Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Know God is Testing You

“The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3b NIV).

Fellow brethren, I would like to reiterate that the subject line for our weekly articles on this website is given every Saturday evening to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. As it is, the Lord is also responsible for the visions that we share on this website. Therefore, those who have been looking forward for visions from the Lord on this website, please pray and be patient; the Lord will provide as He wills. He is surely testing many of us, knowing that people only like to read His visions and not His messages. The Lord is testing our faith!

Furthermore, the messages that we present here might not be new, but they are refreshing as we also include some practical visions and messages from the Lord, including actual experiences to augment our message.

Why Does God Test Us?

In last week's article, we discussed how God does not create evil nor tempt us to do evil (James 1:13). The Bible also warns us against testing God (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7). However, God does test us, and in this article we will discuss how to know when He is testing us.

The dictionary defines test as when "the presence, quality, or genuineness of anything is determined; a means of trial or process of assessing".

God searches the hearts – He sees, hears and knows ALL things (Jeremiah 17:10; Romans 8:27; Hebrews 4:13; 1 John 3:20; Rev 2:2, 19; 3:15); He does not test us in order to learn or know what we do, but He does this to humble us, so that in the end it is for OUR OWN GOOD, that all may go well with us (Deuteronomy 8:16; Job 7:17-18 NKJV).

Some of the reasons why The Lord tests us or allows us to be tested include the following:

1. To see if we will be obedient and follow His commands:
  • Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions (Exodus 16:4).
  • “…I will use them [the nations Joshua left when he died] to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did” (Judges 2:22; 3:1, 4).
  • “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
2. So that the fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning:
  • Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20).
3. To know what is in our hearts and see if we love Him with all of our heart and soul:
  • But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him [King Hezekiah] about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart (2 Chronicles 32:31).
  • Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Psalm 139:23).
  • “You must not listen to the words of that [false] prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:3-4).
4. To reward us for obedience and prepare us for heaven:
  • Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
5. To prove if our faith is genuine:
  • “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV).
6. To fulfill His will, purpose and promises to us:
  • Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph's character (Psalm 105:19 NLT).
For reference purposes, God tested Abraham to offer his only son, Isaac, as a a burnt offering.   Abraham,was willing to obey God's command completely, until the Lord intervened and provided a ram for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-12). His attitude and response was one of faith and obedience. In this account, we don’t see Abraham questioning God; instead He complied with God’s command in a submissive and obedient attitude. It is important to know that God knew Abraham before he was (Psalm 139:16). Therefore, for the benefit of us who wondered why was it necessary for God to test Abraham if He knew how he would respond, this was for Abraham's own benefit, so that he might know God and have a personal experience with the Father. A living faith in God expresses itself in action in order to make our experience real with Him.

Similarly, in our everyday relationship with our families and friends, what shows our interest in them is what we do for them; they value and respond to that. Abraham’s faith was an act of obedience and an expression of love to God (Genesis 26:5; John 14:15). It must be remembered that the Christian faith involves test and such tests measure our faith, attitudes and seriousness in our relationship with God (Jeremiah 17:10). When we are being tested, we always respond from our self-will (Luke 22:42). In this regard, our will is in agreement with God’s command in an active response which we know as faith.

How Do You Know God is Testing You?

We should not blame God when bad things happen. This often happens when we confuse being tested by God with falling into temptation, and suffering the consequences of our own folly, sins or unbelief as a result of allowing Satan to wreak havoc in our lives.

Usually, God's testing can come in two ways: Firstly, we can ask the Lord to test our faithfulness, as David did, when he asked The Lord to examine his heart and mind and determine that he was true to Him (Psalm 26:2; 139:23). Secondly, The Lord can also test us, or allow us to be tested, as He pleases – as was the case with Job (Job 1:12), Abraham, and the Israelites.

When many people go through testing and trials, they immediately start to complain, have strife, feel pity, or look to others for help or "bail-out", when all that is needed is to have faith, pray and look to God instead. For example, when the Israelites were tested at the Waters of Marah and Elim, they grumbled and complained against Moses. But Moses cried out to the Lord who showed him a piece of wood which he threw in the water and the water became drinkable (Exodus 15:22-26).) Moses trusted God and his faith was an act of obedience. These tests are opportunities to show and grow good fruit.

