If you are anything like me, you do not like tests! I get nervous, palms sweaty, if it’s an oral test or having to answer a difficult question from a teacher or other person in authority I get really nervous. Even when I am confident of the answer, suddenly…I am speechless, and I cannot find the right words. For me, a test is confrontational, and I just do not do well. All that being said, the Bible speaks about God’s testing. As a believer and follower of Jesus…you will be tested…no two ways about it! So let us talk about testing and how in life we all will be tested, ALL meaning even the non-believer, new believer and what you might call the mature believer. I want to stop right there and clarify the new and mature believer…we are all in the same boat, sailing to our eternal destination. I know I have touched on this before and it is extremely important to not put labels on ourselves or others. We are all moving in the same direction, mature believers do not have all the answers. They, just like the new believer must study, look, ask for help, pray, and seek for answers in God’s Word. Once you have been born-again, became a believer…you have total access to your Heavenly Father, and He is the same for every believer. Mature believers struggle, face troubles and testing just as the less experienced believer. Now let us move on…
Tests are designed to demonstrate knowledge and point out areas for improvement. In math or history, a test will show a persons ability and help the student know what areas need further study. God tests His children in the same manner. Here is where many times you might find yourself confused. When ministering, I have heard more than once someone say God did this to me, caused this illness, tragedy, loss, situation, or circumstance. I want to make this perfectly clear…GOD DOES NOT CAUSE ILLNESS, TRAGEDY, LOSS, UNFAVORABLE SITUATIONS OR CIRCUMSTANCES. In His Word, God tells us there will be difficulties. Matthew 6:34 says “ So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Also “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” And then in John 16:33, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful.” John 14:27 NASB Throughout the Bible God shares stories about His people and their troubles, always God also shows them the way out.
It is in these times that God reveals what you know and what you have developed within your heart. Every situation is a teaching moment…a process in your life. In fact, without His testing, there is no opportunity to grow and become who He created you to be. It is in those times that you are strengthen so that you might use this strength for His purpose. More is happening than the circumstances you find yourself experiencing, God is working behind the scenes. When you look with the right perspective, you will find God bringing out His character in us or revealing that you have a deeper need of His influence. James 1:13 reminds us, “No one is to say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” The more often you understand and respond to God’s priorities, the closer you will come to the fullness of all He has designed and purposed in your life.
Looking at the three types of tests…
The Test of Servanthood
As a believer you are all called to the life of a servant. You demonstrate your love for God by loving and serving others. This love is expressed when you put your personal desires aside for the benefit of others. Personal sacrifice is part of this servanthood, giving of your time and resources within healthy boundaries…this is not a part-time position but a lifelong pursuit as a believer. You must be ready when God calls on you. The most difficult test of servanthood is when you are treated like a servant, maybe you feel that you should have received recognition or possibly you are mistreated “persecuted” while serving. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 NASB Here you must check your motive…in today’s world you may find yourself having a selfish view, the world is focused on individual rights and rewards, pride clouds your ability to serve…God’s view is you serve without return. Knowing you serve a loving Father is more than enough.
There are many biblical examples; Ezekiel spoke to God’s people many times through embarrassing ways, Noah suffered under years of ridicule as he built the ark and warned people of what was coming, Hosea married and remarried a prostitute despite what those around him must have thought and in spite of her unrepentant heart. These and others demonstrate that the test of servanthood is designed to reveal the level of obedience a believer will offer.
Your servant heart is evidence of a believer willing to go and do as God has asked, leaving your personal comfort and desires to meet the needs of others.
The Test of Sacrificial Love
Love is a concept confused by its multiple uses. For you love might be a flood of emotions, warm feelings or possibly a decision of commitment despite your emotions. Perhaps love has lost all meaning, it seems unattainable or able to satisfy the cravings of your broken or troubled heart. The world may have confused your thoughts concerning love however here you see that the love required of a believer is sacrificial. God will develop this love in your heart if you allow Him through testing. The test of a sacrificial love comes when you are confronted with a command to action from your Savior. Love can mean many things, but love that has a price is clearly sacrificial love. In the life of a believer there will be many choices that oppose the world. There will be a cost in this love…a financial, deep emotional requirement, and hard-fought forgiveness are some of characteristics of sacrificial love. Paul speaks of denying himself, you will be called upon to deprive yourself of things others pursue happily. Other times you will be called to forgive and extend love to those who certainly do not deserve it.
There is a distinctive difference between sacrificial love and unconditional love, but they flow from the same heart. Unconditional love is love without strings attached, love offered freely and not base it on what someone does for you in return. Sacrificial love focuses on the one giving love and the length that person will go to maintain that love.
