Some of you are currently going through a difficult test…or you know someone who is. It might be a tragedy, a sickness, a death in the family, a financial disaster, a loss of a job or relationship, but it is causing an extreme emotional struggle. Can you relate?
Last week we looked at Job’s test. How he lost his property, income, and his entire family in a single day. Then to make matters worse, he was struck with a debilitating and horrifically painful disease that left him unable to sleep or get any comfort 24 hours per day, week after week.
As I processed my grief when Donna was killed, God lovingly took me through this time of testing. I still marvel at His patience with me as I asked God harsh and even irreverent questions out of my deep hurt. Many of my questions impugned the character of a holy and loving God.
For example, there was a time when I was particularly down and I told the Lord, “God, I know you’re in control. I can clearly feel your control. But Lord I question your love for me because I don’t feel your love.” I still can sense God’s gentle and loving response that went something like this, “Gary, I’m sorry you don’t feel my love, but I’ve already ‘demonstrated my love for you in that while you were yet a sinner, my Son died for you!’ ” (Romans 5:8). Wow, what a clear and powerful answer. I remember feeling embarrassed and humbled by this obvious demonstration of God’s love.
Last week I mentioned that I was listening to a recording from Dr. Charles Stanley entitled, “How We Profit from Suffering.” His first statement was, “Many people don’t profit from their suffering. Many people waste their suffering!” This statement terrified me to think I could go through all this horrible suffering and not gain everything God wanted me to gain. Suddenly, I didn’t just want to pass the test. I wanted to Ace it! I wanted to do so well that I could “test out” of the next one.
SO HERE ARE 4 CONCEPTS TO HELP YOU PASS (NOT FAIL) YOUR TEST:
- TRUST GOD’S GOODNESS. Don’t yield to the temptation of turning your back on the Lord. You can question God (in fact I recommend that you do); you can complain to God; and you definitely should process what you’re feeling with God. But you MUST hold onto your faith that God loves you and is in control.
One of our young people at Onward several years ago was praying to ask God to put her faith to the test. He led her to go to Africa on a mission trip with people she didn’t know. To add to the difficulty of the test it wasn’t a decidedly Christian mission. She was going to Africa to teach American Sign Language to deaf children with people she didn’t know.
Although she was terrified, God put on her heart that she was to be “FEARLESS.” She even had bracelets made with the word “Fearless” to encourage her friends to pray for her. She had a tremendous experience as she witnessed God at work through her. When she returned she gave a report to our congregation and concluded with this epigram:
God is Good!
Therefore His plans for me are good!
Therefore I can trust Him!
My daughter, Sarah, sings a song entitled Trust His Heart. The chorus says,
God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don’t understand,
when you don’t see His plan,
When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.
- RECOGNIZE THAT A BIG TEST MEANS A BIG FAITH. One of the powerful encouragements that you can take from a big test is that it indicates what God thinks of your faith. While you might not believe you can handle this test, God knows you can or He wouldn’t allow it.
Several years ago my good friend had a fairly routine heart by-pass, but while the surgeons were finishing a successful surgery a nerve that controlled his breathing was damaged which prevented him from being weaned off the ventilator. At the time of my visit the doctors were concerned that he might never be able to breath on his own. I walked into the ICU and stood by his bed. The breathing tube down his throat kept him from speaking so he had a pen and note pad nearby. He wrote, “Do you know what happened?” I nodded my head yes. He wrote, “Why?”
Wow, I silently prayed, “Lord, what do I say to my friend at a time like this? I want to encourage him and bless him, but I have no idea what to tell him.” That’s when the Lord put on my heart this response, “John, for most Christians an open heart surgery would be enough to thoroughly test their faith. But not so with you. God knew your faith was too strong to be tested with a simple by-pass surgery so He allowed this to happen. Your complication is a testimony to what God thinks of your faith!” A big smile broke across my friend’s face as God used this incident to teach me a valuable lesson about testing.
The Scriptures say, “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).
Only an evil teacher would give a High School Calculus test to a 1st Grader. A loving teacher always gives tests that they know their students should pass.
God is like this with us. He only ever gives us a test—no matter how severe—that He knows we can pass (even if we don’t believe we can). That means that if you’re facing an extremely difficult test right now, God knows you are able to pass the test if you will rely on Him.
The bigger the test, the bigger God’s plan for you! A W Tozer said, “It is doubtful that God can use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
- PERSEVERE! One of the things I say to people who are struggling is “Hang in there!” I was once reprimanded by someone who protested that saying “hang in there” was not positive enough (of course the person who rebuked me wasn’t suffering). I referred them to the Bible word “persevere” which in our modern vernacular could properly be translated “hang in there.”
There is power in perseverance. God works through perseverance. Have you ever wondered why an ill person in a hospital is called a “patient?” The root word of patient means “one who endures suffering.”
“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. Job is an example of a man who endured patiently. From his experience we see how the Lord’s plan finally ended in good, for he is full of tenderness and mercy” (James 5:11).
Don’t judge the end at halftime! So often we decide much too early that there is no good coming out of our suffering. If we persevere we find that God has purpose in our suffering that will strengthen our faith and be a blessing to others.
“That is why we never give up…For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16a, 17).
- DECIDE TO BE A VICTOR, NOT A VICTIM.Often when we’re deeply hurting we get emotionally exhausted. In this condition we are particularly susceptible to seeing ourselves as a victim. The more we see ourselves this way, the more discouraged we become.
Decide you can pass the test with God’s strength and wisdom. Determine to learn all that God desires for you to learn so that you might grow in your maturity. See yourself as a victor, not a victim. Expect God to bring victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Job kept pressing into the Lord, he finally understood that God was at work in the midst of his suffering to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His love. In the end, Job responded with one of my favorite passages in the Bible,
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5).
Job is saying, “I only thought I knew you before. Now my eyes have been opened to know you in a new and powerful way.” I can attest to the truth that Job proclaimed. God used my suffering to accomplish so much in my life that I would not change it if I could!
Onward in victory,