It’s Not a Test, it’s a Battle!

“See!  God don’t like ugly!”  This phrase is usually spoken in response to hearing about someone going through difficult circumstances that the hearer felt they deserved.  The severity of the circumstances indicated how much that person had displeased God.

God is not mad at us.  God is not cruel.  God doesn’t put temptations in front of us to see how well we’ll react to them.  God doesn’t try to break us.  He doesn’t remove Himself from us, stand back, and watch us try to figure out how to please Him. 

Many Christians lay down when they encounter hardships thinking that God is testing them in some way.  They lay down their peace.  They lay down their spiritual weapons.  Some Christians even lay down their relationship with God altogether.  Many buckle under the pressure of circumstances, trials, and temptations because they believe that for whatever reason, what they are going through is the will of God, and it is His way to make them stronger, better, or more acceptable as Christians. 

Some Christians think that trials and tribulations are just the cost of living life on this planet, and the goal is to get through it the best way they can.  Still, others think that trials are the price they pay for the life that they lived and the choices that they’ve made.  They believe that God is not intervening because it is their due.

What do all these things have in common?  Defeat.  Jesus did not come for us to be defeated.  God did not send Jesus to the cross and to defeat hell, in order to deliver us out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of His Son (Colossians 1:13) so that we would continue to live subject to the reign of darkness.

God is love.  God loves us, not just people in general, but us, individually. God is faithful to us.  Let’s reconcile our thinking with the Word of God.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  3 And not only so, but also we glory in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, the One having been given to us.

So, how do we reconcile this scripture?  We do what 2 Timothy 2:15 recommends; we diligently present ourselves approved to God, workers who do not need to be ashamed because we rightly divide the word of truth.  In other words, we use the Word of God to define the Word of God.

Romans 5:1-5 is telling us that we, ourselves, are already justified or in right standing with God through faith.  Therefore, we have peace, already, with God.  This justification is due to the righteousness of Jesus that we have wrapped around us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  So, based on verse one, we know that if our justification comes from our faith in Jesus, it is not due to our performance.  Verse one also tells us that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We’ve declared Jesus Lord and are one with Him (Ephesians 3:6: This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus).  Since God doesn’t change His mind (James 1:17), that peace is ever ours.  So now, we know we are innocent in God’s sight, and we have and enjoy peace with God.  Verse two tells us that through Jesus Christ we have access to the favor of God which is the place where we stand before God (Ephesians 1:4: just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love).

So far, we’ve uncovered a lot of good concerning who we are in God’s sight. We now know that God loves us; we are innocent in His eyes because of the righteousness that we enjoy through Jesus Christ.  We know that we have peace with God, and that faith in Jesus enables us to stand in God’s favor.  Now we understand what we should be boasting about.  Glory to God for His goodness!  Glory to God for His lovingkindness!  Glory to God for victory!  

With that understanding, we can look at verse three.  Ok, now this verse is talking about glorying in tribulation.  How does that relate to what we’ve just uncovered? Verse three speaks of opportunity.  Opportunity to put our faith to the test and to glorify God in the process.  It’s testing not us but the strength of our weapons, proving how strong and reliable they are.  Many people have the wrong perspective.  They think they themselves are what’s being tested, not their weapons. 

When you are crafting a weapon, say you’re shaping it, sharpening its edge, if you test it and find that it is not sharp enough, you don’t throw yourself away.  You don’t consider yourself unworthy of the blade, unworthy of all blades, unworthy to work on blades ever again just because you haven’t gotten the blade you’re working on sharp enough yet.   No, you continue sharpening and testing.  You keep trying it out and working on it.  You sharpen the blade and get it to the level of sharpness you desire, and then you use it.  The more you use it, the more you need to continue to sharpen it.  It is a cycle.  Our spiritual weapons are like that.  They need to be honed and kept in a state of readiness.  The more you use them, the more you need to keep them honed.  Our spiritual weapons are sharpened, honed by using them.  Verse three talks about the glory that results from when perseverance, character, and hope are proven and tried. 

The word tribulation in verse three is also interpreted throughout the scripture as afflictions, sufferings, or pressure.  Trials and tribulations are like a whetstone.  They come because we are in this curse-filled world, full of temptation and consequences of sin.  They come because we have an enemy of our souls.  But they shouldn’t prevail over you.  The stone should not prevail over the blade.

John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!”

John 15:19 If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.

Hebrews 5:13, 14 For everyone who lives on milk is still an infant, inexperienced in the message of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained their sensibilities to distinguish good from evil.

So, how are our spiritual weapons honed?   By using them.  By not laying them down at the first sign of trouble.  You must believe, to trust God and do what He says.   The first step to victory is to know that it’s not God who is causing your defeat.

John 10:6-10 Jesus spoke to them using this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. 7 So He said to them again, “Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.

Our victory is assured through Jesus Christ.  We have to have faith in what He said, faith in His Word.   You overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of YOUR testimony.  This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith (1John 5:4).  You have to use your faith to mature it.  The use of your faith catalyzes the growth and maturity of all the other spiritual weapons God has provided us through our union with Christ.

James 1:2-4, 12-27 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creation.  19 My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and every expression of evil, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save your souls.  22 Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. 23 For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, 24 and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 2 5But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so—not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer—he will be blessed in what he does.  26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his heart and his religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.