When Faith Is Tested

Genuine seekers who as yet have not obtained the blessing may find comfort in this story. The Savior did not immediately bestow the blessing, even though the woman had great faith in Him. He intended to give it, but He waited awhile. “He did not answer her a word.” Were her prayers no good? Never better in the world. Was she not needy? Dreadfully needy. Did she not feel her need sufficiently? She felt it overwhelmingly. Was she not sincere enough? She was intensely so. Did she have no faith? She had such a high degree of it that even Jesus wondered and said, “O woman, great is your faith!” Notice then, although it is true that faith brings peace, it does not always bring it instantaneously. There may be certain reasons for faith to be tested rather than rewarded.

Genuine faith may be in the soul like a hidden seed, but so far it may not have budded and blossomed into joy and peace. Silence from the Savior is the painful trial of many a seeking soul, but heavier still is the affliction of a harsh, cutting reply such as, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Many in waiting upon the Lord find immediate delight, but this is not the case with all. Some, like the jailer, are in a moment turned from darkness to light, but others are plants of slower growth.

A deeper sense of sin may be given to you instead of a sense of pardon, and in such a case you will need patience to bear the heavy blow. Poor heart, though Christ beat and bruise you, or even slay you, trust Him; even if He should give you an angry word, believe in the love of His heart. I urge you, do not give up seeking or trusting my Master because you have not yet obtained the conscious joy that you long for. Cast yourself on Him, and perseveringly depend even when you cannot rejoicingly hope.



Obedience or Preference?

Every believer must choose whether he will live by the principle of obedience or follow his preferences. When a person commits to doing the Lord’s will, then every situation and decision is sifted through the standard of “God said it, so I’m going to do it—and that’s the end of it.” He or she may complain, weep, or try to argue. But in the end, the individual will be obedient, no matter what.

I recall being invited years ago to interview with a church in Atlanta. During the entire trip, I told the Lord that I didn’t want to move. I fussed and carried on a good while, but I knew Atlanta would be my new home. I didn’t like the idea, but the alternative was unimaginable: There are few things more unpleasant than living with the nagging anxiety that you missed out on something good.

The Lord certainly understands our need to question, cry out, and petition Him for the strength to do what He commands. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. Jesus wasn’t excited or happy about the cross. He grieved over the coming separation from His Father. Nevertheless, He was committed to following God’s will (Matt. 26:39). No one took Christ’s life from Him; He laid it down (John 10:18).

Our lives are about fulfilling the heavenly Father’s purpose. Many people miss out on its goodness because they choose to follow personal preferences instead, believing their own choices are better. Obedience is sometimes hard, but the struggle and sacrifice are worth it. The Lord’s ways and principles lead believers to joy and peace.



Persevere

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.’ Hebrews 10:36
 
Did God not tell His people during the exodus from Egypt: ‘The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still’ (Exodus 14:14)? And yet here we read: ‘…Joshua fought the Amalekites.’ From this we can learn that we can never sit back with folded arms when the Lord is fighting for us. He always involves us. Sometimes He wants us to sing (2 Chronicles 20:22), another time He calls us to battle, like Joshua in this passage. But whatever God tells us: while carrying out our orders, we must be fully aware that it is only God Who wins the victory!
Therefore it is written: ‘Joshua fought the Amalekites (…) and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. (…) So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.’ We cannot say: So Moses overcame the Amalekite army. Moses only stood there as God’s witness to remind Israel that – through the full commitment of our lives – it is, ultimately, only God Who wins the victory. That is why it was so important that Moses kept raising his hands until God had gained the victory.
As Christians, we may learn from this that – if we long for God to win the victory – we must persevere in raising our purified hands praying and blessing until… God shows and tells He has won the victory. Therefore it is written that we need perseverance, so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised.
Perhaps we still need a rough life in the wilderness to learn to trust God like this!
 


FORGIVENESS PROVIDES RELEASE

Most of us have either read, heard, or spoken the Lord’s prayer. But, have you ever noticed the presence of a little two-letter word in the Lord’s prayer? It says “And forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Did you catch that? The word “as” implies that we cannot be forgiven until we offer that same forgiveness to others. In case we miss the “as,” Jesus makes it very clear in the next verse: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(Matthew 6:15)

Forgiving someone who has treated you poorly, said evil things about you, even broken up your family, is a very difficult thing to do. It takes Godly intervention to truly offer forgiveness to people who have deeply wounded you. But God commands us to do so, and God would never command us to do anything that He wouldn’t provide the ability to do.

