Don’t Panic! This is Only a Test

There’s a scripture in the Bible that says, “In the world you have tribulation and trials” (John 16:33 AMP). I believe most people would agree with it. If you read the rest of that verse, you get to the encouraging part where Jesus says we can take heart because He has overcome the world. But the truth is, we all go through hard tymes and have to learn how to overcome them through Christ.

 

Sometymes God allows or even arranges for us to go through difficulties in this life because it’s during those tymes that we grow in our faith and develop more of the character of Christ. Trials reveal what we really believe and what’s really inside our hearts. They test us. And until we’re in a situation where we have no choice but to face an issue we need to deal with, we don’t really know what we would do.

James 1:2 (AMP) says we should “consider it wholly joyful” when we experience a trial or face a temptation. Verse 3 goes on to say that “the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.” That sounds lovely to have endurance, steadfastness and patience during trials, doesn’t it?

I remember the days when I would get upset and complain whenever things didn’t go my way. I had no peace and was emotionally unstable. When I was tested by trials, they brought out the jealousy, confusion and negative attitudes that were in my heart. But through the years, as I’ve studied the Word and learned how to trust God, I have developed more of the qualities and character of Christ in my life. Now, I’m much more patient and don’t act much different when I’m in a trial than when I’m not. But it took a lot of trials to get me to this point.

It’s God’s will for us to stay in peace and make decisions with godly wisdom in every circumstance in our lives. We can face our trials and tests with joy when we understand that it’s by going through them that we learn how to live in God’s peace, joy and wisdom all the tyme—whatever our circumstances may be.

So how do we pass our tests? What are some temptations we can have when we’re going through something that’s really tough? Here are several common ones I’ve discovered:

1. We can be tempted to go back to an old habit or addiction we’ve been set free from. I smoked for many years, and after I quit, there was period of tyme when I would want a cigarette whenever I was upset or felt pressured by something. If there are habits or addictions that have been broken in your life, the devil will try to tempt you to go back to them when you’re having a hard tyme. Submit yourself to God, humble yourself before Him, and He will give you the strength to resist the temptation.

2. We can be tempted to be angry with God and resent people who don’t have the same problems we have or who have things we want, especially things we think would make our lives easier. This leads to complaining, and God wants us to totally get over complaining because it affects our lives in a destructive way more than we realize. So when you’re tempted to be angry with God or other people and complain, set your mind to praise Him instead and thank Him for His goodness in your life.

3. Trials can tempt us to become indignant and say things like, “Why is this happening to me? I don’t understand why this is happening to me?!” We don’t tend to think this way when other people have problems, and it’s easy to look at them and say, “You just need to trust God and press through this…” Instead of wondering why and feeling sorry for ourselves, we need to say, “Don’t panic…this is only a test!” Because the truth of the matter is, this too will pass, and we’ll get through it with more peace and stability if we’ll trust God to do what is best for us at the right tyme and in His way.

4. We can also be tempted to take matters into our own hands. Have you ever thought, “I’m not going to put up with this any more! I’m going to do something about this!” When we take matters into our own hands, we delay or miss the blessing that God wants to give us. Instead, we need to be determined to trust God and wait on Him to work things out.

God loves you so much and He has a great plan for your life. Trust that He’s in control and will work things out for your good when you’re going through a trial. The next tyme you’re being tested, tell God, “I trust You. This is good for me! It doesn’t feel good, but I know You will work it out for my good.” You’ll get closer to God as you go through the test, and on the other side, you’ll thank Him for using it to make you more like Christ.

 

Photo(s) / Resource(s): J Meyers

When You’re Too Quick To Dismiss That Guy: You Can’t See What God Is Doing

Sometimes I’ll look at a dude and instantly judge him — “There’s no hope for that guy in a million years” — and I have to slap myself, because I was that same guy a million years ago.

I think it’s easy for us to throw around labels like “lost cause” and “damaged goods” and “bad for business” because we’re just lazy.  It allows us to sit back and judge from a distance.  It’s easy to like people who are likable, but really dang hard to get involved with emotionally draining drama queens.

