The purpose of this blog is to Glorify God in every word, every sentence, every paragraph.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
When Faith is Tested
Sometimes when difficult things come into our lives, we wonder why. Though we must be willing to trust and obey even if we don’t know why or aren’t given that answer for some time, we do need to distinguish between tempting and testing. Satan tempts; God tests. Tempting is for our failure and destruction; testing is in order to make our faith stronger. Testing reveals to us where we are in terms of our faith as God already knows whether or not we will pass a given test. It is as we go through the fire of testing and trial that we can be strengthened, sanctified, and purified. James 1:2-4 emphasizes the sanctifying and strengthening results of testing when it says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." So it is imperative that we discern between testing through various trials and the tempting of the devil. We are never to say or think when tempting comes that God is behind it. Scripture expressly denounces this in James 1:13 which says, "Let no one 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." God does allow Satan to tempt us, but we can take hope that we will not be tempted beyond what we can handle and escape from by faith (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even in temptation, God is there to deliver us if we listen and obey.
When God tests us, He wants us to succeed. He wants us to see that our faith is real and that it has been refined by fire. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." We see from this passage that God only tests us as is necessary. In other words, God doesn’t put us through a refining process for no reason. He is not malicious or desiring to see us suffer through trial. Just as a goldsmith only puts the metal into the fire in order to get rid of impurities, so is the way of our Lord. God will test us so that we can see where we need to improve. We can be sure that God crafts each test specifically to show us individually and personally what our defects and impurities are so that we can be sanctified and changed. Testing is thus something to hope in rather than to dread. But we must be willing to go through the fire if we want to come out more like Christ than we were before.
God put Abraham through quite a test in Genesis 22. God had promised Abraham descendants through Isaac that would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Yet, out of the blue it seemed, God commanded Abraham to do something that totally contradicted His promised blessing to him. He was to take his son Isaac and offer him up to God as a sacrifice. Now God is not honored by sacrificing children or human beings in any way shape or form. Yet He commanded Abraham to do this. Certainly Abraham must have been initially baffled at this directive, wondering why. But Abraham had great faith, and so he obeyed God, even going as far as binding up his son and taking the knife up in readiness to slaughter his only son (Genesis 22:9-10). We learn what Abraham was really thinking in Hebrews 11:17-19 which says, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.’ He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type" (italics mine). Abraham was willing to slaughter Isaac because he was so confident that God knew what He was doing and that God would keep His promise to him even if it meant bringing Isaac back from the dead. That is amazing faith. Abraham’s faith was evident, and God told Abraham to stop and provided instead a ram to sacrifice. Of course, God never intended for Isaac to be killed. This was merely a test of Abraham’s heart. Which did he love more: the promised son from God or the God Who had promised his son? This was the question for Abraham, and Abraham passed the test, demonstrating that He loved and trusted God even more than the blessings of God themselves (Genesis 22:12). Abraham called the place "The Lord will provide," and God went on to reiterate His promised blessing to Abraham (Genesis 22:16-18).
The result of God’s kind testing is to reveal just how much we believe His Word and promises to us. God is powerfully glorified by those who do continue to believe even when things don’t make sense and perhaps even appear to be contradictory, as in Abraham’s case. We need not fear the tests that God brings to us; rather, we need only trust Him to bring us through them. Why? Because God is good, faithful, and true, knowing that we will end up better than we were before. Once again, God causes all things to work for our good, even if for a short time, it doesn’t make sense, it hurts, or it is difficult. We will be the better for it, so, as James so accurately stated, we can consider it all joy.