What Kind of Test Are You In?

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat32But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

What was Satan asking God for and why did he have to ask? Satan wanted to shake Simon Peter’s faith, but because Peter was a believer, he had to ask for permission from God to sift and shake the apostle’s life. God allowed the test to come to Simon Peter because he would be a stronger disciple when his heart had been broken because of failing the test. What was the test? After Jesus was arrested, three times Peter was asked if he had been with Christ. Three times Peter responded that he didn’t know Him. His heart was broken with remorse and repentance when the cock crowed and he remembered Jesus’ words that before the cock crowed he would deny three times that he even knew Christ. Peter was much too self-confident and God had to allow him to be humbled and broken before He could use him to preach the gospel in power on the Day of Pentecost. He was brought to a place of abundance, in spiritual terms, after the trial of his faith. God knew Peter’s heart. He knew that he would deny Jesus, but He also knew that Peter would return and that his faith would be restored.

Let’s just say that you are a person who has a love for Christ, but when the going gets tough and the fire gets hot in the midst of the refinery, you default to a lifestyle of denying that you know Christ by the way you live your life. It becomes easier to default to sin and disobedience when one is going through the fire of testing. You cease being an overcomer and go to default mode, allowing life to do to you whatever it will. What kind of test does God put you in? We need to overcome in the everyday challenges of our lives in order to be prepared to face direct challenges to our faith that may come to us one day. It is easy to go through life not thinking about such things, but the truth is that the choices that you make daily are what will prepare you for whatever tests will come in the future. Perhaps a test will come to you at some point in your life when you may be asked; “Are you a follower of Jesus the Christ?” Do you think that it would ever be possible that even here in America, you could be hauled off to a prison camp for being a terrorist by replying “yes” to such a question? If you think that is a fantastic or ridiculous notion, consider this; such persecution for faith has happened in other parts of the world in the past, and it is happening in many countries today. Whenever a government or regime comes to power that is in extreme opposition to the message of Christ, they will make Christians appear as a subversive group, working against the common good of the people, it is possible that taking a stand for your faith could mean intense persecution, loss of material goods, or loss of life. The early Christians experienced such things. Isn’t that the kind of test that Peter the apostle faced?

Another thought related to the passage above is that whatever trial we are going through, the Lord is praying for us as He was for Peter, that our faith will not fail. The Word of God says that he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25). This is encouraging because we know that God always hears His Son’s intercessory prayers for us.

Keith Thomas

The Testing is to Build Character

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-19).

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

We have been thinking on the fact that God tests those that are His in order to build character. Sometimes the things that God has prepared in advance for us to do can be hindered by a lack of godly character. God has to work on us before He can work through us. The purpose in all of this is not just so that we can perform works. Whatever we accomplish in our lives will be linked to our character, to the person we are becoming. This in itself is important to the Father; that we become more like Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22 as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. This will be evident in the way one’s life is lived among others. Such an individual is one who has learned to give priority to that which is on God’s agenda.

It means in a practical way, to exhibit the character of God, which is only possible if the life of God is dwelling in you, by God’s power and presence. This is why we are dependent upon His Word and the Holy Spirit. Many people have reached out for influence before true godly character has been laid in their lives. When this happens, it usually results in moral collapse and the ridicule and accusations of the enemy. King David is an example of this. When he chose to give in to temptation and an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan confronted and rebuked him. The prophet Nathan told David that he had made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt for the things of God (2 Samuel 12:14). Preparation of our heart and character is key, for when we are not available to the Holy Spirit to work in our life and form our character, we give Satan an opportunity to accuse Christians before the world, especially when we have influence and yet give in to temptation. We make ourselves open candidates for sabotage either from the enemy or from ourselves. There are many examples of those who have acquired greatness before they were ready, and have sabotaged their own success. Many examples of this can be seen throughout history. Our character must be bigger than our influence.

Keith Thomas

The Testing of our Faith is for a Purpose

10For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. 11You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12).

See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).

Sometimes our lives are full of burdens and it seems as if God is nowhere. In fact, it seems as if He is letting men ride over our heads and lay burdens on our backs. Why would God allow these things to go on in the lives of His children? God views our testing as a refining of our character. Just as a metal sword made for combat was put through the fire, refined and hammered on the anvil, in the same way God allows for trials and difficulties to come to our lives so that we may grow spiritually through them. We do not know God’s plans and purposes for our lives. Our life experiences would make more sense if we could only look into the future and know what we are being made into. Often we don’t see God’s plan until twenty years later when we are enjoying the fruits that come from the trial. What is the fruit of trials? I would say that it is a greater anointing of the Spirit and a maturing of our character—these are the things that please God. Of course, this can result in other blessings in our lives and in the lives of others too. God has a purpose and a plan for each one of us. How do I know that? The mother of the two disciples, James and John, asked that they would be able to sit in the best positions in the Kingdom of God, on the right hand and on the left hand side of Jesus. Jesus replied saying that those places are for those who will endure the cup of suffering in the same way as Jesus would and did. He said to James and John:

“You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23).

