God’s Testing Process

original article by Larry Burkett

  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
(James 1:2-3)

In His great wisdom, God has ordained that the perfecting of our faith and walk with Him should come by way of testing. God allows problems and circumstances to occur that will break our stubbornness, keep us dependent upon Him, and make us profitable for His service.

So often our first reaction to the pressures that accompany the testing process is to question God or try to escape, but should we?

Of course, there are times in all our lives when we feel defeated and would like to get away from it all. If that happens to 40- to 50-year-olds, we usually blame it on mid-life crisis. In reality, such crises come at every stage of life.

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said, “Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.”

Until we come to the point of total dependence on God, in good times or bad, we are not really useful in His plan.

God, what is Your plan for me this day? I know You will be with me, no matter what happens.

Pride & Accountability

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.”
(Proverbs 16:5)

Dealing With Pride
original article by Larry Burkett

In order to cure a disease, we must first be able to recognize its symptoms.

Once we are trapped by our pride, we are of no service to God. Without a change and a commitment to accountability, we will not even be aware of our attitude of pride.

God will give us plenty of opportunity to recognize and correct the attitude of pride. The difficulty most times is admitting we have a problem.

It is vital for us to stay open to criticism, particularly from those who are spiritually discerning. Those most consistent in discerning our faults are usually our spouses. God has placed them in our lives as a balance, and they will help to off set our extremes if we will listen.

When we find that we only want to associate with the “right” people and look down at others because they’re less educated, less intelligent, or less successful, then we are no longer useful to God and His work.

We must actually demonstrate that no one person is more or less important than another.

Who do you think is most important in God’s sight?

The apostle Paul wrote, “With humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself ” (Philippians 2:3).

How do you break out of the pride trap? Vow to serve God and God’s people, and then make yourself accountable to others.

Is pride a problem in your life?

How Long, O Lord?

article by Dr. Charles Stanley

No one likes delays. And nothing diminishes the pain we feel as the days pass and we continue to struggle with our hopes and fears. Whether it’s the hours that throw off our plans, the days and weeks that cause uncertainty, or the years we spend wondering if God will ever fulfill His promises to us, it’s human to feel frustrated, anxious, and as if our hopes are dying within us.

Why? Because we lack control over our circumstances. Someone else seems to be impeding our progress—deciding how the scant moments we’ve been given in this life will be spent and preventing us from enjoying the one thing we think will truly make us happy.

Like David, we cry out, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?” (Ps.13:1).

I don’t know what it is you’re hoping for, but I know firsthand that waiting on God is one of the most difficult lessons to learn. I imagine that, like David, there’s a lot of pain in your heart as you wait. Perhaps you fear the Lord’s forgotten you. Maybe you can’t help but wonder, Why not me? What makes me so unworthy? Friend, though I know it hurts more deeply than words can express, please be assured that there’s always hope with our heavenly Father. As you go through your season of waiting, you must always remember that …

The Lord isn’t neglecting you and hasn’t forgotten you. He’s working in the unseen on your behalf (Isa. 64:4)—every single moment. Your responsibility is to set your heart on Him and trust that your life is safe in His all-powerful and loving hands.

You aren’t just waiting around, doing nothing. As you anticipate the Father’s instruction and intervention, continue serving Him as you carry out your daily business. Keep seeking, obeying, and having intimate fellowship with Him—even when circumstances don’t seem to be going your way. 

You’re not missing worthwhile opportunities. It may seem as if you are. But if God says “No” or “Wait” about some possibility before you, trust Him. Don’t try to make it happen. Rather, count on His faultless wisdom to protect you from choices that would ultimately harm you.

You’re not alone. Everyone you know is facing a delay in some area or another. Yes, you may look around and see people enjoying the blessings you desire. You may think you’re the only one struggling with your particular issue—the only one the Father hasn’t provided for. But realize those thoughts of humiliation and defeat come from your enemy, who’s always trying to isolate and destroy you (1 Pet. 5:8-9). In every nation, there are people just like you, waiting for similar blessings and experiencing the same feelings. In fact, throughout Scripture, there’s not a man or woman whom God used in a powerful way who didn’t first face a long and difficult time of waiting. So don’t despair … take it as the Father’s special favor and guidance in your life.

Prosperity and Purpose

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ”
(Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

The Purpose of Money
by Chuck Bentley

God gave you money in order to help you fulfill His purpose for your life. That’s why it’s important for you to manage your money according to His financial principles.

Being financially free makes you able to respond to God’s leading. He does not give us money simply to spend as we desire.

If you handle money according to your own purposes, then money will become the driving force of your life.

Ask yourself: “What am I spending my life energy to accomplish? What did God really call me to do? And, how does money fit into that calling?”

