Trials, suffering and faith … living in the kingdom of God
By Andy Zoppelt
Trials and sufferings have value in our pursuit of God, they work to expose those underlying selfish motives and goals we have deep in our hearts that put us in bondage, they pop up when we are not getting our own way. When they surface we are in a position to decide which life we will serve. The bottom line is who are we serving and who is our lord? Will we cast down those carnal thoughts and desires or will we cast down Jesus and His word? Many Christians never learned the meaning of the cross and therefore few experiences the resurrected life with Christ in heavenly places.
As gold ore needs fire to melt down all the elements within it and to cause all the valueless slag to surface so it can be skimmed off and separated from the pure gold, so we to need the fire to melt all that is in our hearts and bring to surface all the corruption of our carnal nature so they can be skim off (put to death) and our hearts can be made pure even as He is pure.
Trials are “events” that God uses to cause certain things in our life to surface so we can in faith abandon them and put them to death. As true sons we find these experiences as stepping stones where we can grow and deepen our faith in Him. It is in these times of testing we will prove if we are going to act as sons or bastards. (Heb 12:8)
How we deal with trials individually and corporately will determine our growth in the Spirit and even whether or not we really know Him as sons. We can never know God if we complain during trials. Complaining only reveals our maintaining our self interest in the trial and our lack of faith in Him. Trials separate those who live by sight from those who live by faith. Trials reveal those who live by their feelings, opinions, needs and ambitions. Trials reveal where we place our reality and life: on this earth and world or in Jesus and in heavenly places. It is sad that many so-called Christians cannot see past this life and they fail to see that this life is but a brief stepping stone to the far greater life that is to come.
Though Israel was delivered by the mighty hand of God in Egypt, their finale destiny with God was determined in the time of their testing in the wilderness.
“Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested [scrutinized] Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest . Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily [boy do we need that], while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’” Hebrews, 3:12-15, NKJV
Why did not Israel enter His rest? Listen, it is not going to be any different with us, in fact it is going to be worse for us “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.” 2:3
If we don’t walk with God in faith in the trials He puts before us, we will prove not to have real faith and go to an eternal hell.
When we stand before the Lord at judgment what is the Lord going to see? Yes, we praised the Lord when things went our way, but what did we do when God allowed the trials to come to test our faith. Like Israel will we be found complaining or will we be found growing in faith. is this what we will hear from God at judgment day, "Look I brought this trial, did you trust me? How about this time, did you love me and trust me there? Ok, when I delivered you, you got excited, but that was because things were going your way. I sent trail after trial and blessing after blessing and you never trusted Me when I sent the trials to see where your life really was. I wanted to purge you of selfishness and cleans your heart but you would not let Me. You didn't strive to enter the narrow gate like I told you. You didn't cast down those thoughts that exalted themselves above Me. You didn't know Me and you insulted My power, My grace and My love. I don't know you, depart from me you worker of iniquity."
is that not what we just read above in Hebrews, 3:12-15 concerning Israel?
Israel was delivered from Egypt but failed in the wilderness miserably when God sent the trials. Job passed in flying colors, Moses left is all in Egypt and trusted God when left alone in the wilderness before God called Him to be the deliver. Hebrews 12 is full of men and women who passed the test, who walked with God in faith in the most difficult times...they are our examples! our salvation hangs on how we deal with trials. Are we like Israel, constantly complaining, grumbling and crying out for deliverances and never seeing the real joy and real propose in trials. God, in each trial, is challenging us to see if we will have faith.
2 Chronicles 32:31, "God left him [Hezekiah], to try [test] him, that he might know all that was in his heart."
How many people understand why God sends trials and even understand when He leaves us like He did Hezekiah and Job? God is not looking for the times we got excited in some worship service or when we hit it big, He is looking to see where we turn when things really matter. I can see God saying, "I sent you 1,255 trials in your 85 years, and you always complained and then you tested My love instead. Do you think that you really knew Me?"
Psalms 26:2, "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try [Heb. tsaraph = refine like metal] my mind and my heart [put it to the test]." NKJV
The fire reveals to us what gold we have or don't have. if you want to know if you know Him, don't ask if you called Him Lord, Lord or you ran to say the sinners prayer in hopes He would make your life easier; ask yourself if you repented from self and said: "though He slay me yet I will trust in Him."
Psalms 139:23, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me [Heb. bachan = to test especially like metals], and know my anxieties." NKJV
When He reveals our anxiety, our anger, our lust and our aggression, what do we do and what does He find? Faith, love??? Or does He find us sitting on His thrown judging His wisdom and love. Faith or doubt are revealed in trials.
And He [Jesus] will baptism them with the Holy Spirit and fire.” What is Holy of the Holy Spirit will not abide with what is unholy in us. We need the fire of trials and suffering so we can skim them off during the melting.