What can we infer from this passage and several others? God knows what He is doing. John and James wanted the seats of honor on either side of Jesus, but were they ready to take the same cup of suffering that Jesus was to take? To be great in the sight of God is to be a servant of all, and to put self on the altar in order to serve even through times of suffering. The way up is the way down. Christ must become greater, and we must become less important. God has seen ahead of time those who, in their heart of hearts want to go all the way with Him. In the preparation and refining of His people, God prepares ahead of time opportunities for His servants to be exercised in servant hood. He has seen the end from the beginning. He has a picture of the finished product of your life that He is making you to become. You are a product of the choices and responses to different trials that God has prepared in advance for you. When the cup of suffering is handed to you, will you choose to take the way of suffering or will you opt for the easy way out of the trial and compromise your faith?

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

What does this scripture say? First, it says that God Himself is working on you—you are His workmanship. Secondly, it says that you were created to do certain works that God Himself, outside of time, before the creation of the world, prepared in advance for you to do. May you be all and do all that He has planned!

Keith Thomas

God Tests Those Who Are His

1Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

 The next important lesson that we can learn in becoming a disciple is how God molds, shapes and trains us to be all that He wants us to be. It is a clear revelation in scripture that God allows and sometimes initiates times of testing to open our eyes for us to see that our character is not yet at the place where God wants us. Like we said in the last meditation, God prunes the dead wood of old fleshly habits in our lives, so that fresh life and fruit may come forth (John 15:2). Not all mishaps in our lives are God’s doings, however. God often gets the blame for such things as earthquakes, tornados and other difficulties that mankind faces. Some things are just natural tragedies, some things are attacks of Satan, and some things happen to us as a result of personal choices and choices that our nation or culture has made. We cannot explain all things this side of heaven, but let’s look at those things that God allows for our testing:

 The first thing we see about this passage above is that it was God who led the Israelites in the wilderness, the place of barrenness and dryness. Have you been going through a dry season in your life at this moment? Then maybe this is for you! The testing was for the Israelites to realize that even though they had been released from the bondage of Egypt, the ways of Egypt was still in their hearts. They were still dominated by slavery’s effects. It is similar for us; even though we have been released from Satan’s bondage of sin, sin still rules over us until we come to the place where we realize and see ourselves as God sees us, free from bondage to sin. In our thought life, we still default to sin until we come to a place where we listen to God’s Word saying that we don’t live on bread alone but that we absolutely need spiritual bread, the Word of God, for our spiritual growth and health, just as much as we need physical bread for our bodies. The test is to wake us up to see our complete dependence on Jesus. How much do you value the truth of the Word of God at work in your life?

Keith Thomas

What Does it Mean to Remain in the Vine?

4“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:4-8).

What does it mean to remain? (The King James Version uses the word, “abide”).

I think that the thought here is of the picture of the life sap of Jesus Christ flowing through your life by allowing the Word of God to be the pruning shears of the Spirit. The disciples had the person of Christ with them for three years speaking the very words of God to them. That’s why He said to them that they were already clean because of the words that He had spoken to them (John 15:3). Further, He promised them that if they continued to maintain connection with Himself (the Head), and that His Word remained in them, they would ask “whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (verse 7).

Is it as easy as just reading the Word of God? No, the devil knew the Word of God and quoted it to Jesus in the temptation of the wilderness. The difference is allowing the Word to find a home in you—to take root in the soil of your character:

37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:37-39).

The religious Jews had meditated on the Holy Scriptures all their lives, but the Word of God had not found a home in them. We must move the furniture around and make room for His Word. Any junk in the room of our hearts has to be taken to the junkyard and the throne room has to have Christ and His Word fully at home and taking root. The Lord said something similar a little bit later to the religious Jews:

37I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word (John 8:37).

The life of God flows easily through a man or woman who is living in obedience and faith in God by making room in His heart for the Word of God. We often underestimate the power of the Word of God, but Jesus said this about His Word:

63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (John 6:63).

This is true discipleship. Being connected to Christ, who is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). When we allow His strength to flow through us, the Lord produces results that defy natural explanation—powerfully effective prayers, God-honoring blessings, unbounded love, and inexplicable joy. All these things come when God’s Word finds a home in our hearts, and we are rooted and grounded (Ephesians 3:17) in the love and power of Christ. The life-giving sap of this organic connection to the Lord Jesus Christ will bring immeasurable fruit to your life.

Keith Thomas