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2. The Believers’ Response to Trials (Genesis 12:10–20)

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Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:10–20)

How should believers handle crisis situations? How should we respond to trials?

One of the wonderful things about Scripture is that it does not sugar coat its heroes. All the men and women that God used in Scripture possessed character flaws. Jacob was a liar and a swindler. Solomon was polygamous like his father, David. The disciples constantly failed Christ, even denying him before his resurrection. Peter, specifically, had anger and pride issues.

This is also true with Abraham, who is called the father of those who believe (Gal 3:7). Even though Abraham is given as a model in the Old and New Testament of a man of faith, we see that men of faith fail. We all do. We all have character issues. In fact, some call spiritual maturity the decreasing pattern of sin in the life of believer. But, it must be known, it is not the eradication of sin (cf. 1 John 3:2). That will not happen until we get to heaven. Paul, possibly the greatest Christian that ever lived, said, “The things I would do, I don’t do, and the things I wouldn’t do, I do. Who can save me from this body of death?” (Rom 7 paraphrase).

One of the great catalysts of sin in the life of believers and nonbelievers alike are trials. Trials, like fire, demonstrate the weaknesses in our character. How do we respond when difficulties happen? What does it show about our character?

With Abraham, one of the weaknesses of his character was lying. In this text, he lies about his wife to protect himself and almost loses her. No doubt, since he was young, he learned that he could protect himself by telling a lie. Perhaps when his father asked, “Who stole the cookie?” He pointed to his older brother who was out in the field.

This pattern was still in the life of Abraham after his call, and God brings a trial to expose and deal with this character flaw. This trial did not eradicate his lying, but it brought it to the surface so God could begin to work on it in Abraham’s life. We see this character flaw again in Genesis 20:2, when Abraham lies to Abimelech to protect himself.

What character flaws show up in your life while in a trial? Is it anger, impatience, distrust for God or others, anxiety, or even lying, as it was with Abraham?

Let it be known, whatever character flaws that we don’t get rid of in our life will often hurt those around us. In this story, it puts Abraham’s wife in a dangerous situation. Also, we see later in the Genesis narrative that lying was a character flaw in the life of Isaac, Abraham’s son, Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, and Jacob’s children, Abraham’s great grandchildren.

What character trait is God trying to remove in your life? James 1:4 says: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV 2011). God’s plan is to rid us of character flaws through the gracious fire of trials. These trials are meant to help us mature so that God can use us more (Rom 5:3–4). That was God’s plan for Abraham, and trials were necessary to prepare him for that calling.

As we look at this text, we learn principles about how to respond to trials in order to help us be more faithful in them. Abraham does not handle this trial correctly, and therefore, he is a model to us by his failure. But Scripture teaches that even the failures of God’s people are meant to be examples to us. Paul said this about Israel’s failures and subsequent judgments in the wilderness: “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Cor 10:6). When Israel failed in the wilderness, their failures were meant to be examples for us to learn from, and this is true of Abraham’s failures as well. We can learn important principles about responding to trials through Abraham’s wrong response in Genesis 12:10–20.

Big Question: What can we discern about how believers should properly respond to trials through Genesis 12:10–20?

Believers Must Expect Trials

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. (Genesis 12:10)

When Abraham gets to the land, there is a famine. The Hebrew word for famine used in Genesis 12:10 simply means “hunger.” We are not told the cause of the famine. “The cause could have been drought, diseased crops, a plague of locusts, or simply a failed harvest.”1

No doubt, Abraham was shocked. He left his family, home, and country to obey God’s command, and his obedience led him right into a trial. Since his hometown, Ur, was near the Euphrates River, it was a very fruitful and rich area. It was quite possible that Abraham had never experienced a famine before.

However, now, he and his family were in trouble. This is a very common experience for those following God. Often, we feel that because we are following God we should not experience problems. But, that is not true; many times our problems increase because of following God. Sometimes our problems are natural. We live in a fallen world, in which sin has affected everything. There are droughts, tsunamis, sickness, and death. We are still affected by these things, even though we are following God. But there is also spiritual warfare and sometimes persecution. Satan does not want us following God so he works very hard to discourage us and make us turn away from God. That was his plan with Job. He brought sickness, bankruptcy, and death, all for the purpose of making Job curse God. And ultimately, all trials are used by God to help believers grow. They create perseverance, character, and hope in God (Rom 5:3–4).

