Point of Reference
by Fred Price
This scripture references the trials or testing that inevitably occurs when one lives life centered on God’s will while living in a “fallen” world whose nature is contrary to God’s. Although it doesn’t preclude the political, social or health “testing” we’ve all experienced the past many months. (In fact, I would go so far as to include the self-inflicted “tests” concerning our time and money we face during the Christmas, New Years holidays.)
In fact, Jesus assured us that, “In this world you will have trouble.”; with the further assurance that we can, “…take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Paul rhetorically asking, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution…?” The answer being, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37 James pointing out that value of facing “trails of many kinds,” explaining that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2,3
But what does it mean to be tested? And does God really cause/allow difficult times to come into our lives to test, develop or strengthen us? I believe he does. In fact, I believe life is essentially one big test. Not to see if we can make the grade and thus win the prize of heaven – but to bring us to maturity, convincing us of our abilities, capabilities, and responsibility. (Such would seem to be the meaning of the title from Luke 8:13)
One incident that graphically depicts this process is found in Genesis 22:1, scripture specifically saying God tested Abraham. Asking him to do the unthinkable, the unimaginable. Sacrifice the son he held most dear, the child he and Sarah had waited a lifetime for. Why would God ask such a thing of him? To help Abraham clarify – for himself as much as God – his loyalty, his love, his absolute dedication to the One True God. Trials, even suffering, at times coming to us not as a result of punishment; in fact many come our way merely because we live in a fallen world. But they can be used as opportunities for growth, as our faith is stretched and challenged; instilling in us a confidence in our ability to face the next issue in our lives while strengthening our dependence and reliance on God. ( Hebrews 4:16.)
The idea of testing appears early in scripture. As the Israelites made their exodus from Egypt, they stopped off at Mt. Sinai to receive the law. God’s appearance on the mountaintop was accompanied by thunder and lightning, thick smoke and the sound of a trumpet blaring; and they “…trembled with fear. (So) They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Moses consoled them by explaining, “God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20:18-20 The point being that they need not be constantly terrified of God, but fear the consequences of sin and separation from him; as should we. Paul advising all Christians to, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:10 (Being most “fearful” of disappointing him.)
One example of the consequences of a failed test was seen in Israel’s refusal to cross the border of Canaan into the Promised Land; fearing the “giants” living there in their fortified cities more than God. That whole generation being consigned to wander the wilderness till they had died and were replaced by a new one capable of and ready to do the Lord’s bidding. (Num. 13 & 14 – See also Exodus 13:17)
God tested his people in various ways and times to “…see whether they will follow my instructions.” Exodus 15:25; 16:4 (Summarized succinctly in Deuteronomy 8:2) At times, “false prophets” tempted the Jews with promises of miracles granted by “other” gods, testing their resolve to follow Him and only Him. ( Deuteronomy 13:1-3) Even after the settlement of most of the Promised Land, God used the unconquered peoples to test Israel’s commitment to “keep the way of the Lord.” Judges 2:20-22 The development aspect of testing illustrated in the next chapter where God is said to have used those self-same unconverted, unconquered people to “teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience.” Judges 3:1,2
Life can at times be likened to battle. Between individuals, faiths, families, right and wrong, etc. Showing us where we are and where we need to be, teaching us right from wrong and the difference between good, better and best. (Luke actually recording an “expert” in the law testing Jesus’ understanding of God’s will. Jesus expertly responding by challenging him with a parable concerning the responsibility of a believer, whether Jewish or Christian, saying “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37)
The Hebrew writer later commemorated those who had, “…stood (their) ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.”; who had been tested, refined and their faith proven beyond doubt by public insult, persecution, imprisonment and confiscation of property. Triumphing in the knowledge that they had “…better and lasting possessions”; in Christ. “So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Some, quite frankly won’t pass the test. So let’s study, prepare, and persevere in such a way that we will not be “…of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:32-39
Check back next week for more on passing the test of faith and faithfulness.
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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