Monday, April 19, 2010

How's The Test Going?

The secret to surviving trials and hardships is to understand what God is doing for us through them. We have already considered the character that he is developing in us through them, making us more like Jesus. It is a good work he is doing and the benefit to us will be eternal, but there is more that is being done through these trials. God also uses them to test our faith in the same way that people test their wine, or the meal they are preparing; they want to see if it is ready. James writes:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

He is not receiving the crown of life because of the trials but instead because the trials prove that his faith is real. The key is not the trials but his faith that cause him to persevere in the trials. We find greater clarity in Peter's first epistle:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

What would you rather, have your faith tested here so that you know that it is real or not, or find out as you stand before Jesus that your faith was not genuine? At least if it is tested here you have time to do something about it if you discover that it is not real. Some people only conform to the standards of the Church instead of experiencing a true transformation through the blood of Jesus.Many will be surprised to hear him say to them, "Go away, I don't know you". No, it is better to face the test now than later.

Now keep in mind, there is a difference between trials and temptations. God will allow us to face difficult times but he will never tempt us to sin. Temptation is found within ourselves, our sinful nature:

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

It is important that we understand the difference between the two because their sources and purposes are completely different. Trials are allowed by God to build us, increase us, and to encourage us. Temptations are from within ourselves and their sole purpose is to destroy us. But even when we cause ourselves to be tempted God has not abandoned us:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

It is important that we understand the difference between trials and temptations. We can know this difference by the character of our Father:

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

Regardless of what you face today remember that every good thing you experience is a reminder of God's love, including trials and hardships. Avoid temptations today by making sure you only have one desire, and that is to be like Jesus. If that is your goal then everything else will fade away. The more of your desires you hold on to the greater the risk of falling to temptation. God is good and he will strengthen you in your weakness so that you will pass the test today. Hold on to Jesus.

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