April 24, 2010

Testings and Trials

Whew! I have just passed my test, and I am relieved!! If you have had to face a difficult exam, and then finished it, knowing that you did well, then you know exactly how I feel. I have been in exam mode now for some time. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware, initially, that I was even taking any sort of test. This wasn't a normal test; but rather, it was a spiritual test, a test of my faith.

I have been spiritually oppressed these past couple days. I recognized it after two rather bad days. The oppression wasn't fierce at first, like normal. It came on slowly, and then wham!, hit me like a ton of bricks. I tend to spin around when this happens, and the first thing I do is take stock of myself. I ask: is this something I have done (is this discipline from the Lord?) No. Is this temptation from Satan? No. Then, by default, this is a testing of my faith.

How do I know that this is a test (or was a test)? I asked the Lord and the word I received back was this: endure. James 1:2-4 says:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Our faith is routinely tested, but the tests and trials come in various sizes and strengths. Sometimes the tests are small, and fairly easy to pass. Sometimes, they are giant rock-size, the kind that feel so heavy and oppressive, whereby we feel we are being crushed by the very weight of the trial. The Word tells us that this will not be the case (being crushed), yet at times it sure feels like a crushing blow. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us of this promise:

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

The problem is that often we don't recognize that we are being tried, and then we don't take authority over the tempter. We have the authority to squash Satan's attempts, we just don't do it. We languish, we suffer, we cry and sorrow. We even become angry at God for allowing such trial or testing to come into our life. We wander around, confused and dazed, praying and asking for the reason why we are being so harassed. The answer is not rocket science, as I like to say, but it is pretty clearly written in the Word of God. Our faith is continually tested so that we will learn to endure. By enduring these kinds of trials, we will produce perseverance, and grow character traits that will Glorify the Lord.

Our testing is to produce works within us that bring Glory to His Name. This is why James said we are to consider it a joyful thing whenever our faith is being put to the test. I think the reason we don't feel that way is simply because we consider tests to be of one sort of kind only. I often think my faith is tested when I am confronted with an unbeliever, and I am called to witness to them. I like this kind of faith-test. I get to use all my spiritual knowledge (pride and puffiness about knowing God's Word). But that is not when our faith is tested, oh no, oh no. Our faith is often tested when the accuser stands before God and hurls insult after insult at us. It deepens when we listen to those insults and begin to doubt ourselves, our position and authority in Christ Jesus, and then we drown in self-loathing (self-hating or cursing as the Bible calls it). We begin to insult ourselves, and by extension, we insult the very One who died to Save us. We insult the One who loved us so much and counted us worthy to be saved from utter desolation, complete despair, and eternal separation from Him.

When we curse ourselves, when we dwell on guilt of past wrongs, we allow our accuser to gain a foothold in our life. In doing so, we actually give him permission to accuse us, to demean us, and to make us feel unworthy. The Lord has told us not to do this, not to believe the lies Satan tells; yet, we do it, and usually it is when we are at a vulnerable point in our life.

When our circumstances are such that we are hard pressed on all sides, we are easily put off our guard. Our mind is filled with other thoughts besides those of our Lord. We are easily confounded and confused, and this is when Satan strikes at us. We often wander into this place without thinking, we walk in with our shield of faith down, and our sword (of the Spirit) holstered. We do not enter in with the full armor of God on, nor with our sword ready for attack. We are defenseless, are helpless, and often depressed (or anxious, fearful, doubtful). We are a prime target, easy prey. The Word tells us in 1 Peter 5:8:

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Easy prey, easy pickings. Our response is usually lacking, and we often get beaten up before we even have a moment to regroup and fight.

This is not the way of the Spirit. The Word above tells us to be sober (alert) and vigilant (on guard, watchful). We know that he is waiting to attack us, so be on guard. Be ready. Be prepared.

This is exactly what happened to me this past week. I let my guard down, began to allow thoughts of despair, doubt about God's plans, and then I was attacked mightily hard. It all started for me with a reminder of my situation (within my marriage). I am trying very hard to deal with my life, to be patient while the Lord moves things around and makes a way for me to be a single, self-sufficient person. His timing is perfect, so these things (what I need) have not all come to pass yet. I am waiting for a job, confirmation on income, as well as some other direction so that I can take the next steps in setting up my life as a single person. It is a difficult and hard spot to be in, and I am enduring it.

Last week, however, I came across some writings that hit me hard. I have tried to not think about what is going on, in the sense of dwelling on it. I know the truth, I know what is going on, but it does me no good to constantly think about it. In fact, the more I dwell on it, the more I sink back into despair. This is exactly where Satan wants me because then his spirits (Lust, Fear, Anger, Bitterness, Betrayal, and Hurt) can do their deeds: they can harass me. And so they did. I suffered bitterly on Wednesday, and then again on Friday, even entertaining thoughts that were not glorifying to God. I finally gained my hold back, but not until the battle was pretty well won (in their favor). Thankfully, the Lord is victorious, so even if this battle was going badly, He will always win.

Today, as I reflect back on what took place, I see clearly that this was a testing of my faith. On Thursday evening, I lay prone before the Lord, confessing His Name and proclaiming my devotion to Him. I surrendered all to follow His Will. I believed that in doing so, I was given a mighty test of faith. I failed miserably, well at first. The goal of these types of faith tests are to get us to no longer see God as our sole reliance. Instead of casting all our fears on Him, we take them on ourselves. Our hand is all we see. We turn from the Savior back to our own sufficiency. In doing so, we cut ourselves off from the Grace of God, which is what we need to stand firm and endure these types of attacks.

It took a little while on my part until I realized what was going on. Once I figured it out (you would think I would be ready, huh?) I turned back to God, pick up my sword and steadied my shield. It is always our Faith in God and the Word of the Lord -- our two defenses, that enable us to defeat Satan's attacks. Why we stand there, bloodied and beaten, shield at our side, and our sword laying next to us, I will never know. We should know better, we should know what to do; yet, time after time, we seem to fall into the same trap. I am thanking God, though, for His Marvelous Spirit, who reminds me time and time and time, yet again, to pick up my shield and wield His Mighty Sword. Whoosh! Satan and his minions are defeated -- they flee!

Oh, Lord, thank you for your Precious and Mighty Word. I cannot stand any enemy without it, and your Shield of Faith protects me. I am surrounded by powerful tools, yet often, I do not use them. I suffer needlessly, when I could stand victorious in your Name. I pray now that I will remember that you have not left us alone, helpless to defend ourselves against these vicious attacks. You have Graced us with the Power of God, and we must simply draw upon your resources. We will have victory because You are Victorious. You have overcome, and we will overcome in Your Name. Thank you, Jesus for your Powerful Authority, and for giving us the Spirit of the Living God, who directs us, guides us, comforts us, and empowers us to stand strong and who enables us to defend ourselves from evil. You are so Good, and You are so very Good to me.

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