Many of us probably find ourselves assuming that when we experience difficult circumstances, God is chastening us or Satan is harassing us and that when life offers up a more pleasant dish, God is blessing us. We can certainly cite scriptural proofs for the validity of those views. But danger lurks when we automatically assume those things to be true—and nothing else. And the truth is that those assumptions can foster a sense of complacency and self-righteousness. What we should remember is that God uses two kinds of testing in the lives of His children.
Bad times test God’s children. No one is surprised by this thought. Will Job curse God and die as his wife “encouraged” him to do after God has seen fit to allow all his wealth to be stolen or destroyed and all his children to die simultaneously in a storm? Will Noah worship God even though God has assigned him the immense task of building an ark and then has destroyed every human being on earth, including all Noah’s relatives with the exception of his wife, three sons, and their three wives? Will Joseph worship a pagan god in Egypt because the God of Israel has permitted him to be separated from his family, sold into slavery, and thrown into prison on the basis of false testimony? Will Daniel “go for the gusto” because God has (probably) permitted his family to be killed and allowed Daniel to be carried away captive to a heathen land? Will David forsake God since God has seen fit to allow King Saul to threaten his life and make it generally fearful and miserable even though Samuel has anointed David to be king in Saul’s stead?
Clearly, bad times offer the opportunity for us to abandon our faith. But equally clear is the truth that bad times tend to drive the believer to the Lord. And often the worse the trial, the more earnestly we seek the Lord. Frequent, even severe, trials are the common lot of the believer. And as the examples listed above illustrate, they often provoke us to turn to the Lord. In such times, our weaknesses are exposed and our need for Him revealed. In such times, the natural and human resources we tended to trust (perhaps unwittingly) when all was well, fail. Our only hope is the Lord. Trials tend to blaze with the brilliant light of the truth that we are entirely dependent upon God’s goodness and grace.
Early in their wilderness wandering, the children of Israel experienced some momentary hunger pangs. Though they had witnessed the miracles of the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea for their safe passage, the destruction of Pharaoh and his army, the provision of water at Marah, and the visible Presence of God in the pillar of cloud and fire that led them, they grumbled to Moses about their lot. The Lord promptly responded: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day” (Ex. 16:4a). What a miraculous deliverance! Delicious, nourishing, plentiful bread, free for the taking! Easier than taking a loaf of bread off the shelf of the grocery store—just step outside your tent and it was everywhere. Talk about good times! But the Lord had not finished speaking: God told Moses that He had made this wonderful provision, these good times, so “that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction” (Ex. 16:4b). In recounting these events to the children of the next generation who were about to encounter the “milk and honey” of the Promised Land, Moses said, “In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end” (Deut. 8:16).
Will we obey the Lord when ease intrudes? Will we be as careful to do His will in good times as we are to fly to Him in bad ones? The tests of natural blessing are intended to sanctify us for ultimate spiritual blessing.
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