Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/26/09.
"This is no accident: it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to result in praise and glory and honor in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself" (I Pet. 1:7, Phillips).
We don't like it when trials, fiery or otherwise, come upon us. We protest loudly; we whine; we bargain with God; we cry out for relief. We forget the truth that it's for our good, about which so many scriptures attest, and rarely do we "count it all joy" when we must endure uncomfortable life situations. Some insist that the first words out of their mouths are "Praise the Lord," when calamity strikes. Those Saints used to intimidate me mightily, until the Lord revealed that it's not HOW we get through the test, but rather, WHO we trust to bring us through. In fact, IF we fail the test God uses to show us whatever weakness He's working on, it's no big deal to Him, for He knows we'll pass the test eventually, by His grace!
Bob Mumford, whose tape I heard about 40 years ago now, remarked that these tests are like the laps around Mount Sinai that the Children of Israel made. If we don't succeed the first 29 times, Mumford cheerfully concluded, God graciously gives us as many more times as it takes for us to hear what He's saying. Having failed a number of tests in my personal walk, I could almost hear the Lord say, "Take a lap, Jan," as I girded my loins for another journey around Sinai. It took a long while, but finally, it came to me, that only by surrendering my will to His, would I EVER gain the victory. Jesus is the perfect role model who demonstrated this principal beautifully, though painfully. When He faced His greatest test, the cross, He did ask for God to take it from Him, but by grace, He prayed the prayer that never fails, "Thy will be done."
Recently, when I was wrestling with what I considered a disappointing lack of emotional support from someone I care about, I asked the Lord about it. He said "An untested disciple is untrustworthy." The Lord speaks from eternity and we hear it in time, which sometimes blurs the meaning. I wasn't sure if He meant me or my friend, and did He imply that the problem was that the untested disciple was untrustworthy? Or, did He mean that the untested disciple thought the Lord was untrustworthy? Either way you slice it, it's not a pretty picture.
I thought there might be a writing involved, and that was confirmed when I found the graphic. What does it mean to be tested? Especially, since James, who said "count it all joy when fiery trials come upon you," also asserted shortly thereafter, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one" (James 1:13). What is the difference between temptation and trial? Very little, it seems to me, to the one enduring it. "Temptation" is "a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise." Jesus was tempted by the devil to fall down and worship him instead of the living God, but remember, that "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matt. 4:1).
He had fasted for 40 days, and weak from hunger, was beset by the adversary. A "trial" is "a test of the performance, qualities, or suitability of someone or something." Scripture states that Christ was tempted by the devil, so we must presume that some part of His flesh was tempted to comply. I heard John McCain say recently that the reason torture, a severe trial indeed, does not work is because when a person is in severe pain, they'll do or say anything to make it stop. Jesus, of course, endured to the end, securing on our behalf, the divine reward: "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).
James can say that no one is tempted by God, but that may be another translation error, for Matthew and Mark both assert that Christ was led or driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Sounds like a partnership to me.
Someone described Satan as "the left hand of God," which is a fairly accurate definition. The book of Job clearly shows that the devil can only do what God authorizes. Babes in Christ want to blame the devil for everything that goes wrong. Been there, done that. John differentiated between children, whose "sins have been forgiven on account of his name," and fathers, "who have known him who is from the beginning," and young men (nauseous teenagers, Lenny calls them), who "have overcome the evil one" (1 John 2:12-14).
You will find children, young men, and fathers in any Christian group you may attend. Children and young men split hairs over every issue and can find a proof text for every point they wish to make. Fathers and mothers of the faith know that God AS THE Father is responsible for each of us, wherever we are on our journey home to Him. Children, unschooled by the Holy Spirit, for instance, read the Bible and find contradictions everywhere. Young men loudly insist that the way they see it is the only way there IS to see it. Fathers and mothers know that God alone is the One who leads us into the green pastures beside the still waters of His kingdom truths.