So, how can we tell whether God is truly testing us? Here are some of the ways to identify when our testing is from God:
  1. When trials come your way even though you are walking blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil (Job 1:8; Daniel 3:17-18).
  2. When you are genuinely and sincerely seeking a closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to examine your heart (Psalm 17:3).
  3. When the Lord has made specific promises to you, you believe, and trials come your way before the promises are fulfilled, as was was the case with Joseph (Psalm 105:19 NLT).
  4. When, after seeking the Lord, we get into situations where we must make a choice between right and wrong (Daniel 6:6-13). God is pleased with integrity (1 Chronicles 29:17a) and never tempts us to do anything wrong (James 1:13).
  5. God tests our hearts (our desire for Him and our obedience to His word) leading to a closer relationship with Him and salvation of our souls (1 Chronicles 29:17a; 1 Pet 1:6-9); Satan tempts our hearts in order to lead us away from God and His will (Matthew 4:1-11), causing us to desire and pursue worldliness (including material or outward things and spiritual falsehood), and eventually end up in hell (Romans 6:23).
Brief Testimony on God Testing Us

Briefly, as a family and ministry we have been subjected to many tests from the Lord and I have well chronicled most of them in an article titled Obedience Through Test. We often don’t know when God is testing us. He can use anybody and any situation, for example: a beggar asking for money (Acts 3:1-5); or someone losing their money bag and you knowingly picked it up but kept quiet; someone cursing you and you retaliate (2 Samuel 16:5-13); you are lied to and flow with it (1 Kings 13:16-18); or you are in a situation where you feel “stuck” and need God help but you don’t faithfully pray (2 Chronicles 16:12).

Admittedly, tests are not always pleasant experiences; however the testing of our faith is part of the Christian walk, and it produces good fruit such as patience/perseverance (James 1:3). By the test, God is refining our faith (Psalm 66:10; Job 23:10; Zechariah 13:9). It is necessary for one simple reason: to see if we trust and agree with God; after the testing the Lord has reserved a blessing (Hebrews 12:2; 2 Timothy 4:8). While the Lord is going to reward us (materially or otherwise), spiritually our relationship with Him is growing in love, trust and obedience. Test from God is not a torment or suffering, but a test of obedience and endurance. During testing, we are ‘pruned’ to obey and surrender fully to God. He is teaching us to put our reliance on Him (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Before the Lord blessed us with our own vehicle, my wife and I, along with our ministry people, walked back and forth between our witnessing destinations and home. There were also times after our evening prayers when my wife and I would walk our fellow prayer partners home, leaving each person in front of their homes before we made our way back home. Those were times of great test; God saw our commitment and He graciously blessed us with our own means of transport.

In addition, one of our tests that the Lord gave us was that we should take in and care for a mother, her two children, and two additional girls – five people in total. I earned about $80 a month, from which we had to reserve for my monthly transportation costs to work and our mortgage. It was little but we had contentment and peace. Through all these, the Lord was faithful to provide and supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19); we made it through by His grace!

In conclusion, brothers and sisters, the Lord tests us for our good. He has also promised us that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). So,let us be encouraged to stand firm in our faith and persevere through tests from the Lord, or trials and temptations from the enemy, that we may receive the victor’s crown that the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

May God’s tests refine you like silver and test you like gold, that the genuineness of your faith – which is of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proven and result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (Psalm 66:10; Zechariah 13:9; 1 Peter 1:7).

Have you been going through tests and trials lately? If you desire true refuge in a close relationship with the Lord Jesus, here is a Prayer of Sincere Repentance to get you started. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

God’s peace and abundant grace be upon you,

Brother Glenn.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blaming God When Bad Things Happen - Part I

Why Do People Blame God for Bad Things that Happen to Them?

Brethren, in this article I do not claim to have all the answers to why people blame God. I solely rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my conscience in relation to this message. Many Christians fail and give up on their faith after allowing sin to eat away at their faith and obedience.

The Lord has given this message in response to people (saved or unsaved) who blame Him for their misfortune(s). The principal reason why people blame the Lord is based on their understanding that God is all powerful and He directs all things; so why does/did He allow such evil to happen to them?