Abraham’s trip to Mount Moriah with his son Isaac found in Genesis 22 is a significant example of the test of sacrificial love. Abraham had to have been traumatized by the possible outcome of this journey. How could God ask such a thing? Abraham may have been thinking the price is to great or unfair! This raises the question how could he obey, how did he? While the Bible does not give details to his emotional struggle we know it was tremendous. You get a glimpse of how Abraham was able to obey in Genesis 22:12 with an angel’s observation, “now I know that you fear the God”. This fear is the ultimate form of love and trust in God. God was Abraham’s greatest focus and priority, and obedience to God’s commands…even the ones that did not make any sense. Like Abraham many times this test will come without the desired explanation or understanding. You may feel thoughts of overwhelming unfairness, defenses are raised, and rationalizing happens. We know the outcome, God stepped in and stopped Abraham’s act of obedience. Generations to come will and are continuing to be blessed because of it.
Do you remember in the Bible where Jesus asked the rich young man to sell everything he had to follow Jesus? Most likely that will never happen for you. Yet some of you who are reading this right now maybe experiencing that very thing. There maybe consequences that have put you in the position of losing everything and yet I am confident that if you respond with that same “fear” God will restore the loss…His way NOT yours. The truth is that what God has for you is much bigger when you take the step of faith in sacrificial love.
What you are unwilling to part with moves into the place of God and begins to control you. Yes, people, places and material things that become obsessions are idolatry in its clearest expression. Anytime you say no to God and choose something or someone else, you sow seed for future destruction, and you take a clear step away from the God who called you His. The more you cultivate a giving spirit, the more easily you can give what God requires. Now listen, I am not saying to give everything away…but if you have trouble responding with compassion and self-sacrifice in times you are confronted with an opportunity to meet a need, you will not be able to give sacrificially when God calls upon you.
It is important to avoid the attention of others when you give, only then will you shutout the pride that causes you to desire to hold on to what is yours. Be intentional in your giving, not careless. Knowing the price and choosing to give on purpose brings the experience to a place of worship. Remember I am not speaking of finances alone, there are many opportunities to give in serving others.
The Test of Faithfulness
Faithfulness is bound in constancy and dependability. It is the choice to remain steadfast regardless of the changing circumstances. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of His love regardless of your worthiness or actions. Simply…God still loves you and is extending His hand to you when you are right in the thick of sinful choices or behavior. Your faithfulness is demonstrated in the constancy of your obedience regardless of your understanding or comfort. It is remaining faithful despite your circumstance or situation, having the confidence that God is there right with you…the test of faithfulness is in your reaction. Your faithfulness is evident when you look to His promises no matter what the world says, believing God will provide a way. Joseph is an amazing example of faithfulness…more than thirteen years of near-death experiences, suffering and imprisonment and yet his faithfulness never faltered. In the end God restored his family, bought abundant provision for not only Joseph and his family but all of Egypt. Joseph did not know what God was doing yet he remained faithful.
How do you react, were does your mind go and in what does it dwell? How do your emotions and behavior reflect your faith in God? This is the test…where is your trust? Look at Simon Peter, he allowed the confusion and his emotions of Jesus’ arrest to test his faith and he failed three times…however later when he had the opportunity Peter jumped out of the boat to reach Jesus and ask forgiveness, this act was an opportunity for restoration. God uses your circumstances to teach you the hard lessons of faithfulness. The Israelites are a great example of God’s love and faithfulness, over and over again they separated themselves from God by complaining and seeking after selfish desires instead of trusting God. He will let you experience the consequences of your choices to help you discover how completely unsatisfying they are. God never gives up and He will never give up on you!
You will become consistently faithful by using the commonsense God gave you, having a biblical plan for daily living which includes finishing what you start, keeping your promises and giving of your resources when no one else sees. You must have a plan when faced with a challenge, start now by removing anything you sense that could get in your way. In other words, when objects that breed unfaithfulness are eliminated, you have limited your choice to faithfulness in times of crisis. Faithfulness starts with faith. You should aggressively build your faith…understand what it means to fear God and call upon the Holy Spirit to help you walk in a path of obedience. Faithfulness is tied to repentance…you are faithful when you are quick to turn from wrongdoing and ask God to forgive you…seeking His help in resisting sin.
In closing remember…passing the tests of servanthood, sacrificial love, and faithfulness begins by knowing who you are in Christ, committing to follow God and allowing Him to reign over every part of your life. Those who do not live to give God glory will not experience the lasting freedom and peace He is offering. Do not let pride stumble you in serving others…Paul would not allow people to worship him, he reacts strongly, pushing away the moment in no uncertain terms (read Acts 14:8-14). Be careful what you attach your heart to. Do not be afraid to love what you should love, and how you should love, but do not choose to love what is unworthy of eternal attention. When faithfulness is a priority in your life, it will be easier to respond faithfully in times of crisis. Finally, surround yourself with others who are on the same journey, cultivate your faith and relationship with God by surrendering daily to His Ways…from the place of surrender God can and will work in your life.
Romans 8:38-39 AMP tells you “For I am convinced and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt… that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the unlimited love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Blessings, Sister Laurie