Christ is the most valuable gift that you possess. So, while you’re on this earth, use money to advance His kingdom and not to build your own.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46 NIV).

Going through a Desert

I have been on an unhappy journey. Rather than go into the negativity of such a journey, I’d like to focus on what has been positive. Positively, God has carried me through this. I’m reminded often that without trials, it would be harder to appreciate good times. I recently read an article by Ruth Chou Simons, which really expands on this thought. This article is from Our Daily Bread Ministries and I really thought I should share here:

When I was growing up in New Mexico, my dad would take us on short road trips across desert highways. I’d close my eyes and snooze once we left the city and entered the miles and miles of hot, dry desert. The desert is a place to be avoided at best or ignored at the very least.

It’s easy to show up for beautiful experiences but hard to not just sleep off the things we’d rather skip in life.

Maybe it’s a situation that seems irreconcilable, a circumstance that continually chafes, or a trial that appears to have no end. Maybe it’s a season that feels like nothing living can survive and nothing new will ever grow. It’s hot and dry like the desert, and makes us desperate for sustenance and provision in a way lush growth never could.

Perhaps that’s why God chose to bring His people, the Israelites, into the desert before leading them to the Promised Land. He could have easily made the journey quick and painless, ensuring an uplifted morale and enthusiastic praise. Delivery and provision all at once! That’s how we typically want God’s help – right now and without difficulty.

But just as He demonstrated with His people in the desert, He’s more interested in capturing our hearts, receiving our genuine worship, and proving Himself faithful rather than the provider of quick fixes or temporary solutions. God purposes to give us Himself. The “way” made in the wilderness for the children of God was much more than escape from their enslavers, safe passage through the Red Sea, the daily provision of manna, or entry into the Promised Land. It was a picture of the one way, truth, and life we would ultimately know through Jesus, our Way in the wilderness of sin and death.

When we have eyes to see it, there’s so much beauty to behold in the desert. It’s lush with life that learns to survive on what He provides. It’s grand in its praise of the Master Creator. It constantly whispers of His enduring faithfulness. In a physical desert or a spiritual one, Jesus alone is the author of our hope – our balm and sustainer.

For those of us traversing what feels like wilderness, there is hope. God leads us to the desert to reveal the stream only He can carve out of the wasteland. He allows us to experience the deepest thirst so we can know the greatest satisfaction. We may feel disoriented but God makes a way in the wilderness. In the desert, we find God undeniably sufficient in the face of the seemingly insurmountable.

Whether our circumstances change or remain the same, whether we feel relief or not, whether we experience lush growth or press on in drought, we can hold fast to hope in Christ, the source of living water! In Christ, we welcome a downpour of sustaining grace by way of redemption and see the beauty of the landscape He’s led us to. He’s our only hope in every season . . . even in the desert.

Then, now, and always, God’s primary purpose for the desert is to woo his people to Himself and to demonstrate His faithfulness. He chose the desert then, and He uses it now to show us the beauty of hope – hope in Christ. Stay awake, He has so much to show you in your desert season.

Big Prayer = Big Peace

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6–7, ESV).

Throughout the day we need little arrow prayers—quick prayers in the car, in the office, in the kitchen. When we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we are connected to the Lord. But these quick-fire prayers, though important, don’t yield the deepest peace.

Nor does ritual praying. Mindless repetition is unbiblical and won’t bring you peace. Little prayers yield little peace; Big prayers yield big peace.

If you want peace, you must pray biblically. Here’s a practical checklist: fervent prayer, by yourself, out loud, kneeling down, with a list. If you pray like that for five or ten minutes, a river of peace will rush down. Peace is coming like a flood to a person praying fervently to the Lord.

The enemy of your peace is anxiety. And if you are living crippled by anxiety, that suggests your prayer life could use some focused improvement. Review the past month of your life. Have you been fretting over some things? Fearful? Anxious? Worried? Those feelings most likely increased as you moved further and further from your last, fervent prayer time with God.

On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your prayerfulness over the past month? A score of ten means you are rocking your world several times per day with faith-filled, awesome prayer. Zero means . . . zero. A prayer vacuum in your life. Perhaps you can’t even recall the last time you knelt down and prayed out loud fervently with a list.

On the same scale of one to ten, rate your anxiety level. Zero means you are calm. Nothing deeply divides you. Though bad things happen to you, they don’t rob you of peace. Ten equates to frequently freaking out, crippled by cares, and no peace.

Now notice the correlation. The lower your score in prayer—the higher your score in anxiety. The higher your score in prayer—the lower your score in anxiety. Where fervent prayer abounds, peace abounds.

