Grateful for a Test?

Have you ever wondered why God lets hard times fall upon his people? Or why God lets Christians face persecution for following Him?


Peter the disciple knew the answer, both from the teachings of Jesus and from his own personal experience. He wrote, "Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory." (1 Peter 1:7, The Message)


Now, I realize that Peter was referring to persecution of Christians; men, women, and children in the first century who were being tortured for their faith in God. But wouldn't you agree that throughout God's Word any type of trying circumstance helps us "prove" our faith genuine? That's what James, John, Luke, Paul, and others seem to indicate. No matter what you're facing, God's grace and power not only can carry you through; it can actually use bad things to create good results.


How?


When gold is refined by fire, the impurities rise to the top for removal, and the gold is thus purified. Likewise, suffering and difficulties have a way of bringing impurities to the surface of our lives, allowing us to deal with them properly. Could it be that the suffering you are going through today could be used by God for just this type of purpose?


Now, I'm not saying that God is the cause of your suffering. In rare instances it is possible, but most of our difficulties are our own doing, or results of the actions of others. My contention is that no matter what the cause, God can take evil and do something good; he can take what was meant to harm and use it to bless.


That's what Peter was saying to these severely persecuted Christians. Surely the Roman Caesar was not obeying God's will when he condemned Christians to be beaten, beheaded, or tortured. But even that horrific evil can be used for a positive purpose by the all-powerful hands of a loving God.


(Interestingly, the Christian church grew at a much faster pace during times of intense persecution than it did during times of peace and freedom. This is still true today, as the highest levels of church growth are being recorded in parts of the world hostile to the Christian message.)


So, perhaps suffering isn't all bad. Not that we ask for it, but when it comes, we can look for the good and rejoice in God's grace. Isn't that what Jesus would have us do?


When our faith is put to the test, when we have to stand up for what is right in adverse circumstances, when we have to maintain our joy through trials, our love for God can be proved genuine. Testing, then, can be a good thing.


If we pass the test (we stay true to God during hard times), we can rejoice in the assurance that our faith is real. If we fail the test, we can say "thank you" to God for warning us before it is too late; we can make the effort to get our faith on the right track. Either way, should we not be grateful for testing?


I like how Peter concludes the thought: "it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory."


In the future, God won't be interested in how much we made, how successful or comfortable our lives were on earth. His "victory" is demonstrated by our faith. At the end of all things, that's what really counts.


If some testing is necessary to prove my faith genuine, so be it.


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This article was originally written by Dan for the Marco Island Sun Times.

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