Trials: The (Valuable) Hand of God

I had a dream a few nights ago, and it is in fact a corporate word for the Body of Christ. I will briefly share the dream, for the sake of context, followed by a short explanation of its meaning; and then I hope to expound on its meaning with the support of some Scriptures.

The dream or word is particularly relevant, since I just posted a teaching on justice and judgement under the New Covenant.

I dreamed I was walking alongside a man, who was a lawyer. He wore a very old and worn out suite jacket. I on the other hand wore a brand new suite which was quite lovely. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, he invited me to his restaurant. There, in his restaurant was much revelry and eating and drinking. I chose to go to another restaurant. As I sat down I ordered a starter. It cost of Forty Rand, (About the price of a Mcdonalds burger). When the starter arrived it was a small and ordinary piece of brown bread with a drop of butter on it. The butter had been applied without care and looked sloppy. In fact, it did not even cover the entire piece of bread. There was the small piece of dry meat on the bread as well. I sent the meal back, and I was angry that they presented such a poor starter, for it was not worth the money.

The lawyer in the dream, with the old jacket represents The Law, and the Old Covenant concept of judgement.

My jacket represents a New Covenant perspective on judgement.

The restaurants represent churches, where people feed their souls on the word of God.

The number 40 represents a trial or testing.

The price of the item represents the cost or more importantly the value of a trial or test.

Poorly prepared food, represents an incorrect doctrine or belief system.
I believe that the Lord is saying that when we walk with an Old Testament view of judgement, then we have a distorted view of trials and tests. When we hold this view, we may potentially equate any trial, or test as the judgment of God in our lives. The trials and tests which the Lord allows in our lives are not the result of sin in our lives, whereas the judgment of God, from an Old Covenant perspective is a direct consequence of sin. Maintaining the Old Testament view of judgement then has a two-fold effect:

We believe that everything must always go well with the believer if they keep themselves from sin (Which is why there was so much revelry in the restaurant).

We reduce the value of the testing and trials which God permits  in our lives. We cheapen it, by serving a doctrine to the church that does not reflect the true value of the trial. We either do not recognize the true value and cost of the trial, or we reduce the trial to the consequence of sin in our lives. Both views are false.

Let us evaluate the dream through the Word of God. (As an aside, please refer to my post on 16 December 2015 on the subject of Justice, to gain an understanding of judgment and justice under the present dispensation of Christ. In short: Judgement in Christ is the restoration of Divine order on earth, and is not necessarily the consequence of sin in the life of a Christian).

I guess that a good place to start the discussion is to evaluate if the Lord tests people? Or to consider if trials are the direct consequence of His will?

The Hebrew word “nasah” is translated as “tested” in the Bible. The word means: “to test, tempt, tried or proved”.

The first mention of this word, occurs in Genesis 22:1, and it reads as follows: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am”. Notice the word is translated “tempt” by the KJV as opposed to test by the ASV. Both the translations stem from the same Hebrew word “nasah”. At this point, I am not overly concerned with the translation, rather, I wish to point out that God is the Source of the test. (Yes, I know, about the passage in James 1:13 that says that God does not tempt us….) The word within context implies that God will not tempt us with sin. In other words, He may, for example, test your heart towards your wife, by seeing if you are willing to serve her as Jesus served the Body. He will however not test your heart toward your wife by exposing you to pornography.

There are yet more words that could be translated as a trial or a test. The Hebrew word “Massah” also translates as: “A test, trial or proving”.

The first mention of this word occurs in Deuteronomy 4:34, and it reads: “Or hath God assayed to go [and] take him a nation from the midst of [another] nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? We again come across that word “tempatation” in this passage. I wish to point out yet again, that the Lord is the source of the temptation, trial and test.

There is a certain reluctance within the Body of Christ to accept that the Lord Himself tests us. What if we understood the reason for the test? What I mean by this is;  what if we had the Lord’s perspective on the test, and we saw His heart in the test. Moreover, what if we, by faith, saw the result of the test – the end from the beginning as it were.