Everyone loves the idea of compassion until it costs them.
I tend to time-stamp someone on how they used to be, because it’s more comfortable for me to presume “at least I’m better than that guy.”  It physically bothers me to think this person could change.  How could everyone like him now?  I want to say things like, “But I know how he really is” and “People don’t change” — but then I’m revoking the very chance I’ve been given.

I’ve seen Christians casually dismiss other Christians down the street, pastors dissing pastors, churches entering into fierce tribalistic nationalism claiming some kind of moral standard above the curve.  I’ve been wounded by the venom because I have a past here, and no one has honor in their hometown.  Sometimes I desperately plead my side to be heard: but some people have their mind made up about you, and you’re the bad guy no matter what you do.

Really though: We just don’t want to get into the broken mess of other busted people.  It’s dirty work.  It requires standing out of our chairs, rolling up our sleeves, entangling with slobbery flailing lives, even forgiving them.  It is not our nature.  It hurts.  It costs.
But this is what God did, against all odds: because God sees people as they could be, not as they should be. 

Whenever we dismiss someone as incapable of change, we instantly suckerpunch the sovereign grace of God.  We are downsizing His sovereignty to those people and not these.  Then we’re no longer talking about God.  We’re just exposing our laziness.

You know what I mean.  I see a person on their first lap of faith and I make assumptions; I see 0.5% of a person’s life and somehow predict their future; I see half a story and presume the whole story.  But this is a sort of evil that holds back potential, that undermines growth, that destroys a child’s dreams.  It’s an ugliness that I’ve experienced from others, who wouldn’t give me a shot, who wouldn’t see past their negative filters and accusations and condemnations, who saw me as a deadbeat nobody with no hope of a turnaround.
But occasionally, love would cut in and open a door.  It grew my heart.  It embraced me in.

Love sees a greatness in someone who cannot see it in themselves.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  It hopes in all things, it does not rejoice in evil.  It perseveres.

God saw you from a cross over a distance of two-thousand years, and He loved you enough to stay there. 

I hope we have eyes to see that God is doing something we cannot see.  This takes discipline, but we have help.  God has a vision far greater than my sight.  He has an imagination that infinitely outweighs mine.  He can take a murderer like David and crown him the king.  He can take a terrorist like Paul and breathe holy words into Scripture.  He can take a beat-up dude like you and me and baptize us into saints.

We think a person is an impossible case: but God is in the business of the impossible.  After all, He saved you and me.

 

Photo(s)/Resource(s): JS. Park

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive: Need for Presence & Perspective

 The apostle Paul described himself as “harassed at every turn — conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Cor. 7:5).  His life was in crisis.  Notice what God used to provide the comfort and renewal he needed . . . other believers.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. (2 Cor. 7:6-7)

To thrive and not just survive takes perspective but usually there must first come the realization of presence … the presence of God Himself and other believers ministering to our souls, being there for and with us.

We are at a place in our lives of being able to comfort others when we ourselves have known God’s comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). We don’t have to go through an identical situation to be there for others.  And, we don’t need an official position (i.e., pastor, teacher, counselor, etc.) to be able to help people who are struggling or are in crisis.  We simply need to obey the one another commands of Scripture.

Bear one another’s burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

Bear with one another

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2)

Care for one another

. . . so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor. 12:25)

Comfort one another

Therefore encourage each other with these words. (1 Thess. 4:18)

Encourage one another

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)

Be Kind to one another

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Eph. 4:32)

Love one another

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. (Rom. 13:8)

Pray for one another

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

Serve one another

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13)

Spur one another on

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)

Keep in mind that people don’t have to personally experience a crisis to be affected by it.  That point is brought home in a teacher training worksheet called, Crisis Strikes.  Let’s be there for one another whether the threat is real or perceived so we learn to thrive and not just survive.

