June 2018 Newsletter - "Trials and Tribulations" by Nathan Padilla

To most believers in the church today, when they hear about trials and tribulations, they think “escape” and a need to avoid. That is a stark comparison to the early church who gloried in their tribulation and gave God praise for counting them worthy to go through such tribulation. They understood the necessity of what the tribulation would result in their lives and how it was necessary for the perfection of the saints. Now, the way we think of persecution is a bit one dimensional. The Apostle James says there are various trials we fall into and the reasons we fall into them.

Jas 1:2  My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, Jas 1:3  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Jas 1:4  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James clarifies to us that we must go through an assortment of trials that is necessary to test our faith so that it may be perfected and complete in us. Our faith cannot be perfected without tribulation. The Apostle Peter also points out various temptations we go through.

1Pe 1:6  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 1Pe 1:7  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,

Our faith is compared with the substance of gold, and as gold isn’t purified without going through intense heat that bring all the impurities to the top and remove it, is the same thing that the Father does with us. Yahuah turns up the heat, or tribulation, in us to be purified. Some may disagree and think maybe that is mean or too harsh and may even say, “Oh, God is love, He wouldn’t make me go through that,” yet all you have to do is open your bible and read Hebrews 11 and see how those faithful patriarchs went through so much persecution. The pattern never changed; the church, for the most part, has changed their theology concerning this. Yahushua did say that tribulation comes because of the word [Mat_13:21], not because of Satan.

Let us look into these “various trials” that we are to endure to become perfected. Some may be a surprise, and some we may already know. If we are aware of the various trials, I believe we will approach them more as a ready athlete as opposed to a coward.

In Origen is expounding on the days of creation and has revealed Yah’s divine plan for us in the creation. The 7 days of creation reveal the blueprint of us coming to a perfect man. How does one become perfect? The same way our muscles gain strength, through resistance. For the virtues of Yah to become great in us, it must be challenged by qualities that are of the opposite condition. Faith is tested with doubt, Chasity is challenged by lust, Self-control is resisted by luxury, Patience is proved by anger. So the controversies that we are currently going through are not satanic and just the enemy “attacking us;” it is the Father testing us. Job was tested by Satan by the recommendation of the Father [Job_2:3]. Origen describes the great whales and reptiles He created were seen as good [Gen_1:21]. Origen explains that these are “impious and abominable understandings” are these whales and reptiles in us. Why is that good? Well, in Genesis [1:21] He also created birds, so that when these impious thoughts come into or mind, we can resist and quickly flee from them, thus proving that we know how to discern between good and evil. Origen explains the benefit of this battle that we go through in our mind:

"And God saw that they were good."[Gen_1:21] Those things which are opposed to the saints are good for them because they can overcome them and when they have overcome them they become more glorious with God. Indeed, when the devil requested that power be given to him against Job, the adversary, by attacking him, was the cause of double glory for Job after his victory. What is shown from the fact that he received double those things which he lost in the present is that he will, without doubt, also receive in the same manner in the heavenly places. And the Apostle says that "No one is crowned except the one who has striven lawfully."[2 Tim_2:5] And indeed, how will there be a contest if there not be one who resists? How great the beauty and splendor is of light would not be discerned unless the darkness of night intervened. Why are some praised for purity unless because others are condemned for immodesty? Why are strong men magnified unless weak and cowardly men exist? If you use what is bitter, then what is sweet is rendered more praiseworthy. If you consider what is dark, the things which are bright will appear more pleasing to you. ~Origen-Homily on Genesis

 

The way most people today view tribulation is through a negative lens, because they don’t understand the will of the Father and His intentions. Yahuah spoke through the prophet, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," [Isa_55:8], which is a clear indicator that what we may not think that this isn’t fair treatment, when actually it is necessary for us to become purified. This isn’t for everyone, and Yahushua Himself tells us this, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” [Mat_7:14].

There is another form of tribulation that comes to us that we would never would think coming from a certain place, and according to Clement, it’s actually a far worse persecution for us to go through and it comes from an enemy you can’t run from. This is a persecution that follows us everywhere we go, and there is only one way to defeat this enemy. 

There is a persecution which arises from without, from men assailing the faithful, either out of hatred, or envy, or avarice [greed, material gain], or through diabolic agency. But the most painful is internal persecution, which proceeds from each man’s own soul being vexed by impious lusts, and diverse pleasures, and base hopes, and destructive dreams; when, always grasping at more, and maddened by brutish loves, and inflamed by the passions which beset it like goads and stings, it is covered with blood, (to drive it on) to insane pursuits, and to despair of life, and to contempt of God.

