Are You In a Test?

“God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31).

There are times of testing that God sometimes initiates and sometimes allows. Not all that happens to us is God initiated though. Job’s test was satanically initiated but God allowed it for His glory and purposes (Job 1:9-12). Then there was the time when Abraham was tested to see how far he had come in his walk with God:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 22:1).

Of course, God knows our hearts; the problem is our side, we often don’t know what’s in our own hearts. The Lord says that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, (Jeremiah 17:9). The test of God is designed for us to see ourselves, how far short we fall from His standard—Jesus Christ. I see at least two purposes that God has in the test. If you are a Christian, God is at work in you to sanctify you and make you more like Jesus in your character. If you are not yet a Christian, you may be in a trial or a test that is designed or allowed by the Creator of the universe to bring you to a place where you may realize your need of Him. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6). While a man or woman seeks to be right with God by His own accomplishments or goodness he will find that inner peace will elude him. But if a man recognizes his own spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God, he will find favor with God.

17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

This was written not just for the Jewish people; no, this is for all men and women everywhere. When you come to God with a heart of need—a broken, contrite (affected by guilt and remorse) heart, then the test or trial that you have gone through has done its work. What you have perhaps gone through has been very dark, but God is working on you for an eternal benefit. This life is not just for here. We are eternal creatures, created for much more than this world. There will come a time when you will see the eternal benefit of what you have gone through, as long as you repent, believe the gospel, and put your trust in Him.

Have you ever read of the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis? (Chapters 37-50). This young man of around seventeen years of age was thrust into a test, which he was unaware of, but through the difficulties that he went through, certain gifts arose in him that was greatly used for the salvation of his family in the midst of famine. Ahead of the famine, God planned to work in the heart of Joseph to train him through building his character that he might endure political office alongside Pharaoh, that, when the time was right, Joseph would bring deliverance to all his family. You may be in a test and are unaware of it. Character is formed in a test. With Joseph, the dark time of testing and trial was training him for his promotion. If we come through the test with our character intact, we can be given and trusted with more. When you pass the character test, God knows that you will not compromise your faith in Him and can be used to a greater degree. Are you going through a trial at the moment? Is it a test of the Lord? If it is, don’t compromise! Hang on to Him in the midst of the darkness—light will come and you will hear Him one day say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” That means everything to the true child of God.

Keith Thomas

Do Whatever He Tells You!

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Here is the only command that was spoken by the mother of Jesus—Do whatever Jesus tells you. This is exactly what sister Chang of Henan Province, China, did. The Lord spoke to her to do something that made no earthly sense at all. He told her to go and preach the gospel on the steps outside of the local police station. Such an action may lead to arrest even in Western nations, and in communist China it is a sure way to invite severe punishment. But the more sister Chang prayed about it, the more clearly the inner voice of God continued to tell her to do it. Finally, she saw no option but to obey God. Standing on the top step outside the police station, she boldly proclaimed the gospel to astonished onlookers.

Within a few minutes several officers dragged her inside and placed her under arrest. To the human eye her obedience looked foolish, but God can see things that we can’t. Sister Chang was sentenced without a trial and sent to the local women’s prison, where she was placed alongside thousands of spiritually lost souls. She boldly and lovingly proclaimed the gospel to her fellow prisoners. The light of the gospel spread like wildfire. Within just three months, 800 women believed in Jesus! The entire atmosphere of the prison changed, and new sounds of praise and worship were heard echoing down the prison hallways and in the courtyard. The prison director was greatly impressed at the change in the atmosphere and was able to trace it to the preaching of sister Chang.

He brought her into his office and said, “You have made my job easy! There is no more fighting between the prisoners and the women have become gentle and obedient. We need more people like you working here. From today, we have decided to let you go free. We want to give you a full-time job here in the prison, and we will pay you 3,000 yuan per month” (about US$ 375, a fortune in rural Henan province). He continued, “we will also give you a car and your own driver, and will find you comfortable housing.”  Sister Chang briefly considered the offer, and then replied, “Twenty years ago I became a disciple of Jesus Christ and he has been wonderful to me. I don’t believe your offer of a car, driver and salary is in line with what Jesus wants to do with my life, and I belong to Him. All I want to do is to preach the good news.” Despite her rejection of his offer, the director released her from prison that day, and she continued her ministry for the Lord. It always pays to do what the Lord tells you to do. Don’t argue, don’t fight about it, and don’t try to work out all the details with your mind. Just do it. That is the one mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

From the book by Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem, Published by Piquant, Carlisle, UK.

