What’s the purpose of trials? It’s real simple. As Christians, we undergo trials to build up endurance. Another way of saying it is that trials help us grow. Paul concludes the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 by saying, “so that you will be able to endure it.” The word “endure” (from hupophero, “to bear up under; to shoulder”) is related to the word “endurance.”
“Endurance” is a positive word. It refers to building up strength, increasing stamina, going the distance, becoming stronger. Trials serve to strengthen our faith.
Trials help us grow; they refine us. In the physical realm, we lift weights and exercise to increase strength and endurance and to facilitate and maintain health. To achieve that goal, we need pressure and resistance when we exercise. No pain, no gain!
When I am in the gym or weight room, the two exercises I fear and despise the most are dips and pull-ups. For me these two exercises create the most resistance against my anemic arms and they give me the most pain. But they are incredibly effective for increasing endurance and strength in my arms and shoulders.
None of us have arrived in the Christian life. We all walk with feet of clay. We all have areas where we are weak, soft or flabby, spiritually speaking. We all have rough edges. And we all need our rough edges smoothed off. How do you smooth off rough edges? Think of a rock. How do you smooth a rock’s rough edges? You take off the rough edges with a hammer. That’s painful, but we all need that kind of refining. And that is the purpose of the trials in this life: so that God may grow us and refine us so that we become more and more conformed into the image of Christ.
We are all like a big piece of clay when we get saved, and then God sets out to form us like a potter, using resistance and pressure, pushing and pulling and stretching and shaping us, all the while making us uncomfortable. But more and more he is fashioning us into the image of the glorious Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-29; 2 Cor 3:18). And that kind of refinement can’t occur apart from the trials of life. That is God’s purpose. He is in control and we need to rejoice in that truth.