Right now, pray for God to give you the strength to forgive those who have hurt you. Not only will God give you the power to do so, but He will also empower you supernaturally to love them, even though you hate what they did. Remember, bitterness is the poison we swallow, causing us to wish for evil things. Enjoy the release of this terrible burden by experiencing the cleansing power of forgiveness.



DO YOUR ENEMIES CONTROL YOU?

An enemy is anyone who is against you. It’s someone who is not for you. An enemy can take the form of a family member, a classmate, a co-worker, a neighbor, or even a fellow believer. We all have enemies, but Jesus tells us to love them! How is that possible?

Well, keep reading, because the answer lies immediately after Jesus tells us to love our enemies. He says, “pray for those who persecute you.” It’s mighty hard to pray for our enemies when we’re really determined to hold onto that anger. Because when we start praying for them, God has a way of softening our hearts. We begin looking at that person as God sees them. Slowly, God works in our lives and changing our hearts as we pray for them. This is what Jesus did for us when we were His enemies: He went to the cross. Jesus prayed for us while on the cross paying the penalty for our sins. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Jesus prayed.  Accepting Jesus’ forgiveness changes us so we are able to forgive others who are our enemies.

Does that mean you’re going to like your enemies? In most cases, probably not. But it does mean that God can give us the supernatural power to love our enemies and to treat them with love no matter how they treat us.

Let’s follow Jesus’ example, in faith. When we give God control in this area, our enemies no longer control us.



THE VIGILANT REFINER

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. Proverbs 17:3 ESV

My friend Jacob dons goggles and fireproof gloves. Then, with a smile, he sparks his blowtorch to life.

He touches the stream of fire to a bar of silver in a crucible, and explains what’s happening over the hiss of the torch.

“Different metals purify at different temperatures,” he says. “And you need to be careful to get the temperature just right, so that you don’t lose any of the precious metal you’re refining. Otherwise, you’ll burn it too much and it all turns to dust.”

I can see the dross curling to the surface, forming an ugly crust.

Dross is the concentration of the impurities that were once within the metal—but now they are being separated by the perfect application of heat.

The vigilance required is impressive, watching the refiner dance with molten metal and flame, carefully applying the fire and then pulling it away. Applying the fire, pulling it away. All the while, the dross is separated from the silver that holds the real value.

This is the same refinement process the LORD uses on our hearts.

With just the right amount of heat and trial, the Vigilant Refiner burns away the dross that is not just buried within us, but has been a part of us for as long as we can remember. With loving concern, he skillfully applies streams of flame that increase our value and integrity rather than burning us to dust. He applies the fire, then pulls it away.

What is the state of your life, are you in the refiner’s fire right now? Where is heat being applied? Where are you being melted by trials and your impurities are curling to the surface? Do you know that God will continue to refine you until the dross is removed? So, reflect.

Don’t waste the tender flames, the loving fire, the purifying heat.

Name the character impurities God is removing. Don’t waste the pain, but press into it, and say with Peter, “Lord not just my feet, but my whole body also!”

In my own life, through near-losses and extravagant failures, the LORD has purified me of unbelief, pride, and idolatry. (And has more to go, I’m afraid.)

Unbelief in his nearness, his grace, and at times even his existence. Pride in my own strength, talent, and perceived economic value. Idolatry in finding my security in health, wealth, and prestige.

I’ve had nothing left but to look upward and see the Father, torch in hand, surfacing my dross right in front of my face. I know others have suffered more difficult times, but still, it hasn’t felt good. But what a glorious realization to see God’s hand, applying just the right heat, preparing my family for what is to come.

It is good to pause in pain, look to the torch, and celebrate that the dross you’ve lived with for so long is now being swept away. Worship in this and don’t cling to what the Lord is mercifully dividing from your heart.

What are three things the LORD is purifying your heart from right now?

Would you be so bold as to share them in the comments on our site or with us on social media? You’ll be surprised by how many are going through the same thing.



An Explosive Spirit

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4 ESV).
 
The story of the Church is astonishing and intense. In this scene from Acts 2, the Spirit explodes onto the disciples. The effect is so electric that observers thought the disciples were drunk. But they were drunk on God, not wine.

God is also at work here and now. By studying His Word we can see what He has done and what He will do. Pray that you will be given the eyes to see and the ears to hear how He is changing the human condition.



Second Fiddle

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”  Mark 9:35

To Jesus, greatness doesn’t come from what you accumulate or what you accomplish. It is not found in the power that you hold, or the possessions that you own, or the place where you live. Greatness is in the people that you serve.  Therefore, we should have a thankful approach to service.

