Where is God when life is hard? Does He allow tests and trials in our lives because He is angry? How should we respond to His discipline and what are the dangers of rejecting it?
Also, what is the one character quality that will enable us to be all Christ wants us to be, the one without which we cannot come to God or love Him the way we should? It’s the same quality required to love and serve others, lead in a godly way, communicate biblically, resolve conflict, deal with the sins of others, and resist sin ourselves. Continue reading →
Good doctrine … there I said it … the “D” word. It seems, in many churches, we’re afraid of the word and of calling other biblical concepts by their traditional or biblical names. I understand the value of making preaching and teaching relevant. But have we gone to such lengths to avoid using biblical terminology that we’re at risk of producing a generation of biblical illiterates?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, doctrine is, “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.” Biblical doctrine is made up of the ideas and beliefs that the Bible teaches to be true. It’s the Bible carefully studied and understood.
Good doctrine matters because what we believe about God, His sovereignty, and His dealings with those He loves, determines how we’ll respond to the tests and trials of life among other things. It also determines whether we witness, how we interact with others, especially our spouses and children, and whether we have peace at the end of our lives. Good doctrine matters more than we know.
One area where good doctrine is vitally important concerns the tests and trials we experience in life, like the people whose lives have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as my husband talked about in his sermon, a couple of Sundays ago.
Look at what Paul had to say about his own in verses 1, 7-10:
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart:
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Many today come to God with a what-can-He do-for-me attitude. That attitude is fed by the popular “health and prosperity doctrine.” It’s a doctrine with great appeal, but it has a nasty downside.
What if you believe God will give you whatever you desire if you just have enough faith?
What if you believe God always wants His children healed physically, guarantees that our children will grow up to serve Him, and gives us freedom from all hardship?
Then … what if … God doesn’t make you rich or heal your body? What if your child gets sick? What if you continue to struggle financially? What if your husband doesn’t get saved or come back home or never changes? What if the man of your dreams doesn’t appear? What if you suffer physically? What if your children rebel? Continue reading →
While we cannot know another person’s heart, it is a misunderstanding of the Bible to think we are never to judge someone else’s behavior. In fact, there is great danger in not judging sin, especially to the person caught up in it.
Also read about some things to consider when going through a test or a trial and some of the traps that can lead to sexual immorality.
Our reading in Proverbs today has some strong warnings about the dangers of sexual immorality. The Corinthian church had their problems in this area and, instead of dealing with it biblically, they chose to look the other way. In our society today, we might call this “being tolerant”!
Sometimes we even put a biblical-sounding spin on it and say we don’t want to judge.
Read Paul’s words in verse 3 again, “For I indeed … [I] have already judged … him who has done this deed.” While we cannot know or judge another person’s heart or spiritual relationship with God, we are told throughout Scripture to judge sin. Jesus said, “You will know a tree by its fruit.” That means you must determine what the fruit is!
The point we most often miss in all of this is the purpose behind it. It’s not so we can be self-righteous or condemning. It’s so a sinning brother or sister can be reconciled to God. If a person stays in a lifestyle of sin, one of two things is true: either he or she is not really saved or they are in danger of God’s discipline (Heb. 12.5-11).
Later in chapter 11 Paul tells these same believers:
“For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.”
Because of unconfessed and unforsaken sin, many were weak and sick and some had even died prematurely!
Certainly we all sin in many ways, and many of those things can be covered in love. But gross sins, life dominating sins like anger, abuse, and sexual immorality should be lovingly confronted in a biblical way. This is not easy to do, but necessary, if the body of Christ is to be the pure and undefiled bride she is called to be.
Today’s Other Readings:
Job 37 & 38:
Things to Consider When Going Through a Test or Trial
In chapter 38, God turns the tables on Job and begins to question him! Remember God had already vindicated Job in the court of heaven and He will vindicate him again as He speaks to Job and his friends, but as John MacArthur says in his Daily Bible notes, “… He first brought Job to a right understanding of Himself.”