As a ministry, we too have our set of problems and challenges, even though the Lord is speaking to us the way He does. He expects us to pray and have faith in Him if we are trapped by bad thing; sitting around and blaming Him only gives rise to more trouble! Therefore, in our own suffering we accept the discomfort of the situation we are facing, while trusting the Lord for complete deliverance and continuing to gather the fruit of perseverance and longsuffering (2 Timothy 3:10-11).

Why is God Blamed?

Briefly, we find a few instances recorded in Scripture where people directly blame the Lord for their unfortunate situations. Naomi, the widow of Elimelech was one such person, who was bitter after losing her husband and two sons. For we hear her say, “… my daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me” (Ruth 1:13 HCSB). She also says, Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, … for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has pronounced judgment on me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21).

Furthermore, when tragedy struck Job, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh (Job 1:21). Equally, after discovering he was in trouble, Adam blamed God saying “the woman You put here with me…” (Genesis 3:12 NIV).

Similarly, Moses blamed God for sending him to Pharaoh, given the harsh treatment Pharaoh and his officials meted out to the Israelites (Exodus 5:22-23). In these few Scriptures, we see two undeniable facts, namely: God is present and has a direct interest in the status quo; and knowing God’s fearful POWER, the affected individual questions why He has allowed this unfortunate situation to happen.

As humans, our immediate response to an unfortunate situation is “where is God and why did He allow this to happen to me?” The Bible says that a day of evil is reserved for all mankind (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3; Job 14:1; Acts 20:24). The world, as we know it, is filled with every kind of evil all around. I have heard people arguing that God is the author of all the confusion and evil in the world since He created everything (1 Corinthians 14:33). We do know that all things are from God (Psalm 24:1; 50:12), and that He is almighty, but He does not bring evil (James 1:13). Evil is executed upon us when the evil doer intends to harm us (Genesis 50:20; 1 Peter 5:8-9). It is wicked to blame God when we are being trapped by evil. Shall God, who says “Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 NIV), still bring evil upon us? If we consider God to be a fair and righteous God, after having brought evil upon us, would He have a basis to judge the guilty if He was the author of such evil? (2 Thessalonians 1:5-8; 2:5-8; Proverbs 11:21). Therefore, if the Scriptures declare that our sin reveals God’s righteousness (Romans 3:5-8), can we still blame Him when bad things happen to us? No! The Lord God will punish those who are responsible for the evil against us! (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

Scripturally, we have proved above that God created everything except evil, for evil is an act of rebellion against God (sin or wickedness). The Bible tells us that He created "the tree of life [which] was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9). God gave man free will and choice to eat from every tree in the garden, but He commanded him not to eat from tree of the knowledge of good and evil; violation of this command would lead to man's death (Genesis 2:17). We know that death and evil entered the world when man disobeyed this command (Genesis 3:6; 16-19). In His great love for man, God gave man commands to live by, choices and consequences that lead to eternal life or death, blessing or disaster. He pleads with us to "choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Some might find the Scripture in Isaiah 45:7 as saying God created evil, but we know evil was allowed to co-exist with good in the world so that man may choose good and life. The word “evil” as used in the Bible is from a Hebrew word that means “adversity, affliction, disaster, calamity, distress, misery” -- the consequences God allows to come upon us a result of our rebellion against His Word and commands (Jeremiah 32:23). If God was the author of evil, He would not have given us commands to live by in order to root out evil; would He? (Luke 11:28; Deuteronomy 11:13). Being a just and holy God, He thus separates Himself from sinful behaviour - He is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  Therefore, blaming God when people sin against us, or when bad things happen to us, is wicked and shows folly and faithlessness. Job reacted in a dignified way when he rather praised God despite his predicament (Job 1:20-21). In addition, Satan asked for permission from God to make job’s life miserable. The devil used all kinds of evil devices, causing death, suffering and devastation (Job 1:1-22; 2:1-10). Briefly, Satan used evil, but God preserved and rebuilt Job’s life and fully restored him (Job 42:12-17). During King David's 40-year reign, he had many ups and downs, and he wrote many of his Psalms when he was under great distress. Instead of blaming God, he chose to humble himself and trust Him, finding comfort in God's goodness and praising Him in spite of the dire circumstances he was going through.  In the end he was blessed - "he died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor" (1 Chronicles 29:26-28).

