Part 7 God Makes Our Trials

His Achievement Are We

  IT IS CERTAINLY CORRECT to say that God makes our trials, not merely permits them. For, “No trial has taken you except what is human” (1 Cor.10:13a). And, “A man [a “human”] cannot get anything if it should not be given him out of heaven” (John 3: 27). “Now, faithful is God, Who will not be leaving you to be tried above what you are able, but, together with the trial, will be making the sequel also, to enable you to undergo it” (1 Cor.10:13b).

If a furniture maker were to say to us, “Together with the table, I will be making the chairs also,” we would understand just what he meant. He would mean that he would be making both items of furniture, making them together, one as well as the other. Thus it is with God’s making of our trials and their sequels, though He has no need to attempt the actual trying, or “probing” (peirazo, PROBIZE), and so has delegated that work to others who will ultimately benefit from the experience (e.g., Gen.50:20). Therefore, God brings us into trial (cp Matt.6:13; Luke 11:4), yet He Himself does not try us (James 1:13).

The standard PROBE accurately represents the central idea in the stem -peir-, from which we get peirasmoa, PROBing, trial, and peirzao, PROBize, try. Its most elementary sense is shown in the passages that speak of attempting to do something. Thus, Saul tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26); Paul and Timothy tried to go into Bythynia (Acts 16:7); Paul was charged with trying to profane the sanctuary (Acts 24:6). The essence of the term, then, points us to the idea of attempting to do something. And, in the nature of the case, the purpose of such an endeavor also involves the thought of probing. In some passages, it is the essence of -pier- (to attempt) which is in view. In others, we are directed toward its purpose (to discover) and the means that it employs toward this end (probing, into the unknown).

Though God may often “leave us to our own devices” (which are themselves ultimately the work of His hand), He will not be leaving us in such a way or to such a degree that we are tried above what we are able. He promises us power to endure our trials, not exemption from their consequences or a way to escape their grasp. He enables us to endure by giving us faith to believe that one day we will “step out” of all our trials, and will then enjoy their “sequel” (ekbasis, OUT-STEPPing). Therefore, “we may be glorying . . . in afflictions, having perceived that affliction is producing endurance, yet endurance testedness, yet testedness expectation” (Rom.5:3,4). Indeed, “Happy is the man who is enduring trial” (cp James 1:12a). And, “Lo! we are counting those happy who endure,” for we have heard of the endurance of Job, and have perceived the consummation of the Lord, “for very compassionate and pitiful is the Lord” (cf James 5:11).

James speaks ideally when he says, “Let no one, undergoing trial, be saying that ‘From God am I undergoing trial’ . . . ” (James 1:13a). He by no means, however, declares that the reason no one should be saying “From God am I undergoing trial” is because (as most believe) He has neither made our trials nor given them to us. To the contrary, since God has made our trials and given us all that we have, it cannot be that James is hereby denying God’s deity with regard to our trials. To the contrary, he explicitly tells us why he says what he says. We are not to be saying “‘From God am I undergoing trial,’ for God is not tried by evils, yet
He is trying no one” (James 1:13).

Unlike ourselves, God is never tried by evils, in the associated sense of experiencing perplexity or distress due to suffering. In the face of evil, God is neither perplexed nor distressed, for He knows just what it will do, and that it will accomplish His purpose. Likewise, evils cannot probe into the untraceable ways of the Deity in order to put Him on trial or discover something about Him. They have no such ability and have been given no such ministry. Our trials may consist of much that is evil, but in themselves, they can teach us nothing. God, however, can teach us much through the experiences of evil which He wisely gives us (Ecc.1:13).

We are not to be putting God on trial (1 Cor.10:9), attempting to make Him prove Himself; we are to be believing His Word and trusting His promises. However, while confidently relying on Him, we are to be testing God (examining and testing out His ways) that we might have Him in recognition and discover the goodness of His ways (cp Rom.1:28; 12:2). But we must never be so foolish as to put Him on trial, to contend with our Maker out of our own unbelief (e.g., Ex.17:1-7).

It is true that we are not being tried by God, as if He were trying to discover something about us (for He already knows all; 1 John 3:20). Consequently, in this sense and for these reasons, when being tried, we should not be saying that “From God am I undergoing trial” (literally, we should not say, “From God [the Placer] I am being tried,” CONCORDANT GREEK TEXT sublinear, James 1:13). This is quite true. For the Placer does not “try” (attempt and probe), He subjects.

“Let us take the case of Job as a concrete example. Here we have both God and Satan. God undoubtedly brought Job into trial, but He did not try him. He left that to Satan. God knew Job and did not need to probe him to find out what was in him. Satan did not know Job and needed to be shown. And so it is in all other cases. Trial, probing, and experiment is a thing God does not need for Himself since He knows all. But His creatures need it, for they are here to learn, as Job, not only what is in themselves, but also what is in God (cp Job 1:6-12,21,22; 42:12-16).

