Why Does God Test Us?

As followers of Jesus, we have become citizens of a new kingdom. Paul wrote, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

It’s important to realize, this kingdom operates very differently than the earthly realm in which we also live. When we approach life in God’s kingdom like we do life in the earthly realm, we will experience frustration and confusion. One very major difference between God’s kingdom and the earthly realm has to do with seeing and believing.

In the Kingdom of God, we believe then we see. Our faith perceives what is unseen and then we wait for God to bring it to pass. But the world system doesn’t operate that way; it says, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” To experience success in God’s kingdom, we must operate according to His values. And that requires intentional effort, because He has said…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

As we grow in our understanding of God’s kingdom-priorities, we can align ourselves with Him and experience the life He has for us. His thoughts and ways begin to take precedence over ours. Now we might not always like the way God does things, but that’s besides the point. This is His universe and His kingdom and He gets to decide what the priorities will be and how things will be done.

One of God’s major priorities for our lives is growing our faith, our ability to trust Him completely regardless of our circumstances or feelings. Hebrews 11:17-19 says:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

God tested Abraham. And it was a big one. He told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. I can only imagine what Abraham must have been feeling. He and Sarah had waited all their lives to have a son. And finally in their old age, Isaac was born. And now it looks like God is going to take him from them.

“Sacrifice my son, Lord? But why? How will I explain this to his mother? I don’t understand. You promised You were going to bless the world through him. There must be another way.”

God had no intention of letting Abraham go through with it. It was only a test of his faith. And Abraham passed. So how did he do it?

He “embraced the promises.” He knew what God had told him about Isaac. It would be through him that God would bless the world. Isaac would eventually become the father of Jacob. And Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, had his own sons who became the nation of Israel.

Abraham also reasoned that even if Isaac was sacrificed, God could raise him from the dead. The Hebrew word for “reasoned” means: to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over. In other words, Abraham took into account what God had said previously. He thought it all through very carefully. And he embraced God’s promises. The end result of his reasoning was that he knew he could trust God to come through for him. And God did.

Since God never changes, it means He will test us too. I’ve seen it in my life this summer. As God has been at work in me, teaching me and strengthening my faith, I’ve noticed He has also been testing me. Something will happen that seems to contradict what God has said in His word. My tendency has been to focus on the circumstances and doubt God. And that only leads to discouragement. But once I realized God was testing my faith, I chose to embrace His promises and reason that I could continue to trust Him.

So what are you facing today? What circumstances seem overwhelming right now?

Could it be God is testing you? Maybe He wants you to know He really will come through for you, just as He did for Abraham. But if your faith is never tested…how will you know? If you never feel the need to see God come through, how will your faith ever grow?

Maybe the challenges you’re facing today are the tests that are preparing you for what God has in store for you in this next season. What if He has great plans to bless you and use you in ways you’ve never experienced before, but first your ability to trust Him must grow?

Like Abraham, take some time to reason. Don’t focus on what you can see. That will only lead to discouragement and hopelessness. Keep your eyes on God’s character and His promises. You’ll pass the test, see your faith grow and move into a new season of fruitfulness.

How to Never Be Disappointed

Would you like to never feel disappointed again? To never feel the sadness that comes with unmet expectations? It’s simple.

Do nothing. Ask for nothing. And expect nothing.

Give up on your dreams. Take no risks. Make only small attempts.

Have no expectations of yourself. Set no goals. Make no plans.

Never express your needs to your spouse. Definitely not your wants.

Never pray. If you do, don’t ask for anything specific.

Don’t talk to strangers. Or ask a friend for help.

Learn to tolerate the job you hate.

Don’t think you have what it takes to start a business, form a non-profit or write a book.

Never seek adventure. Or try to make a difference.

Listen to anyone who tells you “it can’t be done” or “you’re not good enough.” Especially the negative voice in your head.

Fear failure. It guarantees you’ll attempt nothing great.

Just settle. For the life you have now. For the marriage you have now. For the influence you have now. For the financial situation you have now.

Get completely comfortable with the status quo.

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

My 3 Greatest Mistakes

I’ve made more mistakes and bad decisions than I could ever possibly count. I could probably list a hundred or more without any trouble, but I’d probably be forgetting thousands of others.

Most of my wrong choices and failures could be lumped into the major categories of career, finances and things I’ve said.