Because of this reality, we should expect them. We can discern this not only from Abraham’s narrative but throughout Scripture. Joseph had a vision of his parents and brothers bowing down to him, and soon after, he was sold into slavery. Moses killed a man expecting to be Israel’s deliverer, and right after, he spends forty years in the wilderness. Elijah prophetically spoke against Ahab and Israel, and he was, immediately, sent to the Brook Kerith to be alone. Then, after some time, the brook dried up. Trials commonly come to those following God. James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

It must be noted that James doesn’t say, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, ‘if’ you face trials of many kinds.” He says “whenever” you face trials of many kinds. He, essentially, says we should expect them.

Similarly, Peter, writing to Christians being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire, said: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet 4:12).

Sometimes, we may be tempted to think that we are going through trials because we sinned or because God is angry at us, or because we somehow failed to discern God’s will correctly. Maybe, Abraham had these same questions while facing the famine. However, consider what Christ teaches in John 15:1–2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

He says, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning is a cutting away of all the dead or damaged branches; it implies pain. Every branch that is fruitful, he cuts at so that it can bear more fruit. No doubt, this is what happened with Abraham. He had been faithful, and now God prunes him so he can be more faithful and more fruitful. God does not waste any time in preparing Abraham for the great call on his life. He immediately sends him into the famine so he can start pruning him. God wanted to cut away old habits, sinful attitudes, self-reliance, and the fear of man. All these old attitudes were unfit for Abraham’s calling, and this is true for us as well.

God will always send us into trials so that he can train us to become godly. Consider what the writer of Hebrews said, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb 12:7). He taught the Hebrew Christians, who were also being persecuted for their faith (cf. Heb 10:32–34), that they should see their trials as coming from the gracious hand of God. These trials were meant to change them into the very image of Christ. We should see our trials in the same way. Therefore, we should expect them.

Application Question: Have you ever experienced a trial like Abraham’s—where you were taking a step of faith and things took a turn for the worst? How did you respond? What did you learn from that experience?

Believers Must Recognize that with Each Trial Comes a Temptation

As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11–13)

The next thing we can discern about trials from Abraham’s example is that every trial comes with a temptation. In this text, I think we see two possible failures from Abraham. When the famine comes, Abraham immediately leaves the promised land and goes to Egypt. Also, we see that he sets a plan to lie about his wife by saying that she is his sister to protect himself. Ultimately, through both decisions, Abraham decides to rely on himself and his wisdom instead of God’s.

Interpretation Question: Why was it a sin for Abraham to leave the promised land?

F. B. Meyer said, “In the figurative language of Scripture, Egypt stands for alliance with the world, and dependence on an arm of flesh.”2 We see this in Isaiah 31:1:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.

However, it must be noted that throughout Israel’s history, God at times called his people to go to Egypt for safety. We saw this with Jacob and his family. During a famine, Joseph was second in command in Egypt. God spoke to Jacob commanding him to go down to Egypt and informing him that one day he would bring his family back to the promised land. Genesis 46:3–4 says,

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes.”

We also see the same thing with Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. When Herod was killing babies, God told Joseph to take his family down to Egypt. Matthew 2:13 says,

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Therefore, the fact that Abraham left Canaan and went down to Egypt by itself doesn’t mean that Abraham sinned. The problem seems to be the fact that he didn’t seek God. He didn’t build an altar to seek God’s voice, and God never called him to go to Egypt. No doubt, Abraham became anxious and tried to take things into his own hands. Going to Egypt was indeed a picture of his self-reliance. He takes his family to Egypt and concocts a deceptive plan to protect himself.

We must be aware that with every trial there is a temptation. While Christ was in the wilderness fasting in obedience to the Spirit’s leading (Matt 4:1), Satan came to tempt him. Before Christ went to the cross, no doubt, he was tempted to quit. However, he prayed, “Take this cup from me, but nevertheless your will be done.” There was a temptation in Christ’s trials.