“The meaning of try or PROBE involves ignorance. The outcome is questionable. Whenever the men of His day tried our Lord they manifested their own blindness as well as their lack of confidence in Him. Yet in the contrary instance, when Philip was tried by our Lord (John 6:6), it is immediately explained that He was aware what He was about to do. His words tried Philip. He practically brought him into trial. Once we see this essential element in the word “trial,” which we have tried to express by the standard PROBE, it becomes evident that God cannot try anyone, except in a figurative sense (e.g., Gen.22:1). The teacher in a classroom may “experiment” before the pupils, but that is a vastly different matter from the experiments of an inventor or investigator. God brings trials to demonstrate. This should be abundantly clear from the fact that with each trial He makes a sequel as well. He is like a novelist who determines first of all what the end of the tale is to be, and then brings on all the dangers and difficulties which will lead up to the sequel, but hold this back for the second volume.”

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Indeed, James’ words in reply to those who boast in “the free will of man” concerning one’s plans and achievements are among the most condemnatory in all Scripture against that position: “Come now, you who are saying, ‘Today or tomorrow we will be going into this or that city and should be spending a year there, and we will be trafficking and getting gain’—who are not versed in that which is the morrow’s, for what is your life? For a vapor are you, which is appearing briefly and thereupon disappearing—instead of your saying, ‘If the Lord should ever be willing, and we shall be living, we also will be doing this or that.’ Yet now you are vaunting in your ostentations. All such boasting is wicked. Then to one perceiving how to be doing the ideal and not doing it, to him it is sin” (James 4:13-17).

This scriptural teaching, through James, is obviously transadministrational in nature. Indeed Paul presents himself as our model in this matter as well: e.g., “I shall come back again to you, God willing” (Acts 18:21). Similarly, “I shall be coming to you swiftly if ever the Lord should be willing” (1 Cor.4:19). Upon hearing the prophecy that at Jerusalem the Jews would put the apostle in bonds and give him over to the Romans, the brethren declared, “Let the will of the Lord be done!” (Acts 21:14). They realized that this was the will and work of the Lord, for, “Would there come to be evil in a city, and Yahweh not have done it?” (Amos 3:6b).

It is not that we may never use the future tense concerning ourselves under any circumstances, but that we are not to do so when speaking predictively where God has not promised. When it is evident we are simply speaking ideally, as an example of a commended course, the future tense may freely be used by itself. For example, Paul said, concerning all who were announcing Christ, “I am rejoicing in this also, and will be rejoicing” (Phil.1:18). He is not boasting of the morrow, but setting us an example.

Yet if indeed when saying “I will” (or, “I’m going to”) we actually mean no more than “I intend to do so” or, “my plans are,” then why not say as much—at least when speaking of matters of some importance? Undoubtedly, not unlike the matter of saying “eonian life” instead of “eternal life,” here too we wish to be accepted by others, and so convince ourselves that these matters are not very important after all. Yet Paul has said, “Have a pattern of sound words, which you hear from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim.1:13). Though even among ourselves, perhaps we need not always express the words, “the Lord willing,” nonetheless, we should be very far from neglecting them altogether. But let us not be overrighteous in this matter, or intent upon reforming our friends. We have enough to do to deal with our own weaknesses in many areas. Let us be sensible and practical, but not unfaithful under the guise of these.

Yet let us remember, “It is the glory of the Elohim to conceal a matter” (Prov.25:2). Most are well satisfied as to their own rectitude in paying little heed indeed to these teachings. Their consciences do not bother them. They are quite ensconced in their habitual ways of thinking and speaking. So let us remember that it is God’s grace that brings adjustment, not our impatience.

It is extremely helpful to realize that our trials, with all their human failings (or “sin”), do not happen by free will. Instead, they occur according to the wise counsels of our God and Father. This realization becomes a powerful influence upon us, giving us an ability to undergo many an unhappy matter that we would otherwise never have. Like Job, we can take these things from the hand of our God, our Subjector. For we know, though they find no place whatever in His heart of love (cf Jer.32: 35; cp 44:21), His wisdom dictates their ephemeral presence, and His hand brings them to pass, according to His counsels (e.g., cf Acts 4:28; cp Isa.53:10). This is so that we might one day have the blessing of deliverance from all evil, and glorify and thank Him accordingly.

We rejoice in the assurance that God is faithful. Together with the trial He will be making the sequel also, to enable us to undergo it. Consequently, in the midst of trial, in everything we are giving thanks (1 Thess.5:18). May we be giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to our God and Father (Eph.5:20).

James Coram

*1 “Yet” represents the particle de, “an adversative connective, yet, sometimes very slightly so; [it is] used as a resumptive, now” (KEYWORD CONCORDANCE, p.337, entry “yet”). De is sometimes idiomatically rendered “or” (e.g., James 4:13). Here, in James 1:13b, the sense is: The reason no one is to be saying, It is from the Placer that I am being probed, is because (first of all) God is not tried by evils; yet (another reason why no one should be speaking thus is because) He is trying no one.
*2 UNSEARCHABLE RICHES, vol.31, pp.304-307; A. E. Knoch.

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