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Trial and Testing!
There's no other way for each of us to enter the Kingdom of God
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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I think it was Smith Wigglesworth who famously stated that "great faith is the product of great fights" – and can only be. You can’t have deep faith without depth in other ways. The only way up is actually down. I hope you understand what I mean.
Jesus had to remind the disciples of this truism on more than one occasion (Matt 18:1-4). They were seeking for self, even three years after Jesus called them. They were hankering after elevation and were consumed with vain notions. It was folly, based on pride.
The ego doesn’t die easily nor willingly. It has to be crushed. That’s why Jesus once lambasted Peter:
Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men (Matt 16:23).
And why He declared:
Whoever falls on this Stone [Jesus] will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder! (Matt 21:44.)
Neither option is pleasant, and the former is not easy for most to accept. Paul reminded Jesus’ followers back then:
We must [go] through many tribulations [to] enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Some Purposes of Trials
After his conversion, Peter was zealous for the things of God. He had been mortified by the way he disowned Jesus in His last hours. Peter never thought he would stoop so low. He openly declared his sinfulness, but he didn’t think he would ever deny Jesus!
God allowed it to occur to humble him. Peter was cocky, able, and self-reliant. But the memory of what he did was with him for the rest of his days, keeping him humble. From that fateful crowing of the cockerel until he died upside down on a cross (because he said he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord and Master), he knew he had nothing within himself to glory about. His only glory became Jesus.
Building Reliance Upon God
Peter wrote much about suffering and trial in his first letter.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you (1 Pet 3:12).
Notice in his words that trials are not optional. We have to expect them and face them solidly.
How can we do that? By putting our trust completely in God.
Human nature is a peculiar thing. The ego insists on being its own boss. And yet that very proclivity is our worst enemy! Self-reliance is a sin. It is idolatry.
By relying upon yourself, you place in prime position something other than God. You are breaking the first commandment. And idolatry shuts the door of the Spirit to you. You shut out God’s power, God’s love and mercy, and all the divine attributes which He offers you so freely.
We all have to choose.
Most Christians choose God with provisos. They don’t want Him unreservedly. They want Him at arm’s length. They want the good things He offers, but not with the complete commitment He asks from us.
Too many want to hang on to their control over their lives. They want to be boss, not God. Their self-reliance is accompanied by self-will, self-assertion and self-determination. But like the prefix says, it’s not of God; it’s all of self.
You can’t be a true Christian with that motive.
So, what happens to bring you to heel? What does God allow? You can read the catalogue of curses which are possible in Deuteronomy 28. They can...
...come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes... (Deut 28:45).
God doesn’t want to destroy YOU. He wants to destroy your ego – your pride, your self-reliance.
Faith is the assurance you have in God. It is strong trust in Him. It is knowing His love for you, that He knows best and that what He says IS best.
When God asked Abraham to sacrifice the only son of his dear wife Sarah – his heir and the one who would continue Abraham’s worth in the world – the amazing response was not an argument. Abraham just rose up early and went to fulfil what God said.
From Abraham’s perspective, he thought Isaac would be dead in three days’ time. He didn’t know God’s plan, and what He would do at the last minute. That’s the only way God can build faith in you. If you knew the outcome beforehand, that vital ingredient would not be produced in your character.
God was asking Abraham to give up the most important thing in his life. And so He will with you. He’ll take you to the wall before He will deliver you! Just like He took that patriarch of old. He tests your faith in Him.
Whatever takes the place of God in your life; whatever you put your trust in – even if it’s only some of your trust – like money, self-worth, friends, family, etc., He will require you to be willing to give it up first. Only after you prove your faithfulness to God in all those respects will he give you the desires of your heart (Ps 37:4).
No man can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). The problem with most folks is that they can’t see their divided loyalties. They can’t see where the world has a hold over them through the lure of fleshly desires – sometimes seemingly innocuous.
"What’s wrong with working for money? We all have to do that in this world" some people say. They can’t see the money idol they are bowing down to.
If the money god has a hold over you, God will take away most or all of your money until you learn to worship Him instead of your wealth.
Then there’s a career, or pleasure-seeking, or hobbies, or family loyalties. If any of these things take centre stage, so that you compromise your worship of God as a result, you can bet your last dollar that God will test you over it. He asks you to give it up. If you won’t do that willingly, like Abraham, He’ll take it away.
ANYTHING that stands in the way of Him and you, preventing you enjoying the spiritual riches He wants to share with you, He will remove it.
For Laodiceans, God requires them to die. Not because God is vindictive, bloodthirsty, or malicious. But because it’s the only time they will surrender fully to Him. Does He have to take your life so that He can give you His for eternity? Or will you voluntarily accept what He so freely and lovingly offers?
Some people are wishy-washy. They flip-flop one way, then another.
I remember talking with a lady who needed to put her complete trust in God to heal her. She could if she would. But would she? No.
She KNEW God heals, but would she let Him? No. Helena and I talked with her one day. The next day she went to see a doctor ‘for another opinion’. And, rather than listen to the Spirit, and put her trust implicitly in God, she let a doctor talk her out of it. She agreed to have an operation instead.
She was double-minded, and James reminds us that if we are that way, we won’t receive anything we need from God! (Jas 1:7-8.) We are doubting God’s goodness. That is a huge insult to hurl at Him! No wonder God says He hates it! (Ps 119:113.)
She had the operation, but it didn’t solve her discomfort like the doctor promised. Instead, it created more problems, and her discomfort increased. God was letting her eat the fruit of her own ways.
She wouldn’t put up with the discomfort while she waited for God to demonstrate His love for her through healing. So He let her put up with what she had chosen, disregarding His advice.
It sounds cruel, but God is not cruel. He is stern, but not cruel. It was the only way for her to learn.
Enduring through troubles, difficulties, pain and suffering is often necessary for us to develop the quality of being steadfast. God loves those who are.
If you want to be used by God in His Work, it’s a vital quality to have.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor 15:58).
Developing Patience or Endurance
Paul exhorted the young evangelist Timothy:
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 2:1-3).
If you have to work hard to achieve something in life, you value more what you worked for than if it were given to you ‘on a plate’. The effort you are prepared to put out, and the suffering you are prepared to endure, tell a big story. They show how much you really value what you are working for.
We can’t fully understand all that God requires of us or why. But in those words to Timothy above, he was inspired to say that we MUST endure hardship. It’s necessary for our development. Perhaps for the reason I have stated.
We demonstrate how much we really love God and value what He is offering to us. Psalm 16:11 says:
You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fulness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures evermore.
The human mind cannot fully grasp the wonders of God and the bliss to be in His presence. Those words do not do justice to the experience. Visionary experiences like those which we have reproduced in The Visions of Sundar Singh or Contemporary Revelations try to put such sublime things in words, but words can never really express the intensity of such joy.
Paul had seen the wonders of heaven, and was forbidden to tell of all he saw and heard (2 Cor 12:4). Perhaps that was what helped him to endure! If you think your lot in life is bad, read what he went through! (2 Cor 6:4-10; 11:23-29, and 4:8-12.) He called them light and momentary troubles!
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:17,18, NIV). Malcolm B Heap
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise stated
Further Reading: Why Trials? (WT), Listening To God (Lis)
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