Exhibiting His Fruit
Few things move my soul more than watching a fellow Christian demonstrate wisdom, love, and grace in the face of hard circumstances. Could this be one reason God allows his people to suffer trials, that we might exhibit his fruit to others?
In our previous articles we saw from Romans 8:28-29 that God uses trials to make us more like Jesus. We considered the first three of seven specific ways God does so: the Lord uses hardships to enhance our relationship with him, to help us experience a measure of Christ’s sufferings, and to expose our remaining sin.
Today we consider a 4th E: God uses hardships in our lives to exhibit to others Christ’s work in us. Your trials become fresh opportunities for people around you to see the grace and light of Jesus Christ within you.
Salt and Light Amid Trials
Let Jesus lead us with two vivid, memorable illustrations: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus’ disciples function as salt and light in a fallen world.
Some Christian leaders and organizations use these salt and light images as proof texts for whatever social, cultural, or political agendas they wish to champion. Yet the context of Jesus’ words is not about social, cultural, or political causes; it’s about facing personal resistance from unbelievers. The preceding verses in Matthew 5:1-12—the Beatitudes—picture God’s people suffering sinful personal opposition. Jesus’ salt and light images encourage Christian disciples to show his grace and character when facing mistreatment. In an ungodly world, God’s people display God’s grace.
I see this in the realm of personal conflict. Author and Christian conciliator Ken Sande estimates that for every person with whom we are having a conflict, there are probably ten other people watching how we handle it. That sobering thought should cause us to pause. What are onlookers—friends, family, children, coworkers, fellow church members—learning about our Savior by observing how we handle our hardships? Trials grant us unique opportunities to honor and spotlight God—to show others that he really makes a difference in our lives.
Many of us know non-Christians who have come to saving faith in Christ through watching the unique ways that Christians handled adversity. Many of us know Christians who have grown in spiritual maturity as they have watched believers deal with suffering gracefully. The greatest example of this, of course, is the powerful impact Christian martyrs have made on the church throughout history and throughout the world.
Bread-winning single moms rank high on my list of Christian heroes. (See Single Parents: Daily Grace for the Hardest Job.) To watch these Christian sisters follow Jesus in the tragic context of widowhood or spousal abandonment stirs my faith. I am continually amazed at the Spirit-given energy that enables them to hold a job, participate actively in Christ-centered fellowship, and tirelessly love and train their children in the gospel. Raising children with a spouse is difficult enough; doing so alone requires a double portion of divine grace. Single parents who follow Jesus inspire me.
Could it be that God is using some hardship to give you an opportunity to exhibit to others the Spirit-given life and light of Jesus that you have and that they need?
Join the Conversation
How has God used a hardship in your life to exhibit Jesus to onlookers? How has He used the godly example of other Christians to stir your faith?