It’s alright for us to question God, but we must know in advance, we won’t always get an answer, neither will we always understand the answers we get, and we need to be willing to accept that He knows best. Tests and trials are opportunities to trust God in a greater way whether or not it makes sense to us. Continue reading →
It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link. You’ll find them all there.
Last week we talked about how God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. We looked at biblical and unbiblical perspectives on tests and trials and God’s purposes in them. I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you haven’t, especially, if you’re going through a challenging time.
Today we’ll talk about our responses to tests and trials, how we can please Him during those difficult times, how we become like Christ as a result, and the resources God has given us.
Coming Forth as Gold
Nothing exposes our hearts as much as trials do. When trouble hits us, it’s easy to see the areas where we’re not fully committed to and trusting in God. But God doesn’t allow tests and trials to trip us up or so He can point His finger at us. God allows, even designs, trials to strengthen and purify us. Job said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
But, as I pointed out last week, we sometimes have unbiblical perspectives regarding trials and suffering. We can believe:
That they’re always our fault.
That they’re always the other person’s fault. We can have a “victim” mentality.
That they’re no one’s fault. This is divine fatalism.
That they’re God’s fault. He causes everything, even sin.
Or the Deistic view—that God isn’t involved in it at all. This is the belief that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
Then we looked at some biblical perspectives on trials and suffering:
That they’re ultimately the result of the Adam’s fall (Gen 3).
That God is the remote cause. In other words, He allows them, but He’s never the cause of our sin.
That God is sovereign and He works all things according to His plan and purpose, including trials and suffering.
That they’re always for God’s glory and our eternal good, even though God may temporarily set aside our happiness to accomplish something greater.
So, since God has allowed whatever we’re experiencing and it’s for our good, how should we respond?
Responding to Tests & Trials
It’s important to understand that we’re accountable for our responses no matter how we feel. We’re to respond in ways that please God. That should be our goal in life no matter what our circumstances.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5.9-10).
While it may be easy to justify wrong responses, God gives us the grace to respond rightly.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10.13).
We shouldn’t pray to just “hang in there” or somehow get through trials and suffering. We should ask God to help us grow in the midst of the difficulty and to become more like Christ (Rom 8.28-29; Jas 1.2-4).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas 1.2-4).
While we may not always rejoice in the suffering itself, we can rejoice in the fact that a sovereign God can work through the trial.
Most of us can look back and see how God has used other trials for our good and how we’ve grown in our faith and trust in Him, not in spite of trials, but because of them.
So, what are some of the specific reasons God allows trials and sufferings?
Some of the “Why’s”
While we need to be careful of demanding to know “why,” there are some why’s God has revealed in His Word.
Because of unconfessed sin (1 Cor. 11.30; 2 Kings 5.15-27).
In talking about the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul said:
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
The Lord’s supper is a time to remember what Christ did and a reminder of the importance of examining ourselves, but self-examination is something we should do on a regular basis.
Because the people had failed to do so and to confess and forsake sin, many were sick, some had died, and some were “weak.” That word weak means, “having a propensity for sickness.” We might say “sickly.”
Of course, we need to use caution when viewing the suffering of others. We can’t assume they are guilty of sin. That was the problem with Job’s counselors. Continue reading →
In chapter 13, after strongly rebuking his friends, Job turns his attention directly to God. He is at a loss to understand why all this calamity has come on him. In chapter 14 he talks to God about the frailness of humanity and seems to prepare himself to die, perhaps even yearning for it.
Be sure to read MacArthur’s notes for today’s readings. He jumps ahead to some of the later chapters as he explains that Job’s problem was not the belief that he was righteous, as his friends thought, but his over-familiarity in demanding an answer to why he was suffering such hardship.
We, too, can be tempted to demand answers to our “whys.” While I don’t believe God is put-off by sincere questions from his hurting children, we need to remember that He is God and we are not! Isaiah 55.8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
In chapter 40 we will see Job’s reaction after God responded to all his why’s. He said, “I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40.4).
Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.
Today we’ll look at tests and trials.
The Divine Squeeze
It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.
But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!
That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.
Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.
My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient. My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”
Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.
But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).
Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials
When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them. Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:
It’s always my fault.
Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.