Is There Evil in the World?

Without going into complex theological questions and debates, The Bible asserts that after the fall of man, evil became part of human nature and bad things followed as a result of that condition (Genesis 3:1-19; 6:5). As human beings, we conveniently only blame God when things are going against us, but when things are going well with us, we express our satisfaction through indulgent appreciation. We receive God's blessings without complaining, and celebrate these as "good fortunes" or "good luck". After the fall, God allowed evil into this world to exist alongside us so that in our distress we should long for His grace and deliverance (Genesis 3:22-24; 2 Corinthians 1:1-11). Humans share this planet with Satan and demonic spirits who come and go as they please (Job 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8). It must also be recalled that Satan used people,  nature and his own evil powers to cause Job harm (Job 1:13-19; 2:1-9). Satan also requested a similar request to destroy Peter, but an intercessory prayer from the Lord Jesus rendered the devil's evil plans useless (Luke 22:31).

In addition, the Bible warned the inhabitants of the earth that Satan has come to the earth to steal, kill and destroy souls (John 10:10; Revelation 12:12). This prophetic passage is an account of what happened in the Heavens at the fall of Satan; he was hurled down to the earth together with his demonic host (Revelation 12:9; Luke 10:18). His work is to deceive and give God a bad name so that he can "cash in" on people's souls. Therefore, evil is decreed to operate on this earth until the final consummation (Matthew 13:27-30). Our relief and protection is in Christ alone against the unseen evil. WATCH OUT O' PEOPLE, EVIL IS OUR NEIGHBOR; JESUS CHRIST IS OUR ONLY HIDING PLACE! (Genesis 4:7; Colossians 1:15-20).

As it is, God having seen the evil that man brought upon himself through disobedience (Romans 5:12-21), He gave us Jesus Christ to rescue us from the effects of sin and all the evil resulting from this. The Lord God came with a message, saying that He loved the world and wants to save the human race from the coming evil (wages of sin) through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18; Matthew 3:7). By coming to Christ, we become children of God (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1a) and are guaranteed victory and a complete escape from all harm and evil, and lasting peace for the hereafter (Isaiah 57:2; Psalm 37:37; Matthew 25:21). In this age, however, we will have trouble, for the nature of evil is kindled against all mankind; but God gives comfort and hope (John 16:33; Romans 15:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:16).

Warning of Pending Trouble

In a short message recently, the Lord warned a sister (through Charis) that trouble was decreed against her and that she must "WATCH OUT for wicked people". The Lord warned her saying that Satan was using people to destroy her life in three messages. She disregarded the Lord's warning and she was trapped by evil and this led her to sin. The Lord in His Mercy granted her grace. This is reminiscent of trouble that was decreed against Paul; it still occurred, but God was glorified through his suffering (Acts 21:11). In a separate incident, my wife lost her cellphone and in comforting her, the Lord said that she had ignored the Holy Spirit who warned her to guard her phone. As a result of her ignoring the Holy Spirit her phone was stolen.

If we are constantly in prayer and have faith, the Lord will warn us of looming danger, otherwise if we are not vigilant in prayer and shun sin, we'll be trapped by evil (Luke 21:36). When we continue in sinful desires, such evil will catch up with us, for sin is generous - it pays a wages! (Romans 6:23). Therefore, when we sin the compensation for evil is just because we fail to heed warning.

There is earned evil as a consequence of our actions and our failure to heed warnings: for example the Lord allowed an evil Spirit to torment Saul (1 Samuel 19:9); David was promised calamity after the extramarital affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband (2 Samuel 12:9-14); after Solomon sinned, God raised adversaries against him (1 Kings 11:14-25); Some people were also struck with leprosy as in the case of Miriam when she spoke against Moses (Numbers 12:10), and King Uzziah who sinned in the temple of The Lord by trying to burn incense (2 Chronicles 26:20); King Josiah died in battle as a result of ignoring God's command through Necho king of Egypt (2 Chronicles 35:21-24); etc. Likewise, many people will ultimately inherit wrath in Hell for rejecting Jesus as their Savior (Matthew 25:46; John 5:27-29; Matthew 13:46-48; Hebrews 10:26-31; Hebrews 12:25; Revelation 20:12-15). The Bible also warns us against evil that is planned against us resulting in trials, and this is equally dangerous (Jeremiah 38:6; John 16:33); however, the Word of God encourages us to rejoice in such sufferings (Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9; James 1:2-4).

