A few days ago in my Old Testament Literature class, my professor was talking about faithfulness to covenants in the Bible. He wrote this on the board:
“Covenant faithfulness leads to blessing. Covenant unfaithfulness brings retribution, trouble, defeat, death, and enslavement.”
Makes sense, right? Well, a few minutes after he wrote this on the board, one of my classmates raised her hand and asked, “So is all trouble and sickness a result of sin in a person’s life?” He told her that that is how some people believe, but he believes otherwise (as do I). Some trials in our lives can be tests from God. Other things can be brought about by temptations from the enemy. Now we need to draw the line between tests and temptations. It seems like an elementary idea, and it really is. But it’s so easy to be misled by the enemy, or to ignore a test from God.
Tests from God make you stronger. It’s that simple. You may be living a life for Christ and diligently seeking Him with all your heart, but that doesn’t keep you safe from trials in life. It’s our job to respond the right way and accept God’s teaching and blessing. Tests from God are opportunities for us to grow and learn. We have a choice to either accept the test, or ignore God’s call and direction. This decision is an extremely important one. I went to a conference last week, and one of the speakers, Chuck Todd, said this, “If we refuse to engage, we’re denying the victory.” I loved that! I mean, yes, tests can be quite challenging. Yes, they can be depressing and exhausting. But isn’t is awesome to think that God is taking you through this to give you a victory? He also said, “You need to walk through the valley because you need the victory.” It’s easy to say no. It’s easy to give up. But it is so crucial that we remember who is in control. God know’s exactly what He’s doing. Author Mark Batterson put it this way: “When we think Jesus is wrong, it usually has something to do with our very human understanding of what He is doing in our lives.” We don’t see what He sees. It may be years and years before we understand why God put us through certain situations. But we have to trust God and believe that He is in control of every part of our lives.
You are pleasing God when you accept the test/challenge He places in your life. When you do, keep this in mind: Tests should cause us to look outward and upward. How do you look outward, you ask? Philippians 3:15 says, “Let’s keep focused on that goal, those who want everything God has for us.” And how do you look upward? In Hebrews 12:2, it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” We look to God, the Great problem solver. We seek answers and guidance from the One with all of the answers. God wants to help us. He even desires to love us! ”See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1. “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.” James 1:18. We should feel honored to be followers of Christ!
Temptation is not from God. The Bible says, “And remember, whenever someone wants to do wrong it is never God tempting him, for God never wants to do wrong and never tempts anyone to do it. Temptation is the pull of a man’s own thoughts and evil wishes” James 1:13-14. Temptation is from the enemy, and its purpose is to make you weaker, not stronger. Bitter, not better. To tear you down, not build you up. Temptations cause you to focus inward and downward. You begin to look inward to yourself and make decisions in the flesh rather than in the Lord. You begin to look down which can cause weakness, rebellion, negativity, and ultimately depression. Continuing on in James 1, it says, “These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled…” There is one way that tests and temptations are the same. Just like you have victory in tests, when you say no to temptation, you have overcome. You are victorious. James 1:12 says, “Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward, the crown of life that God has promised those who love Him.” I want that, don’t you? That feeling of overcoming and defeating the devil is absolutely incredible. And even better is the feeling of pleasing God and putting a smile on his face.
I want to finish this up by sharing a song that my daddy introduced me to a long, long time ago. It’s a song by the Crabb Family called “Through the Fire.” It’s an old song, and the video may look old and boring to you, but I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it and really listen to the words. The video is in the next post.
Thanks for reading! I hope you were encouraged by this post!