; there are sorrows ahead and trials beyond, and you will need all the strength which the truth can give and all the blessed influences that divine grace can impart to enable you to endure faithfully to the end.
But do not stop to worry about the trials until they come; only remember the Apostle's words—"Think it not strange," when they do [R1744 : page 390] come. They come to prove you and to strengthen your character and to cause the principles of truth and righteousness to take deep root in your heart. They come like fiery darts from our great enemy, Satan, whose wrath against the children of light is permitted to manifest itself in various ways; but his darts cannot injure those who securely buckle on the divinely provided armor of truth and righteousness. "Wherefore," says the Apostle, "take unto you the whole armor of God,...above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."—Eph. 6:13-17.
The Christian life is thus set forth as a warfare—a warfare, "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph. 6:12.) In other words, as Christians imbued with the spirit of our Master, we find the principles of truth and righteousness which we have espoused to be at variance with the whole present order of things, which is to a very large extent under the control of "the prince of this world"—Satan. And when sin is thus so inwrought throughout the whole social fabric of the present age; and not only so, but when we also find the flesh, our own old nature, in harmony with it, we see into what close quarters we must come with the enemy, and what a hand to hand and life-long struggle it must needs be. Yet our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual, and the Apostle says they are mighty for the pulling down of the strongholds of error and iniquity.—2 Cor. 10:4,5.
When, therefore, the fiery trials and darts from the enemy come upon you, be ready as an armed soldier of the cross to meet and withstand them. If you run away from them, you are a coward, and not worthy to be called a soldier.