John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live”
Though you may die…you might still live. The words of Jesus carry weight in them. One of the great tests of faith is the prospect of impending death. Fear of death is considered one of the greatest sources of anxiety in people, when the possibility for loss of life looms, it is then that you see what is at the heart of a person. Belief is a term often used but seldom defined. I’ve talked with kids on the streets who tell me they believe in Jesus while they were high on drugs and lived like the world. Does belief without change imply it’s real or does only an acknowledgement of Jesus suffice?
If you were to conduct an interview for church attendance and in walks Beelzebub who is applying for membership, you might ask him first if he believes in Jesus, his response would invariably be, ‘yes’, so then you ask if he believes that Jesus rose from the grave and his answer would again be ‘yes’. Ask him if Jesus rose from the grave or if he believes in heaven and hell and every response would be according to knowledge, not practice.
To confess a belief in Jesus does not prove faith, it is simply an acknowledgement of His existence. True belief is found by faith in action. Acknowledging Jesus and following Jesus are two completely different positions.
2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
Whatever way faith is professed, a true test of faith is proven under trial. Whether the testing comes by God leading through trial or by what others witness, a true test of character is revealed by a life lived according to God’s plan.
Proverbs 27:21 “A crucible for silver and a furnace for gold, but a man is tested by the praise accorded him.”
I know very few people who enjoy testing, matter of fact test anxiety if a very real condition for many. The anxiety produced during a test often causes sweating, sleeplessness, and tension for those who wrestle with this condition.
James exhorted his fellow believers to rejoice and count it all joy when they experience times of trial since it produces qualities of character that are valuable.
When we take tests in school we are being evaluated on our range of knowledge in a particular subject, and how well we do on the test is reflected by our score. When considering a spiritual test, we can gain understanding of what we know and what we don’t know, it gives us a clue as to where we are in life.
When being tested by God, we gain knowledge. Our walk with God is proven through trials while spiritual knowledge is not reserved to any one subject, growth in character is gained through a divine process of testing our faith.
Characteristics of Growth
As people undergo spiritual testing, the growth that is gained by learning to trust God leads to all forms of character development.
*Patience–It seems to go without saying that if you are enduring a trial faithfully, you are learning the value of being patient under trial. Learned patience has a secondary value in how it leads towards perfection. Perfection has its root in the greek term Teleios, which indicates a completion of growth in character.
Character development acts like a pillar of strength in the life of a believer, when reinforced and developed it is a bulwark that keeps the believer steady and consistent.
Zechariah 13:9 “I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, ‘This is My people’;
And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”
Another quality of testing is how it proves your identity in Christ.
*Called by name–An encouraging reminder of why God tests His people is found in who He is testing. Only God’s people are tested, He has called them His own and He is purposeful in how He acts on their behalf. The fire of discipline can be troubling at the time but the reward is worth the journey. The knowledge and understanding gained through testing shows forth the magnitude of God’s love and reveals the depth of devotion in the one who comes through the fire—refined as gold.
Hebrews 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,”
Testing should not come as a surprise to the believer. God promises that testing will take place and God always keeps His promises.
*The Promises of God–Before you ever go through the fire, the Lord promises that you will not go through it alone. Look through the history of God’s people and you will see a consistent pattern—-faithfulness, faithfulness, faithfulness. Daniel in the lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire, Gideon, Elijah, Samuel, David, and the list goes on and on. Jesus was with these men through their trials and He promises His people today that He will never leave them or forsake them.
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Characteristic of Endurance
*Endurance is key to a believer–As God’s people go through the fire of testing they must remember that it is a process of godliness by which they endure. By enduring, they learn to trust, they grow in steadfastness, and understand the value of learning to wait on God to move. How often have I prayed that I would learn to endure in my faith, it’s once I think I’m strong that I’m placed into the fire and all my imperfections are exposed once again.
Lamentations 3:25-30 “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him; Let him put his mouth in the dust
There may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him and be full of reproach.“
Since God’s people know they will endure testing, they can prepare….to a degree.
*Being prepared for trials is tricky, they seem to sneak up when your least aware and before you know it, you’ve failed the test—This seems to be my motto in life. It seems like I could save myself alot of shame and embarrassment if I could be a little more prepared for what lies ahead. This begs the question: Does the Lord gives us warning before He takes us through the trial?
Amos 7:4-6 “Thus the Lord God showed me: Behold, the Lord God called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory. Then I said:
“O Lord God, cease, I pray!
Oh, that Jacob may stand,
For he is small!”
So the Lord relented concerning this.
“This also shall not be,” said the Lord God.
The Lord does show us His plans if we are prepared to listen. Sometimes He reveals a warning, other times He makes it clear that His hand is moving. When we get lost or find ourselves confused, He reminds us that He is in control.
A few years ago my wife and I were going through a very difficult time in our marriage, it seemed that we couldn’t have a conversation without it turning into an argument. I could feel the weight of trouble we were having but I couldn’t place where it was coming from, then one night I awoke to the Lord speaking into my heart saying…”Rick, your marriage is under a spiritual attack”. That was all the Lord had to say, I immediately got up, went downstairs and started praying and as I was praying I could feel the burden being lifted. There was an appreciable difference in my relationship with my wife immediately thereafter. Soon, the Lord led me on another journey that enhanced my testimony and prepared me for another chapter in ministry.
Each situation is different but I am convinced the Lord does not leave His people alone to suffer. He speaks and then He waits for His people to respond, and when there is need He supplies in abundance by faithfully leading the way.
It’s common for some people to blame Satan for everything. For lack of knowledge, they often don’t realize how the testing they’re going through was brought about by God’s hand and for His purposes to be fulfilled.
Job 23:10 “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”
Each step in the journey is good when God is the one leading in it. Remember, if you have trusted in the Lord as your Savior He is forming you into the man or woman He desires for you to become—Trust Him for the journey.