Rest assured, if you are trying to walk righteously before the Lord, you are being tested! If fact, the deeper your walk with Christ, the more intense your testing will be. Scripture makes this clear:
"The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.... Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help.... And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed" (Daniel 11:32-35)
A great time of testing is coming upon "those of understanding"! Just who are these people who will be tested? They are the righteous — those who do exploits for the Lord, who walk with God and have the wisdom of Christ!
Right now, you may be asking, "Why am I being tested? Why is all this happening to me?"
Remember your school days? When a test in school was given, it revealed how much you had actually learned of what you had been taught. Yet Paul spoke of a different school — one where we are "learning Christ" and are being "taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus" (Ephesians 4:20-21). If you belong to Jesus, you are in His school! You may have thought you'd graduated, but you won't until you're in glory!
When I was in school, I hated "pop quizzes," unannounced tests. Yet the Lord has told us to be ready to be tested at any time — and that these tests will continue until Jesus returns. All who love the Lord are going to go through fiery trials and be purged of all that is not Christlike, in preparation for the soon-coming wedding of the Lamb!
David often spoke of being tested and tried: "I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness" (1 Chronicles 29:17) "Thou has proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress" (Psalm 17:3)
Saints, I couldn't begin to count all the ways that Lord tests His children — but there are three tests common to all of us, and I want to focus on them:
1. We Are Tested By Afflictions and Sufferings — Both Our Own and Those Of Other Righteous Believers.
One of the most difficult things for Christians to deal with is the suffering of the righteous.
Up to the time of Christ, the Jews associated prosperity and good health with godliness. They believed if you were wealthy, blessed or in good health, God was with you. This was why Jesus' disciples had a hard time understanding His statement, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). The disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?"
There is a mistaken doctrine even today that says those in covenant with God will never suffer! Just call out, this doctrine says, and your covenant-partner-God will come running and immediately solve everything. But beloved, this is not the gospel!
The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 all walked in covenant with God — and they suffered stonings, torture and violent deaths (verses 37-38). Others suffered "trial(s) of cruel mockings and scourgings [whippings]" (verse 36). Paul, who walked closely with God, was shipwrecked, stoned, whipped, left for dead. He was robbed, jailed, persecuted and suffered the loss of all things. Why? These were all testings, purgings, the proving of his faith!
Peter said, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may also be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13)
"Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7)
On of the most dangerous things a parent can do is to offer sympathy and comfort to a child who's under discipline before that child learns the lesson. This can destroy the child! If the rod is spared and the lesson is never learned, rebellion sets in.
Jesus is our parent, and while you're being disciplined you can call on Him as much as you want. But He will not move until you have learned what He wants to teach you. He will not lift the rod until you yield!
Yet the whole time you're being tested and disciplined, you are under God's protection. Scripture says those who are tested by many trials and temptations are "kept by the power of God through faith" (1 Peter 1:5). You can call out to God thinking you're in danger but He knows you're not. He's only waiting for you to learn the lesson!
When Jesus allows suffering and trials in our lives, He's after one thing. It is the same thing he was after when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac.
God allowed Abraham to lead Isaac up the mountain and raise the knife above him. It was only then that the Lord said, "No!" What was the Lord after? Simply this: "Abraham, do I mean more to you than the object of your deepest earthly affections? Abraham was willing to lay down all that was near and dear to him — his only son, the very object of God's promise to him — and to put his future in God's hands. He gave all to the Lord!
God Uses Our Sufferings to Expose Our Hearts!
Right now you may be suffering under poverty or unemployment. Others may be sorely tested by illness. Yet whatever the case, God may be using those trials and sufferings to expose a murmuring or complaining spirit in us.
God hates murmuring and complaining. In fact, He allowed Israel to suffer all kinds of hardships of forty years because the people had become habitual murmurers. And their hardships could be traced to their tongues! The Lord warns us today, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer" (1 Corinthians 10:10-11).
Murmuring begins in our thoughts — thoughts of discontent, and being mistreated by the Lord, of being misunderstood by God's people. It usually starts with disrespect for the ministry, those who are called of God and anointed of the Holy Spirit.
Murmurers are never satisfied. If you do what they think you should do, they come up with a dozen more demands. The list never ends because their spirit is out of control — it's not under the governing power of the Holy Spirit! The Bible says of them, "These are murmurs, complainers, walking after their own lusts" (Jude 16).
The Israelites complained because they had no water — so God gave them water from a rock. They complained when they had no bread — so God gave them bread from the ground. Then they complained because they had no meat — and God gave them meat from out of the sky.
The Lord gave them all these things — and the Bible says the people loathed it! They complained once they got it! And there are Christians today who, if God answered their prayer, would complain about what they got!
We can be tested as well by the suffering of righteous, holy servants of God. This testing is probably the most difficult to understand.
