“And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for tee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness….Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor 12:9, 10).
The thorn in the flesh was a heavy trial for Paul. It was not sent because of personal failure, but because of the abundance of revelation given to him—it was a preventative. There was danger lest the flesh should boast, and God gives him a thorn. Paul prayed thrice for its removal. The Father tells him that His grace is sufficient, there is no need to remove it, and moreover his infirmity was but an occasion for the power of Christ to rest upon him. Then he glories in that which he has prayed to be taken away. The Lord Jesus was exalted and Paul was content. Here is the “moral fruit,” the Father’s object in sending the thorn: no failure and needed chastening here, but a lesson of grace to an honored servant of Christ.
The trials of saints, as they come from the Father, are generally, if not always, immediately connected with the position grace gives. The Father in His sovereignty calls His saints to fill various places of service, some to rule and authority. Some to teaching or preaching, others may only know the place of suffering and weeping. Nevertheless all are for the carrying out of one great purpose, the accomplishment of one will, a whole in which each saint however humble has his part.
The Father has a niche in His temple for each, a place assigned by grace. It is there each is tested. But if grace appoints the place, it is always there to maintain saints in it. Often the trial is allowed through our want of faith to hide the grace, and then we complain and murmur. “But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). He always provides the necessary grace.
There are other trials which have their root in unfaithfulness. The Father permits such, but does not directly send them, and surely controls and guides to a gracious result, for His mercy endureth forever. Such trials become rods in His child-training hand. But when He sends trials to a faithful saint it is for the purpose of proving faith, which is more precious that of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, and of giving lessons in the school of faith.
The fruitful branch is purged that it may bring forth more fruit. More and better fruit is the Father’s object. Hidden things may be in the heart of the faithful, unknown and therefore unjudged. The trial is sent to disclose the hidden thing that it may be purged away. Not all trials are chastenings. We should gravely err if we judged every suffering saint to be under discipline through failure. Where there is faithfulness we often see what appears to be heaviest trials but in truth it is for the display of the sustaining power of grace that others may see and learn.