But the top 3 mistakes are all wrong beliefs, which then effect every area of my life…

1. I’ve had a wrong view of life.

For some reason, I got it in my head that life would be easier than it has turned out to be. I feel silly even saying that, because on a whole, and compared with most of the world, I have a great life. And an easy one.

I’ve never missed a meal. I never worry about having access to clean water. When I’m sick, which isn’t very often, I can see a doctor. I’m married to an amazing woman. I have four incredible kids, two sons-in-law (with a third coming in six weeks) and two wonderful grandsons.

I live in a great house with heat and air-conditioning right across the street from the University of Arkansas. Robyn and get to minister to together and see God use us through the ministry of Young Life.

I could go on and on about the blessings in my life. And yet, there have also been many failures and disappointments. I’ve failed where I thought I would succeed. I’ve had hopes and dreams that haven’t come true. Things I thought for sure would work…didn’t.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (Romans 8:15-17)

Do you ever wish the Bible would stop sooner? I mean just read those three verses again and stop before you get to the last sentence.

Sounds pretty good, right? Adopted as God’s children. We become heirs and we share in God’s glory.

But that last sentence is just as true as all the others. “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

That’s not the only place in the Bible where we see the reality of suffering. Actually, it’s all throughout the Bible. Suffering, difficulties, setbacks, failures, disappointments and consequences of bad choices are everywhere. No one is immune.

And yet, somehow, I missed it. And so I’ve had this mistaken belief that things would be easy or at least easier, especially when walking with God. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. And that leads to the second mistake…

2. I’ve had a wrong view of God.

I allowed my failures, hardships and disappointments to cloud my view of God. Because I didn’t anticipate suffering as a normal part of being human and even of being a child of God, I began to doubt God’s character.

I concluded He wasn’t good or loving or faithful. At least not to me. And that wrong belief distorted my view of Him, myself and life. It effected my thinking, my emotions and my decisions.

It really effected how I prayed. Because I doubted God’s goodness and faithfulness, I stopped truly trusting Him. I didn’t pray boldly or confidently, because I didn’t want to be disappointed when an answer didn’t come.

My wrong view of God lasted for many years. And if I’m honest, it’s only been in the last few years that I’m making more of a “complete” recovery.

So what’s the truth about God?

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)

God showed His great love on the cross. Now think about that for a minute. Not only did God Himself die in our place, while we were completely undeserving, this verse also reveals the fact that the Son of God suffered. How did I miss the obvious? Those twenty words reveal God’s true character as well as the true nature of life: God loves us and suffering us part of life.

As I’ve endured some personal hardships and have been careful to not make the same mistake I made in the past by doubting God, I’ve instead made the third big mistake…

3. I’ve had a wrong view of myself.

When I’ve experienced failures and disappointments, I’ve allowed them to define me. I’ve allowed them to effect my identity. Failure has meant I’m a failure. Suffering must mean there’s something wrong with me. Rather than seeing failure as a normal part of business and life…and seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and to grow…I’ve pointed a finger inward.

I love what Rocky said to his son in the movie Rocky Balboa about all of this…

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” (If you want to watch the entire scene, the video is below.)

Maybe you’ve wrestled with some of these wrong beliefs like I have. If so, let me simply encourage you to keep going. Keep wrestling. There aren’t any shortcuts or quick and easy answers.

God does love you though.

And failure and suffering are a normal part of life.

And you’re not a failure just because you’ve failed.

 

 

Knowing God’s Will

Have you ever wanted to know God’s will beyond any shadow of a doubt? I mean no wondering, no second guessing, no trying to figure things out? Well, keep reading…but let me start with a few more questions…

Would you describe yourself as “grateful?” Are you thankful for what you have? Or do you feel entitled to not only what you have, but what you don’t have?

Until recently, I would have told you I’m grateful and that I do not have an entitlement mentality. In fact, the way so many people expect the government to provide for them really, really bothers me.

But I’m afraid I’m not quite as grateful as I thought. And while I don’t expect the government to give me things, I do expect God to.

Now I realize God makes wonderful promises regarding our provision. Matthew 6:31-34 says:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

We were not made to run after the things we need. Jesus said that’s what those who don’t even know God do. Instead, we were made to run after God. To seek Him. To desire Him.

But have you noticed that God’s timing and His ways aren’t usually like ours? I expect things to happen right away. Seek first His kingdom? Check! Now where’s my stuff, God?

It doesn’t work that way, does it?