Instead of seeing our trials as painful events spoiling our life and causing us to be out of control, we need to understand that these are events allotting us the “opportunity” to make a decision to truly worship the Lord by surrendering our will in trusting Him and His wisdom. Arthur Burt has a saying, “God permits with His wisdom what He could prevent by His power.” Whenever we complain, we are telling God He doesn’t know what He is doing.
Why do we make every attempt to exercise faith when we want to get something from God, but seem to make no attempts to have faith in His wisdom during trials? Is not God wiser than us? Is He not all love and faithful? Does He not encompass every atom in the universe, every hair on our heads and sees the future as well as the past and present? What makes us think we are the better ruler in our lives than He? Has He not proven His love on the cross and given His life for us, was that not His plan so that the Christ in us could be of greater experience than all that comes against us? We grow and learn by experiencing God, not complain to God. God’s wisdom is greater than all our reasoning. We don’t act in faith in God because it is humanly reasonable to us; we act on God because He operates out of a greater knowledge and wisdom than us. He loves us better than we could ever love ourselves. His love is conditional upon our faith and obedience.
If we keep our minds on Him in absolute trust, He will keep us in perfect peace (Isa. 26:3). If we complain in our trails, do we think we shall experience peace? No one grows by complaining and acting on their negative emotions rooted in their carnal nature. What makes us put our faith and trust in our carnal nature rather than God? Is not the trial, the suffering and the chastisement all working for our good to take us from who we are into conformity to His life?
When the scriptures tell us “that all things work together for good [would that not include suffering?] to those who love [and trust] God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew [before time], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [in present time], that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [future time].” Romans 8:28,29
Would not the same DNA of the first born continue down to the “many brethren” if we are “the called”?
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” Hebrews 12:5-9, NKJV
What if we don’t endure chastening, but instead complain, get into self-pity and question His love? are we a son or illegitimate? Can we now understand why Jesus will say to many so-called Christians “I never knew you.”? Because they never acted as sons. That word “if” is one of the biggest words in the bible. “if you endure chastening,” “if you are without chastening.” If we truly are sons we will trust in Him and we will trust in His chastening and His scourges.
The reason faith is so hard for most is because they conform their faith to their understanding, feelings and goals.
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it [the kingdom of God]”Luke 18:17, NKJV
Trials present to us a greater potential to grow in Christ and to know Him than anything else we are going to deal with in this life. Being healed, delivered and God fulfilling our deepest need will not do for us what seeing Jesus during a trial will do. We can talk about our faith and love for God, but what we do during a trial will demonstrate it. Trials test how real the “Christ in you” is in our lives.
The bigger the trial the greater the opportunity to know Him and His ways. God often sends little trials first to get our attention and often He will send others to warn us. And then when we refuse to hear He will send bigger ones. “If it is big enough to bother us, it is big enough to find out what God is saying in it.” (Arthur Burt). Some years ago I was fighting for my spiritual life. Without spending a lot of words telling what happened, I can say that in my heart I saw no way out and I was totally discouraged and depressed. Arthur Burt came all the way from Orlando to see me on this one day (his home is in Whales). He was sitting on a chair while I was spewing out all my pain and he then quickly jumped out of his chair and spread his arms in the form of a cross and said, “These are the best days of your life.” That one statement has set my heart on a course in knowing the real meaning of the cross (though I preached it for years) and it connected me in a relationship of knowing and loving Him in a way I never dreamed. Never fight to end your grief, fight in faith to see Him only and learn to appreciate the trial as a means to getting further from self and closer to Him. Stand there and don’t move away until your faith in your death with Jesus resurrects you with Him in a knowledge of His ways.
Nothing can compare to seeing Jesus, living by His life and rejoicing in a trial. No amount of fasting, praying and reading our bibles will do. Trials provide us with a “real” opportunity to experientially die to our self life and its control over us and to walk in faith by “a new and living way” in Christ's life.
With the opposing forces of our emotions, our sight and with the lack of a real understanding in the spirit, we find it hard to ignore these worldly realities over the spirituality of being in Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. To the spiritually blind, they only see value in this life and deliverance from the trials and not the growth during the trial.
James knew something of the reality of trials when he wrote, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, [fully] knowing [and understanding] that the testing of your faith [during the trial] produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, [Why?] that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-5, NKJV
There is nothing humanly or naturally logical about counting suffering as joy. Peter, who once failed in his faith as Jesus was going to the cross said, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh [in the joy set before Him], arm [prepare] yourselves also with the same mind [with joy], for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin [where have we ever been taught that?], that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God…Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice [keep having joy in faith] to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:1-2, 12-14
Paul made it his ambition: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, [by] being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11, NKJV
Are we fellowshipping with His suffering or are we fellowshipping with our suffering (self-pity)? The kingdom of God is in knowing Him, His power and the fellowship of His suffering.
