Trials for a Greater Purpose

Carter Conlon

Perhaps today you are experiencing betrayal, persecution, torment in your mind, trouble with your children, the loss of someone close to your heart or some other experience that has left you with almost unspeakable pain. It has driven you to prayer where you ask, “Lord, is this really necessary? Can’t you just take it away in a moment? Why the struggle? Why the fury?”

Our answer lies in the Psalmist’s poem, “He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters. He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (Psalm 105:17-19, NKJV).

The Hebrew word for “tested” is seraph, which means “to melt metal, to refine, to purge gold or silver by fire in order to separate it from the impurities in it.” Here is what the scripture is saying: God gave Joseph a promise, but until that promise became a reality, the Word of God led Joseph to a place where he was put through the fire and purged of everything within him that was unlike the heart of God.

God knew there would be a myriad of people who were going to need provision, not only Joseph’s own family but also the nation where he lived. There would be people starving and without hope. The Lord wanted to put something in Joseph’s hand that would bring deliverance to his generation, but he simply could not put this kind of treasure in the hands of an untested vessel.

As you head into a season of hardship, have you ever considered that the Lord is sending you ahead as he did Joseph? His mercy is sending you ahead to prepare you so that he might put something in your hand for people who will be in need.

The apostle Peter explained it this way: “ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NKJV).

Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.

Communion Is Greater than Service

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Jesus told his disciples, “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30, NKJV). The Lord has spread a table in the heavenlies for his followers. What an exciting prospect!

When the apostle Paul said, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8), I believe he meant that we have been assigned a seat in the heavenlies with Christ at his royal table. Paul was saying, “Always show up. Never let it be said your seat is empty.”

The sad truth is that the church of Jesus Christ simply does not comprehend what it means to keep the feast. We do not understand the majesty and honor accorded us by having been raised by Christ to sit with him in heavenly places. We have become too busy to sit at his table. We mistakenly derive our spiritual joy from service instead of communion. We run ourselves ragged giving our bodies and minds to his work, but we seldom keep the feast.

We do more and more for a Lord whom we know less and less.

The one thing our Lord seeks above all else from his servants, ministers and shepherds is communion at his table. This table is a place for spiritual intimacy, and it is spread daily. Keeping the feast means coming to him continually for food, strength, wisdom and fellowship. Ever since the Cross, all spiritual giants have had one thing in common: They revered the table of the Lord.

Our vision of Christ today is too small, too limited, but as we continually come to the Lord’s table and spend time in his presence, our understanding of his awe-inspiring person will grow. Someone with an increasing revelation of Christ’s vastness need fear no problem, no devil, no power on this earth. He knows that Christ is bigger than it all.

If we had this kind of revelation of how vast he is, how boundless and immense, we would never again be overwhelmed by life’s problems.

Faith to Withstand the Battle

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Let me tell you how and where Paul produced his epistles. He wrote them in dark prison cells. He wrote them after being scourged or having survived another shipwreck. He was intimately familiar with hardship and suffering.

Paul knew that all of the truth and revelation he taught came from the battlefield of faith, and he rejoiced in his afflictions for the gospel’s sake. He said, “Now I can preach with all authority to every prisoner who’s been locked up with no hope, to everybody who has ever looked death in the face. God’s Spirit is making me a tested veteran so I can speak his truth to everyone who has ears to hear.”

If you’re going through hardship, God hasn’t turned you over to the power of Satan. No, he’s allowing your trial because the Holy Spirit is performing an unseen work in you. Christ’s glory is being formed in you for all eternity. You’ll never get true spirituality from someone or something else. If you’re going to taste God’s glory, it’s going to have to come to you right where you are in your present circumstances, pleasant or unpleasant.

I believe one of the great secrets of Paul’s spirituality was his readiness to accept whatever condition he was in without complaining. He writes, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, NKJV).

Paul is saying, “I don’t try to protect myself from my unpleasant circumstances. I don’t beg God for relief from them. On the contrary, I embrace them. I know from my history with the Lord that he’s doing something eternal in me.”

Our part in every trial is to trust God for all the power and resources we need to find contentment in the midst of our suffering. Please don’t misunderstand me. Being “content” in our trials doesn’t mean we enjoy them. It simply means we no longer try to protect ourselves from them. We are content to stay put and endure whatever is handed to us because we know our Lord is conforming us to the image of his Son.

What Do We Know of Endurance?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

To endure means “to carry through despite hardships; to suffer patiently without giving up.” In short, it means to hold on or hold out, but this word means little to the present generation. Many Christians today are quitters. They quit on their spouses, their families and their God.

Peter addresses this subject by saying, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in his mouth’; who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:19-23, NKJV).

The apostle Paul similarly commands, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). Finally, the Lord himself gives us this promise: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

What is your hardship? Is your marriage in turmoil? Is your job in crisis? Do you have a conflict with a relative, a landlord or a friend who has betrayed you?

We are to take hope. Just as Paul’s suffering never let up, neither did his revelation, his maturity, his deep faith and his settled peace. He said, “If I’m going to be a spiritual man — if I really want to please my Lord — then I can’t fight my circumstances. I’m going to hold on and never quit. Nothing on this earth can give me what I get from God’s Spirit every day in my trial. He’s making me a spiritual man.”

Paul’s life “breathed” with the Spirit of Christ. So it is with every truly spiritual person. The Holy Ghost pours forth out of that servant’s inner being the heavenly breezes of God. This person isn’t downcast; he doesn’t murmur or complain about his lot. He may be going through the trial of his life, but he’s still smiling because he knows God is at work in him, revealing his eternal glory.

A Personal Revelation of Christ

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

If you are a preacher, missionary or teacher, you have some questions to consider. What are you teaching? Is it what a person taught you? Is it a rehashing of some great teacher’s revelation? Or have you experienced your own personal revelation of Jesus Christ? If you have, is it ever-increasing?

Paul said of God, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts17:28, NKJV). True men and women of God live within this very small yet vast circle. Their every move, their entire existence, is wrapped up only in the interests of Christ.

To preach Christ, we must have a continuous flow of revelation from the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we will end up repeating a stale message. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13).

Such revelation awaits every servant of the Lord who is willing to wait on him, believing and trusting the Holy Spirit to manifest to him the mind of God. We must preach an ever-increasing revelation of Christ, yet only as that revelation effects a deep change in us.

Paul voiced his personal concerns about this very topic. “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul certainly never would have doubted his security in Christ; that was not in his mind here. He dreaded the thought of standing before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for preaching a Christ he did not really know or for proclaiming a gospel he did not fully practice.

We cannot continue another hour calling ourselves servants of God until we can answer this question personally: Do I truly want nothing but Christ? Is he truly everything to me, my one purpose for living?