The Testing of Faith

“The ultimate test of faith isn’t how loudly you praise God in happy times but how deeply you trust him in dark times.” ~ Rick Warren

At various times throughout our lives, God will seek to move our faith out the realm of mere mental theory and and allow it to be tested.

That’s because faith isn’t meant to be something ambiguous that only dwells in our minds, but something practically applied to our everyday lives.

Why?

Because what good is faith if it is never scrutinized? How can we know we possess faith if it is never probed? How can we know the quality of our faith if it is never employed?

Bottom line, our faith must, from time to time, be taken out for a test drive.

Typically, the “faith tests” we face come in the form of obstacles, challenges, diversions, mysteries, pain, and suffering.

Sometimes we pass the tests God allows into our lives. (If so, hallelujah!)

And sometimes our tests of faith show us we have more growing to do.

The apostle Peter wrote about allowing our faith to go under the microscope in his first epistle. The recipients of his letter were being persecuted for taking a stand for Jesus. Life wasn’t easy. Endurance was waning. Thus, Peter offered these words of both encouragement and exhortation:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 CSB)

If faith is never tested, we can never be quite sure it exists. But as faith is tested, it reveals itself through our character and conduct.

The testing of our faith is not only for proving the existence of faith, but also for growing of faith. James said as much:

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3 CSB)

Simply put, the more we practice faith, the stronger our faith can become.

It’s a bit like going to the gym. The more we run, the farther we can run. The more weight we lift, the stronger our muscles become.

The testing or trials we undergo come in various ways. Becoming a Christian will often require us to move out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Every test, every trial, and every difficulty is not intended to break us but to shape us, form us, and make us into the image of the Son of God, as “he learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8)

Sometimes I wonder if we put too much energy into running from trials, rather than spending time building our faith. Rather than try to protect our faith, we should be willing to allow it to be tested to make sure its there!

I think its important to note that whatever trials God has ordained for us during the course of our lives, we will ultimately be made to stand by God’s power, and not our own. God gifts us with faith. And if we allow, He will grow our faith that it might glorify Him and bless those around us.

When we experience the storms of life, we should be like the tree that digs its roots ever more deeply for a greater grip in the earth. We must “dig our roots” more deeply into God’s Word and cling to His promises so we can weather whatever storms come against us.

Equipping, Not Entertaining

In the early chapters of the book of Revelation, the apostle John received some words from Jesus about the spiritual condition of seven churches that were scattered throughout Asia Minor. A few of the churches were highly commended (Good job churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia!). Most of the churches received a mixture of both commendation and correction. And, of course, the church located in Laodicea only got complaints from Jesus.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus might say about church life in 2021. Would he give us a high five? Or would he be forced to point out some problems that needed some attention?

One thing that seems obvious to me is that many of us approach church more like a consumer rather than a communer. In other words, we come to church seeking what church can do for us, rather than finding out how we can help make the church become more fruitful and faithful. Rather than give, we’re more interested in taking.

One way this shows up is how some people think about the hired staff. For some, the pastors and ministry team leaders are hired to do the all the work of ministry. For this kind of church attender, the bulk of their responsibility is limited to (1) showing up for worship services and church events, and (2) giving to the offering.

But this is not a scriptural perspective. Not in the least! Check out what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in regard the primary role ministry leaders are to play within the life of the church:

And he himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB)

It seems that in our modern day we have broken down the church into two groups: the professionals and everyone else. The implication is that the professionals do all the work while they rest of the church shows up and gives money. But from God’s perspective, every believer has a role and function within the church. This is the point Paul sought to make in 1 Corinthians 12,

They key task of ministry leaders is not to do all the work of the ministry, but to equip all the members of the church to carry out the ministry! In too many of our churches, the majority of Christians are too busy watching the action rather than participating in actual service. The church was never intended to be a spectator sport where great numbers of believers warm the bench. But sadly, a lot of Christians are doing just that. Which doesn’t make for much health, for the individual or the church body.

It’s been said that the modern church could be compared to a pro football game. On any given Sunday, the stands are filled with 80,000 people desperately in need of exercise. And on the field are 22 players desperately in need of rest. What an imbalance!

May the people of God resist the urge to have our ministry leaders entertain us. Instead, may God’s people insist on being equipped.

Equipped to teach.

Equipped to counsel.

Equipped to serve.

Equipped to love.

The bottom line is this: the more equipped Christians are serving within the church, the healthier that church will be.

Let’s say no to spectator Christianity once and for all.