From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 1 – What it means to be a disciple and how Christian character is formed
Though it is hard to believe this while you are going through a period of hardship, there really are many benefits that come from it. Some of these come to you personally. Others are about making you more effective for the sake of others. Therefore the benefit is also received by the cause we serve. We become better soldiers and ambassadors for Jesus and achieve more for Him.
Jesus’ half-brother, James, tells us that trials produce steadfastness in us. That, in turn, leads to all sorts of further benefits. The end result is that we become complete and lacking in nothing:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Hardship is also one of the most effective ways God has to get us to come back to Him when we have been wandering away or growing lukewarm. When times are easy we tend to forget God and become preoccupied with ourselves or our own ambitions or possessions. But a dose of adversity soon brings us running back to God. It makes us rely on Him and become closer to Him:
4 But I am the Lord your GodHosea 13:4-6 (ESV)
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior.
5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought;
6 but when they had grazed, they became full,
they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;
therefore they forgot me.
Apostle Paul says that suffering produces endurance. That then produces character, which in turn produces hope. That hope then protects us from many things. Hope is therefore very important. That is why, in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Thessalonians, we learn that hope is the ‘helmet of salvation’, which Paul tells us to wear.
By that he firstly means the specific hope that we are going to be saved and have eternal life. But he also means hope in general, in its fuller, broader sense. In both of those ways hope is the best protection for our minds. It keeps us from depression and despair and therefore makes all sorts of other things achievable.
We will also receive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ (see Book Four) for the level of endurance that we display in this life. Therefore another benefit of hardship is that it qualifies us to receive those rewards, such as the ‘crown of life’ to which James refers:
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.James 1:12 (ESV)