Where Have You Left Him?

3If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! (Job 23:3).

I had the great privilege of leading a tour of 26 people to Israel for 10 days and taking my son, Simeon, then aged 21 with me. While in Jerusalem we were just preparing to go along the tunnels all along the western side of the Temple Mount itself. While we were getting the tickets for the 26 of us, without my knowledge, my son had quickly departed to put a written prayer into the cracks of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, a place sacred to Jewish people for they believe that the divine presence of God resides at the Wall. He forgot to tell people that he was just dashing down to the Wall. Consequently, only 25 of us went into the tunnels to explore the buildings that go back to the time of King Herod and Jesus. It was single file all the way as we walked the narrow tunnel along the wall. When we got to the North West corner of the Temple Mount, the wall opens up into a bigger area where we looked at an ancient cistern. It was then that the person at the end of the line came in and I discovered that my son was missing. Is there anything more terrifying for a father? To lose my son in a foreign city with a different language and culture made my heart fearful. I dashed back through the network of tunnels in search of him. Ten minutes later I found him waiting at the entrance to the tunnel network—he was really upset at his foolish choice to wander away from his father. It was a precious time as we hugged and thanked God that we had found one another.

Many of you that find your way to this website are looking for your Father. Somehow you know in your heart that you were created for more than what you are currently experiencing. There is a God shaped piece in the core of your being that you have tried to fill with religion, sex, food, cars, electronic gadgets—you name it! Satan, your unseen enemy has many toys that he will tempt you with, like a lure designed to attract a fish. God allows trials in our lives because He knows that only through the emptiness, difficulties and trials will you begin to seek after Him with all your soul and leave the toys behind. What do you really want at the end of your life? Will lots of toys satisfy you? I was blessed to have much of this world’s goods by the time I was twenty-one, but it just gave me an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. What I really wanted was to search for my Father. And guess what? He was searching for me! He was never far away; He was waiting for me to find the bottom so that I could finally look up to Him. I searched five continents of planet Earth and 30 different countries searching for the truth. When I was ready and open to receive the truth—there was the Lord Jesus filling me with joy, life and peace. When I gave my life wholeheartedly to Christ, it was the greatest, most peaceful experience I have ever had. What joy floods the soul when a man gives up his life to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and find His forgiveness for sin.

Isn’t it time for you to find your Father? Maybe today is your day to call upon Him. Keith Thomas

Are You Guilty Before God?

Several years ago I was driving through France when a red light came on in the dashboard of my car. I had to stop and visit a garage to make sure that the engine was okay to travel further. Just as the red light is to the dashboard of my car, guilt is to the soul of a man. Guilt is like a red warning light that tells you to stop and correct the problem before going on. Where is the conscience? Can’t we just turn off the red light in our souls? Brain scientists have found no area of our physical makeup where the moral conscience lies, that part of our nature that tells us we have done something wrong. That is because it is part of our soul—our invisible nature that goes on beyond physical death. Dear reader, this is critical stuff—you must take care of guilt before this life finishes because this is what God says:

6“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty (Exodus 23:6-7).

You may say to me that you have never sinned and do not feel guilty. Then let me ask you a question—Have you kept the Ten Commandments all your life? Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen something that belongs to another? The greatest commandment in the law is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Have you kept that commandment? If not, then even though you might not feel guilty, upon your death the Law of God and your conscience will stand and accuse you before God in the courtroom of heaven. Your conscience is just the early warning light. In the court room of heaven, the God of creation has seen and will see every act and every thought you have ever committed. You must make peace with guilt on this side of eternity. We cannot be wrong about these things. Each of us only has one life to live. There is no second chance after death. The Bible says, “It is appointed to man once to die and then to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We must make sure that the red warning light of guilt that shines on the inside of us is satisfied and that the guilt has been washed away. The good news is that the God of heaven loves you with an everlasting love and has initiated a plan to save you from your guilt and eternal destiny without Him. This is what He has said to you:

“For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them (Isaiah 61:8).

