1Peter 1 to 5 For some reason, we think that when we accept Christ as Savior, our world will be “sunny-side” up. We fail to realize that just as stone must endure the trial of polishing to shine, you too are polished through trials. Our lives come with both blessing and suffering.
Perhaps Peter was recalling his own experience before the religious leaders who unjustly imprisoned him and John. Upon their release, the early church responded: “And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage.” [Acts 4:29]
Just like Peter and John, we may be called to face mistreatment just because we have chosen to follow Christ. So, don’t be surprised when you face fiery trials but rejoice that you are called to suffer for His Name. Therefore, prepare your heart and mind ahead of time to face them. Remember to be holy, for you are called to be holy. Love fervently, abstain from fleshly lusts, submit to the ordinances of men and live humbly.
Remember, you are a testament to God’s work in you. Each trial will polish you to shine as a gem in Christ’s kingdom.
James 1 to 5 Trials Abound, but God is greater than any trial.
James knows that life comes with trials, and each trial proves whether our faith is true or false. and how we handle a trial proves where our faith is. He begins with this statement; “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials].” [James 1:2] That is the foundation. You either prove your faith by facing a trial with a joyful spirit, or you don’t. Agreed, trials are NOT FUN! We want them to go away, but James says we should be joyful because there are different trials that everyone will face. What we need is practical advice for each one so we can pass them and be successful.
James begins by laying the foundation: Be joyful. Unfortunately, we get ‘hung up on the “why” when God wants us to know the “how.” First, go to God! Seek His face! Ask Him what to do and how to do it! That is a beautiful lesson from James. Then step by step, James takes us through the various trials of life we all face, and his advice for each one.
There is a life lesson here for all of us: Study and memorize the book of James so you can discern the trial and seek the wisdom of God to know how to face it and pass the test He has allowed.
John 7 and 8 If you plant a kernel of wheat in the ground, it cannot grow without tender care. Nicodemus was given that kernel with the words “you must be born again.” [Jn 3] Now, it is months later, and that kernel of faith has been growing in small incremental steps. Will it pass the test of the doctrine of men? He steps up to the religious leaders whose intent is to kill Jesus and asks them this question: “Our law doesn’t condemn a man unless it first hears from him and learns what he is doing, does it?” [Jn 7:51] But in an instant, he is silenced! “Investigate carefully and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee!” [Jn 7:52]
How often do we hear challenges to our kernel of faith, and when put on the spot we too are silenced. They were the religious leaders and should have recalled that both Jonah and Nahum were from Galilee and were prophets called by God. But, when you are intent on your way, no amount of evidence will sway you otherwise.
Nicodemus might have been silenced then, but when Christ is crucified, it is he and Joseph of Arimathea who take his body down and place it lovingly in a tomb. Nicodemus’ faith had grown exponentially.
Be sure of this; each faith kernel will be tested. Is your kernel of faith growing?
Deut 1 There will always be those who seek to discourage us in the battle that God has set before us. God permitted the Israelites to “spy” out the land. They brought back evidence to God’s gracious words of a land of milk and honey. They saw the evidence, but it was not enough. The giants loomed in their minds, and so they brought back a bad report. Satan uses the giants in our lives to discourage us and cause us not to trust God. But, God is greater than any giant, and Caleb and Joshua were a testimony to how they saw them. Do we see the giants in our life as impediments to stepping forward to victory? Do we let him cause us to waver and forget the faithfulness of God in the past? James reminds us of that principle: he who wavers is unstable and God will not bless. [James 1 paraphrased]
The Israelites had an opportunity to trust God, but they chose not to. Thus, God removed His protection from them when they decided they had sinned but would go forward. If we choose disobedience when He specifically says obey, we will not be blessed. God gives us tests to see if we will obey. How presumptuous to think God will provide us with a second chance to obey? [Psalm 19:13] Do not tempt God!
Tough words to live by, but they are a reminder of God’s will for our lives and what He expects us to do.
Numbers 22 Just as we test metals to determine their worth, so God tests our hearts to know it’s worth, and as Paul prayed, so should we: That “our God will make [us] worthy of His calling.” [2Thess 1:11] Enter Balaam, the son of Beor, a false diviner whose worth will be proven. When the Moabite King sent a delegation, God intervened by asking Balaam, “Who are these men?” Balaam kept up a dialog with God about them, and on the surface, it seems that he was obeying. However, as we see, Balaam fell headlong into the temptation of earthly riches, which was more potent than obeying God. Like many today, Balaam tried to appear righteous by his answer that he could not curse Israel, but his actions prove the opposite. Balaam sought ways to obey God and yet get the riches the King offered.
The last test came when God explicitly tested Balaam when he said: “if” these men have come to call you, get up and go with them. But Balaam didn’t wait for the “if” clause and instead got up and went.
Today God tests our hearts just as He did Balaam’s. Therefore, we must ask God for his wise counsel and we must stand firm. God gives us tests to discern if we will obey His voice or our own.