I know a young missionary couple who have given their lives to minister among Hong Kong's slum dwellers. Now the precious wife is in America, confined to a bed, suffering from a rare, chronic, debilitating disease. All who know this couple are asking, "How could this be?"
We read in the Scriptures that "many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19). Yet we see many devoted Christians dying before our eyes. Some suffer agonizing pain.
Still, I am convinced we don't understand the kind of marvelous deliverance the Lord has in mind for us! His ways are far above ours.
Some years ago a couple I knew lost their six-year-old son to a brain tumor. They had prayed and prayed for his healing. The Lord told me to tell them, "Your son has been perfectly healed. He has a brand-new body! The Lord loved him and took him from you, but He's going to present him to you again one day! Ask the Lord to give you strength until then. Jesus is taking care of him now — and your child has been ultimately healed!" They didn't understand until ten years later!
I've been around suffering Christians in hospitals who had more faith and hope than all the Christians around them who were praying for healing. And the suffering one usually ended up praying for the others!
When you have that kind of hope in you, you're not living for this world — you're living for eternity! Those who suffered and died in faith have received their ultimate healing! It meant Christ for them! Peter said they are "partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:13). Their faith demonstrated here will bring great glory to God in glory!
God wants to plant something in our hearts through all our testing and trials. He wants us to be able to say, "Lord Jesus, You're my protector, and I believe You rule over the events of my life. And if anything happens to me, it's because You let the wall down, and You have a purpose in doing it.
"If I am walking in righteousness and have Your joy in my heart, then my living and dying will bring glory to You. You may have some prepared glory, some eternal purpose my finite mind doesn't understand. Either way, I'll say, 'Jesus, live or die, I am Yours!'"
2. We Are Tested by Delayed Answers to Prayer.
Most of us pray as David did: "In the day when I call answer me speedily" (Psalm 102:2). "I am in trouble: hear me speedily" (Psalm 69:17). The Hebrew word for "speedily" means, "Right now, hurry up — in the very hour I call on You, do it!" David was saying, "Lord, I put my trust in You — but please, hurry up!"
Beloved, God is in no hurry. He doesn't jump at our commands. In fact, at times you may wonder if He will ever answer! You may cry out, weep, fast, hope — but days go by, weeks, months, even years, and you receive not the slightest evidence that God hears!
First you question yourself: Something must be blocking my prayers, some hidden sin. Maybe I asked amiss. Or perhaps my faith is too weak...." You become perplexed, and over time your attitudes become something like this: "Lord, what do I have to do to get this prayer answered? You promised in Your Word, and I prayed in faith. How many tears must I shed?"
Why does God delay answers to sincere prayers? It certainly isn't because He lacks power. He could merely wink an eye or think a thought and the work would be finished! And He is most willing — even more than we are — for us to receive from Him!
The answer is found in this verse: "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1).
The Greek word for "faint" means "relax, become weak or weary in faith, give up the struggle, no longer wait for completion." Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
The Lord is seeking a praying people who will not relax or weary of coming to Him. These people will wait and not give up until the work is completed — and they will be found waiting when He brings the answer!
I thought I had unshakable faith, that I fully trusted the Lord. Then some of my very important prayers were not answered for a very long time — and some are still not answered! I told the Lord, "If You will just answer my prayers, it will build up my faith. I can go to the sanctuary and boast of your faithfulness, like David did. Think how others will be greatly encouraged!
But the Lord was saying to me, "I don't build your faith on answers. I build your faith on My delays!"
Anybody can believe when the answers to prayer are flooding in! But who's going to believe after a year or two years? As time goes on we abandon our prayers and the belief that He will answer, and we move on to something else. We say to God, "I'll be faithful to You. But don't expect me to have faith to wait for answers to prayers anymore."
Dear saint, God is wanting to make sure you're not going to relax in your prayer vigil! He wants your heart set on persevering, no matter how long his answer takes!
Jesus gave us a parable to prove that He waits on us to dig in and determine not to give up. It is the parable of the distressed widow who kept coming to the judge and requesting justice (see Luke 18:2-8).
The judge finally granted her request only because he did not want to be worn down by her constant pleading. "Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me" (verse 5). Jesus added to this parable, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily" (verses 7-8).
You say, "But doesn't Jesus seem to be speaking a paradox in this passage? First He says God 'bears long with us' — then He says He 'will avenge us speedily.'"
Most of us misinterpret the passage completely. You see, Jesus isn't speaking of delaying a long time — not at all! He says God wants to speedily answer us — but God is enduring something. He is "bearing" something that calls for patience on His part! He's saying, "I'll put up with this thing I see in your heart — I'll bear with you — until you're willing to lay hold as you should for the answer!"
As I look back at some of the things I've prayed for over a long time, I see the Lord saying, "I'm holding up the request to you, like a mirror. And through this, I'm going to show you what's deep in your heart."