I found six reasons why the Lord tests us. I am sure there are more reasons, but I wish to concentrate on these only. My departure point is simply this: God is the source of the trial, and as a result of Him being Love, we need to try and understand His motives in the trial, through the lens of love that is. Then, we may as a consequence see the tremendous value that the Lord places on the tests He lays before us.

Perhaps the most profound revelation I gained during my study was that God tests the righteous. Psalm 11:5 reads as follows: “The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth”. Notice, that even in trials and testings, the Lord makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. My flesh, and carnal wisdom would have guessed it to be otherwise. I would have thought that the Lord would put the unrighteous through trials, because He loves us, and hates them. The converse however is true. If we explore De 4:34 it makes a similar point: “Or hath God assayed to go [and] take him a nation from the midst of [another] nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm…..” Notice that one of the distinctions of a chosen people, besides signs, wonders and miracles are tests and trials – or as in the the KJV “temptations”. A loving God must have a very good reason for this testing His elect. Let’s explore further.

As I mentioned earlier, the first mention of the word “tested” appears in Genesis 22:1. Now, the context in which the word appears is critical. The Lord previously gave Abraham a promise, that his son Isaac was a son of promise, and that through the promise, Abraham would become a mighty nation. In this chapter however (22:1), the Lord asks Abraham to sacrifice (that is to kill) his son. In effect, the Lord is asking Abraham to slay his promise. Well, most of us know how the story rolls out, I mean here we are sitting alive and well as Sons-of-Abraham.

Herein lies the key to the story – Abraham was tested by God, he obeyed and passed the test. This is the first reason why God tests us: So that we may inherit that which was promised to us. Reflect if you will, on verse 17 of the same chapter. It reads: “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice”.

The Lord makes it perfectly clear that because Abraham obeyed God, and (therefore passed the test), he would be blessed – and what a blessing he received!

The author of Hebrews in 11:17 ratifies this promise for us, the New Testament believer by quoting the story of Abraham. His trial becomes our trial, and we who endure the trial, like him will receive the promises of God. Let us look at a few more examples. When we read in Hebrews 11:26-27, of how Moses endured His trial for the reward set before him we are  reminded that on the other side of every trial is a reward. The book of Revelation carries many such promises for us. I list some of those Scriptures here: Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 3:26. Please, please please meditate on the promises on the others side of those trials: Power over nations, pillars in the temple of God, a new name, a bearer of the Name of God, and the promise of not going out anymore. Finally, a promise to sit down with Jesus on His throne. I don’t know about you, but I hope to never cheapen a trial or test from God again.

I guess it is difficult to believe that the Lord intends for us to go through a trial so that we may receive a promise. His ways are however higher than ours, and His wisdom so much greater (Isaiah 55:8-9). I think it may help to study the life of Jesus. His life testifies of  two truths within this context:
1. The Lord himself is the source of the trial.
2. The Lord holds a reward and promise for those who endure, and pass the test.
Hebrews 12:2 reads: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

And then there is Philippians 2:8-9, which proves that the worst of trials produces the greatest rewards. It reads: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”.

The Second reason the Lord tests us, is to know our hearts. I sometimes think, through my own experience, that it reveals not so much my heart to Him, but my heart to myself. That said, the Scripture says that he tests my heart, so it must so! Deuteronomy 8:2 reads: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no”.
Even He who knows everything tests us. Tests manifest the consequence and reality of free-will and choice in a tangible way. Every tests allows us to choose life or death, will we choose God’s Kingdom or the kingdom of darkness. It is just as the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 16:4: “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no”. Not only is the Lord testing Israel here, but it is a test in reverse. He produces the promise of (providing) bread upfront, only to know and expose their hearts. It is as if He is saying to them, if I made good on My Word, would you still honor and obey Me?