Genesis 44 and 45 As 21st-century believers, we are more apt to study the NT over the OT but hidden in the OT are the truths that the NT reveals. Take, for example, the life of Joseph. His faithfulness in the times of suffering without complaint but seeking to understand the why is ever-present. Perhaps that was on James’ mind when he wrote: “the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But he must ask in faith without doubting.” [James 1:3-5]
In a time of intense temptation, God did indeed provide a way of escape. [1Cor 10:13] We may not have called false imprisonment the way out, but God used that time to hone Joseph to be a master organizer and leader. Who would have thought? Joseph’s faith was tested, and his words attest to that: “How could I do such a great evil and sin against God.”[Gen 39:9] In and out of the prison-house, Joseph honored God before his fellow prisoners and Pharaoh as he testified, “don’t interpretations belong to God?” [Gen 40:8]
When you are facing suffering or a trial, cling to these verses of comfort, knowing that God’s truth is “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”[Rom 8:28]
Ge 27 to 29: Isaac and Rebekah were praying parents, yet they seemed to have become impatient in their old age. Much like Sara and Abraham, they decided that God wasn’t doing things on “their” timetable, or surely God had forgotten the “plan.” Jacob is to receive the blessing according to the prophecy yet the seeds of deception which began in the Garden are still alive and well. “Isaac loved Esau…but Rebekah loved Jacob.” [Gen 25:28]That set the stage for the enemy to continue his web of deception and lies; hoodwinking us into thinking this is really what we should do. “Is it really true that God said…” [Gen 3:1] And so, Isaac and Rebekah took matters into their own hands. Surely God must remember that the firstborns are to receive the family and covenantal blessing, right? There is a warning here: God’s plans are higher than ours. [Is 55:9] Isaac’s plan to deceive will soon be circumvented by Rebekah’s, and the pattern will continue for years to come. What a tangled web we weave when we first set out to deceive.
How often are you and I, like Isaac and Rebekah, saying yes to God but later thinking God needs our help to complete the plan. How easily Satan can deceive us to follow his plan and not God’s. Isaiah reminds us that God’s plans are superior to ours. He tests us to see if we will wholly trust both the timetable and the plan! [Is 55:9-12]
Genesis 22 to 24 When you face a test of your faith and find yourself wavering, return to the story of Abraham. God in His providence tested Abraham’s faith over and over, yet he failed—how like us! Finally, God gave Abraham the hardest test ever; go and sacrifice your only son as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah—a three-day journey from where he was. We do not see Abraham questioning nor asking for wisdom to understand the why’s. Abraham was not like the waves of the sea as they ebb and flow. [James 1:6] Instead, he was like Paul’s description: steadfast and immovable. [1Cor 15:58] After many failures, Abraham’s faith could trust in Jehovah Jireh (the God who provides), and thus “he was ready to offer up his only son.” [Heb 11:17]
As Abraham and Isaac and the servants traveled, we wonder what his thoughts were—but the scriptures are silent. Instead, Abraham faithfully went about his business as if today was not any different than yesterday. That is how God orchestrates our days; today will be much the same as yesterday and tomorrow. The only inkling Abraham had of what lay ahead was what he told Isaac: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” [Gen 22:8]
Do we trust God in the hard and easy times as Abraham did?
He is a model for us in trusting God to provide all of our needs.
Job 29 to 31 Today we see many homeless people here and there. If you take time to talk with them, you may hear some of the same dialogs that Job was having with himself, his friends, and God. Like Job, they begin the age-old “why” me and “why” this. Some will admit to their past sins, but others, like Job, can recount their lives and not see the answers. James reminds us that when we are in a trial to ask for wisdom and that is what Job is doing. May you be encouraged to know that just as Job wondered, he still trusted God. You can as well. When in a trial, look at the past and then ask: Has God been faithful? If you can answer yes, then why would He not be faithful now? That is why God can be trusted even if you never learn the reason until eternity.
Although Job has been through the fire and continues to feel the heat, one thing he knows is this: God knows the end from the beginning. “Does he not see my ways and count all my steps?” [Job 31: 4] Therefore, no matter how bad life has become and how despondent Job is over this strange set of circumstances, he will not walk away from his belief that God is God and He knows the reason.
The bottom line is this: If Job or we fail here, Satan wins. TRUST GOD so you can say you passed the test.
From the peace in the Garden to the shining sword to keep man from re-entering after he sinned to facing the ultimate trial in man. It is here that we find the man Job. God knows Job, and God knows us. God describes him as blameless and upright, but even more that he is God’s servant. When we face a trial, whether by the hand of God or Satan, are we seen as the servant of God? God knew, but Satan did not, how he would face this trial. We may face the battleground but know this: we are God’s servants, and He knows how we will face each trial.
Beloved, we are in a spiritual battle. Paul describes it as: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Therefore: Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Paul tells us later in the 6th chapter of Ephesians that our armor includes the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace; the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
What trial are you facing this day? Will God announce to Satan that you are His servant?