One of the most frustrating things that I think every leader of every church deals with is struggling to get enough people to serve—even finding people to serve in the nursery with preschoolers, with children, or with teenagers. I believe the reason is that as Christians, our approach to service is often totally wrong. If what Jesus said is true, and the way to be great is to serve, then we should be thankful for any opportunity we get to serve and we should be looking for opportunities to serve.

The secret to success is service. Jesus said greatness starts at the bottom—not at the top. When you are like Jesus, you will take the least desired position, you will do the job nobody else wants to do, you will find the worst seat in the house. The great poet Henry Longfellow said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambition.”

The one thing that sets apart godly leadership from worldly leadership is the idea of servant leadership. Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein, the late New York Symphony conductor, what the most difficult position of the orchestra was.  Without hesitation, he said, “Second fiddle.” Do you know why?  You know why playing second violin is so much tougher than playing a piccolo or a bassoon?  It is not tougher physically; it is tougher emotionally, because everybody wants to be first chair violin, not second fiddle.

Jesus said you are going to approach life in one of two ways: either you are going to walk out the door of your house every day thinking, “How can I get other people to serve me?” or you are going to be thinking, “How can I serve other people?” What is your attitude toward service?

God, remind me that a true leader in Your Kingdom is a servant leader, looking for ways to serve others rather than to be served. Grant me satisfaction in being second fiddle—may my service point people first to You, and not to myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Motivated to Serve

“So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  2 Corinthians 5:9-10

Serving others is hard work. Jesus reminds us throughout the Gospels to serve others. He talks about “the least of these” and meeting their needs. He gives us commands with respect to widows, orphans, and the poor. Clearly it is our mission, in part, to help out at all times with the practical needs of those around us. But at the same time, Jesus did not want us to see serving as a burden.

2 Corinthians says that Christ followers will be rewarded for our actions in the name of Jesus on earth. And it also tells us that our goal is to please Jesus with our lives. These statements could be misconstrued as motivation through guilt. Sometimes this is how we feel when serving as Christians. God demands servitude from us. But the reality is that there is nothing that we can do for God that He really needs us to do. And there is nothing we have done and could ever do to earn or work our way to our salvation. God’s relationship with us is an unmerited act of favor—His grace, poured out on us. His love for us does not fluctuate based on our service to Him.

So, then, in context, because our actions have nothing to do with our salvation, we do not serve God because we have to serve Him, but rather we serve because we are privileged to do so. We “get” to serve God. And in that service, God promises that we will receive what is due us as we joyfully and wholeheartedly serve Him while on earth. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, it will not be to hear the final judgment of death because of our sin. It will be to hear of our reward in heaven as God says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

You were created to serve God with your whole being. It is not a burden. It is a blessing. Do not serve God out of guilt, for there is no payment in work that you owe God for anything. Rather serve joyfully, knowing that because you are free from sin, you can serve God fully, freely, and eternally.

God, when I feel guilty toward You because I feel I owe you my service, remind me that salvation in Christ is a free gift. I did not and could not earn it. You gave it to me. I thank You again for Jesus, Who died for me. May my serving be free and full, knowing that it is a privilege that I get to serve You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The Tragedy of a Wasted Life

Luke 12:15-21

Death is inevitable, but at times it surprises us. Perhaps you can relate because you know someone who died unexpectedly.

Today’s parable describes one such situation. It tells of a man who acquired comfort and wealth but thought only of his time on earth. Death came without warning, and he could take nothing with him. God called him a fool for living focused only on himself.

Though rich in the world’s eyes, the man had no relationship with God and hadn’t invested anything in Christ’s kingdom. All the treasures he stored here were worthless once he died. What’s even worse is that without Jesus, he’d be separated from God forever. Think about the tragic waste of such a life.

As I consider the choices this man made, two questions come to mind that are important for us all to contemplate. First, if you were to die today, would you go to heaven? Salvation is a free gift for those who trust in Jesus as the acceptable sacrifice for sin. He is the only way—no excuses or even sincere beliefs in other ways will work. And Scripture teaches that when believers die, they immediately find themselves in the Lord’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Second, what is your life accomplishing? Are you driven by selfish purposes, storing security and wealth for yourself? Or is your motivation to further God’s kingdom?

Like the man in this parable, we don’t know when we will die. We do know, however, that death is inescapable. Dying is an unpleasant topic, but eternity is a long time and worthy of our attention. It’s definitely a wise investment to make sure of your salvation and to invest in God’s kingdom.