In every trial, there is a temptation. When we are stuck in traffic, there is a temptation to become impatient, anxious, or even angry. When there is conflict at work or in our family, there is a temptation to hold grudges, to respond harshly, or even to cut people off. We must choose correctly. We have the opportunity to grow in patience, love, and gentleness, or we have the opportunity to sin and build even deeper strongholds.

Every trial comes with an opportunity to grow or to fall further into sin. Abraham had the opportunity to trust and seek God while in the famine or to trust himself. Abraham chose to take things into his own hands and trust in his own wisdom, rather than relying on God. He chose to sin instead of practicing his faith.

What are your common negative responses to trials? Lying? Anger? Impatience? Throwing a pity party? Satan knows your inclinations and those will be the very temptations you encounter in your trial.

By knowing our tendencies and also what God wants to produce in us through the trial, we can better respond. In every trial, there is a temptation.

Application Question: What are your common negative tendencies in trials? How is God calling you to work on your reactions to trials?

Believers Must Seek God’s Wisdom while in Trials

Furthermore, as we consider Abraham’s failure to seek the Lord in the trial, it gives us our next principle. We must seek the Lord’s wisdom in trials.

Again, Abraham headed straight to Egypt. He didn’t build an altar and pray. He didn’t question God or ask for his will in the situation. He took everything into his own hands. Many times, we do this as well instead of seeking the Lord. We get anxious and start scheming.

If we are going to respond correctly to trials, we must seek the Lord’s will for the trial and get his wisdom.

Application Question: How can we seek God’s wisdom during trials?

1. We seek God’s wisdom through prayer.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” In the context of teaching on trials, James says we must pray for wisdom because God gives generously to all who ask.

Trials are meant to make us depend on God more. A trial is an invitation to pray and wait on the Lord. Sometimes, his answer will be removing the trial. Sometimes, his answer will be giving us perseverance to go through the trial. Always, with his answer, he gives us wisdom to properly respond to the trial.

How else should we seek God’s wisdom in trials?

2. We seek God’s wisdom through Scripture.

David said this in Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” David said that when he studied the Word of God, the Lord turned the lights on. He could see what path to take. Scripture many times tells us exactly what to do, especially in moral issues. Should I date a nonbeliever? No! Should I cheat on this test? No! And, where it doesn’t give us exact answers, it gives us wisdom principles. It teaches us principles about wealth, marriage, conflict resolution, planning, etc.

3. We seek God’s wisdom through the counsel of mature Christians.

Many times God gives us wisdom through other believers. Scripture calls the church the body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12). One person is the eye; another is the hand or the feet. Many times, we spiritually impoverish ourselves by neglecting the resources within the body. If the hand says that I don’t need the eye, how will he know where to go or how to keep himself from stumbling? This is hard to accept, especially in individualistic cultures; however, if it is not accepted, the consequences can be drastic. Sometimes a person will date or marry the wrong individual; he will make bad decisions about his future because he is operating apart from the body.

Proverbs 11:14 says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” It can also be translated “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (KJV). There is victory and protection when you have godly counselors around you.

Now, with all this said, Abraham didn’t have many of the resources that we have. Abraham lived before Scripture was written. He lived in a land full of pagans. No doubt, for this reason God spoke so clearly to him. That was one of God’s primary ways of revealing himself in those days. He spoke, sent an angel, or gave a dream. He still may choose to do those things today, but his primary revelation is through the Scripture, since it “equips the man of God for all righteousness” (2 Tim 3:17).

When we go through trials, we must seek God’s wisdom.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen the resources of prayer, God’s Word, and godly counsel helpful in gaining God’s wisdom when going through a trial?

Believers Must Consider the Consequences of Sin while in Trials

When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. (Genesis 12:14–16)

Observation Question: What were some of the negative consequences Abraham experienced because of his self-reliance and deception?

The next thing we must do in response to trials is consider the consequences of sin. If we are aware of the consequences, it will help dissuade us from sinning and, instead, encourage us to trust God. When Abraham moved to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that his wife was very beautiful and began to praise her to Pharaoh. Pharaoh, then, took her into his harem. While Sarai waited to be married, Pharaoh gave Abraham great wealth.

