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The Trial of Your Faith
By David A. DePra
A trial of faith is, well, whatever tries your faith! For faith to be TRIED, faith must be contradicted. Contradiction is whatever questions – TO ME -- the faithfulness of God, and thus, the sanity of my faith in Him.
Now, don’t misunderstand. God doesn’t say, "I need to test your faith, so I’m going to do all kinds of things in your life to see if I can trick you into thinking I am a liar. But if you believe Me anyways, then I will know you really trust me." No. God isn’t trying to figure out whether we have faith. A trial of faith is intended to BUILD our faith. It is intended to more firmly establish us in an eternal relationship with God.
But why must our faith be questioned and contradicted? Well, it wouldn’t have to be if we started out free of unbelief, sin, darkness, and error. But we don’t. In fact, we start out thoroughly entrenched in all of those things. The trial of faith is necessary to bring us OUT.
If I am reasonably comfortable living in error and darkness, and God begins to bring me into the Truth, I am going to panic. I won’t understand. I will initially think that my error is right, and that the Truth must be wrong. That will be my perception and my reaction – because it is the only frame of reference I have ever had. God’s dealings with me will therefore appear to me to CONTRADICT what ought to be if God is faithful. The trial is whether I will trust God despite all of this.
Now, if you limit Truth to doctrines and laws and rules to live by, then you won’t understand what I’m talking about. I’m not so much talking about those things, although in the end, they will be affected. I’m talking about your inner constitution – your inner relationship with God. It is there that the trial of faith comes. The trial of faith will involve outward circumstances, but in the final analysis, the trial of faith isn’t happening OUT HERE. It is happen IN YOU. The trial of faith speaks to your personal relationship to God – what you are to HIM, and what HE is to YOU. The rest of what is going on is simply what is being used to deal with that relationship.
The Comfort Zone
Jesus said, "You will know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free." This promise is predicated on the fact that we don’t START OUT in Truth. We start out in error. Otherwise we would have no need to know the Truth, or get set free, and His promise would be nonsense.
The average Christian knows very little about God. Indeed, we are so blind to the reality of God that we don’t know that we don’t know! Some of us read the Bible and catalog doctrine and think we have it. But that is not knowing God. It is knowing what the Bible says about Him. To know God requires a relationship with Him that is real. It really requires BELONGING to Him, and living like it.
The trial of faith is geared to bringing us into a greater knowledge of God Himself, and to adjusting us so that we might live in harmony with Him. And what does it mean to live in harmony with God? To simply obey Him? Yes, but more. To live in harmony with God means that my entire life – both inward and outward – is so constituted that it is NORMAL for me to walk in harmony with Him. I belong to Him.
But of course, if I take these descriptions and think that merely knowing them AS descriptions equals BEING in the relationship with God which they describe, I will never get it. The fact is, none us of have a clue as to what any of this means by experience until we go through many trials of faith, and surrender ourselves to God. You cannot build a relationship with God by reading books about a relationship with God. You have to actually identify with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection – and that takes the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
If you and I want to experience such an identification, we must say goodbye to our comfort zone – whatever that is for us. For when God takes people who are normal and comfortable in the dark, and brings us into some light, we will not be comfortable at first. In fact, there will arise CONTRADICTION IN US to the Truth. Not just in our thinking and understanding. But the Truth of God will, at first, contradict everything that makes us tick as religious people.
In this we see that the contradiction which arises in us during a trial of faith isn’t something God, "does to us." No. Rather, it is the natural order of things. It is what happens when the REALITY of God meets this natural realm, and our natural thinking. This realm contradicts God, and we are geared to it – even if we are born again. Thus, when God begins to unfold to us the new realm into which we are born, we are going to get uncomfortable in a hurry. There will be, we might say, an, "spiritual disturbance." There will be a STORM. A trial of faith.
We must see this. WE – our thinking, our attitudes, our perception – already contradict God. Perhaps not deliberately or consciously. But they are not in harmony with God, for there is little about us that has any clue what it means to live and walk with God. Thus, when God begins to draw us into the relationship He wants with us, we will continue to try to operate on the old basis, in the old patterns – not sinful or rebellious patterns – but in our, "good and religious," patterns that we have walked in WITH GOD!! But these won’t do. Thus, since God is drawing us to something new, and we are holding to that which is old, we are going to immediately meet contradiction. Often this is the reason for our trial of faith.
Seek First His Kingdom
God says that we are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. We can therefore be sure that HE is seeking that for us in His dealings with us. This means that God wants to bring His rule and His order and His will into our lives, and not only adjust our lives in accordance with Himself, but more importantly, God wants to adjust US. We are to seek HIS kingdom IN US first – in our thinking, perception, attitudes, and motivation. And ultimately, the kingdom of God means God is in charge. Not us. But God. He is in charge, through Jesus Christ, of everything about us.
Do you and I actually believe that we are easily geared to that? You might think you are, if again -- you assume that all I am talking about are doctrines and following the right list of rules and laws. But I’m talking about more. I’m talking about a complete reconstitution of what makes you tick – your self-life and your motivation – even with regards to the things of God.
We must get this settled: What God wants to do in us through the Holy Spirit is OTHER THAN what we have ever experienced. Indeed, in the beginning, we have absolutely NO FRAME OF REFERENCE for it. We can’t. It is NOT of the natural man, and he can know nothing of it. Thus, when God begins this work, it is going to seem strange. In fact, it is going to seem as if God is tearing us down, not building us up. It will seem like things are getting worse, not better.
Well, they SHOULD seem like that. God IS tearing us down. But this is good. Our control of our own lives is something that God is going to tear down, and our control is going to get worse as to it’s effectiveness. For a time, possibly a long time, it may seem as if we are LESS obedient, and LESS holy, and LESS a Christian. That is because God is tearing apart the FAÇADE of Christianity we have constructed, so that He has replace it with reality in Jesus Christ. And because we don’t, at first, know that, it is going to seem as if we are falling apart, not being built up in Christ.
The trial of faith is geared to dismantling every bit of confidence we have in our selves – our RELIGIOUS SELVES – so that our faith will shift over to Jesus Christ. Thus, we see that a trial of faith will not only PROVE the faith we already have, but if we will hang in there, all of our false faith in false things will be exposed, and we will be able to be adjusted over to Jesus Christ.
You and I have no clue as to just how self-righteous we are, nor a clue as to just how much faith we have in things other than Jesus Christ. In fact, we are so used to living by faith in other things, and this is so normal to us, that the moment God puts His hand to those things, we are terrified. We are terrified because we see ONLY the thing God is touching and trying to pry loose from us – and those things are ALL we have known. To us, the loss of such things is negative and something BAD that is happening. Indeed, some of us even think that what we are losing IS THE REAL THING, and IS OF GOD. The key therefore, is to come to the place where we see the OTHER SIDE of things – to see, not only what God is taking us FROM, but to see where God is taking us TO. He is drawing us into a relationship with Christ that we could not have imagined.
Death and Resurrection
How do we come to see this? We must continue to live in the reality of, "into your hands I commit my spirit." This is an unconditional relinquishment of ourselves into the hands of God. In other words, we have to surrender to the Cross. We have to die this death, even those we may not see what is on the other side of our surrender. We may not even be sure God is there to catch us. But He is, and the trial of faith will bring us to the place where we will need to make this surrender.
The trial of faith will bring us to where we may say, with Christ, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." But we must follow with, "Into your hands I commit my spirit." The fact that we cannot know what is to become of us through such a surrender is part of the trial of faith. It comes with the package. It is what it means to have your faith tried and proven.
Can we see that our trial of faith may be a signal, not that there is something wrong, but that God is bringing us onto something bigger in Himself?
Thus, we see that the trial of faith really doesn’t try a THING called faith. It tries US. God is never on trial. WE are being tried – whether we will be faithful to Him, because we believe He is faithful to us.
Faith is Relationship
If we continue to turn to God and stand by faith, all that contradicts God IN US will be proven a lie, and God will be proven true. Can we see that unless we were required to face these things, we would not grow in Truth? Would not be set free?
Again -- never think that our problem is that we don’t understand doctrine. Or that what we need is an academic list of Bible information. No. Those things have their place, but aren’t the root issue. It is entirely possible to memorize the Bible and have NO faith at all. And it is entirely possible to know little about the Bible, but to have faith. Read Hebrews 11. Rahab is in that list of the faithful.
What we need is an inner knowledge of God Himself. But this is impossible as long as we are governed by error. Thus, the trial of faith uproots the error, and forces us to push through to the Truth.
Faith is a RELATIONSHIP word. It is not an academic word. All faith goes back to my relationship to God – and finds its root in whether I believe He is really there for me, and is responding to me. (see Heb. 11:6) Thus, never think of faith as a THING we have. No. Faith is not a THING – it is based in a PERSON – in my relationship to God. Faith is based on whether I believe God is faithful, and whether I am therefore free to live like it.
The purpose of the trial of faith is to bring about a practical freedom and victory over that which would contradict the Truth of God in Jesus Christ. But this is not an academic or theological concept. The freedom and victory occurs IN ME. The victory in a trial does NOT come when the trial ends. The victory comes when the trial no longer moves me from faith. Faith is the victory.
In the end, all trials come down to on question: Do I believe God is faithful? Enough to risk everything on Him?
God is not a liar. The reason it sometimes seems as if He is a liar is that we do not recognize the Truth. Thus, the problem is not with God, it is with US. We need a great deal of spiritual adjustment and freedom.
We place more trust in our understanding that we can imagine. Indeed, many of us put our faith in our understanding, or our faith in our ability to believe, rather than put our faith in God Himself.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. (Prov 3:5-7)
A fundamental trait of any trial of faith is that you will not be able to understand God in it, and He won’t explain Himself to you. It should be encouraging to know that such a condition is normal, because then when it happens, we will be less apt to think that it is abnormal, or that something is wrong. No. Everything is right. You CANNOT understand, and God CANNOT explain. Get that. This isn’t a matter of God refusing to explain. He can’t.
The goal of any trial of faith is never to obtain some piece of information. No. Rather than information, what we need is a REVELATION -- of God Himself. The way in which I finally come to receive this revelation is by standing in faith unto death if necessary.
Again – God is doing a work IN ME through this trial of faith. He is doing a work of the Cross, so that I can BECOME someone who is able to better live and move with Him. Information will NOT accomplish this – not even a correct teaching about the Cross. No. I must pick up the Cross – not just seek teaching about it.
There will comes occasions in any trial of faith where you will face the choice to surrender to God – and you will not have any proof or assurance that He is even there to receive you. You will have to put aside your complete lack of understanding, and trust that it is sufficient that HE understands. If you do this, something in the realm of self-ownership will DIE in you. But there will burst forth LIFE – and with that life faith and eventual understanding will come.
Just as spiritual life comes through death, so does understanding come with that life. You cannot separate the two. You will never truly know the Truth until you die to the error in yourself, and have the Truth Himself revealed to you through resurrection life. Try to replace this with theology and academics, and you may convince yourself you are very smart. But you will be deceived.
Get it settled once and for all: God is NOT going to explain Himself to you. Ever. Forget it. But He will reveal Himself to you -- and with that there will come much understanding. But this revelation and understanding is always a by-product of a process of death and resurrection – not of study.
I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…..I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:3-6)
If God explained Himself to us, we might have INFORMATION. But that would change nothing about us. It would do nothing to adjust us to God. In fact, the information would harm us, because we would settle for it. And we’d never go on to find God Himself.
Job knew a lot of true facts about God. He spoke those true facts – but finally admitted that he had no clue as to the God behind all those very true facts and doctrines. Job repented. But of what? Of thinking he knew God simply because he knew true facts about God. Oh, that we might see this today!
God wants us to know true doctrines and facts. But Christianity is not a list of doctrines, facts, and Bible teachings. It is a RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus Christ – Jesus Christ who is IN US. Thus, what we need is more than information about God, or information about our trial. We need a REVEALTION of God Himself.
If we will hang in during our trials and continue to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, God will reveal Himself to us in a way we will never regret. Do we want explanations from God, or God Himself?
The Way of Escape
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 Cor 10:13)
What is the purpose of this, "way of escape," promised by Paul? To GET OUT of the trial? No. "That you might be able to bear it." In other words, God’s way of escape has to do with escaping defeat in a trial. Not escaping the trial itself. The, "escape," is whatever enables you TO BEAR THE TRIAL.
If you don’t believe that, then good luck trying to figure out how to escape your trial. You will find that if it is OF GOD that you cannot escape unless you compromise with the Truth. God doesn’t want you to escape the trial. The trial is OF HIM. He wants you to overcome BY FAITH.
"The way of escape," out of a trial is death and resurrection in Christ. But make no question about it, we can always choose another way – that will spare us the Cross. This is not a matter of losing our salvation. It is a matter of losing the freedom and revelation God had for us through the trial. Christian people today are encouraged all the time to escape the hand of God, calling His hand the Devil.
Natural thinking suggests that the issue in a trial of faith is how to end the trial. We ask, "God, what do you want me to DO?" Or we say, "What do I need to do to get God to end this trial?" Indeed, many of us think that ending the trial is the victory over the trial. But God never works from that angle. Ending a trial is never the victory. Ending unbelief is the victory. Again – faith IS the victory.
For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Trials are not games. They have ETERNAL purposes. That is why we must learn to seek first the kingdom of God – for that is eternal. As long as we limit the purpose of trials to something in our lives now, rather than something eternal, we are going to miss the boat. We will never be on the same page as God.
Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom – seek first God’s purpose IN YOU – and everything else will be taken care of, and fall into place, as God’s plan for you will allow." This establishes God’s priority for us, and until this becomes our priority, we are going to be working at odds with God. Part of the trial of faith is to adjust us over to this purpose.
When you die, all that God will take is the REAL person you are – and that will be defined only by your relationship to Him. Thus, faith, which speaks directly to who we are in relationship to God, is an ETERNAL characteristic. What we call, "faith," here, carries with it elements of our relationship with God that will be released into the eternal realm. Our faith is only a seed of something eternally greater.
Trials will all pass away into history. But what we BECOME through those trials will be eternal. These are the stakes involved – eternal stakes. It is therefore terrifying that so few Christian are taught these Truths.
God is Faithful
The irony of the trial of faith is that God uses that which seems to contradict Himself to prove that He is faithful. The more our faith is questioned and ridiculed, the stronger it becomes, if we will stand by faith. And the greatest surprise of all is that even before we are delivered from our trial, we have the victory. Nothing of contradiction is able to move us.
God will indeed be proven faithful, even before He delivers us. How? He will be proven faithful IN US. God wants to bring us to the place where, despite the fact that circumstances have NOT changed, that WE HAVE CHANGED. There may continue to be nothing to, "prove," to us that God is faithful. But the proof is in us. Our faith IS the evidence and substance of the faithfulness of God.
There is no victory in Jesus Christ except through the working out in us of His death and resurrection. If you want to live by faith, then you can no longer live by your understanding, your emotions, or by faith in anything but God. These must go the way of the Cross. Then, all will become based in Truth.
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