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When God Tests You, Is It Because He Needs To Know Something?

How often have you paused and considered the tests and trials you go through in life? Have you slowed down long enough to enumerate them?

More importantly, have you ever considered why God tests us? Is it because He needs to know how we’ll respond? You think that’s air you’re breathing, Neo?

I’ve heard countless sermons about God testing Abraham. The story is found in Genesis 22. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son in fire (something God later strictly prohibits). Isaac was the son promised to Abraham decades earlier and God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac. All of the sermons I’ve heard have focused on how God needed to know that Abraham viewed God as more important to him than his beloved son.

Good Teachers Use Tests

When you take tests in high school and college is it so the teacher can know your skill level? Is it so the school system can evaluate you and tailor their entire education system to meet the needs of your particular deficiency? No, you take tests to see for yourself where you fall short of the expectations of your particular educational institution. Good teachers don’t test you and then lower the standards you don’t measure up to. Good teachers test you and then prod you to do better in the areas you fail.

And we all have failed in school somewhere along the way. Even if failure to you is getting a “B.” In life, we all fail a lot.

A man in church prayed over the microphone one Sunday morning, “God, in case you didn’t know, Miss Sally Bedford is sick in the hospital and it would be nice if she got better.” The prayer is almost childlike in its simplicity and innocence, but completely wrong in its understanding. So often are we when we think of God’s tests.

God doesn’t need to see how we’ll respond to testing. He knows fully well how we’ll respond. He’s more than a good teacher, He’s the Great Teacher. Seriously, He’s really good at this. It’s not God who needs to know how we’ll respond under pressure.

It’s us.

Composure Under Pressure

Without knowing how we respond in times of light pressure, how will we know how to respond in times of great trial? When you enlist in the military they immediately send you through a grueling several months of physical, emotional and often sleep-deprived torture. Because they love to torture you? Some brand new privates may think so, but the truth is found in the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman, “War is hell.” The military makes sure that every recruit is tested when they can control the situation before they are subjected to the real hell that awaits; open combat.

We are at war. We have a very real enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). If you don’t think you’re at war or haven’t considered the nature of that war, then you are likely less prepared (or unprepared) for the very real hell that exists and awaits its victims. God tests us now so that we have a controlled environment in which to evaluate or own hearts and spiritual condition. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

As humans, we wear spiritual blinders to our own condition. Our ability to lie to ourselves and walk in self-deception is great. We need God’s testing to reveal to us the true nature of our heart in every area we are willing to give over to Him. The more we are willing, the more He will expose. The more He exposes, the more pain we feel, but the more He exposes, the more prepared we are for what the enemy would throw at us.

Know Me, God

When God tests us it rarely feels like a controlled environment. Most often it just feels like pain. But when we seek God in prayer He is so faithful to give us wisdom (James 1:5). We need that wisdom to perceive that God is testing us and not rejecting us, tormenting us or abandoning us. He loves us and He is always trying to prepare us as kingdom advancers who can lay hold of it with tenacity (Matthew 11:12).

David said it best when he wrote:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Psalm 139: 23-24

So what about you? Do you think God needs to know how you’ll respond, or do you think you need to know? Do you want to know? When you’re ready to know, the prayer above is a great place to start.

God is good and He always desires the best for us. Ask Him to reveal your heart and expose the darkness that hides inside and you will be in for an exciting journey that will far outweigh the pain you experience in life.

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Prayer & Fasting Written Word

Who Are You Voting For?

I know who I’m voting for. Do you?

That’s often one of the most provocative questions that gets asked these days. We all have our reasons for who we’re going to vote for. Often times, we think of our vote cast as for the lesser of two evils. No one person running for president will ever hold every one of the views we feel are personally important. But what if there were a candidate who did?

What if I told you there was the perfect candidate? What if I told you there was someone you could cast your vote for who would change our nation in just the right ways, benefitting all people, not just a small, wealthy constituency? What if there was a candidate who approved of people making lots of money in honest ways while never letting a poor person fall through the cracks? Would you vote for him?

I know I will.

You’re not stupid. You know I’m talking about God. But you’re probably thinking I’m the stupid, naive one. I assure you I’m not.

Voting for God will never disappoint. Let’s take a look at what God has been able to do in the past to illustrate what I’m talking about.

 

King David

God put in place a leader named David whom everyone was judged by after him. He was Israel’s proverbial George Washington. He led the nation of Israel to it’s greatest height in history. Under David’s leadership Israel finally took every parcel of land promised by God to Moses. Politically, militarily and financially Israel was supremely blessed. Solomon inherited the best situation imaginable from David and reigned in peace for decades.

David was human and he had his faults and problems, but in all cases David’s love for God and humility allowed him to perpetually submit to God’s leadership. But if he was the plumb-line everyone else would be judged by, how did God do with some of the other kings? (David’s story is found mainly in 2 Samuel–the whole book. Read the whole thing, it’s worth it!)

 

King Manasseh

Let’s look at King Manasseh of Judah. He was the most wicked king in the nation’s history. Scripture tells us he filled the streets with innocent blood. He did more wickedly than the nations around Israel and before them. Israel was in a time of national crisis. I’m sure the faithful were wishing for David at that point–a perfect leader to step in and rescue them. But they would have been in the wrong.

God had a better plan. He was patient and he warned Manasseh, and Manasseh repented. The leader at that moment Israel needed wasn’t David, but Manasseh–the most wicked, vile ruler they’d ever known. Manasseh repented so wholeheartedly that God restored Judah with Manasseh at the helm. (see Manasseh’s full story in 2 Chronicles 33)

 

Your Vote Counts!