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 
27And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26-27).

God has loved you so much that two thousand years ago, He came down in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus, and gave Himself as the Sin Bearer. The God of justice cannot just weigh your good works beside your bad works—which sin would be the tipping point? All sin is an act of rebellion against a Holy God and His law. His justice demands payment of the life of the individual for even just one sin (James 2:10). His plan right from the beginning was to take the punishment for your sin. It would be a New Covenant or agreement between each of us that takes up His free offer of taking your guilt away and on to Himself. It was a covenant signed in the blood of a sacrificial lamb—Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In our fallen human nature, we have a tendency to want to accomplish our salvation ourselves by working hard at overcoming our sinful nature—but this just brings pride, which is ugly toward God—and it doesn’t take away the problem of sin and guilt. God has made it so simple that even a child can know the joy of sins forgiven and cleansed. Turn to Him, repent (change the direction of your life before God), and believe the gospel (the good news about sin being paid for). Place your life into the hands of Christ and believe (trust) Him:

28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). Keith Thomas

Put Out into Deep Water

He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:4-5).

Try and imagine what it was like for Peter. He had been fishing all night (v. 5), and now after cleaning their nets of all weed, he was exhausted and wanted to go home. I suspect, also, that he was discouraged and disappointed with catching nothing, and that they were cleaning their nets because they were finished with them for that time.

Jesus told Peter to go out into the deep water. The deep of the Sea of Galilee measures a depth of 200 feet. There’s no way, Peter probably thought, that his nets would go anywhere near down to those depths, and during the hot part of the day, that would be where the fish would be keeping cool. That would require a lot of net, which is very unlikely that he had, but because Jesus had said so, he stepped out in obedience. Jesus was a builder, what did He know about where the fish were and how to catch them? Peter was not expecting to catch one fish. After all, he was the expert when it came to fishing. What would this builder-come-rabbi, know about fishing?

It can be scary to leave the place of the shallows to follow out into the deep, but that’s where the big fish are. That’s where we shall experience great changes to our character and grow more to be like Jesus, and I think that is what all of us would like. I remember many years ago while I still worked on my father’s fishing boat with him (I used to be a commercial fishermen), the Lord spoke to me from the above verse, challenging me to leave my father’s fishing boat behind and follow Christ. I didn’t know anything other than being at sea. I just knew that I had to follow His leading. My intellect, or it could have been the enemy, said, “What on earth are you doing?” How are you going to earn a living now—you have never worked on the shore, never worked in an office, who’s going to employ you? You’ve never been to college to learn a trade.” I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to leave my father’s boat behind and push out into the deep to see what God was going to make of me. I began washing windows for a living—it was a very humiliating time in my life, but learning humility was good for the soul, so I leaned into it and later became a painter and decorator while I learned the Word of God, listening to teaching tapes while I painted. I started my own painting business to support my family while church planting. Looking back, more than thirty years later, I can testify that God is well able to make of us what He wants us to be. The lessons of God have taken me deeper and deeper into Christ—not that I am perfect—that would be foolishness, but I am ever striving to fulfill His calling on my life and I trust that you are too.

When Peter responded to Jesus and went out into the deep, he caught a huge amount of fish. When Peter saw what Jesus did, the Lord called him to leave his nets and follow Him. You will never regret leaving the place where you are comfortable, to respond to Christ’s invitation; “Come, follow me.” The things of God come to those who respond in simple obedience. One would say, “How can I learn to minister like Jesus?” Respond to His call, do whatever he tells you to do. Jesus would say, “Come follow me, and I will make you to become…fishers of men.” The main way that we can develop a life of intimacy with Christ today is by spending time listening to Him by reading the Word of God, by prayer and seeking to draw near to Him. Surround yourself with others who are encouragers, and lovers of God. He will make you into the person you are to be, and direct your life into one of fruitfulness. He who knows you best, will invite you to walk with Him and work with Him.

Keith Thomas: Taken from the study: 8. Jesus Goes Fishing: The series in the Book of Luke found in the middle column.