If you were pure and upright, Surely now He would awake for you, And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).
The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:
1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).
Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.
It’s always someone else’s fault.
Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.
It’s no one’s fault.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.
We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.
A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.
This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?
10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials
1. We all experience trials and sufferings.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.
I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).
3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.
He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.
4. God is never the author of sin.
Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).
If your city or town is like mine, there are probably things about it you don’t like. Maybe it’s too hot in the summer or too humid. Maybe it rains too much or too little. Maybe it’s too big or too small or there’s not enough to do.
But, probably like my city, there are many things about it that make it pleasant, things about which we should be thankful. No matter if we love where we live or not, your city and mine suffer from a curse. If that’s true, what is the cure?
Don’t you love Elisha’s boldness in asking for “a double portion” of the Lord’s Spirit in his life! I wonder how much more we could do for the Lord, if we just ASKED Him to do something through us! It made me think of Isaiah when He really saw God for Who He was:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'”
Do we, maybe out of a false sense of humility, neglect to say “Send me!” or “Please give me a double portion, Lord!”
A Cure for the Curse
Chapter 2.19-21 points out another great truth. It says:
“Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.’ And he said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, Thus says the LORD. ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.'”
In John MacArthur’s Study Bible, he says, “The healing of Jericho’s water, through Elisha, freed the city from Joshua’s curse, making it habitable for humans once again (Josh. 6.26; 1 Ki. 16.34).
I thought about our city. It, too, is a pleasant city in so many ways. Even though we often complain about our dust, our hot summers, and our laid back attitude, there are so many things for which we should be thankful—first and foremost—our people. I believe we have some of the most wonderful people in the world! And wherever you live, there are things about your city or town that make it “pleasant.” But we, also, suffer from a curse, the curse of sin, just as every city and all of mankind does.
The answer to our problems is also the same—applying salt, God’s cleansing and purifying, to the source, the hearts of the people. Jesus told us that we are to be salt to those around us (Matt. 5.13). Let’s ask God to “send us” and “use us” to be His agents of grace, sharing the Gospel with those who need His cleansing power and loving them with His love!
Persecution, mistreatment, and rejection will come.
Sometimes it comes, not in ways that threaten our lives, but from our own family members and friends. It hurts to be left out of family events or called self-righteous.
Yes … persecution and mistreatment will come. How can we be sure that God will give us the grace, ability and right words to say when we’re faced with it?
First, we shouldn’t be surprised by it! Instead, let’s see it as an occasion for sharing our testimonies and the truth about God. Let’s see it as an opportunity to walk in love and leave justice in the hands of God.
1 Samuel 4 & 5
Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Mistreatment
1 Samuel 4 & 5:
God is Always at Work
Here we have another sad time in Israel’s history where God withdrew His immediate presence and protection from them because of their willful disobedience and idolatry. But this narrative leaves no doubt that even when people may not make the connection, God is always at work in the affairs of men.
That is true today, as well as, in Old Testament times. I once read that the word “history” actually means “His-story” and I certainly believe that’s true. So the question is, “What is God doing today?” How does everything that’s happening in our world—whether politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other world events, play into His plan and purpose?
He is there in the blessing and protection, but also in the withdrawing of blessing and protection.
That leads right into our Luke passage, so we’ll go there next.
He Is Coming
This portion of Scripture, like Matthew 24, Mark 13 and other passages, talks about many of the events that point to Christ’s eminent return. Many of these things appear to be happening today, pointing to the possibility that He’ll be coming back soon. So, what can we expect and what did Jesus say we should be doing if that’s true?
A Time of Testing & Persecution
Verses 12-13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, … But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”
We should expect to be persecuted, do not be surprised by it! Instead of being upset or complaining, we should see it as an occasion for sharing our testimony and the truth about God.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Pet. 3.13-16).
If that sounds scary and you think, “I don’t know enough” or “I might mess it up,” remember verses 14 and 15:
“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”
That should be comforting and extremely encouraging.
Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).
I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.
Their Parents Disobedience
The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.
It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist. While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.
God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.
When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.
Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.
It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.
Sometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).