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? The enemy 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 after his strong will was broken at his failure to testify for Christ. What kind of test was he given? There in the courtyard of the High Priest, Peter was asked three times if he had been with Christ. Each time 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 allowed him to be humbled and broken before the Lord could use him to preach the gospel in power on the Day of Pentecost. After the trial of Peter’s faith, in spiritual terms, he came to a place of abundance. God knew Peter’s heart. He knew that he would deny Jesus, but He also knew that Peter would return and his faith would be restored.

Let’s 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 will God allow to come to us? To be prepared to face direct challenges to our faith, we need to overcome the everyday challenges of our lives. It is easy to go through life not thinking about such things, but the truth is that the choices we make daily are what prepares us for the tests in the future. If it ever became illegal to be a follower of Jesus, and you were asked if you knew Him, would you deny Christ? If you think that is a fantastic or ridiculous notion, consider this; such persecution for faith has happened in other parts of the world, 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 can 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 hears His Son’s intercessory prayers for us.
Keith Thomas

Our 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 about the fact that God tests those that are His 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. Our character is essential to the Father. We are to become more like Jesus showing forth to those around us the fruit of changed lives. The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. Godly character is evident to others in the way you live your life before them. Such an individual is one who has learned to give priority to that which is on God’s agenda.

Exhibiting the character of God is only possible if the life of God, His power, and presence, is dwelling in you.  We are dependent upon His Word and the Holy Spirit if we want to grow in Christlikeness. Many leaders have reached out to influence people before godly character has become part of 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 critical, for when we are not available to the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and transform 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 our sin nature. There are many examples of those who had acquired greatness before they were ready and have sabotaged their success. Many examples of this can be seen throughout history. Our character must be more prominent 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 looks as if He is letting men ride over our heads and laying burdens on our backs. Why would God allow these things to go on in the lives of His children? God views our testing as the refining of our character. Just as a metal sword made for combat went through the fire and was 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. If only we could look into the future to see the fruit of our trials, our life experiences would make more sense. What is the fruit of the tests we go through? 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 of us that love Him. 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 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 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 would take? To be great in the sight of God is to be a servant of all, and to put self on the altar 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 servanthood. 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 pain 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 above scripture say? First, it means that God is at work on you, that you are His workmanship or His artistry. Secondly, the passage says that you were created to do specific 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

What Does it Mean to Remain?

Do you notice how many times the word remain comes up in the passage of John 15?

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”). 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 a 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 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 place of our hearts has to go to the junkyard, and the throne room has to have Christ and His Word entirely at home and taking root. The Lord said something similar a little 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 smoothly 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).

True discipleship is living fully for Christ. Being connected to Him, who is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). When we allow His life 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 in the love and power of Christ (Ephesians 3:17). The life-giving sap of this organic connection to the Lord Jesus Christ will bring a considerable amount of fruit to your life. Keith Thomas

The Pruning of the Vine

Christ wants for us to be partners and participators in the fellowship of the Godhead and the process of fulfilling His purpose on the earth. He said:

1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. (John 15:1-3).

Charles Swindoll makes several observations about this passage, which I have found helpful. In his commentary, Insights into John; he states:

“Firstly, this passage has meaning for believers only. Any non-believer trying to apply these truths will become hopelessly confused. Jesus was not describing how one becomes a Christian, but how one lives as a Christian after placing trust in Him. Second, Jesus draws heavily on the metaphor of a vineyard, a powerful symbol with roots running deep into the soil of Israel’s history. No illustration touched the Hebrew soul like the image of a vinedresser and his vineyard.  Third, the primary subject of Christ’s teaching is abiding (KJV) or Remaining in the NIV, not bearing fruit. At no point in the discourse is the believer commanded to produce fruit. Instead, we are promised that if we abide, the result will be fruit that will remain. Fourth, the illustration Jesus chose would have been familiar to every disciple and virtually all of John’s readers, but it is unfamiliar to most of us today; therefore, we must be careful not to milk every detail for symbolic meaning. Illustrations allow us to see the bigger picture; that must be our focus here. Jesus is summarizing the care a vinedresser gives to a vine. The Lord reassures the disciples that they had already been pruned. The adjective translated “clean” is based on the same verb for “prune” in verse 2. He followed this assurance with a command to “abide.” The verb means “to remain” or to “stay in place” often referring to one’s home. Upon meeting Jesus, Andrew and John asked Him “Where are you staying [or abiding]?” “Abiding” in terms of this metaphor refers to the branch remaining connected to the vine. Branches that do not receive nourishing sap from the vine cannot produce fruit- or live, for that matter.”[1]

What does the picture of the pruning of the vine mean to us? What is the Father’s motive in pruning us? How does He prune? This picture of the Father’s pruning is not indicative of God cutting unfruitful Christians off of the Vine (Christ). When you gave your life to Christ, God rescued you from the dominion of darkness and brought you into the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13). He won’t throw you out because you are not fruitful enough! You are secure in God’s love and faithfulness. This passage above is about the way in which the Father goes about bringing more fruit from your life. The Father wants us to be fruitful and will exercise His rights to remove dead wood from our lives. The dead wood of wrong attitudes that need to be cut off, the kind of mentality of believers that have never become disciples, believers of the sort that only want ten cents worth of God:

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please. I want enough to get a taste, to actually have Him, but not so much that it costs me much.

I don’t want to get distracted from the things that I really want. I don’t want to be consumed by a huge dose of God.

I want enough to feel pretty good about myself, enough to make my life respectable and manageable–enough to get me through the pearly gates.

I’ll have ten cents worth of God, please….

[1]Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights, Insights into John. Published by Zondervan, Page 260.