This evening I happened to have dinner with my roommate and four other people. After the main part of dinner and before we had dessert, one of the people there gave us his message that he has prepared for the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles in New Zealand, and it was a message that resonated with me personally, so I thought I would share my own comments on the theme of the message that was discussed. Although the gentleman at our dinner party focused on seven eras of tribulation, I would like to discuss a different aspect of the them. That way the message won’t be spoiled by those who will be hearing the message in person in about a week and a half to two weeks.
As a believer growing up in a very affluent culture, it is very common to hear people proclaim a gospel of prosperity. In the eyes of the peddlers of the prosperity gospel, those who are blessed with lives of ease and comfort are receiving the blessings of a beneficent God. Enough people enjoy poking at this false gospel enough  that I do not feel it necessary to do so here. It should be noted, though, that the prosperity Gospel is only one ditch of a false dialect whose other partner is the envious attitude of the social gospel, a false gospel that views the tribulation and trials of many people on this earth strictly from the point of view of hostility towards evil and injustice and the tendency to blame those who are successful and prosperous for the poverty and problems that exist in this world. There are times when people are blessed by God with great offices and influence and prosperity, and there are other times and other lives where God gives a great deal of difficulty to people who are nevertheless faithful. Our outer circumstances give no reliable measure of the degree we are favored by God, but the fruits and the character we show in both good times and bad does provide insight into our level of spiritual growth and maturity.
Nevertheless, we do see some clear indications that there is an expectations of trials and tribulation when it comes to believers. Throughout the course of human history, whether we look at the ancient history of the patriarchs or the behavior of the righteous kings of Judah, or even the words of the apostles for New Testament believers, there is an expectation of trouble. A few examples will suffice. Elisha refuses to profit from Naaman’s generosity because he views the time of the judgment against the house of Omri as being an unwise time to be immensely grasping and acquisitive, and so greedy Gehazi ends up with leprosy. Hebrews 11 gives a lengthy account of the faithful and points out that while some believers were delivered from trials and tribulations, others refused a deliverance that would have forced them to betray their faith, and the author of Hebrews points out that of these suffering people the world was not worthy. Nowhere does the Bible praise suffering apart from godliness, but the Bible does point out that being godly will sometimes lead people into trouble because the rebuke of the ungodly by righteous conduct attracts hostile notice in every evil age, which is every age where human beings have sought to live apart from God’s ways.
Where are the elements where trials come in our lives? If we are righteous people in ungodly societies, as is often the case, suffering comes because the wicked do not like to be reminded that they are wicked, which means that they are likely to react harshly against those who reveal them for what they are really like. In addition, being godly people in ungodly societies means that we are subject to suffering as a result of the divine judgment that eventually falls on societies that are corrupt and unrepentant. Sometimes people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, born in the wrong families and societies and social groups. Life in a fallen world guarantees a certain amount of suffering for anyone who swims against the current. Life in a fallen world also means that we are all deeply flawed and imperfect human beings, and for us to be formed into the image and likeness of God that we were created to show requires a great deal of refinement, which usually involves fiery trials and difficult and painful smelting of our ore until it is pure and without corruption and defilement. For this alone, if nothing else, everyone who believes in God lives in the shadow of tribulation, regardless of the age in which we live.
 See, for example: