When Our faith Is Tested :: By Nathele Graham

Living on this side of heaven presents many challenges. There are ups and downs in life and people who don’t have a relationship with God will blame Him for troubles when things go wrong, but they don’t give Him credit when things go right. What’s even sadder is when a Christian follows that same pattern.

A lie has been going around, probably started by Satan, that life becomes a bed of roses once you accept Christ. That just isn’t true. In fact, the testing of faith in the one true God has gone on for thousands of years. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego whose faith was tested by fire. They refused to bow down and worship false gods and were thrown into a fiery furnace.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)

Their faith was tested but God preserved them and they were not even singed in that furnace. Throughout Scripture we read about  many men and women who loved God but faced many trials, so we shouldn’t expect perfect circumstances in our own lives. Illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, persecution, and financial difficulties are just some of the things we face that can cause us to question God. These circumstances may test our faith, but a Christian can be assured that whatever testing we face, God is with us.

The way a Christian handles trouble matters because other people learn from us. When I was very young I woke up one Saturday morning and was thrilled to see my grandmother in our home. She seldom left her house, so to have her in my living room was exciting. She pulled me onto her lap and gave me a hug and gently told me that there had been a car accident and my fourteen year old brother had been killed.

My joy turned to disbelief and sorrow. My grandmother could have shown me her own despair, but instead she explained that my brother was now with Jesus and one day we would see him again.

“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18:2)

Grandma helped build a strong foundation of faith in me, which is with me to this day. We need to have faith that God is on His throne and nothing will defeat us as long as we stand strong in Him. Since the time of my brother’s death I’ve faced much sorrow and grief from the deaths of many people I loved dearly, but because my grandmother helped me through the death of my brother, I have a strong faith that those I love who died knowing Christ are truly alive.

My faith was strengthened because someone took the time to teach me about faith in a time of testing. We all have that opportunity. People all around us face trials and tribulation and need the strength and comfort we can share. Do we help their faith or do we feed their anguish? Jesus never said that if we follow Him life will be easy. In fact He said just the opposite.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Greek word “thlipsis” is translated in this verse as “tribulation” but in other verses it’s translated affliction, trouble, anguish, persecution, and burdened. This doesn’t mean that a Christian’s life should be one of despair. We have every reason to have joy. No matter what we face, Jesus is our joy and our salvation. Keeping focused on Jesus will keep our joy from being squelched. We have the blessed hope of knowing Christ as our Savior and no matter what happens in this life He will see us through. He has overcome the world and in Him we have eternal life.

People who walk close to God always seem to handle adversity in a victorious way. The first thing they do is pray. When we talk with God He listens. The trick is that when He talks to us, we need to listen. We can’t just pray and wait for God to do it all for us. The Israelites were hungry as they wandered in the wilderness and complained about how much better they had been in slavery. They had very short memories!

“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.” (Exodus 16:4)

They were tested to be sure they put their faith in God. God provided the manna but they had to gather it. You may be tested if the company you work for is about to close and you’ll be out of a job. Pray that God will open doors for you to find another job, but get out there and look.

Do you have a medical condition that needs attention? Pray for God’s healing. Scripture tells about people being miraculously healed and those aren’t just stories or folklore, they are true stories about real people. God still heals today. It isn’t wrong to pray for healing, but seeking medical attention is important. God will always do His part, but we need to do ours.

Few people have suffered as much as Job. He lost everything, boils covered his body, and he had friends who were less than helpful. After much soul searching he was able to say:

“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:25-27)

Do you have the faith to say that? When you suddenly fall off the mountain top into the valley of the shadow of death, do you know with all your heart that your Redeemer lives? It took Job some time and a bit of a pity party before he realized that no matter what he lost, even if he himself died, he would see God. He knew his Redeemer lives. Job did make it through his ordeal and God restored everything to him. Even so, Job eventually did die. He was mortal like all of us but when his faith was tested he trusted God and we can be sure that he indeed is with his Redeemer.

You may not be facing any big problems, but feelings of doubt and weakness can test your faith just like financial ruin or health troubles. Ask fellow Christians to pray for you. Paul faced many challenges in his walk with Christ, and at one point he “despaired of life.”

