I’ve been in the ministry for over 40 years and have seen just about everything, but there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me. It is when seemingly spiritual people respond in non spiritual ways when adversity and testings arise. I add the concept of testings because, often times, how we handle the test determines where our faith walk and spiritual journey takes us next.
I believe that the depths of a man’s relationship with Jesus Christ can be measured by his or her response to adversity and circumstances around them. Personally, I can tell you that failing the test at times can be part of the process of becoming what the Holy Spirit has in store for you, but the key becomes, what I have learned through adversity so as not to make the same mistake again. The Pharisees and Sadducee’s were considered deeply spiritual men in their day, but Jesus said about them in Matthew 13:13, ‘ For they look ,but they really don’t see, and they hear, but they really don’t listen or understand.’ Have you ever been in a conflict where someone refuses to see or listen even when the truth is placed before them? It’s as if there is a seemingly invisible barrier between the two of you. It is where wisdom and spiritual discernment are tossed aside and accusations and anger become the normative response.
We see this confusion and response in Peter’s life. Peter was one of the leading apostles and one of first disciples called by Jesus becoming spokesperson for the group. He also authored First and Second Peter. He was brash and bold in His Faith, walking on water,and cutting the ear off of Malchus the servant of the high priest when they came for Jesus in the Garden. It was Peter who proudly proclaimed in Matthew 16, ‘Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ It was Peter who said in Matthew 26:35,’ Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!…And all the other disciples vowed the same.’ Often times good intentions are not backed up by words and actions.
Peter became a man shaped on the Potter’s Wheel (Jeremiah 18), but it took failing the test to get there, because soon after all the gallant proclamations, Peter would deny the Lord three times. What is it that causes Christians in the Church to constantly reject the Gospel they’re supposed to be living and modeling and revert back to sinful and fleshy responses? Paul put it best in Galatians 3:1 in response to the Galatians reverting to old ways of thinking. ‘You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives.’
So how can we pass the test when testing, masquerading as adversity, enters our quiet and peaceful lives? How can we march on to the next level of trust and purpose that the Holy Spirit has for us instead of circling the mountain of sinful responses over and over again? I want to share five simple and brief warnings that can save you from walking away from that destiny and next step of faith waiting for you,that your legacy might be fulfilled
First of all a former pastor shared from our pulpit recently that when she had been hired 18 years earlier, several people deeply hurt her. The easy thing would have been to run, but she didn’t. She stood the test, responded in a Godly way,and saw it for what it was-God’s test of her loyalty to the vision of our church. Now 18 years later, with mission trips all over the world, teaching seminars, women’s conferences, and many other experiences, Pastor Mary Kay said to think of what she would have missed if she had failed the test?
Secondly, When conflict arises, it is the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and discernment that should be governing your responses and not your tongue. In Acts 20:30 Paul warned the church, ‘ Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.’ What is in our hearts readily becomes evident by how we speak in tough situations. Scripture warns us again and again that we must not receive accusation but in wisdom and discernment, seek the Truth.
Thirdly, It is easy to be influenced by the roar of the crowd. It is human nature to listen to the crowd and let fear and confusion over ride what is the Truth. Peter did when he denied Jesus 3 times. Also, in Luke 12:54-56, Jesus said to the crowd before Him, ‘ You can tell when its about to rain by the cloud formations and when the south wind blows, you know that it will be a scorcher. You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and the sky, but you cant figure out and interpret the situations around you.’ This is why we have so many denominations. We are so spiritually naive and not prayed up at times that we cannot discern the signs of the times, so rather than seek God’s way, we just start another church for those confused individuals who are confused like we are.
Fourth, the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus is not only denied by verbal assaults but also how we model Jesus to the world. We must think before we speak. Hebrew teaching , when referencing our spoken words says that words have the power of life and death. Every word spoken can never be withdrawn. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.’
Fifth, stop listening to other voices but seek the voice of God. Psalms 46:10 states,’ Be still and know that I am God.’ Translated- cease striving, stop being so confused, wait in silent reverence, and let me speak! I have found out in talking to so many wounded believers, down through the years who had previously left other churches, that most often, they didn’t know why they had left.In most cases, they left because someone else, likely with second and third hand information was speaking into their ear and rather than trust the pastor or seek out the real answer, they walked out. That is the demise of the American church today.
Finally, consider the test laid before you, seek Godly wisdom and discernment, don’t surrender to the roar of the crowd, consider every word that you speak, and listen for God’s voice and not the voices of others, and you will graduate to the next part of the Plan that God has for you!