I've seen doubt...fear...unbelief...things that have made me throw myself at Jesus' feet and cry, "Oh Lord — I'm not interested in the answers anymore, but only in getting this spirit out of me! I don't want to doubt You — to pray and weep for an answer yet still have seeds of unbelief in my heart!"
It's true — the hardest part of faith is the last half-hour. When it looks as if God won't answer, we give up, put all behind us and go on to something else. And as we do this, we think we are surrendering to God's providence, depending on His sovereign will. We say, "Lord, do what You think is best," or, "Well, God, You must not have wanted it after all."
No! That is not what God intended! When you are praying for what obviously is the will of God — salvation of family, for instance — you have every right to hold on and never give up until Jesus answers! You have every reason not to listen to the devil — and to ask God to plant the faith of Jesus Christ in you, and not to relax until you see completion!
But instead, you fainted — you failed the test! If you hadn't fainted, you'd still be holding on more determined than ever to see the answer through!
You see, the Lord sees our fainting heart all along. The Bible offers a picture of this humbling experience in 2 Kings 6-7:
Samaria was under siege by Benhadad and his great Syrian army. The city was starving because there was no food anywhere worth eating. A donkey's head sold for 80 pieces of silver, a pint of dove's dung for five!
But the prophet Elisha had prophesied to the king of Samaria that God was going to deliver the people supernaturally. He said to hold on — to wait, pray, repent and trust God not matter how bad things got.
As the king walked atop the city walls, he might have thought, "How long must this go on? We can't hold out much longer. If God doesn't answer soon, we'll go out there with the white flag and surrender."
Then a woman saw the king and cried out, "Yesterday my neighbor and I boiled and ate my baby! We agreed that today we would eat her baby, but now she has hidden her child! King, it's unfair — make her give up her baby too!"
That did it! The king ripped open his sackcloth, and in a rage he bellowed, "Elisha, off comes your head! You had us believing that God would answer your prayer. You told us a miracle would happen — but now it's too late!"
When the king found Elisha praying among the elders, he screamed, "[Why] should I wait for the Lord any longer?" (2 Kings 6:33). In other words, "It's too late — the deadline has come and gone, and God didn't keep His word! Prayer isn't going to help. It's time to take matters into our own hands!"
While the king was fainting — quitting on his faith — the answer was almost at the gate. Elisha told him, "To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1).
It's too bad the king hadn't waited another 24 hours before blowing up. What he didn't know was that God was already fast at work creating a miracle!
In the Syrian camp, a miraculous buzzing filled the air — the sound of a huge army of chariots rumbling toward them. Panic swept over the Syrians, and they dropped everything and ran for their lives.
So the Samaritans brought in wagon-loads of the Syrian's food. Vegetables, fine flour and barrels of barley poured through the city gates. Watching this, the king must have been red-faced as he recalled stating, "God didn't keep His word!"
Beloved, this has happened to me at least a dozen times! I've given up and said, "Oh well, this must not have been God's will. It's an impossible situation." And sometimes the answer came within an hour of my words!
That may be exactly what's happening to you! You've given up and you're not pressing in anymore. But God is already at work — and His answer is just about to arrive!
3. We Are Tested by Our Falls and Failings.
I do not mean that Christians who fall back into old sins and turn back to the world are being tested. No, those believers are being shipwrecked!
But Peter warned, "Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness" (2 Peter 3:17). Peter is warning believers who are growing in holiness and are set on following the Lord.
Some of you may have taken a fall in spite of all the progress you've made with the Lord. If I asked you what caused your fall, you might answer, "Brother Dave, it was a fit of anger! I was provoked by my own family, and I blew up. I can't understand it — I thought I was becoming a little sweeter, a little more like Jesus. But somebody just pushed the wrong button, and I lost it!"
If there is a root of anger in you, God will make your home a testing ground. You will be provoked time after time until all your hidden anger is exposed and plucked out by the Holy Spirit! You may say, I'm only human. How much an I supposed to take?" It does not matter that you were provoked, or even that you were in the right. The provoking simply proved you need deliverance!
Scripture says: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour [fighting], and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice [grudges]" (Ephesians 4:31). God's going to keep testing until you say, "I've got a spirit in me that's got to go!" You will see no growth in Christ, no peace at home or on the job, until you can say, "You're right, Lord — take it out!"
If you're being tested in this area — or any other, for that matter — you may be thinking, "I feel so unworthy. How much ground have I lost? Does the Lord still love me?"
Dear saint, if you have truly repented, you haven't lost any ground whatsoever. God puts his loving arms around you and says, "I allowed that to happen so you would see what's in your heart. But you're making progress. You've said you want to walk with Me, and I'm teaching you. I know what's inside of you, and I'll allow you to be provoked until you get rid of it all."
Are you being tested? If so, just pray: "Lord, You've put your finger on some areas in me. Pluck them out of my heart. Encourage me, Lord, that I'm not going backward — I'm going forward with You!"