For some reason, I’m not quite sure why, I used to have this idea that God didn’t really “test” His people. I had this idea that His plan for me would always feel good and so if something was really hard it probably wasn’t Him. Hold on…choking on that one.
I still don’t believe God sends catastrophe or sickness to my life. I truly believe He is good and he doesn’t send death and destruction as part of His perfect will for my life. Does He allow it sometimes? Well, I don’t think there is any getting around that. But I have learned that God will, in fact, allow you to be tested. Especially after you have been growing in Him…He has been blessing you or teaching you…a circumstance will arise that tests your heart. You don’t believe me? Check this out:
Matthew 4: 1-11 (the message)
Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all of the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours — lock, stock and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
The test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angles came and took care of Jesus’ needs.
The verses immediately prior to the scripture above tell of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. You know…when God’s Spirit descends on Jesus “like a dove.” It was kind of like His debut…the mark of the beginning of His mission…His destiny as the Son of God and Messiah. His 3 year walk to the Cross. What I noticed this morning was that as soon as Jesus had been anointed and God’s Spirit had come upon Him, God allowed Him to be tested. And, as I read, this is what I noted about the different tests He endured: The first was a test of physical pleasure. Jesus hadn’t eaten in 40 days! He was a man with a human body that needed to eat…He had fasted so that God’s voice would be the stronger one in His life. So, the first thing the enemy does is tempt Him with food. The next test is one of pride. The Devil challenges Jesus that if He really is the Son of God He can jump from the top of the temple without stubbing His toe. Jesus could have “proven” himself to Satan but would have traded His mission for the sake of pride. The third test was one of power-lust. As Jesus is taken to the mountain top and shown the kingdoms of the earth, Satan tempts Jesus with the power to rule earthly kingdoms. Jesus, acutely aware of His Heavenly Kingdom, refuses.
Physical pleasure, pride and a lust for power (or importance). As I thought about this I couldn’t help but identify that most sins in our lives come from our slavery to one or more of these three areas. Jesus overcame…thank God. How did He do it? With every temptation or test, Jesus responded with God’s Word. See, He had spent 40 days fasting and praying…letting God prepare Him…so when the enemy came, with a nice little package, Jesus easily recognized the evil in it and resisted. Matter of fact, He did more than resist…He came at the enemy with the truth of God’s Word and sent the Devil packing! The purpose for Jesus was much more than self-promotion or fixating on physical pleasures…Jesus was filled with the power of God, passionate for people…set out to redeem mankind.
I have experienced a test or two this past year. I didn’t know it was a test right away…I just knew God had spoken to my heart and asked something of me. I knew it was out of the ordinary, it wasn’t even “fair”, and still it was His voice. I so wanted to know Him…so after a car ride home filled with “Really, God?” I came to peace that yep…He was asking and it was my call. In that situation I chose to obey and God moved in my life, on the inside of me, like never before. I didn’t know what was happening at the time because I had never been that willing to obey before! I just knew that God was asking something of me and I could say yes or no. I knew it wouldn’t make sense to most people so it stayed between my husband and I and we just pressed on. As time passed, I came to realize that if my answer had been no God would still love me but I would have missed out on knowing Him more deeply.
We can say we want to know God and want Him to move in our lives. We can say we want to be a blessing to others. We may think we are spiritually mature and ready for more spiritual influence, but how do we know? We don’t know until we are tested. And really, if we fail it’s okay. Failing a test just reveals the truth to us…shows us where we really are and can be a wonderful opportunity to grow. And never fear…another test will come! I so love God! Sometimes He leads us or allows us into a testing period and we don’t even know that’s what is going on! Sometimes we are living in the furnace of trial and as we just press on in loving God and living for Him with all we’ve got, we are growing and passing our test. Afterward, we may even be able to give praise and worship Him because without some tension in life to overcome…without tough choices…we just don’t know what we are really made of. Wait, better yet…we miss out on knowing how Great He is on the inside of us.