July 20, 2017
Living on this side of Heaven presents many challenges. There are ups and downs in life and people who don’t have a relationship with God will blame Him for troubles when things go wrong, but they don’t give Him credit when things go right. What’s even sadder is when a Christian follows that same pattern. A lie has been going around, probably started by Satan, that life becomes a bed of roses once you accept Christ. That just isn’t true. In fact, the testing of faith in the one true God has gone on for thousands of years. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whose faith was tested by fire. They refused to bow down and worship false gods and were thrown into a fiery furnace. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:17-18. Their faith was tested but God preserved them and they were not even singed in that furnace. Throughout Scripture we read about many men and women who loved God but faced many trials, so we shouldn’t expect perfect circumstances in our own life. Illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, persecution, and financial difficulties are just some of the things we face that can cause us to question God. These circumstances may test our faith, but a Christian can be assured that whatever testing we face, God is with us.
The way a Christian handles troubles matters because other people learn from us. When I was very young I woke up one Saturday morning and was thrilled to see my grandmother there. She seldom left her house, so to have her in my living room was exciting. She pulled me onto her lap and gave me a hug and gently told me that there had been a car accident and my fourteen-year-old brother had been killed. My joy turned to disbelief and sorrow. My grandmother could have shown me her own despair, but instead, she explained that my brother was now with Jesus and one day we would see him again. “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Psalm 18:2. Grandma helped to build a strong foundation of faith in me which is with me to this day. We need to have faith that God is on His throne and nothing will defeat us as long as we stand strong in Him. Since the time of my brother’s death I’ve faced much sorrow and grief from the deaths of many people I loved dearly, but because my grandmother helped me through the death of my brother I have a strong faith that those I love who died knowing Christ are truly alive. My faith was strengthened because someone took the time to teach me about faith in a time of testing. We all have that opportunity. People all around us face trials and tribulation and need the strength and comfort we can share. Do we help their faith or do we feed their anguish?
Jesus never said that if we follow Him life will be easy. In fact, He said just the opposite. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. The Greek word “thlipsis” is translated in this verse as “tribulation”, but in other Scriptures, it’s translated affliction, trouble, anguish, persecution, and burdened. This doesn’t mean that a Christian’s life should be one of despair. We have every reason to have joy. No matter what we face, Jesus is our joy and our salvation. Keeping focused on Jesus will keep our joy from being squelched. We have the blessed hope of knowing Christ as our Saviour and no matter what happens in this life He will see us through. He has overcome the world and in Him, we have eternal life.
People who walk close to God always seem to handle adversity in a victorious way. The first thing they do is pray. When we talk with God He listens. The trick is that when He talks to us, we need to listen. We can’t just pray and wait for God to do it all for us. The Israelites were hungry as they wandered in the wilderness and complained about how much better they had been in slavery. They had very short memories! “Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” Exodus 16:4. They were tested to be sure they put their faith in God. God provided the manna but they had to gather it. You may be tested if the company you work for is about to close and you’ll be out of a job. Pray that God will open doors for you to find another job, but get out there and look. Do you have a medical condition that needs attention? Pray for God’s healing. Scripture tells about people being miraculously healed and those aren’t just stories or folklore, they are true stories about real people. God still heals today. It isn’t wrong to pray for healing, but seeking medical attention is important. God will always do His part, but we need to do ours.
Few people have suffered as much as Job. He lost everything, boils covered his body, and he had friends who were less than helpful. After much soul-searching he was able to say. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27. Do you have the faith to say that? When you suddenly fall off the mountain top into the valley of the shadow of death, do you know with all your heart that your Redeemer lives? It took Job some time and a bit of a pity party before he realized that no matter what he lost, even if he himself died, he would see God. He knew his Redeemer lives. Job did make it through his ordeal and God restored everything to him. Even so, Job eventually did die. He was mortal like all of us but when his faith was tested he trusted God and we can be sure that he indeed is with his Redeemer.
You may not be facing any big problem, but feelings of doubt and weakness can test your faith just like a financial ruin or health troubles. Ask fellow Christians to pray for you. Paul faced many challenges in his walk with Christ, and at one point he “despaired of life”. “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;” 2 Corinthians 1:8-10. He didn’t go into detail about the cause of his troubles. Because it’s vague we can draw encouragement from it in whatever we face. Our strength is in God and even if things look as if there’s no way out, don’t despair. Focus on Jesus and let Him lead you. Many times Paul asked for prayer, but it wasn’t as easy for him to ask to be put on a prayer list as it is for us today. We have email and texts but for Paul prayer requests traveled at the speed of a many walking. I have a friend that I know I can count on to pray when I need it. My first action when my faith is being tested is to send her an email asking her for prayers. She does the same when she faces testing. Even though she lives many, many miles away our Christian faith binds us. We both know that God hears our prayer.
The harshest test of my faith has always been the death of a loved one. My prayers were for healing, but one of the hardest things to accept is that God’s will isn’t always mine. I prayed for healing so I could continue in this life with them, but God’s will was that they go Home to be in a place where there is no more pain, suffering, and where faith will no longer be tested. I’m thankful that my loved ones died knowing Christ. They are with Him now. One day it will be my turn to go Home. My children can rest assured that even though my faith has been tested many times in life, I have come through being stronger in my faith. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. When I’m called Home it will be into everlasting life. When that time comes my children’s faith will be tested, but like my grandmother told me so many years ago, because we know Jesus one day we will all be together again.
My fondest desire is that my children and friends will see in me a strength of faith that only comes through growth in the dark valleys of testing. I pray they will see Christ’s love in me and that it will strengthen their own faith. If the testing of my faith can help someone else to find strength to face their own trials, then God is glorified. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:4-5. Each time we go through a valley we have an opportunity to learn more about God’s grace and mercy. If we learn the lesson that comes through testing we will be able to help someone else to cope when they face testing.
Is your faith being tested? Are you watching someone you love having their faith tested? Ask Jesus to guide you through the valley you’re traveling through. “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:6. He will lead you to victory.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.