“Let us lay aside every weight [that troubles us to carry], and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [how do we run?] looking [by faith like Moses] unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him [His trial] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [resurrection].” Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV
It is by faith we see and not by sight or feelings. We must focus our life coming out of His life. All that defines His life defines ours if we walk in faith: His peace, His joy, His victory, His righteousness, His life, His love and on and on defines us when we walk in faith. We are to set our minds above where we are seated with Him in heavenly places and not on things of this earth. (Colossians 3)
1 John 5:4-5, “For whatever [whoever] is born of God overcomes the world [and sin also]. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith [not our sight or feelings].”
Faith is not an emotion or something we pick up from a faith convention, faith is a stand against all that is coming from the natural and when we stand in the reality of being in Christ, seated with Him in heavenly places and knowing that Christ is our life as we abide in Him. Faith is not a wishy washy stand, but an aggressive determination that we will not move from our position in Him and we will rejoice in Him in spite of all the temptations, reasonings and feelings. It is a “Jesus is my life and I no longer live.”
The whole reality of the cross is for us to die to self, abandon self as our source and life, put it away and pay no attention to it. We do not try to change or convert our flesh or believe that somehow our flesh is going to become spiritual… it is not…die to it and do not live by it.
If our relationship with Jesus is based only on good events and our being in control, who then are we being faithful to and who is the lord? Don’t kid yourself; if we are going to enter heaven it is going to be based on faith alone and who we serve and obey. “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.”
We can religiously sing and worship on Sunday and emotionally feel good, but then comes Monday with its responsibilities and troubles… it is here that we will find our true worth-ship because of who we place our worth in. We must give all worth to Him and live by the reality of Jesus’ life and our life being and abiding in Him alone. God will not share the throne of our heart with our flesh.
“I say then: Walk in the [reality of the] Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts [wars] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Gal 5:16,17, NKJV
The other day I was working in my garage, which is a mess, and I bumped into a jar full of drywall screws that fell on the cluttered floor. A feeling of anger arose in me for about a split second, and I stopped and looked down and saw the screws scattered on the floor that was covered with junk; then I stopped and looked up to Jesus and thanked Him for the wonderful opportunity to make Him my life and to show Him that He had more value to me than the little trials. I know that this was not a big trial and we go through these kinds of things hundreds of times each day, but we learn in the small trials to prepare us for the big ones.
Right now we are going through these little sufferings to gain His anointing for the sufferings that are coming. “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines.” Song of Solomon 2:15, NKJV
The next fox (little trial) that comes to spoil your vine, bury him and use him for fertilizer.
“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you [the natural thing], then how can you contend with horses [the supernatural]? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you [ideal situations], then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan [overwhelming things]?” Jeremiah 12:5, NKJV
I am often reminded of Job, the model of a person growing through trials and I think how he dealt with such a great loss in his life. I am reminded of the words of God to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" Job 1:8, NKJV
“My servant” “none like him on the earth” “blameless” “upright” “fears God” “shuns evil”…is that not the kind of statement God should make of all of us who confess to be believers and love Him? Think of how many little trials it must have taken Job to prove and establish his love for God in this big trial? How many times he dealt with hopeless situations, small trials and worshipped the Lord instead? How common it was for him to set aside his feelings and ambitions and see Jesus in everything. Nothing diverted Him from his love and devotion to the Lord… is that not the meaning of being an anointed one in Christ’s anointing… Christian? Sad, in most trials we quit our devotion to Him and submit to our pride and emotions and it is there that Jesus says, “I do not know where you are from…you are not from Me.” We ignore Him and focus on ourselves…that is not faith
Job lost his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his camels, his servants and finally his children, his respect, his control and all of that in the space of a few hours and days. So what did Job do in the face of his trial? “Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there [I ain’t budgin’]. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”
In a sense Job was not only willing to lose it all, but ripped the cloths off his back and said “You can have it all, I came with nothing and willing to leave with nothing.” When we are willing to lose it all the Devil has no power over us. We don’t get there by giant steps; we get there by small steps… drywall screws falling on the floor, red lights, the a/c going out, not getting our way, people not hearing us, our desires not being met and on and on. Don’t let a day go by, a trial go by without worshipping Him; giving Him all your worth. His presence at the end of the trial is worth it all. The revelation, the light and life in Him is worth in all.
Every trial presents us with that choice. If we live out of self we shall die spiritually, but if we put the deeds of the flesh to death we shall live. If we continue to fight against the suffering that a wise God permits in the fire to rid us of the spots and wrinkles, what even causes us to think that we are sons?