Some have wondered how Sarah could be so beautiful if she was sixty-five years old. What were her beauty secrets? This can be answered by simply understanding the life-span of the patriarchs. Abraham lived to the age of 175 and Sarah lived to 127. This would make her about middle age (the equivalent of being in her 30’s) while in Egypt.3

Many commentators have ridiculed Abraham for asking his wife to lie about their relationship by saying that she was his sister. She was his half-sister indeed, but it was still a lie because his intent was to deceive. His deceptive plan probably wasn’t purely selfish in solely trying to save himself. Saying that he was her brother allowed him to negotiate with whomever tried to marry her. Without the father, the oldest brother had the right of negotiation. This negotiation process would have given Abraham time to plan an escape. Any regular Egyptian would negotiate with Abraham. However, Abraham never considered Pharaoh. Pharaoh didn’t need to negotiate since he was king, and he also was considered divine.

This was disastrous both for Abraham and his wife, Sarah. It also endangered the “seed” that would be a blessing to all nations (Gen 12:3; 22:18). Abraham did, however, become very rich. Pharaoh gave him great wealth. We can discern how wealthy specifically by two of the gifts he received: the female donkeys and the camels. Kent Hughes shares:

Female donkeys were far more controllable and dependable for riding and therefore the ride of choice of the rich (the Lexuses and BMWs of the Nile). The camels (note the plural) had just been introduced as domesticated animals and were a rarity. They were prestige symbols, for show by the very rich, not for utility (the equivalent in my mind of a Ferrari Testarosa).9

But this wealth was not a blessing; it caused him great problems for years to come. Proverbs 10:2 in the ESV says, “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.” Later in chapter 13, the wealth caused him and Lot to split company because the land could not support them both. In addition, he received a servant woman named Hagar. He would later marry this woman and bear a child through her which would cause great conflict in his family (Gen 16). The wealth received in Egypt caused him great sorrow for years to come. In fact, in chapter 14, when the king of Sodom tried to give him wealth for conquering his enemy and retrieving his goods, Abraham rejected it. He said this in Genesis 14:22–23:

“I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’

Abraham would no longer accept the wealth of pagans. He would trust and depend on God alone.

In addition, we should remember that Abraham’s propensity to lie was passed down to his son Isaac, who also lied about his wife (Gen 26), and also his grandson Jacob, who swindled his brother Esau’s birthright (Gen 27). Ten of Jacob’s sons sold his son, Joseph, into slavery and lied about it for years. These were further consequences of Abraham’s sins. Our sins often affect our children (cf. Exod 20:5).

One of the things we must be aware of during trials is the consequences of sin. The consequences of sin never just affect us. Abraham’s sin affected his wife and his future as the ill-conceived wealth brought great pain and sorrow.

Similarly, Jonah’s sin almost got a whole crew of sailors killed. David’s adultery and murder affected his family for the rest of his life. God said the sword would never depart from his household. James said this about temptation and sin:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13–15)

He said evil desire gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Sin’s consequences are always destructive.

One of the ways we deal with temptation is by considering the consequences: how will it affect our family, friends, and future? Paul was always aware of the dangerous effects of sin and this motivated him to be disciplined. Consider what he said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Paul realized that he could eventually become disqualified from the prize, the approval of Christ on his ministry. Personally, the consequences of sin are very real to me. I have seen many pastors commit adultery, steal money from the church, etc.—essentially disqualifying themselves. Paul said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Cor 10:12). Paul recognized his own vulnerability, and we must as well. We must stand firm and be careful so that we don’t fall.

One of the ways we do this is by being aware of the consequences of sin. Sin always leads to death—destruction.

Application Question: In what ways is the recognition of sin’s consequences a healthy protection against temptation? Have you ever considered wealth as a potentially bad thing? Why or why not?

Believers Must Expect God’s Amazing Grace while in Trials

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17–20)

The next thing we see in this narrative is God’s amazing grace. While Sarah is in Pharaoh’s harem, God afflicts everyone in Pharaoh’s household. The word “disease” in the Hebrew is typically used of skin disease.4 Perhaps, like God’s judgment on Pharaoh’s household in the book of Exodus, God may have judged them with boils (Exod 9:10).