Remember, the Lord chastises those He loves, and He wants us to repent (Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19); we need not confuse God's judgement of his children against the consequences of sin. In the Old Testament sin was punished almost immediately, but when Jesus Christ came God allowed events to run the way they are, but set a day aside to finally judge all rebellion (2 Thessalonians 1:3-11). However, this marvelous act of God's grace should not be taken advantage of (2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Peter 2:4-9); Sin still results in evil consequences (Galatians 6:8), the ultimate and severest of which is is death (Romans 6:23).

God our Comforter

In this evil world, bad things happen to the righteous and the ungodly alike (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3). However, for the righteous, God stands ready to provide us with help we need, if we wholly trust Him (Psalm 50:15; 91:15; 121:1-2). The Lord promised that He would never leave those who trust in Him, nor forsake those whose faith is in Him (Hebrews 13:5). These are familiar Scriptures and I know when trouble hits us we usually don’t appreciate the value of such comfort from the Lord.

The most discomforting thing in life is trouble that comes against us. Sometimes, we are directly responsible for the trouble, and sometimes we are just innocent victims. The point we are making is this: if we face trouble, we have God to comfort us and to deliver us from such discomfort, as He did with Job, Naomi, Daniel, and many others. Trouble is therefore unavoidable in this life and an evil day is reserved for all of us (Ecclesiastes 9:12). Scripturally, we know God uses the evil that was intended and turns it into comfort for us and for His glory (Genesis 50:20). God does not bring evil, He works against evil for our good (Isaiah 9:6; Romans 8:28).

Finally, throughout the Bible, God promises deliverance (Psalm 91:1-16; Isaiah 43:2; Job 5:19). Therefore, brace yourself for deliverance when you trust in God in the day of trouble! It is not right to blame God when we are trapped by bad things. The Lord warns us that bad things are bound to happen, through temptations or otherwise (Matthew 18:7), but the one causing it will be held responsible. While trouble is inevitable, it might be an opportunity for us to reach to God for help and apply His grace to obedient living (John 5:14; 8:10-11).

I would like to conclude by saying that serving the Lord is NOT a guarantee that we would be trouble-free. In their address to Christians, Paul, Peter, James and the Lord Jesus Christ acknowledged that suffering would be part of the salvation package (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 4:12-19; James 1:2; John 15:20). It is our response, through faith and obedience, that would determine if we trusted in the Lord, rather than blaming Him.

Let us therefore stop blaming God when bad things happen to us and in the world; this heaps up judgement against us. Is our situation blinding us to make God our scape-goat when He promises to help us? Do you think God genuinely intends to cause us pain, trouble and conflict when He commands us to come to Him for comfort (Matthew 11:28-29)? Brethren, we must acknowledge the existence of evil and that bad things are as a result of evil. God plays no malicious role; His intention is to genuinely rescue us from all evil and things that troubles us.  That is why He will create a new heaven and a new earth as a new beginning and also wipe away all our tears (Revelation 21:1-4).

Being a parent, I would not like to cause pain to any of my children; do you genuinely believe God delights in our troubles? The Lord Himself says: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live”; He urgently pleads with us to “Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die…?” (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11)? The Lord Jesus encourages us to be "faithful servants" who are always prepared (Matthew 24:45-51; Matthew 25:19-23). He has already forewarned us that things will only get progressively worse as His second coming nears (Matthew 24:1-35; 2 Timothy 3:5; Revelation 8:13).

Have you been blaming God for all your troubles and growing further away from Him? Have you been under attack from the enemy and feel that God is far from you? Do you want to become a child of God who will overcome evil? Our Heavenly Father has reserved just love for the entire human race; repent now and escape to Him for deliverance! Here is a Prayer of Sincere Repentance to get you started in a renewed relationship with Him. For any questions or comments on this article or our ministry, please contact us.

Blessed grace,
Brother Glenn.
PS: You may read Part II here Blaming God When Bad Things Happen – Part II.