My point is this: don’t vote for the lesser of two evils. Vote for the greatest Good the universe knows. Vote for God. Take our nation before the Almighty in prayer. He hears and H reacts to our pleas. We don’t have a David today seeking political office. We don’t even have a George Washington. I’m pretty sure that our political cadre these days would lie and spin the cherry tree getting cut down with all their might. But we don’t have to settle for them. We have one better.

Instead of wishing this political season that we had better choices, exercise your privilege to vote by casting it for the One who makes no mistakes. Ask God to fashion for us a leader who will follow Him. Ask God for repentance, for our nation to turn to Him and Him alone.

I’m voting for God this November. I’ll be selecting a man on a ballot at my polling place, but my true choice won’t be reflected in which “chad” may or may not be left hanging. My choice will lie more in the ballot I cast continually in my prayers.

They never need a recount.

Who are you voting for this year?

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Articles Prayer & Fasting Written Word

Establishing A Culture Of Devotion

Our devotional life before God is the most important aspect of our Christian walk.  The greatest commandment in scripture is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37)

To love the Lord like that, we must know Him and know Him well.  To be able to know Him we first must understand the truth that God loves us.  Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).  When we truly consider this, we realize that God really, really likes us.  It’s impossible to maintain a devotional life of prayer without truly believing that God is happy with us and loves us.

The two most important aspects to a devotional life with God are prayer and studying the Word of God (the Bible).  There are other ways to encounter the Lord, but these are the two main ways God designed for us to know Him by.

Let’s look at Acts 6:1-7

  1. Cultivating a Culture of Prayer
    1. Establishing Corporate Prayer
      1. Corporate prayer is the primary tool by which we learn to engage God
    2. Establishing Private Prayer
      1. Private prayer births intimacy with Jesus
    3. Understanding the Need for Prayer
      1. Our heart’s hardness requires a consistent life of prayer
      2. Our flesh’s weakness requires a consistent life of prayer

Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  1. Cultivating a People of the Word
    1. All scripture is God-Breathed 2 Timothy 3:1-4:5
      1. We can’t properly hear God’s voice if we don’t have God’s Word embedded in our hearts.  When we fill our minds with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we need to know for contemporary situations–our everyday lives.

Two of my favorite people who have written extensively on the power of the relationship between the Word of God and prayer are Madame Jeanne Guyon and Archbishop Fenelon.  They were 17th century contemporaries and have influenced my prayer life tremendously.  Guyon taught that if we take a small part of God’s Word, read it and then pray it back to God that we would receive way more than if we just read large quantities of scripture.  I can attest that she’s right!

There is a place for studying the Word where we read larger quantities to gain understanding of context, etc., but there’s no better way to gain “revelation” of scripture than taking small chunks (less than 10 verses) and pray or sing them back to God.  We can ask God what He means by certain passages and even engage God in dialogue.  It’s a very powerful tool for our prayer lives.

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Articles Prayer & Fasting

Prayer As A Culture

Prayer is a way of life for us here at Brazos Congregation.  We have daily prayer meetings that we consider necessary to maintain our lives before God.  And we don’t just pray for ourselves.  

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Articles Prayer & Fasting

Overcoming Through Humility

We must understand ourselves correctly from Scripture.  We are not mostly the good we hope to be, but mostly the evil that exists in our sinful nature.  When we were saved we were made into a new creation with the ability to choose to do good, not the inability to do wrong.  It still takes work to be able to do good, but before our justification we had no ability to do so.

Our sinful nature is what comes out by default in us.  It takes work to overcome it.  James tells us this in his epistle over and over again.  Chapter 4 is his treatise against fights in the church.  As Paul says in Philippians 2:21, “All seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus,” it is hard to find even a believer who is not in this life for themselves.  Paul could only think of one: Timothy.  And James tells us that all the fights and wars within the church are because of covetousness and jealousy.  By default, our nature will fight and kick and scream to get what we want.

James tells us that the things we want are available to us if only we ask, but that a good amount of time that even when we do that we ask with wrong motives.  He’s speaking primarily about material goods when he says, “so you can spend it on your pleasures.”  We can have confidence that God will gently correct us if our prayers are asked amiss if we truly submit our heart to His will, but often we are like the thousands who, during Jesus’ ministry, only came to hear Him because they heard He fed the multitudes.

James calls all this what it really is: friendship with the world, our old nature in other words.  As much as we give in to our old nature, we make ourselves enemies of God.  But like James says, “He gives more grace.”  If we humble ourselves before God, He will give us MORE grace than we already operate under to overcome our old nature that rises up in us.

If we submit to God and resist the devil, God will draw near to us.  How do we do this?  Through devotion.  Only through spending time with God, daily, can we hope to overcome this fallen nature.  By spending time in prayer and reading scripture can we draw our hearts nearer to God so that He will draw nearer to us.  He can purify us!

James tells us that one key to truly drawing near to God in this way is to willingly submit ourselves to mourning and weeping.  When we ask God to show us our frailty, our weakness and our miserable state of sinfulness can we attain to understand how to overcome.  If we willingly take on sorrow and mourning for ourselves and others will we begin to understand our state.  That’s a state God can work with.  He won’t leave us in that mournful state, but He will fill us with true joy instead of the helpless substitute we so often settle for.  When we give up the joys we think we have and submit our hearts humbly to God we will learn new joys that we never could have imagined.

So we must give ourselves to greater humility.  And there’s no greater way to embrace humility than to give up our fake joy and embrace the weakness and wretchedness of our sin.  When we do so, we have nothing to be proud of anymore.

Such a state of humility is one that God will reward with more of His presence.