Think of the toughest situation that you have ever faced. Maybe it was the end of a relationship, a loss of a loved one, or not achieving something you had been working hard for. Whatever it is, believe it or not, there was a plan behind it all! God is perfect and he has a perfect plan in the lives of each of his children. Testing is what shows the difference between true faith and nominal Christianity. Why is it that we are tested though? What does it achieve? We find the answer for that in the book of James.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
As believers we are set to be formed more into the image of Christ as we grow spiritually and in order to do that we must go through testing. When we show that we can persevere through the tests that come our way, we prove where our faith lies. One great example of this is Horatio Spafford who wrote the famous hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”. Spafford was a successful lawyer who had invested a large piece of his fortune into property in the Chicago area. In 1871 he lost all of the property he owned through the Great Chicago Fire. To make matters worse his business started taking a hit in the economic downturn of 1873. This is the same time that Spafford had planned to travel to Europe with his family. In order to take care of some business matters around the property he had lost, he sent his wife and four girls ahead of him to Europe with the plan to follow shortly after. In a sudden tragedy, the ship that his wife and daughters were travelling in collided with another vessel killing his four daughters. He finds this out by a telegram that his wife sent which reads “Saved Alone”. Spafford was inspired to write this famous hymn as he was passing by the site where his daughter had died. The first two verses of the hymn go as follows-
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
What an amazing testimony to keep! Though he had lost everything that he ever found any happiness in, he was still content! Spafford knew that though he had lost everything in a worldy sense, he still had his faith and he still believed in a Savior that saved him from a greater loss: eternal separation from God! What we can learn from Spafford’s story is that every believer is guaranteed to go through testing and trials in life, what makes or breaks our faith is what we do in light of that. Believers are certain to receive testing but what God wants, is for that not to hinder us from fulfilling what we were created to do. He has entrusted us with certain spiritual gifts that are intended to be used to serve him. Regardless of what goes on in life, we are still held responsible to use those gifts to fulfill his will.
1. Life on earth is a test
One of the greatest examples given in God’s word of testing is the life of Job. Job was man who loved God and lived a life that served and honored Him. Job was blessed with so many provisions in life. He had seven sons and three daughters, acres of property, servants, and thousands of livestock. In many ways from an earthly perspective he had it made! Because of this we see that Satan approaches God and asks God for permission to persecute Job and his family given that he wouldn’t kill Job. Satan believed that Job loved and served God because he was good to him and didn’t face any problems. God knew that Job would prove him otherwise so he allowed Satan to test him.
13 Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the [g]donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
Job lost all of his children, servants, cattle, property, and even his health because of what Satan was allowed to do. Through all this his wife even told him to curse God and die because of his tragedy. But through it all Job never sinned against God with his thoughts, words, or actions. He remained faithful until his testing was over. This is a high standard to live by, to know that not everything in life may work out the way you plan it to but regardless of all that, still remaining faithful to God and what he has entrusted you.
2. Life on earth is a trust
Even in the midst of testing God wants us to continue to live for him and to serve him. We have been given certain spiritual gifts as believers and God wants us to put those spiritual gifts to practice in spite of what may be going on in our lives. We see an example of this given to us in the scriptures through the parable of the talents.
Matthew 25: 14-30
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
We see here the story of three servants who were given talents of gold to invest with. Their master wanted them to make a return on his investment that he had entrusted with them. He gives the first servant five talents, the second two talents, and the third just one talent. He goes on a long journey with the understanding that he would return and collect the profit that he had made off of his investments. When the master returns, he sees that the servant whom he had entrusted five talents had made five more and the servant whom he had entrusted two talents had made two more. He would naturally expect at this point that the servant with whom he had entrusted one talent would at least give him one more. He finds out that this servant had hid the talent that had been entrusted to him in an effort to keep it safe. The master is furious with the servant. He had been lazy with what had been his responsibility. When he could have been using it to invest wisely and gain more talents, he let that talent sit because he was too scared of losing what was initially given. He was living in fear about what may happen to him and due to that could not gain the blessings that were right in front of him.
How are we living for the Lord? We too have been promised and entrusted with certain spiritual talents that are meant to be used for God’s glory. How are we using those talents? Are we living in fear of what may happen with the blessings we have that it blinds us from living for Christ? Or are we using the resources he has given us to expand his kingdom and layup treasures in heaven? The relationships, education, careers, and possessions that have been given to us were meant to be used as a means to glorify our heavenly father and expand his kingdom. If we aren’t using these things for that reason, we aren’t fulfilling his will but rather living for ourselves. God is constantly testing his children and he will take away what we hold closest to us to test us sometimes just to see where our faith lies. Let’s make it a goal not to strive for the earthly treasures that fade away but rather seek the heavenly treasures that last forever!