If you want to lower your score in anxiety, the solution is to raise your score in prayer. This isn’t a mystery. It’s not a function of personality, as if some people are natural pray-ers and others missed out on that gene. Philippians 4:6 clearly links anxiety and prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” When anxiety goes up, you must pray it back down.

Whose Slave Are You?

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Romans 6:17–19, ESV).

If you do whatever your boss says, without hesitation or question, then for all intents and purposes you are your boss’s slave. If you do whatever your spouse wants without evaluating or considering if that is really best, you’re a slave to your spouse. And if you do whatever your sinful nature says, without resisting or discerning the wisdom in that choice, you are a slave to your sinful nature.

We can be enslaved to countless sins. To illustrate, let’s visit the sin Rolodex, flip to the letter “S,” and survey just a few of the sins we find there:

  • Stuff. Some are slaves to stuff: more money, newer car, nicer clothes, bigger house, more, more, more. Consumed with acquisition, they are slaves to things.
  • Sexuality. Some focus almost exclusively on sex. Sexuality is a gift from God but has been perverted in their thinking. They’re slaves to the sin of immoral sexual thoughts and actions.
  • Substances. Some seem to be powerless against substances: alcohol, tobacco, legal and illegal drugs, caffeine, sugar. Addicted and unable to say no, they’re slaves to a substance.
  • Someone. Sometimes people wield undue influence, even outright control, over others. The slave is controlled by and addicted to securing the approval of another. A slave is willing to do whatever is wanted, and this is another form of bondage.

Ironically, Christianity is often viewed as too restrictive. Because they do not know God, they view His rules as bondage. On the contrary, his boundaries are designed to protect us, and can’t compare to the bondage of being a slave to sin. Which brings us to the reality of our options: to be “slaves of sin” (6:17) or “slaves of righteousness” (6:18), with the consuming desire to do what God the Master wants.

Whose slave are you? Here’s how you can tell whether you’re a slave to righteousness:

  • You are acutely aware of unrighteousness in you. When you sin, you feel conviction. Your heart grieves and you feel badly for breaking God’s standard. When you set your eyes on something inappropriate, say cruel or filthy words, or make a wrong choice, you feel specific conviction.
  • You can’t ignore personal sin and have to make it right. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of a specific sin, you feel the need to ask God to forgive you and those you have offended or injured: “I’ve sinned against you, and I’m truly sorry. Please forgive me.”
  • You want to please Jesus. Can you honestly say you think of Christ a lot—not every moment, but every day? Real slaves of righteousness have the Holy Spirit inside them prompting, Would this choice be pleasing to Jesus? Is this what He wants me to do?

So whose slave are you? Do you resonate more with the description of bondage to sin—enslaved to stuff or sexuality or substance or someone or [fill in the blank]? Or are you a slave to righteousness?

Paul calls us to: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you aren’t bearing the fruit of righteousness—not perfectly, but increasingly—then you must question whether you have ever been “set free from sin [to] become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). You can’t have it both ways: you can’t be a slave to sin and a slave to God.

You were created to communicate with God

GodSpeaks

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

CREATED TO COMMUNICATE

The Bible teaches that God created us. We aren’t the result of atoms and molecules randomly running into each other. We aren’t arbitrary. We’ve been deliberately designed. There’s forethought, there’s a plan, there’s intelligence, and there’s logic behind what and who we are.

Why is it so important for us to know this? Because where there’s design there’s also direction. Where there’s a purpose there’s also a program. When God created us, He created us with something in mind; to be and to live a certain way. What we are dictates what we should do. Essence drives activity. Construction determines function.

Here’s what we need to note next: God created us to be social beings. We see this illustrated by the fact that the first thing God made after He created the first human was another human! He didn’t leave man alone for very long because man wasn’t designed to exist in complete solitude or total isolation.

All of us were designed to interact, to commune, to communicate. Communication is God’s direction and program for us. It’s what He designed us to do…and we instinctively do it. Just look at the surge we’ve seen in cell phones, text messaging, and websites. What’s the underlying impulse that draws young and old, from Pole to Pole, to these things? It’s our embedded impulse to communicate, to converse, and to connect.

The Mystery of God’s Will by Charles Swindoll

Swindoll

Several decades ago, I read a book entitled The Mystery of God’s Will by Charles Swindoll. The book made an incredible impression on me and I took notes like crazy! I’ve carried those notes with me ever since, in order to remind me of where I can always improve my walk with God. I’ve listed those notes (at a high level) here; I hope and pray that these brief notes will drive you to this book and that it inspires you as much as it did me.

God’s Way

We can never fully comprehend God’s ways with our finite minds. He’s the potter and we are the clay. True faith is obedience without any fear or hesitation. God’s decreed will is running its course precisely. We cannot know this decreed will ahead of time; only after it occurs. God’s decreed will is absolute, unchangeable, unconditional, and always in His plan (and it’s always best). God’s permissive will is allowing things to occur; and it is definitely the will of God.

