How do You Handle Tribulation?

His Light Shines on Us
Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

Most believers in Christ throughout history of Christianity have suffered tribulation. For most it has been an ever-present reality (1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Tim. 3:12-13).

The New Testament describes tribulation as the inevitable conflict between the good news of Jesus Christ and a sinful hostile world dominated by Satan (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 1:8).

The word for “tribulation” (thilipsis) is found 45 times in the New Testament and is variously translated suffering, distress, affliction, trouble, persecution, and tribulation.

Sometimes the context deals with hardships that are common to every individual such as childbirth, illness, and common relationship.

Tribulation is something that all believer’s in the New Testament experienced. It includes persecution (1 Thess. 1:6), imprisonment (Acts 20:23), derision (Heb. 10:33), poverty (2 Cor. 8:13), sickness (Rev. 2:22), inner distress and sorrow (Phil. 1:17; 2 Cor. 2:4), etc.

In a more narrow sense the word “tribulation” refers to the hostile world’s reaction to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said it is inevitable and unavoidable that persecutions and tribulations will be present when the gospel is preached and men are saved (Matt. 13:21).

What should the Christian’s response be to the ever present reality of tribulations and persecutions in life?

The teachings of Jesus in the Olivet discourse (Matt. 24; 25; Mk. 13; Lk. 21) are the only explicit descriptions and clear chronological references available in the Bible to the tribulation Christians face (Matt. 24:3, 9). Jesus told the coming destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 (Matt. 24:15-21; Lk. 21:20-24).

Many of the recipients of the letters of the New Testament were being persecuted (Heb. 10:37; 2 Cor. 8:2; Acts 11:19; Rev. 1:9; 2:9, etc).

Why do we experience tribulations?

God uses tribulations to discipline His children for their unfaithfulness (Deut. 4:30). In the New Testament it is more often because we are faithful to Christ that we re persecuted (Jn. 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rev. 1:9). Paul expected it in his missionary work (2 Cor. 1:4, 6, 8; 2:4; 4:8, 17; 6:4-10; 7:4f; 11:16; 12:10; Eph. 3:13; Phil. 1:17; 4:14; 1 Thess. 3:4, 7). Why should we expect anything different?

Tribulations are entirely within the will of God, and He uses them to promote moral purity and godly character in the believer (Rom. 5:3-4).

The “Great Tribulation” serves to identify the eschatological form of tribulation in a worldwide unprecedented time of trouble that will usher in Christ’s return to earth in great glory (Mk. 13:19; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 2:22; 7:14; Lk. 21:23).

The victorious Christian in the midst of persecution and tribulation is a constant theme in the New Testament. Also, Christ is able to reverse tribulation (2 Thess. 1:6).

When Christ comes in glory at the Second Coming, there will be a glorious multitude of His followers from every nation, tribe, people and language who have overcome (Rev. 7:14). Christ will have delivered them through the tribulation that began with the first disciples (Matt. 24:9) and ends with the redemption of all who are gathered at His Second Coming (vv. 29-31). However, the tribulation that affected Jerusalem in A. D. 70 was only a microcosm of the “great tribulation” that will affect believers throughout the history of the church and reach a climax just before the coming of Christ (v. 21).

Jesus set the example for us as to how we should handle tribulations (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Our attitude should be one of faith in the goodness and justice of God (James 1:2-4). They serve to prove us faithful and lead us to greater maturity in faith (Col. 1:24).

Tribulations are inevitable for the believer in Christ. What should be our attitude? Romans 5:3-5 reads, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 8:35 says, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Because we are suffering with Him in these tribulations, we shall also be glorified together with Him (Rom. 12:12, 14, 17-21; 8:17, 37; 2 Cor. 1:4-5; 4:17).


Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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