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

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 the Scriptures 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 to be. 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 doing, however. God often gets the blame for such things as earthquakes, tornados and other difficulties that humankind 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 set free from the bondage of Egypt, the ways of Egypt was still in their hearts. Slavery’s effects still dominated them. 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 slavery to sin. In our thought life, we still default to sin until we come to a place where we listen to God’s Word that we don’t live on bread alone but that we need spiritual food, the Word of God, for our spiritual growth and health. 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

“Don’t be Afraid. Just Trust Me”

But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

There are times in one’s life when we must simply trust our Father. This can be difficult when we are going through a trying situation. Sometimes it means ignoring everything but His words in the midst of a storm.

I remember a time when I was working as a commercial fisherman with my father on his fishing boat. We were on a long journey south to our home port of Harwich, Essex, England. It was past midnight and it was his turn to sleep. Before he lay down on the daybed, there in the wheelhouse alongside me, he wanted to give me some instructions for our passing three miles off of the coast of Lowestoft, Suffolk.  He instructed me to avoid the two sandbanks that ran three miles off the shore and parallel with the coast. I was to go close to the shore, away from the sandbanks, and escape the tide that would be turning against us by the time we got there.

Two miles ahead of us, I could see two other fishing boats from our home port. Dad had been asleep about an hour when I came up to the Scroby Sands, the Outer and Inner banks, that ran parallel and opposite the coast of Lowestoft. I reasoned to myself that, instead of following my father’s commands, I could just follow the lights of the other boats. To make matters worse, we were in a force 9 severe gale with the waves breaking over the bow of the boat. I was afraid that if I took the advice of my father, staying close to the shore, I would not see Lowestoft Pier that stuck out a few hundred yards.  As I entered the channel, I saw the red buoy to my left, and the green buoy on my right, so I knew I was at the start of the channel. What I didn’t realize, though, was that after the other boats had gone through the channel in between the sands, they had now turned course and were heading inshore so that they, too, could evade the fast-flowing tide against all of us.

Following the other boats and not listening to my dad was a big mistake! My course had changed from going down the channel to following them inshore. But I hadn’t come to the end of the channel yet. Our boat hit the Inner Scroby Sands going full speed.  My dad woke with a start as the keel stuck fast on the Inner Scroby Sand in a severe gale.  Worst of all, the tide was going down and every minute diminished our chances of survival.  My father told me to put the engine in reverse and give maximum thrust on the engine.  When I did so, the boat leaned severely over on the port (left) side and we nearly capsized. In fear, I took the engine out of gear. Scared of death, I asked dad to take the controls. He quickly took over the helm. “We’ve got to do it, son!” he said. Our very lives were at stake. If we’d have capsized, we would never have been found and both of us could not swim and we had no life raft at the time. In any case, it was three miles to Lowestoft in mid-winter, in the dark.  With the tide going down and the water level dropping the boat would not remain vertical–we would capsize. We faced certain death. Dad put the boat in reverse gear and rammed the throttle on the engine full speed. The boat again nearly capsized and shook violently as the rear end of the keel hit the sand. The propeller thrashed the water while I prayed like mad, crying, “help Lord!” In two minutes of dad taking the helm, our boat came off the sands.

When we were safely on our way again, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, saying, “If you would just listen to your Father’s voice, you would be safe.” God often has a way of speaking on two different levels to us. I knew He was referring to my relationship with Him and that I was to trust His voice even when it seemed like an illogical thing to do. Father knows best! Thank God that when we feel incapable, He is there to take the controls! Can you give Him the controls of your life? Or are you still following the other boats?

Can I challenge you to trust your Father’s voice? When the situation looks bleak, hear His voice, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

Please, Father, help me to know your voice and obey it. Keith Thomas

He Shouted All the More

35As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41″What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God (Luke 18:35-43)

This blind man must have heard testimony about Jesus at some time because, when he was told it was Jesus of Nazareth, his response was to call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (v. 38). Even though he was told it was Jesus of Nazareth, he did not call Him by that name. He cried out to Jesus as the Son of David, a title for the Messiah (Messiah is the Hebrew word for Christ; it means God’s Anointed One). He began to cry outfor mercy:

39Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:39).

