Monday, July 15, 2013

Not Another Test!

Jesus told us that in this world we would, not might, have tribulation. (John 16:33)
Paul spoke of tribulations. (Romans 5:3-4)
James spoke of trials and testings. (James 1:2-3)
Peter spoke of the fiery trial of our faith. (1 Peter 1:2)

We should not be surprised that our faith has or will be tested! It is an ongoing integral part of every genuine Christian's life!

When we become Christians, God begins to teach us His thoughts and ways. We often view the world through our fallen human eyes. This tainted view causes us to have delusions and hallucinations but these abnormal thoughts are very harmful because they are not seen as such. They are perceived to be sane, normal thoughts while those who claim to hear from God are seen as delusional.

From a clinical psychiatric standpoint, a "scientific" or "rational"point of view is considered normal. However if the Bible is true, there is another reality which transcends our current known existence. It is called the Kingdom of God!

The Kingdom of God is thought of by many rational people as a kind of "fairy-tale" or daydream world. Christians are very often portrayed as weak people who need a man-made God or Kingdom to lean on as a crutch. It is said that they are too weak to deal with the harsh realities of this world so they must create a safer fantasy world where none of these things exist.

I cannot deny that this type of Christian thinking exists today, especially in America. There may be nothing intrinsically wrong with having Christian T-shirts, art, movies, posters, etc. They can be used to encourage fellow Christians, to let others know what we stand for or as conversation starters to share Christ.

Yet it almost seems at times that we have created a sort of Christian Disney World! Disney World is designed to be a place to visit but not a place to live! Likewise, the Christian world of art, music, etc. can serve its purposes but we should see it as a permanent comfort zone to live in.

True Christianity is everything but a crutch. It is a life described in the Bible by words such as discipline, taking up our cross, suffering and losing our lives!

God prunes us scourges us and comforts us when we need it and as He sees fit!

I am a skeptic by nature! I don't like following the crowd. If I were to create my own version of God (one definition of an idol!), I would not create the living God of the Bible. His word tells me many things contrary to my own wishes, as does the voice of His Spirit. I would create a god who would help me win the lottery and give me everything I wanted.

But I have come to realize (still working on it) that I am like a child and God is like my parent. He does not make the rules or answer my prayers based on my latest childish whims or how much I pout! He does so according to His own wise counsel! (Thank God!)

So when we come to God, he must transform our small, tainted thoughts and help us to see the world as it really is in the Kingdom of God!

So when we begin to grasp a new reality, it must be exercised in order to work. When we lift a certain amount of weight, our muscles grow. God does not give us more muscle; we are merely exercising the muscle He has already given us!

When we accept God's free gift of salvation, we literally become children of God. He gives us new hearts - not the physical organ that pumps blood, but new spirits!

Now God's lessons begin. For one thing, we must learn to live by faith. Many believe that faith is a kind of general, one-time event but when it comes to genuine biblical faith, God will be specific with us. For example, if I begin to trust God as the provider of all my needs, I will be tested in that area. How? God will place opportunities in my life to exercise that trust!

In a fairy tale, a witch or wizard can cast a spell and see immediate results. Perhaps there is a magic wand that has some power which when someone waves it - "poof" - instant results!

When we trust God, we do not simply recite what we believe or wave a magic wand and everything changes, resulting in us living happily ever after! The faith life is more akin to learning a new musical instrument than to casting a magic spell! We do not simply wish to learn the piano and sit down and play complicated pieces. A person must practice many hours until he has mastered the instrument at some level. If that person wants to move to a higher level, he or she must practice longer and learn more difficult pieces.

If we are to be convinced that God is our Provider, we must exercise that belief in circumstances which test it. The circumstances are the weights we must lift. Our growing faith is like the muscles that lift those weights.

No one who shows up at the gym and lifts a few small weights expects to return home with a perfect, muscular body. We realize that we are going to have to start small and progress to heavier weights. In the same way, we cannot expect that exercising our faith once will result in becoming a world class man or woman of faith!

Faith must be repetitive and progressive!

When we believe God to pay our rent, we can see God's provision. But it doesn't end there! We will have to repeat our trust in God. Our trust in God does not mean that we have passed the test and forevermore, we will never experience that test again or that the money will roll in and the faucet of blessings will never cease to overflow in our lives.

No. It is a good start. You are on the right road but if you are to become strong in faith, you must continue to exercise your faith repetitively and progressively! If God is teaching us to be strong in faith, we must progress to greater challenges. A challenge in this case could be defined as that which contradicts or exerts force against whatever we are endeavoring to do!

If we only attempt to lift small, light weights, we will never be strong. It is not a challenge to us. If God were to stop challenging our faith at the lowest levels, our faith also would never become strong faith!

When we are to grow in trusting God as our Provider, we may be placed in circumstances in which the most obvious natural sources will dry up. It is a simple process: If we are to grow in faith, we must learn to exercise faith.

If God wants to teach us patience, He does not zap us with a "patience" laser. He will place us in situations where we have to wait.

If we are to trust God for food, clothing and shelter, we will have to be in a position where there are no obvious sources of them.

If we are to grow in love, we will have to be where love is a challenge.

You get the picture! Whenever God wants to grow us, He will leads to a place which challenges us in that area!

The Father spoke to Jesus in an audible voice when He was baptized saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Immediately, The Spirit led Him to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The first words of Satan were, "IF you are the Son of God…" Jesus was led to a place where that which God ha clearly shown Him was greatly challenged!

We will also be challenged as we learn what God wants to teach us!

It is not that the challenge itself will automatically cause growth. I have never seen a person's muscles grow by sitting next to a set of weights! It is the resistance to the weights which takes places as we exercise which produces bigger muscles!

Likewise it is not the trials, testings and tribulations that cause us to grow but as we exercise the new life that God has already placed in our hearts by His Holy Spirit, that life will grow strong within us!

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