There’s almost always a delay. There’s a season of waiting before we see God work. And in the waiting, we must trust, which God enjoys. Hebrews 11:6 says:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Faith pleases God. In other words, He likes to be trusted. I believe He gets pleasure when I choose to not panic, but instead believe that He will come through for me.

So let’s get back to the issue of gratitude.

When we experience an unmet need or desire, it’s very easy to feel discontent. And without even realizing it, we can become ungrateful. And if you’re like me, it’s also easy to become resentful.

Rather than trusting that God is good and faithful and rather than seeing my current circumstances as an opportunity to know Him better and be conformed to His likeness, I become angry or discouraged. I become tempted to give up. I begin to doubt God is really all that good. I can feel like He’s treating me unfairly.

Of course, when my kids were younger, I never let them get away with saying things like, “That’s not fair!” Why? Because life isn’t fair, so there’s no sense in whining or complaining about it. And when it comes to God, you and I really don’t want Him to be fair. Fair would be we all get to pay for our own sins. Unfair is Jesus dying in my place. Let’s be glad God isn’t fair.

So here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. Am I willing to be grateful for whatever circumstances I’m facing? And are you?

Whether we’re dealing with a health issue, a broken relationship, problems at work or a financial crisis…we have a choice to make. We can thank God for whatever it is we’re going through or we can complain and whine and grumble about it. Like me, the Israelites were grumblers and it never turned out well for them. You can read about one of those times HERE. So why in the world would I think my grumbling and complaining about my hardships would turn out any better?

Think about this way…if God wanted to change our current circumstances, He could. He could do it in an instant if He wanted to. But if He hasn’t done that, then just maybe He’s up to something much greater. Something that takes more time. And something that takes our cooperation rather than our complaining.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So there it is. As clear as it can be.

God’s will for us is to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Even the ones we don’t like.

Maybe once we start doing that, we’ll start to see things change in the direction we’ve been hoping for.


If you want to grow in your faith and believe God, not your circumstances, then check out my 40-day devotional by CLICKING HERE.

Thankful

20 Days of Believing God (Day 18)

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is ungrateful.

But then I realized that I often focus on what I don’t have. What I’m lacking. What I still want.

And so I feel discontent. Disappointed. Sometimes like I’m failing.

So today I thought I’d turn it around…for once…and focus on what I do have to be thankful for. Both big and small. Here’s just a partial list…

Jesus. He loves me. He’s forgiven me. He’s for me. He’s committed to me. He died in my place.

Robyn. She’s amazing. An off-the-charts blessing. I hope I get to be married to her for another 30 years.

Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. My kids are such a blessing to me. They’re walking with God and making good choices.

Richard and Ross. My sons-in-law serve their country and my daughters well.

Wes and Tyler. My two grandsons are a great joy.

My health. Other than an occasional cold or headache, I’ve rarely been sick.

My friends. The ones I grew up with, the ones I have now, the ones I rarely see…

My sister. Who doesn’t think like me or vote like me!

The ministry of Young Life.

A house to live in and cars to drive.

Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

A pocket-sized computer I carry around that also functions as a phone, a camera and video-recorder.

Football. The opportunity I had to play it and now only watch it. What a great game!

The opportunity to write books and create courses.

Parents who loved me, supported me and encouraged me.

Readers who like my books and ask for more.

The Bible, through which God speaks, leads, convicts and encourages.

My MacBook Pro.

Snow. I love it.

The beach.

Hawaii.

The opportunity to have visited 49 of the 50 states so far. I’m coming for you one day, Nevada.

Pie. Oh, I love pie. Pecan. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Coconut Cream.

Ice Cream. Especially when it’s really hard and has some crunch to it.

Naps.

Couples who’ve entrusted me with their pre-marital counseling.

Books.

Did I mention my wife? And kids?

God’s faithfulness. Even when I doubt.

And His patience. Boy, do I need that!

The backyard swimming pool we had when I was a kid.

Getting to go to the Razorback basketball game tonight with Robyn and Rob.

God’s provision for me and my family.

Beautiful sunsets.

The aroma of fresh, hot cinnamon rolls.

Music.

Hearing my grandsons laugh.

Sex.

The anticipation of heaven.

Meaningful work to do.

So many wonderful memories.

Young Life camps.

A fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

Cold water after a run on a hot day.

The smell of freshly cut grass, which always reminds me of football.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could add. So thank you, Lord, for Your love and faithfulness and kindness toward me. You’ve been way better to me than I deserve.

So what are a few things on your list?