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Tests, trials and temptations

Grace Tidings with Dr Doug Mamvura

One of the things most students dislike about school are tests. Tests don’t excite us. They put us under a lot of pressure, and can make life very unpleasant for most students. During our primary school days, caning was very popular. I used to hate tests because we had a very wicked teacher who used to take pleasure in caning students.

Tests are generally scary even when we feel we are ready for the exams. However, without tests we can’t be promoted to the next level.

Tests also occur in the Bible.

We see how God tested Abraham in the book of Genesis. Peter also vowed to Jesus that he would never deny Him and that he would die with Him. This was also tested and Peter failed the test dismally.

Jesus made it very clear that “in this world you shall have trials and tribulations but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The word “test” means to prove by examination. So when God tests His children, the purpose is to prove that their faith is real. This doesn’t mean that God wants to prove to Himself that our faith is real. He knows all things, so there is no need to prove to Himself. He wants to prove to us that our faith is stronger than we think and that we are victors, not victims. It is also important to note that God’s tests are not meant to cause harm to us like sickness or death. The Bible tells us in John 10:10 that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. It is only the thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy.

A test is God’s way of proving and promoting His children. God allows His children to be tested for the purpose of promoting them or blessing. These tests can come at various stages of our lives.

On the other hand, trials are adversities that come to reveal who we really are. A trial can either purify us or corrupt us. Trials are usually inflicted by Satan but permitted by God as what happened with Job. They come in the form of afflictions or hardships. While a test is not usually an affliction, a trial is.

Temptations are enticements that the devil uses to make God’s children go against God’s will. They occur when Satan uses life circumstances to entice people to sin.

Tests, trials and temptations are not always the same, but they can operate at the same time. For example, a temptation can be a trial that will test you. A test can come out of a temptation or trial. Trials and tests usually go together.

With reference to God, let us see what He tests. James 1: 2- 4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

We should take note of the phrase: “the testing of your faith”.

First Peter 1:6 -7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.

We should also take note of the phrase: “the genuineness of your faith” and also “tested by fire”. Both James and Peter talking about tests talk about “joy” and “rejoicing”. James says count it all joy and Peter says greatly rejoice.

In the two passages above it is very clear that the test is the test of faith. When we face every test there are few questions that we should answer.

The first one is, “Will I continue to trust God?” The trials of life can make us lose our faith in God. Afflictions and adversities can make you question God. Imagine the early Christians who were cut into two from their head. Some of them were covered with tar and lit to provide light. Others were thrown into lions’ den to be eaten alive.
They were killed in the most horrible way. They were slaughtered. Yet they never denied Christ.

Job’s wife told him to curse God and move on with his life. There are people who have abandoned their Christian life because of the painful experience they have gone through.

They have allowed that painful experience to separate them from God. They are angry with God. They don’t go to church any longer and don’t read their Bible anymore.

The second question is “Will you continue to hold on to God’s Word?” Abraham and Sarah continued to believe in the child of promise even though everything around them suggested the opposite. When the vision tarries, will you continue to trust God?

The third question is “Will I continue to keep my promises to God”. Every vow you make to God will be tested. Vows will be tested. Peter said to Jesus “I will not betray you.
I will not deny you”. He was tested and he failed the test after denying Him three times. We make vows to our spouses about how much “we love them and how we would remain together in sickness and in health for richer or for poorer.” These vows get tested too.

Some of us have made a commitment to God and said “If God blesses me financially, I will give back to the work of the Lord.” The church is still waiting for the money two years later since you made that pledge.

There are three sources of tests. First, God Himself can initiate a test: Genesis 22: 1-2 “God said to Abraham “take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering..” This is God not the devil. When God initiates a test it is to confirm His purposes for our lives. He will test us in order to trust us with something great. At the end of this story God said to Abraham “because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, blessing I will bless you and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as sand which is on the seashore” (Genesis 22 16).

Sadly Satan can also demand a test. Luke 22: 31- 34- “And the Lord said Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat, But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren”. This also confirms that every test is a test of faith. But Peter said I will go with you. Satan can ask for you. He also asked for Job. Sifting is a very strong word separating chaff from wheat. However Jesus understood that after the test Peter would become “pure wheat”.

Finally we can call for the test ourselves (Psalm 139:23 -24) – “Search me, O God, and know my heart, Try me and know my anxieties, And see if there is any wicked way in me.” Here David is asking for the test.

None of us can avoid these tests as long as we are in this world.

Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: drdoug@corporatemomentum.biz or Twitter @dougmamvura

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