The blind man could not be kept quiet by those around Christ! There will always be those who do not want us to get excited about Jesus and His Word, they would seek to quieten us down from calling upon Him. Some on the outskirts of the crowd could not hear the master teach over the beggar’s shouting. They rebuked him and told him to be quiet, possibly because they thought he wanted money from Jesus. Decide now not to listen to those voices. This blind man could not be quieted down. A different Greek word is used the second time. In verse 39 it is translated: “he shoutedall the more” (v. 39). The Greek word translated as “shouted all the more,” is krazō, which means to scream or shriek.[1]In his desperation he began to loudly scream out to the Lord. The tense of the Greek also brings out the fact that he kept onshouting and screaming. He would not shut up.

The picture we get is of a man going crazy with emotion. There is desperation behind the blind man’s voice. It is very likely that he had heard of Christ and His power beforehand but had never got the opportunity to call upon Him. In hearing testimony from others about Christ, he had concluded that this was the prophesied Messiah, the Son of David. He had decided that he would not miss any opportunity if Messiah showed up. The Spirit had already been working in his heart to produce faith for when the opportunity came. If there was ever a picture of one who sought for Christ with all his heart this was it. The blind man had this one opportunity and he was not going to let Jesus go by without doing all in his power to get his need met. He began to call out to the Lord with his whole heart and voice, just as the Spirit has told us in the Book of Psalms: “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). This calling out to the Lord when in trouble is not something that we should allow to lightly pass us by, because there is great spiritual truth set out plainly before us. This is not just regular prayer, but a deep crying out in distress and anguish of soul. 16As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. 17Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice (Psalm 55:16-17).

Leonard Ravenhill, the Bible teacher, has said that God doesn’t answer prayer, He answers desperate prayer! I’m not sure I completely agree with that statement, but there is a truth that is worth extracting from the quote. Desperate prayer touches the compassionate heart of God. Again, and again, we read of encouragement to cry out to God just as the blind beggar did. For instance, in all the troubles that King David went through at the hands of King Saul, the Lord taught him to call and cry out to Him: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6).We see example after example in the Gospels of desperate people getting their need met by Jesus. How about you? Jesus is passing by—are you going to remain quiet, or are you willing to call out to Him with all your heart and soul. Keith Thomas

[1]e.Sword.com

The Tent We Live in

1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

When Paul the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth, he compared the earthly body that we live in to a tent, a short-term, impermanent home. What he was saying is that the real you, your spirit, is clothed with your fleshly body for the fifty to seventy years that you live on Earth. He says that when this “earthy tent” is destroyed, we have something much more permanent in heaven, a building from God, a home that is eternal, a body that is not built by human hands (v. 1), a heavenly dwelling (v. 2). As we get older, we become more and more aware of our mortality—we groan and are burdened and become more and more convinced that there has to be more to this life than what we can see with our physical senses. If only we could believe this truth—that we are created for eternity and not just for this world. It would change everything for us if we truly believed it. Paul went on to say that we are fashioned for this very purpose and that what is beyond the veil of death is the true life. The Holy Spirit living in us is a guarantee of what is beyond this world:

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:5).

A Christian enters heaven without a break in consciousness. Back on earth our friends bury our body, but they do not bury us! Personhood survives the death of the body. In the Bible, the Book of Acts, there is the story of a man of God named Stephen. As he was dying, he said, “Lord, receive my spirit.” He did not say, “Receive my body.” There was no break in consciousness for him—the Lord stood up from His normal seated position at the right hand of the Father to receive him (Acts 7:59). We would live very different lives if we truly believed that our life on earth is just transitory. If we believed that when we put off the tent of this body, we enter into true life (I’m presuming that you have received the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus), we would invest our time, energy, gifts and resources into more things that will last after we get rid of our earthly tent. What would God have us invest ourselves in this side of heaven? He would have us invest in what is important to Him—people. Seeking to help as many as we can to know God and be saved from the penalty of sin.

Sometimes as people are dying, their spirit often drifts between earth and heaven where they can see both worlds. A few hours before Dwight L. Moody, the great American evangelist died, he caught a glimpse of the glory awaiting him.  Awakening from sleep, he said: “Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go!”  His son who was standing by his bedside said, “No, no father, you are dreaming.”  “No,” said Mr. Moody, “I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children’s faces.” A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again: “This is my triumph; this my coronation day!  It is glorious!”

My prayer is that you would ask the Lord to give you the free gift of eternal life that Jesus has bought for you in dying in your place. My prayer is that we will see Mr. Moody together and rejoice in the finished work of our Savior on our behalf. Keith Thomas