Times Of Testing

“As evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, 
‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake. He was already in the boat, 
so they started out, leaving the crowds behind. 
But soon a fierce storm arose. High waves began to break 
into the boat until it was nearly full of water.
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat 
with His head on a cushion. Frantically they woke Him up, shouting, 
‘Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” 
Mark 4: 35-38

The often quoted “there are no atheists in foxholes” is a cliché only because it’s true. When we face trials in our lives, it's not only wise but necessary to look to God for help as our faith is tested and usually strained to the limit.

Trials have a very real and important purpose in the life of faith for many of these trials are actually a testing to expand faith. It’s not the sort of testing one thinks of when writing an exam precisely where a pass or fail is the point. Testing is more like working a muscle to increase its strength. It’s the way God uses circumstances in our lives to develop greater faith in our lives as opposed to the idea that He’s standing there with a report card recording our passing or failing grade.

Perhaps you think the idea of trials for the sake of increased faith sounds like God is inflicting cruel and unusual punishment but that would be missing the point. In this life we’re constantly in training as Christians which is why the Bible so often uses military analogies. The battles for which we train and face are meant to equip us to fight against the enemies like pride or self-sufficiency or fear or idolatries … pretty much the whole gamut of sin that pervades so much of our lives.

Every trial we face isn’t necessarily a test but certainly every trial is an opportunity for the growth of faith. In each one with which we find ourselves coping we have a new and wonderful opportunity to see the hand of God which is always ready to help in times of trouble. He promises to be our refuge and strength and He always lives up to His promises.

Like most of His promises though, there is a condition. It is that we are to ‘stay with Him’. It makes me think of the way a 911 emergency operator will keep a person on the line while waiting for the police or ambulance to arrive. The operator will ask some questions deliberately posed to keep the person on the line with advice, direction or a calming effect. We only get advice, direction or that calming effect from the Lord IF we stay on the line, as it were. As we are connected to Him in order to hear His still, small voice, He shows us the way through the circumstances. In this, our faith and trust grows by leaps and bounds.

During a time of testing it’s wise to simply obey whatever we believe the Lord is telling us as we spend time in His presence. You are spending time in His presence aren’t you? The worst possible response during a time of difficulty is to avoid God in a kind of sulk or because you’re distracted by your circumstances. When we spend time in His presence we find peace and it’s when our minds and hearts are peaceful we are most able to cope with the problems at hand. It also makes us more clear headed so we can actually hear what He’s saying.

The shortest way through any trial or time of testing is simply to be obedient. It can actually be the hardest thing to do even if it may be the most logical in terms of the Christian life but it’s a surefire way to get through the situation more easily. God will reveal something, or several ‘somethings’, about which He requires us to obey. The wisest course to just do what we’re told!

A time of testing will also produce patience. There are times when we are required to wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

That’s when the ‘faith muscle’ really gets a workout. However, during any time of waiting God provides whatever is needed to get through the day whether it be something material or a word of peace or encouragement. The key is not to get discouraged or to give up for there is a harvest of blessing we reap when we ‘soldier on’ with Him.

He has promised He will be with us no matter what the circumstances are. We can count on His protection when we remain close to Him and obey His instructions.

“When He woke up, He rebuked the wind and said to the water, 
’Quiet down!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was great calm. 
And He asked them, ’Why are you so afraid? 
Do you still not have faith in Me?” 
Mark 4: 40

May the Lord bless you and keep you,