To do things God’s way requires obedience. Some things God says not to do (i.e., ten commandments). Some things God says all Christians must do: Obey parents, Marry a Christian, Work an occupation, Support your family, Give to The Lord’s work and to the poor, Rear your children by God’s standards, Meditate on scriptures, Pray, Have a joyful attitude, Assemble for worship, Proclaim Christ, Set proper values, Have a spirit of gratitude, Display love, Accept all people, and Follow God’s Word.

God’s Leading

God leads through His written word, by prompting of the Holy Spirit, through counsel of the wise, and through inner assurance of peace. Faith requires action on our part: Sometimes we need a major change of direction, not necessarily because we’re going in an evil direction but it’s just not the direction God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to substitute good for the very best.

Faith is obeying The Lord when unsure of the outcome. God wants us to walk by faith, not by sight. You are not on this earth, as a child of God, to please your family members or friends. Doing God’s will may mean persecution (Noah) – don’t expect approval of others. Walking by faith may feel lonely, or futile, but God will use you in His special plan. Doing God’s will means leaving the familiar for the unknown (Abraham). Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. God alone knows our future and there is nothing better than His will.

God’s Sovereignty

If man’s opinion is too significant to us, God may not be sovereign to us. God’s clear, pristine message to us is this: I am in charge, My way is right, and I am reigning sovereignly over you.

Our God is sovereign, which means He has a total, clear perspective. He sees the end from the beginning. There is no match on earth or in heaven. He entertains no fears, has no ignorance and has no needs. He has no limitations and always knows what’s best. He never makes a mistake. He will bring everything to a purposeful conclusion and ultimate goal. He is invincible, immutable, infinite, and self-sufficient. His judgments are unsearchable and his ways unfathomable. He is able to create rather than invent, direct rather than wish, control rather than hope, guide rather than guess, and fulfill rather than dream. – God and God alone can do these things!

God’s Plans

God’s predetermined plan is fixed. We enter a world where the essential parts of our existence are already a part of God’s history. His will is always the safest, most rewarding place to live.

There are five steps to hear from God, or as Swindoll states, “read God’s lips”:

  • Accepting frame of mind, free of stress and anxiety. You must remain open, teachable, sensitive, and available.
  • Biblical investigation. God’s will is never contrary to God’s word. Use your concordance, study God’s precepts and principles, and spend time with God. You can read God’s lips much more easily if you spend sufficient time in His word.
  • Clarification and conviction from the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit works within us like an inner compulsion. Be patient, God’s timing is perfect, and He knows His perfect plan for us. Often, the bigger the decision, the longer the wait.
  • Determine if peace is occurring. Do you have peace? If you don’t have peace, you’re not there yet.
  • Expect struggles and surprises: The will of God may mean work. Be still and have peace. This is the will of God and it is mysterious!

God’s Faithfulness

God is faithful to stay right where he is. When we compromise the truth, God doesn’t move; we do. The Lord’s loving-kindness never ceases. The Lord’s Compassions never fail. The Lord’s faithfulness never diminishes. God doesn’t call you into situations to be compared to someone else. The success that follows doing God’s will rests with God, not you.

God’s Surprises

God’s preferred method is surprise – expect it. His surprises require flexibility and adaptability; the process of internal development. Surprises have purposes. Pray, “What can I learn from this?” Surprises from God teach us to think theologically. Most of life is learning and growing, falling and getting back up, forgiving and forgetting, and accepting and moving on.

God opens and shuts doors. You may feel His leading, and invest resources, and then bang the door shuts. It’s often difficult to know why. God reveals His will only in the pages of His word. With prayer, the word, the Spirit’s dwelling within us, and wise counsel, we need nothing more than willing hearts. Once you feel God starting to lead you, immediately pray. Doors are closed, doors are opened, and lives are changed. Human understanding is very limited. Quit trying to make everything humanly logical. The will of God is that we ultimately become more like Christ. Think theologically. And be ready for the surprises of God.

Share Jesus with Others

Mark 16:15 – [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” 

 SJWF pic

I have taught Share Jesus without Fear for years at FBC Kissimmee, http://sharejesuswithoutfear.com/

According to Bill Fay, it takes an average person 7.6 times of hearing the gospel before making a decision to follow Christ. One of those times could be from you!

God has not asked us to change a person’s life; WE CANNOT do so anyway, but He’s called us to plant seeds of faith in others. God is glorified when we share His plan with His creation. He created each of us to have a relationship with Him and many don’t even know they have a Creator.

Praise God and glorify Him by telling somebody about Him this week!