Exposing True Faith Through Trials
One reason God gives us trials is to test our faith. Although trials never destroy the faith of a true believer (rather it strengthens their faith), they do expose the reality of a person’s faith. True character comes out in the midst of trials.
William Perkins, an old puritan says this:
"Here is a notable difference between the godly and the wicked. It comes in the suffering of trials. A reprobate, a wicked person, the more the Lord lays His hand on him, the more he murmurs and rebels against God. The faithful, when they feel themselves overwhelmed with sin, turmoiled with the conflicts of Satan, when they feel even the anger of God offended against them, they fling themselves into the arms of God's mercy, they catch hold of the hand of God buffeting them and they kiss it."
Those with true faith perseverse. Consider 1 Peter 1: 6-7:
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 1:6–7, ESV)
Trials are given to test the genuineness of our faith. What wonderful assurance that should give believers who have endured problems and difficulties and yet remain faithful to God. You have passed the test and proved yourself to be a true child of God. He has personally granted you the strength and wisdom to persevere. This is no small matter. It takes power to persevere (Col 1:11). It is the one who endures to the end who is saved (Matt 24:13). True faith is a faith that lasts.
On the other hand think about the Parable of the sowers (Matt 13:3-23). The seed that falls on the rocky ground are those that receive the word with joy, but they have no root. They endure for a while but when tribulation or persecution comes they immediately fall away. They have failed the test and revealed the true reality of their faith. Because they don’t have true faith, a faith that was ever rooted in Christ. A faith that perseveres.
But God can use those trials to awaken sinners. He graciously calls attention to those that have a false faith. C.S. Lewis famously addressed this in The Problem of Pain. After stating how sinners can ignore pleasure he says:
“But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. A bad man happy, is a man without the least inkling that his actions do not ‘answer’...”
God is shouting to unbelievers in their pain. That is why we so often hear testimonies of people who were were saved in the midst of trials. And that is one reason God will not give wisdom to sinners during there trials. Witholding wisdom to deal with trials is God being merciful to unbelievers and those with a false faith so they can see their true condition and cry to God for help.