God was fulfilling his promise to Abraham. He said that he would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him (Gen 12:3). God was cursing Pharaoh for taking Abraham’s wife. Even though Abraham was the one who sinned and didn’t trust God, God’s grace was still abundant upon him. Second Timothy 2:13 says, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”

Even though Abraham was not walking in faith and was suffering the consequences of his own sin, God still lavishly poured grace on him. He defended him and fought his battles.

Imagine if Abraham believed God from the beginning. If God called for him to stay in Canaan, maybe God would have provided manna from heaven, water from a rock, ravens to bring food, or a jar of oil would never run out. God’s provision has no limits. If God called him to go to Egypt, God would have defended Abraham without him having to lose his integrity.

How often does this happen to us? We get angry so we fight for our rights, even though God says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” (Rom 12:19). We get frustrated so we complain, instead of trusting God. We get anxious so we lie or cheat, instead of praying for supernatural grace and trusting for God to work it out.

One of the things we must do in trials is expect God’s supernatural grace. Sometimes, we need to be still to see that he is God (Ps 46:10) and that he will meet all our needs (Ps 23:1). We must stop seeing trials as obstacles and begin to see them as opportunities for God to show his glory.

It’s enjoyable conversing with the mature in faith. When you bring a trial to them, many times they smile. They already have confidence that this trial is of God, and that he is using it for his glory. The mature often say, “Settle down! God is not surprised! This trial is just a platform for God’s glory! Trust him!” Paul while in prison awaiting a possible death sentence said:

for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:19–20)

Paul expected a miracle. He knew that God was going to glorify himself in one way or another.

Similarly, when Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice in Genesis 22, the author of Hebrews says he did it because he believed that God would raise him from the dead (Heb 11:19). He expected a miracle!

In contrast to the spiritually mature, the spiritually immature often respond by hyperventilating. They come up with all kinds of schemes and plans, with no sense that God is with them in the trial. Sometimes, we need to settle down so we can hear God say, “This is of me. I am in this. Calm down. Be anxious for nothing. Fear not!”

In fact, we must remember the context in which this was originally written. Moses was writing this while Israel was in the wilderness, right before they went into the promised land. He, no doubt, wanted the Israelites to see the parallels to their story. During a famine Abraham went down to Egypt for provisions. God protected him, while he punished Pharaoh. Abraham left with great wealth. Similarly, Jacob’s family went down to Egypt in a famine. God protected his children, Israel, from Pharaoh. He later punished Pharaoh and sent Israel away with their wealth. Essentially, Moses was saying to Israel before they went into the promised land, “God is going to take care of you! God will do the miraculous! Don’t be afraid of the giants! God will curse those who curse you and bless those who bless you! If God is for you, who can be against you!”

We must heed this as well. Remember Paul’s words in Romans 8:33–39:

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Saints, nobody can bring a charge against you because God has justified you. Saints, nobody can condemn you because Christ died for you. Saints, nothing will be able to separate you from the love of God—not trouble, not hardship, not persecution or famine, not danger or sword. And because of this, when you go through trials, you should expect God’s grace. You should expect a miracle; even if that miracle simply is perseverance that creates character and character, hope (Rom 5:3–4). The greatest miracle many times is God changing us from the inside out. That is what he wants to do in us through every trial. Saints, are you expectant in the trial? Even when you are faithless, God is faithful. He cannot deny himself.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s miracles in the midst of your trials? Why are we so prone to try to accomplish things in our own power and forget God’s grace?

Believers Must Consider Unbelievers while in Trials

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17–20)

Here is the next principle we can learn about how to respond in trials. Believers must consider the watchful eye of unbelievers while going through trials.

One cannot but notice that an unbeliever—Pharaoh—rebukes Abraham who is supposed to be a blessing to the world. It seems that Pharaoh could discern that his sickness was Abraham’s fault, since everybody in Pharaoh’s palace had a skin disease except Sarah. They probably, then, questioned her and found out the truth—Abraham, the follower of God, lied.