More grievous and painful is this persecution, which arises from within, which is ever with a man, and which the persecuted cannot escape; for he carries the enemy about everywhere in himself. Thus also burning which attacks from without works trial, but that from within produces death. War also made on one is easily put an end to, but that which is in the soul continues till death.

With such persecution, if you have worldly wealth, if you have brothers allied by blood and other pledges, abandon the whole wealth of these which leads to evil; procure peace for yourself, free yourself from protracted persecutions; turn from them to the Gospel; choose before all the Savior and Advocate and Paraclete of your soul, the Prince of life. “For the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Co_4:18) And in the present time are things evanescent [quickly disappearing] and insecure, but in that to come is eternal life. 1

 

This type of persecution we go through from within is more destructive to us, because it’s a war against our soul and not our flesh. Yahushua told us what we should be adamant about protecting: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” [Mat_10:28]. We are own worst enemies, and the vices that we struggle with in ourselves are the very things that we will be dragged into hell by, if we don’t overcome the passions of the flesh. How can we fight against an enemy that is within our own soul? How can we fight against the tribulation that happens within our own soul? Origen speaks to us about this type of tribulation that we are to fight, and this is a spiritual tribulation that contests against our very soul. Origen explains how we overcome the inner tribulation:

If we understand the horses that are commanded by the precept of God to be hamstrung, together with their chariots, as the passions of the body—that is, lust, petulance [bad temper] or pride, and fickleness [lack of stability and loyalty], by whom the unhappy soul, just as a rider, is borne and carried to great dangers—this understanding will not be contrary to our reasoning. The horse, of course, is hamstrung when the body is humbled by fasting's and vigils and by every pain of self-denial. And the chariots are consumed by fire when the word of the Lord is fulfilled in us, as he says, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish that it be set ablaze!” Those persons already revealed themselves to burn in that fire who said, “Was not our heart burning within us when he opened the Scripture for us?” Also, therefore, the horse is called “false for salvation” if we allow the impulses of the body to be endured unbridled and if we do not subdue the wanton and haughty necks of the flesh by the yoke of self-denial. 1

 

The majority of the church today has become lazy and has not faced persecution or even understood its importance the way our forefathers did. The early church thrived and grew in power and in number as the persecution increased. The church today is facing much persecution; however, the most important tribulation we need to overcome is actually being promoted in the church, as if it’s a blessing; this prosperity message we often hear. Where is the message of picking up your cross to follow Christ [Mat_16:24]? Where is the message of being “baptized into the death of Christ,” [Rom_6:3]? Paul and Peter spoke of how precious the sufferings and tribulations we go through are.

Col 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

1Pe 4:13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

The Apostles gloried in their tribulation [Rom_5:3], because they knew that it would bring them to perfection. According to Yahushua the Menorah is the church [Rev_1:20], and according to the pattern given to Moses, the Menorah [the church] is formed by being hammered. There is no other way to form the church than through trials and tribulation. The great tribulation at the end of the age is expounded upon by Iranaeus, “For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”1 There is no other way to receive the glory of Yah outside of going through tribulation. Origen explains how the manifestation of the glory comes.

“Nevertheless, the glory of God could not appear to them except when they were placed in the midst of persecutions, tribulations, dangers, and were brought practically to the point of death. Therefore, neither should you think that the glory of the Lord can appear to you when you are asleep or at leisure.”2

 

As I have briefly shared about the various trials and tribulations that we may encounter and the reasons for them, our attitude toward the tribulation should come with the approach of a ready athlete. There is a passage in Hermas, in which an angel makes a very compelling statement that should echo in our hearts to be an encouragement to go through this tribulation. “This then is the type of the great tribulation that is to come. If ye wish it, it will be nothing.”3 How is it that we can go through tribulation easily? The same way the early church did: by dying to our passions and remaining steadfast in the faith through the revelation of the Word. The revelation they had is what gave them the strength to endure. They offered a sacrifice of praise when they would go through tribulation, and all they would sing was, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Resources:

  1. Clement-Vol. 2 Rich Man Ch. XXV
  2. Origen-Joshua Homily 15
  3. Iranaeus-Vol. 1 Against Heresies Book 5 Ch. XXIX
  4. Origen- Numbers Homily 9
  5. Hermas- Vol. 2 The Shepard Bk. 1 Pt. 2 Ch. III
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