Tried and Purified


One of the things that makes us unique is our experiences. All the particular events that have transpired in our lives up until this very moment have helped to mold who we are as individuals. As Christians, we believe that God has providentially superintended our experiences in order to fulfill his purposes for us. Past experiences also shape the way we see the world. For example, if a person cringes and reacts negatively at the mention of church, there's a good chance that person had a bad experience which now colors his perception of church.

Oftentimes, past experiences and circumstances were completely out of our control. We don't get to choose our parents, nor where we were born. Many of our past disappointments and heartaches were also beyond our control. Not being in control bothers some of us more than others. Depending on one's temperament, this can be a minor frustration or the end of the world.

However, the Bible teaches that God “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28 NLT) The Psalmist wrote, “My enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9) The truth that all of our experiences are filtered through the loving hands of a sovereign God who loves us teaches us three important lessons:

1. To trust him in every circumstance.

Here’s a little experiment that may prove to be a blessing: Take a few quiet moments to look back on the last year. What were some of the lessons you learned? Did any of them require trusting God? The apostle Paul must have done the same thing because he wrote to the Corinthians: "We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead." (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) God uses the experiences of our lives to teach us to rely on him in every circumstance.

2. To shape our character.

You’ve heard it said, “experience is the best teacher.” In our fallen state, our will is often contrary to God’s will. It's like a child that's warned not to touch a hot stove but touches it anyway and suffers the consequences. God in his sovereignty will permit our bad choices so that from suffering the consequences we learn to trust him. In Confessions, Augustine of Hippo wrote that looking back on his life, he could see God's providential hand at work through his pain and sorrow. "As I became unhappier, you became closer." God pushes us towards him by allowing us to taste the bitterness of our sin.

God also uses trials to shape our character. The Bible says: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." (Romans 5:3-4 NLT) Having strong character is what leads people to make good decisions under pressure. It’s doing right even when tempted to do wrong.

3. To remember God has a custom-designed plan for each of us.

Generally speaking, God’s plan for all of us is to be conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29). Whatever your circumstances are now, it is important to remember the amazing truth that God has a plan for you. We are never hapless victims of circumstance. We are in the hands of an all-wise, all-powerful, loving heavenly Father.

Ron Hamilton, a.k.a. Patch the Pirate, was president and founder of Majesty Music, and creator of the Patch the Pirate Adventure series that has touched the lives of millions of children with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was called “Patch” because he had lost an eye to cancer and chose to wear a patch. Kids at his church started calling him “Patch” and the rest is history.

Ron went home to be with the Lord in April 2023. One of the greatest songs Ron ever wrote was “Rejoice in the Lord.” The lyrics reflect the wonderful truth that our God is for us.

    God never moves without purpose or plan when trying His servant and molding a man
    Give thanks to the Lord though your testing seems long in darkness He giveth a song
    O Rejoice in the Lord He makes no mistake He knoweth the end of each path that I take
    For when I am tried and purified I shall come forth as gold
The truth that all of our experiences are filtered through a sovereign God who loves us teaches us three important lessons