“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

He didn’t go into detail about the cause of his troubles but we can draw encouragement from his faith in whatever we face. Our strength is in God and even if things look as if there’s no way out, don’t despair. Focus on Jesus and let Him lead you. Many times Paul asked for prayer, but it wasn’t as easy for him to ask to be put on a prayer list as it is for us today.

We have email and texts but for Paul prayer requests traveled at a slow speed. I have a friend that I know I can count on to pray when I need it. My first action when my faith is being tested is to send her an email asking her for prayers. She does the same when she faces testing. Even though she lives many, many miles away our Christian faith binds us. We both know that God hears our prayer.

The harshest test of my faith has always been the death of a loved one. My prayers were for healing, but one of the hardest things to accept is that God’s will isn’t always mine. I prayed for healing so I could continue in this life with them, but God’s will was that they go Home to be in a place where there is no more pain, suffering, and where faith will no longer be tested.

I’m thankful that my loved ones died knowing Christ. They are with Him now. One day it will be my turn to go Home. My children can rest assured that even though my faith has been tested many times in life, I have come through being stronger in my faith.

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

When I’m called Home it will be into everlasting life. When that time comes my children’s faith will be tested, but like my grandmother told me so many years ago, because we know Jesus—one day we will all be together again.

My fondest desire is that my children and friends will see in me a strength of faith that only comes through growth in the dark valleys of testing. I pray they will see Christ’s love in me and that it will strengthen their own faith. If the testing of my faith can help someone else to find strength to face their own trials, then God is glorified.

“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5)

Each time we go through a valley we have an opportunity to learn more about God’s grace and mercy. If we learn the lesson that comes through testing we will be able to help someone else to cope when they face testing.

Is your faith being tested? Are you watching someone you love having their faith tested?

Ask Jesus to guide you through the valley you’re traveling through.

“So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.’” (Hebrews 13:6)

He will lead you to victory.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).

God Is ___ :: By Nathele Graham

Describing God is an impossible task. Nobody today has actually seen Him. We know Him by what we read in Scripture, which describes His characteristics and not His physical appearance. Let’s take a look at a few of those characteristics and see if we can know God better.

God is Spirit: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in the spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

The story behind this passage is that Jesus—God incarnate and His disciples were passing through Samaria and stopped at a  well. The disciples went into the town to buy food when a woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus began a conversation with her, which quickly turned to her moral state and the Living Water which Jesus could give to her.

She was interested and spoke of worshipping in Jerusalem as opposed to worshipping elsewhere. Jesus explained that a time was coming when worship would change. After Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit was given to indwell Christians.

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

When a person truly accepts Christ he or she is indwelt by the Spirit of God. Years after the conversation with the Samaritan woman the Jewish temple was destroyed; no longer could worship take place in Jerusalem. Christians today are the temple of God. We worship in spirit and in truth. God is Spirit.

God is eternal. God has always existed and always will exist. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, God directed him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set the Israelites free from their slavery. The Israelites had been in slavery in Egypt for centuries and they finally cried out to God. Moses was an Israelite who had been raised in Pharaoh’s palace but had fled Egypt 40 years earlier after killing an Egyptian soldier. He needed to know what authority he could give the Israelites when he obtained their release.

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3:14)

That is a present tense statement. He didn’t say “I was that I was” or “I will be.” He has always been. Many years later Jesus riled the Pharisees when He claimed to be the voice from that bush.

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)

Jesus said He is God. Our English translations don’t make it clear, but the Pharisees knew. The next verse says that they took up stones to stone Him. Claiming to be God was a stoning offence. There are many verses that speak of the eternal nature of God.

We know that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

And a prayer of Moses recorded in Psalms says:

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Psalm 90:2)

In the book of Revelation, Jesus says “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

God is eternal. God is love.

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

What a blessing to know that God loves me. More than that, He IS love. Because He loves us He wants the best for us, so He sets rules. When I was a child I would get upset when my parents wouldn’t let me do just what I wanted. “When I grow up and have kids I’ll let them do whatever they want!” Silly me.

As I matured I realized that because they loved me my parents set rules for behavior. This is just a hint of God’s. Like rebellious children we want our own way and that’s why God has tried to teach us right from wrong. The Law was a teacher.