I’m sure you would agree that in today’s world we need a healthy perspective if we are going to not only survive but thrive.  The comfort and encouragement of others will only take us so far.  We need to make some semblance of sense of our world.

Encarta’s World English Dictionary defines perspective as:

1) a particular evaluation of something

2) a measured or objective assessment of a situation

The most reliable source of objectivity is God’s Word.

So often we struggle in life because we are viewing life from a skewed perspective.    The most reliable source of objectivity is God’s Word. The Bible is the basis upon which our situations must be measured or evaluated.

Sometimes, however, we can know the truth in our heads but it doesn’t always sink deep into our hearts and manifest itself in our reactions and decisions.

What will help get truth from our heads to our hearts?

repeated exposure to truth

God tells us to meditate on Him and His Word so that with repeated exposure, through His Spirit, the truth begins to take root not only in our heads but also in our hearts. 40 Day Challenges are usually rooted in this understanding of what it takes to drive truth home.

deliberate choices regardless of feelings

Sometimes it comes down to making a deliberate, conscientious choice to pattern what we do after the Lord regardless of our feelings or personal bents.  Perspective requires assessment against an objective standard, not simply going with the flow or with what “feels” right.  At no time should we hide behind our personalities or conditioning as an excuse to stay where we are or sin.  Healthy perspective is rooted in God and His Word, not in us.  When our perspective is patterned after Him, He doesn’t eradicate what is uniquely us.  Rather, He transforms it into something even better.  When we act on what we know to be true, regardless of feelings, we see God’s faithfulness which helps to generate a heart response.

If you need help gaining perspective, perhaps some of the books listed below will help.  Clicking on a title will take you to our affiliate store where you can learn more about the book.

Photo(s)/Resource(s): Phyllis Kline

It Doesn’t Matter if I Like God

God isn’t always likable.

We can pretend like He is. Like it’s always easy to understand His rationale behind the things He does. Or that undergoing His grace-filled discipline is a fun exercise.  But it’s not. It can actually be downright frustrating.

Now sometymes this is true because people try to fashion God into what they would want their ideal friend or version of God to be like.  They dictate the parts of God they can accept and the parts they won’t. You hear them say things like:
I wouldn’t like a God who did ________.
I couldn’t believe in a God who ________.

These people have already set the terms of a likable God. And that god tends to be a reflection of what they like about themselves. Until they come to understand that God is not limited to the confines of their own opinions and prejudices, there’s really not much you can do for them.

Some of you fall into that category. But most of you probably don’t. Instead you’re probably like other people who experience pain. Struggle. Disappointment. Discipline. And in these moments, if you were honest, you don’t always find God very likable.

You don’t say things like the other group. Yet you wonder:
How could God let this happen to me?
Why won’t He take me out of this situation?
I thought God was a God of grace. Why am I being disciplined for my sin?

What do we do in these situations? What do we do when we don’t like God?
Well, there’s not really much you can do. Whether you like it or not, we’re all going to undergo tymes of pain, struggle, disappointment, and discipline. There’s no way around it.

Instead I think the biggest thing is coming to an important realization:
It doesn’t matter if I like God.

God’s not interested in making me like Him. God’s not trying to stay in my good graces. What He is interested in is making me love Him more. What He’s interested in is doing what’s best for me. And what’s best for me isn’t always a likable thing.

God is like any good parent. A good parent doesn’t always try to be buddy, buddy with their kids. They love their kids but they’re not interested in whether their kids like them from day to day. They’ll let their kids learn tough lessons because they know that’s how they’ll grow and develop character. They’ll lay down the law if they’re disobedient. And that doesn’t diminish their love for their kids in the least bit. In fact, their kids will eventually realize it was because their parents loved them that they did things that didn’t make them like them.

God can handle you not liking Him. What he can’t handle is you not being like Him. What He can’t handle is you not truly loving Him. And so He’ll do what He has to do to make you into who He wants you to be.

You may not always like Him for it. But trust me, in the end, you’ll love Him for it.

Photo(s)/Resource(s): StevenFurtick