As I was pondering what the Lord meant about the untested disciple, He led me to Matthew's account of Jesus' prophecy to His disciples shortly before He was arrested: "Tonight every one of you will lose his faith in me. For the scripture says, 'I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.' But after I am raised I shall go before you into Galilee!" (Matt. 26:31-32). Peter, the perfect example of an untested disciple at the time, became very irate and indignant about this proclamation, declaring, "Even if everyone should lose his faith in you, I never will!" (Vs. 33). Those were powerful words, but they came from his untested flesh, not the Spirit of God. "I tell you, Peter," replied Jesus, "that tonight, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times" (Vs. 34). Arguing with His Lord, Peter protested vehemently, "Even if it means dying with you I will never disown you," said Peter. And all the disciples made the same protest" (Vs. 35).
Thinking about this scene in light of the Lord's statement that "An untested disciples is untrustworthy," it came to me that one benefit of trials and testings is so that we can know ourselves. God really is not setting traps for us so that He can ultimately reject us, the way many Christians appear to think. He loves us and views us as His perfect creation needing only minor adjustments here and there, which He has already accomplished when He seated us with Christ in heavenly places. The purpose of trial then, is for us, not for Him. God arranged trials and tribulations and those testings which seem to come on a regular bases, so we can come into perfect fellowship with Him and each other.
We don't really know how we'd react to any given situation until and unless we experience something similar. This is why reporters are so eager to interview people who have lived through horrendous trials, to see through their eyes what it felt like. How would I survive in a small life boat with 4 pirates, for instance? Would I have courage as Captain Phillips did when faced with AK47 semiautomatic weapons at his head, or would I be a blithering wreck begging for mercy? If I had a gun to my head, would I deny Christ or stand up for Him? Speaking for myself only, it is easy to think I'd do better than Peter but I don't know for sure.
Those of us who grew up in church, reading the Bible, going to Sunday School and attending youth groups, have a great advantage in being introduced to the Lord at an early age, but knowledge does not a successful Christian make. Nor does experience alone count for much, for as Paul said about the Jews, "For I bear witness that they possess an enthusiasm for God, but it is an unenlightened enthusiasm" (Rom. 10:2, Weymouth). It takes knowledge plus experience and that only comes by walking with God.
We've called this journey we're all taking, The Glory Road, and though it IS glorious, the route takes us through swamps with alligators nipping at our heels, over deserts and wildernesses replete with fiery serpents and scorching heat, and up steep, rocky mountains and over treacherous crevasses, but as we traverse troubles, disappointments, and bitter defeats, we see ourselves as we really are. At first, it's a most horrible let down to know all our faults, but eventually, we realize that the journey is not about what we must do for Him, but rather about what Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. This "Road Less Traveled" (Scott Peck's term), is what the early Christians referred to as "The Way." Christ Himself is "The Way, The Truth, and The Light" and when we walk IN Him, we realize that He alone is trustworthy; He alone is capable; He alone is all sufficient.
The secret to living a successful Christian life is found IN Christ; the path is clear when we don't rely on ourselves, but upon the Master Pilot to guide us. When we see that He who knows the end from the beginning holds us all in the palm of His hand, His perfect love will cast off those heavy burdens of fear, worry, and doubt, because it's NOT up to us. Everything depends upon God, who has done every thing for us IN CHRIST! This is the essence of the lifestyle which Harry Robert Fox has labeled, You Can't Lose For Winning.
No doubt, I am the untested disciple the Lord mentioned, but that's just another reason to rejoice in the sovereignty and all sufficiency of God. When we are faithless, He is faithful; when we are untrustworthy, He is worthy of trust; when we can't serve Him the way we'd like to, He meets us right there and takes us by the hand; when we are discouraged, depressed and ready to give up, He whispers, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Our hearts cry out, "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33, 36).
We thank You, Father, that You ARE the refining Fire who purifies the sons of Levi and leaves us gleaming like pure gold. We bless You for the wisdom and magnificence of Your plan, written before the foundation of the world, which includes all men and the entire creation. You are our Abba, our Savior and our best friend. We came FROM You and we return TO You, to Zion, with singing and everlasting joy upon our heads. Sorrow and sadness shall flee away and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
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The Glory Road
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This site was created on 04/22/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister