What are trials? Trials are God’s vices of life. A "stress test" if you will. Have you ever had a stress test? Do you ever feel like the very life is being squeezed out of you from the inside out? True enough it is…squeezing your “life” out of you, that you might die to self. Scripture states that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies there can be no life. So it is with us…we must die to our own ideas, our own way of doing things, old habits, patterns, and scripts we learned in our family of origin that we incorporated to keep us safe, or to find love…looking in all the wrong places. Jesus says, “We must lose our life to find life so God can live His life through us.
What is your pressure of life? Are you screaming? Are you complaining? Are you becoming angry at life, uh, at God, because things didn't work out the way you thought they would or perhaps the way they should have? Could it be that your tendency is not to be angry and bitter, but you buckle down to do more and more of the same thing, believing you are on the right track. Perhaps you are a “people pleaser” and you try to conform, or perhaps you are a “controller” and you try to tell everyone what they need to do to be the “right” kind of person, or maybe you’re an “avoider.” One that refuses to deal with difficult issues, sticking your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away.
Be assured, God is in control and He is allowing this very thing in your life to bend you His direction. If you resist long enough, you will be broken, but it won’t be for God and it will end up in disaster. But the good news is…that God is the God of many chances. And when you bend, with him in control, he remakes you into His person.
Want to see God’s glory? Be still and wait. Wait to see what God will do. Listen, listen harder, listen longer…then you will be able to see, not with your physical eye, but with your spiritual eyes. Do you have ears to hear, and eyes to see? God is good! God does care! God is in control! You can trust His judgment! He knows exactly what he is doing. He knows exactly what is needed to prepare you to live on this earth, to live for His glory, and to live in heaven. That which will bring him glory and honor while you are in the “dash.” That’s the little space between the dates…born and died. Accept those things in life as a test. They are not meant to destroy you. James says, God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. God tests us. That is very different. A test is created to make us stronger, to identify our shortcomings and our weaknesses, so we can find our true North. So we can shed all the old behaviors that we employed to keep us safe and find love. God’s test is to always lift us up, to prove Himself on our behalf. Satan’s temptation is just the opposite…to defeat us, to destroy us, to steal what is rightfully ours, and in the end, to kill us. He hates, and his temptation is meant to destroy. God loves, and his test is meant to bring us closer to himself. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." James 1:17. It is very possible that the test and the temptation are tied up in the exact same event. I've experienced that before. Between the vices there is a place of obedience that will be difficult, but there is also a place of temptation to keep you stuck in your own self-preservation...that choice which you think will protect you...keep you safe, is the very thing that will destroy you. And that choice which you think will be the death of you, is exactly that..the death of the old way of life and it ends up bringing life....abundantly.
If you fail, to recognize the test and you hold on to your “life” (your old way of protecting or your old way of loving and getting love, you can be assured you will have to take the same test again, and again, until you master it. Be assured, it will get harder and harder each time. The vice will close tighter and tighter until the pressure is so great that you will agree with God, and you will yield to Him because you cannot change your situation, and then, when you can no longer carry the burden…you will give it to Jesus, he carries the burden for you. He becomes the burden bearer. Rest and peace comes that only He can give. And, you passed the test. When you decide you can do nothing, but worship, offer a sacrifice of praise, and surrender, God will meet you there. The pressure will ease, peace will come. The circumstance has not changed one iota, but you have changed. He is in the vice with you and he is taking the pressure. That’s when you can see his glory and “feel” his presence. Hallelujah! Psalms 39:10, 27:13, 30:5, 40, Heb 12:11, and Isaiah 40:31. Pressure forms some of the greatest jewels and gems in our natural world. Likewise, pressure is meant to conform us into a new creature. Two of the major reasons people change is either because of insight or circumstances, and it’s usually a combination of both. God’s divine plan is that when we operate outside the spiritual laws of the universe, whatever we create outside of his will, it absolutely must fall apart…it must. Universal laws keep our universe in order, keeps our galaxy in order…up and running otherwise it will come crashing down. Likewise, the spiritual laws govern our relationships and they must be followed or they too will come crashing down. Has to….designed that way.
How you respond to the trials of life…will determine the outcome. Will you be “bitter” or “better” as a result of your trials. The only difference is one letter. The difference is when the “I” of me changes to the “E” of Emanuel…Jesus, our Coach, Savior, life-giver. NO PAIN---NO GAIN! And you thought that was only in sports, right? We are to keep our head up and our feet movin’. Keep your eyes on the Coach! Just as an Olympic athlete trains not for the silver or the bronze, but His all-out effort is to get the gold. So it is with God…He is after the gold…the gold in you… and he will get it. But are you spending your efforts on a perishable prize, or an immutable, permanent prize that does not fade or decay? The follower of Christ does not hang his head in shame as the difficulties of life come upon him! He will choose to trust in a God that loves, and by his poise and grace, by the power of the Spirit, will declare to all the world that God is able to deliver, yes to glorify Himself in all that which has come to pass.
Death to self is a very painful thing. Will I continue to point my finger at everything outside of me, blaming God, blaming others, accusing and getting focused on the speck that is in someone else’s eye, while ignoring the beam that is in my own? I cannot change them, but I can, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit… change me He changes me as I yield to him. I can enlarge my circle of influence and focus on me and take the pressure off of someone else to perform to my standards. When the trials bring me there, I’m in a very good place, for now, I might be able to listen. Imagine your child needed to be disciplined. They are rolling on the floor in a fit of rage. Do you pick up that child and try to explain what they did wrong? Of course not! You wait until they have calmed down and then you comfort and explain the reason for the discipline. God is no different. As long as we are rolling on the floor, whining, and complaining, we couldn't hear God speak if he yelled…and he doesn't. But…when we shut up, and look up…We can begin to hear him calling us…faintly at first, but it gets louder…and louder and louder, the more we listen, and obey….the easier it is to hear. Can you hear him calling you?
If we are where God wants us…looking at ourselves…If we are doing what God wants us to, following, submitting, listening, obeying, our difficulties are trials to teach, refine and correct. The trials will help us check our heart, to make sure we are walking with God and they will help us grow in him. If there is un-confessed sin and a stubborn will to do what we want, seeking our own way, refusing to listen and obey, then our difficulties could be discipline or chastisement. Consequences come in many forms. If we fail to do what we know is right or good for us, as in taking good care of our health, then the consequences are a natural result of bad choices. God put those natural consequences in order when he created us. If we don’t take care of what we have, we will lose it. That goes for just about anything….especially our bodies. Our bodies are created with an awesome ability to repair itself when given the correct ingredients to do that. Put water in the gas and the car won’t run. Put poison, no vitamins, too much fat, and sugar and before long the body’s cells begin to break down and disease and brokenness sets in. Once we realize we have abused our bodies, and turn the tide, begin to eat correctly, exercise some, and rest appropriately, then the body can make great strides to repair itself. The question then is are we willing to be broken enough to change our years of habits? The spiritual laws work the same way. Are we willing? Are we willing to let the Potter grind off the rough edges that are not becoming to us or to Him. It is never easy, but it can be done, and it gets easier as we learn to hear his voice, and obey quickly. The only way we can do that is if we spend time with him. Am I thirsty? He says if I diligently seek Him, I will find Him…The question is in my definition of diligent. I don’t think my diligent matches his definition. I probably need to work on that. God, you’ll help me won’t you. I trust you will.