In this pilgrimage called life, we often face tests. Usually, we think of tests as something we took in school. They were something we crammed for the night before and then prayed hard to pass. We take driver’s tests, blood tests, and the doctors often tell us they need to run some tests. In God’s economy, our tests can be divided into three categories.
First there is the test of the MIRACULOUS. These are the times when we seem to be moving from one mountaintop experience to another. There are seasons when it seems we can overcome anything, that God is working in our lives or in our church in an unhindered way. The test of the miraculous is the test of the incredible moments. The times when it is so incredible, so blessed that you want to build a tabernacle and dwell there forever.
When you are tested by the miraculous, you tend to want to stay in a holy huddle. You can be tempted to start patting yourself on the back about how lucky God is to have you. A church can be tested by the miraculous when it makes a movie that exceeds all expectations. Or when doors are opened to minister to other churches and pastors. Or when other sincere believers brag on us and what we are doing.
If we are not careful, we could fall off the mountain, drunk from the wine of victory and in a stupor over our success as we trip over our pride. Certainly we have much to praise God for. His blessings have been poured out on us. But we must not ever come to the conclusion that we are better than anyone else. God has seen nothing in us that makes us worthy. Those who go to the mountain with Jesus and see His glory go because they have longed for a deeper intimacy and desired to live in greater obedience.
The mountain is not for the weak at heart or the casual Christian. Those who are not prepared for the mountain will quickly fall and be crushed by their own success. Pride will slip in. Ego will start to reign. They will start to believe their press clippings. They will assume that God is impressed by what they are doing. He’s not. You can’t impress God.
Beware the spirit of Simon Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration – “Let’s just build some tents and have fellowship.” At the core that is self-centered. It’s missing the point of seeing the glory of God. There is still work to be done. Ministry is in the valley. We have to deal with the sin that runs rampant in the valley.
Next, there is the test of the MONOTONOUS. The daily grind that gets you, wears you out and wears you down. It’s a test to survive the moments when God seems to be distant, when our prayers seem to be ineffective, when the altar is empty, and when we lose the sense of His presence. In this soulish generation, we want to live in the realm of emotions. We want a preacher, a song, or an event to rev us up and get us going. God never does His deepest work in the shallowest part of our being. He never has, and He never will.
God wants us to trust Him in the monotonous. We read in the Scriptures about the miracles, the healings. We read the teachings of Jesus. But what about those nights sleeping with a rock as a pillow, walking up and down the hills of Galilee? There are times when you just have to get up and get going. Discipleship is a long obedience in the right direction. We are not called to live our lives by feelings, but by faith. Just because we can’t see God working doesn’t mean He isn’t working.
Then there is the test of the MYSTERIOUS. When things don’t make sense. When we pray for healing and it doesn’t come. When we are thrown a curve when we were expecting a fastball. Times when God works in unexpected ways. Joseph certainly never expected to be thrown into a pit or in prison. Moses certainly didn’t plan on spending forty years on the backside of the desert. The children of Israel couldn’t understand how God could use pagan nations to judge His chosen people.
There are moments when God seems to change the script. Job had it happen to him. God never explained it to Job. He never told Him why. Job’s life took a nosedive. Paul was given a thorn in the flesh. God allowed Satan to sift Simon Peter like wheat. The crucible of life is impossible to explain. There are no “three points and a poem” to deal with the adversities of life.
There are mysteries that God will not explain this side of glory. Warren Wiersbe says, “We live by promises, not by explanations.” We would like someone to explain the setbacks, but no one can. Trite answers have no power to heal our wounded hearts.
When you think of the Apostle Paul, he had all three tests. He had the incredible experience of a trip to the third heaven. He had monotonous days when he was traveling on his missionary journeys. He had days in prison when he must have felt abandoned and alone. The church at Corinth treated him with disrespect. He also had the mysterious thorn in the flesh. If Paul’s prayer life couldn’t deliver him from that thorn, I doubt if we are going to fare any better.
What Paul needed in all three tests is what we need: grace. He needed abounding grace to deal with his heavenly and hellish experiences. He needed grace to deal with God’s people who wouldn’t cooperate with his leadership. He needed grace to accept the fact that God had called him to suffer many things.
We need to remember the ebbs and flows of life. We will not always be on the mountain or in the valley. Nor will we always be in the rut of routine. Days can change like the wind. Seasons change, and so does life. The question comes, how are you doing with your tests right now? Pray that God will give you the grace to handle your successes and your failures. Pray you properly handle flattery and flattening. Pray you can handle the monotonous and the mundane. Pray. Pray. Pray. That’s the best preparation, no matter what test you are facing.
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A good word, my brother. Thank you.
“The crucible of life is impossible to explain. There are no “three points and a poem” to deal with the adversities of life.”
Great word. I’m so grateful for the Word in those moments when we have no words, no explanation, and honestly sometimes when we’re tempted to have no hope- we have them in the Lord Jesus Christ, man of sorrows who also endured all three of these times – starting with the moment He left glory to be nestled and jostled in the belly of an Israeli teenager, as he healed the glorious masses, as he walked and talked with some pretty hard-headed “knuckleheads” (as you sometimes say), and as he was left and betrayed by those who should have stood beside him in his darkest moments.
We might not have three points and a poem but I appreciate writings like these that remind us when we struggle that we are not only not alone but as we traverse the hills and valleys that we are in good company. Thanks for writing this.
Great word, brother!
It is very hard to remember at times, but GOD owns it ALL. HE owns the day and the night. HE owns my heart and yours. HE can do whatever HE chooses to do. HE will always hold ALL power in His Hands. HE Alone Is GOD.
Thank you for the good word. I needed to hear it.
Thank you Pst. Catt and greetings from Kenya, i hope your health is improving.
My response has been to retreat into myself no matter the circumstances. More like deep introspection. My faith used to waver depending on what i was going through, nowadays i completely trust in God. I decided that, if i have to have faith in God, then this faith also has to work for me, especially when things happen that i cannot comprehend.
I also finally understood that God can do anything and everything. I cannot introduce any form of doubt in my faith in God. It’s a difficult position because life is crazy but i guess it’s my final resolve. The bottom line is that i am unable to let go of my relationship with God, i have come too far.
God bless you and keep you.
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