The third reason the Lord may test us, is to produce patience within us. Patience and faith are related. They are sisters within the family of promise, and when they grow up they manifest as maturity. Let us read James 1:2-4: “ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”.
The word “perfect” in verse 4 may actually be translated as “mature”. So you see that the patience produced through the trial actually has a maturing process.
The Apostle Paul caught hold of this revelation in Romans 5:3-5. He faced trials with the mark of a truly mature Christian – with joy, and hope, and these qualities in turn produced an experience of God. He then walks away from trials with an experience of His God. Herein lies the fourth reason God tests us. To give us an experience of Him.
God reveals Himself to us through trials. I mean look at poor old Abraham, the man was rich, so rich in fact that his male servants were sufficient to amass a personal army, strong enough to defeat four kings. That said, in Genesis 22, God asks Him to offer the one thing he could not buy – his only son. And what happened later is that God provided a ram in the thicket to slaughter in his son’s stead. From that time forward, Abraham knew God as Yehovah Jireh – The God Who Provides. The trial served as introduction to the character and nature of God. How very strange that God introduced Himself as Provider to a man who had everything, and who was in need of nothing. Perhaps the introduction was always meant to reveal the supernatural character of a supernatural God. He was the God who provided the impossible; a son to a man as who was as good as dead.

Let us read Deuteronomy 29:2-4: “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
4 Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
Moses offers some retrospective revelation to Israel. There is a degree of irony in his belated encouragement to them after the trials. They were tested by GOD in the wilderness for sure, (Deuteronomy 4:34 and 7:19, Exodus 16:4), but unto what end? Moses unscrambles the puzzle for them. He reminds them that every trial, came with the promise of a supernatural miracle. More to the point, the trials served as introduction to the character and nature of God. Every trial was God sending them a love letter, inviting them to know Him. Every test, was as if Jesus was sitting before His disciples saying: “I know who the Egyptians and your circumstances say who I am, but who do you say that I am?”. Now, they truly had eyes opened to see and their ears opened to hear, and now were given a heart that understood who their God was. This is what our trials and tests are meant to produce – the assured knowing of who our God is. Job said it best after his test: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee”. Every trial must produce an experiential knowing of our God, or else it is wasted.

There is yet another reason we endure trials; and that is to perfect our faith. 1 Peter 1:7 makes it clear as day: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”. You see, this is another reason why in my dream I was angry at how cheap they had made the trial or test, because in this passage the Lord makes it clear that the trial of faith is expensive, costly and dear. It is something to be treasured. Some may feel that Peter is referring to faith here as the precious commodity in this context, however gold, like faith is refined in the fire, and I believe herein lies the true context of the passage. It is in fact the trial of our  faith that is the item of value.

The final reason why I believe the Lord tests us,  is so that we may  partake of the sufferings of Christ. 1 Peter 4:12-13 lays it out for us:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy”. This is yet another reason why in the dream I was angry, because it cheapens the suffering of Christ. Just as plainly as Christ had to suffer for the glory set before Him, so we are often called to do the same. It is an honor and not something to be despised. Every aspect of the trials we touched on today points to a reward – a great one at that – if we endure and overcome the test before us. How can this be cheapened, or reduced to a judgement from God because of an act of sin or disobedience?
James 1:12 also proves that there is a reward, or promise for those who endure the tests set before them. But, James a step further and implies that tests come to those who are not only loved by God, but those who love Him. If we love Him, we need to embrace our trials knowing that these are the exclusive domain of His chosen.
Psalm 11:5 makes it clear that these tests are the privilege of those who are called righteous – those in whom God delights. Those He calls His own. In your fire and in your trial know this, that these moments are the exclusive domain of His elect. The Elect-of-the-Elect. Joseph in the pit, Daniel in the Lions Den, and Jesus on the Cross. Let us not be like Peter, who called Jesus away from His trial, thinking the trial to be the work of the devil (Only then to be called satan by Jesus). Or, let us not be like Job’s friends  who reduce the trial to a judgment. God’s wisdom is madness to the world, and there is a method to it. His method in all the madness is the greatest paradox of an infinitely wise and loving God.

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2 thoughts on “Trials: The (Valuable) Hand of God

  1. A timely word indeed in a church culture of fast food , instant gratification and painless praise. Well worth the read and certainly encouraging to those who have been on the path of long suffering for some time without any immediate prospects for imminent relief.

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