Pharaoh was so upset his concluding words seem to Abraham seem to be very short. In the original language, he said just four words: “‘Here … wife … take … go.’ Such disdain.”5 In fact, he has his men escort Abraham out of his kingdom, and he doesn’t even take his riches back.

In reply, Abraham says nothing. What could he say? He had lost his witness and stained his integrity. The pagan king had shown himself more righteous than Abraham. This happens to believers all the time. They go to the same places and do the same things as the world. They respond the same way as the world when going through a trial and, therefore, lose their witness.

This is what Peter said to the Christians being persecuted in the Roman Empire:

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11–12)

He said that we should abstain from sinful desires and live good lives so that pagans see our good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. The implication seems to be that the pagans will glorify God because they came to Christ through our chaste witness during our trials. Did not Nebuchadnezzar worship God after the three Hebrews kept their integrity within their trial? God showed up miraculously and Nebuchadnezzar praised God. He said,

“Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (Daniel 3:28)

How we respond in trials is very important. It is not only important for us and our families, but also for unbelievers—their lives could depend on it. Colossians 4:5 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Application Question: Have you ever experienced God opening the door for you to witness directly or indirectly during a trial? What should be the difference between a believer and a nonbeliever’s response to trials?

Believers Must Keep Their Eyes on Christ while in Trials

Here is our final principle about our response to trials: Believers must keep their eyes on Christ in their trials. What must stand out to us is that Abraham, who is the father of all who believe, called a friend of God, and given as a model for us to follow in Scripture, fails miserably.

Again, one of the great things about Scripture is that it never covers up the failings of its heroes. David committed adultery and murder, and yet he is called a man after God’s own heart. Peter and the rest of the disciples denied Christ in his greatest hour of need. Paul, the apostle, fought with his co-worker, Barnabas—leading to a split.

If our great men fail, what hope is there for us? In many ways, this story could be very depressing, but I think it reminds us of our need to focus on Christ. Many have fallen away from the church when their pastors or spiritual leaders stumbled. Instead of being marked by holiness, they were marked by pride, discord, and deception. How can we stay faithful in trials if they do not?

Yes, Abraham, David, Peter, and Paul are our models, but they are models of men who failed God yet continued to follow him. We need models of people who fail because we often fail and people fail us. However, Christ is our perfect model, and we should keep our eyes on him. If we focus on others, especially when they fail, we may find ourselves discouraged and ready to give up. We must focus on Christ.

Consider what the writer of Hebrews said to Christians suffering persecution:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3)

Christ is the originator of our faith and the perfecter of our faith. Christ is the only person that faced the full weight of temptation without failure. Therefore, he can enable us to persevere. He can enable us to be faithful in our trials. We must consider him, lest we grow weary and lose heart. Kent Hughes said:

Jesus did not stumble when trials came. His faith never wavered. He did not look to his own devices but only to God. Abram was a great man of faith, but Christ is the perfect man of faith. Abram left his home and family in Ur to go to an unknown land, but Christ left heaven in obedience to the Father’s call. Abram is known for both his great faith and great failure. Jesus’ life was one of unexceptionable faith. His life was all in faith and by faith from beginning to end.6

In our trials, we must focus our attention on the one who saved us and who will perfect us—Christ. He is our model, and he will faithfully carry us to the end.

Application Question: Have you seen or experienced the failure of spiritual leaders in the past? How did this affect you or others? How should we keep our eyes on Christ so that we will not give up during our trials?


How should we respond in trials?

  1. Believers Must Expect Trials
  2. Believers Must Recognize that with Each Trial Comes a Temptation
  3. Believers Must Seek God’s Wisdom while in Trials
  4. Believers Must Consider the Consequences of Sin while in Trials
  5. Believers Must Expect God’s Amazing Grace while in Trials
  6. Believers Must Consider Unbelievers while in Trials
  7. Believers Must Keep Their Eyes on Christ while in Trials

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.

1 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 406–408). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

2 Meyer, F.B.  (2013-05-08). Abraham: The Obedience of Faith (Kindle Locations 566–575). CLC Publications. Kindle Edition.

3 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 2287–2289). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

4 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 193). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

5 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 193). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

6 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 195). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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