Exercise a muscle and it is strengthened. Or, fail to exercise, and it becomes flabby, the muscle shrivels or atrophies. Faith is like a muscle. God allows trials, troubles, and tribulation so that His children have opportunities to exercise their faith.
As an example, consider Abraham. God had promised to make Abraham and Sarah parents to multitudes of offspring. Finally, long after normal child-bearing years, God’s promise was fulfilled. Isaac, their first child was born. A few years later God gave Abraham an opportunity to exercise his faith. “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he answered. ‘Take your son,’ he said, ‘your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ ” (Genesis 22:1–2).
“God tested Abraham!” When God gave Abraham an opportunity to exercise his faith, he passed the test. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son, the one to whom it had been said, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking” (Hebrews 11:17–19).
James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote in his inspired epistle, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4).
The Apostle Peter made a similar point in his first epistle. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you... You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3–7).
Like an Olympian, Paul had been dedicated, he had practiced and worked hard. He had faced trials, tribulations, and troubles. Whenever he suffered, he exercised his faith and trusted in the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, nearing the end of his life’s journey, he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Sometimes trials, tribulations and troubles are God’s hand of discipline, God’s corrective measures. He often needs to give us an attitude adjustment.
At other times, when we are afflicted, when we suffer, when the storms of life assail, it is God’s sovereign way of helping us grow stronger. The Lord invites His children to trust Him, to exercise their faith. When we face difficulties and battles, we can know that God has orchestrated an opportunity for us to grow stronger by exercising our faith.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.