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)

It’s easy to understand why many of the laws were there. Honor God is obvious. Don’t murder  and be sexually pure are also obvious, but some others are a bit more subtle. “Why can’t I do just what I want,” ask the rebellious children.

“Because I love you”, says the loving God. Jesus said “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Jesus (God the Son) did just that. He left His perfect home in Heaven and entered this fallen world. Here He was rejected, mocked, beaten, spit upon, and crucified. He knew before He laid the foundations of the earth that this would happen, but He is love and became flesh in order to bring salvation to a sinner such as me. It’s a free gift, but you need to accept that gift in order for it to apply to you.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

God is love. God is faithful.

We can always trust God to be there because He is faithful even if we aren’t. We fall into sin regularly. We need to break our sin habit, but it always seems to stumble us when we’re weak.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

When temptations come our way we usually know we’re being tempted to sin. That’s when we turn to God. Ask Him for the strength to resist the temptation. He will either remove the temptation or help you to not participate in the sin. What happens if we just go ahead and sin anyway? He’s still faithful.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

What a comfort to know that even when we sin He still loves us. It’s important to talk to Him about the sin. Tell Him you’re sorry and ask His forgiveness. He knows every sin you will ever commit and when you truly accepted His gift of salvation all of your sins were forgiven.

When you ask Him to forgive you that shows that you’re growing in your walk with Him. Babes in Christ are often unaware of what exactly is sin, but as we grow in Christ we become more aware of our sin. Asking forgiveness is humbling and shows respect for God. God will always forgive. God is faithful.

God is the God of the living. Ever since Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden death has been a part of this world. They were separated from God because of sin and when they died their souls went into sheol, the abode of the dead.

There were two sides to sheol, one of torment and one of comfort. Those who obeyed God and looked forward to the coming of the Messiah went to the place of comfort. God never forgot them. When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, God spoke with him and said:

“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3:6)

They died in faith. Hebrews chapter 11 gives examples of many who died prior to Jesus first coming, but they looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah so they are still living, as are all people who have died in faith. After His death on the cross, Jesus took those faithful souls to heaven.

Those who have died rejecting the Messiah, whether before or after the cross, are also alive but are awaiting the final judgment and eternal death. Because they rejected Him in life, He is not their God in death. God is the God of the Living.

God is light. When we walk in the dark it’s easy to stumble and fall. We need light to find our way and see obstacles in our path. The same is true in life. Darkness is all around us… the Satanic darkness of sin. We need light to find our way:

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

If our focus is on the things of the world we walk in darkness and it’s easy to fall into sin. If we fill our life with the works of Satan we fill our life with darkness. A Christian should fill every part of life with the light of God.

“Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.” (Luke 11:35-36)

What is shining from you? Is it darkness that comes from Satan or is it the pure light that shines from God. We choose what we allow inside of us and God’s light is what we need to allow in. God is light.

God is changeless. Many things in life change over the years, such as hair color, friendships, jobs, and much more. We can count on the fact the God never changes.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

We can rest assured  that when we read Scripture, what was true in Genesis is true today because God is the same. Many people arrogantly criticize God as seen in the Old Testament because He seems angry. That shows they don’t study Scripture. His love for humans has always been there. His judgment never came quickly.

The wickedness prior to the Flood corrupted all of creation, but God warned people and gave them time to repent before His judgment came. There were only 8 people who were uncorrupted and had He waited there would have been no one left to save. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah had committed horrendous sin and God wanted them to repent. It wasn’t until only Lot and his family were left who weren’t totally depraved that God sent judgment on these wicked cities.

“Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Psalm 119:160)

We need to take heed that we aren’t following the wrong path and are tempting God’s judgment. Study the reasons behind God’s judgments to see His love. Be assured that God is still righteous in His judgments today, but the difference is the cross. Because Jesus shed His blood to purchase our redemption we can escape judgment if we accept His sacrifice.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life…For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:14-15, & 17)

Sin will always condemn us, but God’s love will always save us. God is changeless.

We could go through many more things about what God is, but you can find them for yourself. God is the author of peace, God is true, God is One God, and many more. You will find it very rewarding to search who God is, and be blessed by what you learn.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).