Have You Been Tested Lately?
by Jerry Munk
The Apostle Simon Peter is an example of someone who went through many difficult times of testing. We can read about one of Peter’s tests in the Gospel of Luke – it takes place just before the crucifixion.In the early months of 2008, the Work of Christ Community in Lansing, Michigan, USA, began to hear prophetic words that a time of testing was coming. The Lord’s word came through a number of people at community prayer meetings, conferences and retreats. The Lord was quite insistent about the word and the members understood that they needed to pay attention and respond. One response was the following presentation given by Jerry Munk at a community prayer meeting on March 9, 2008.
The Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, 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.” [Peter] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death.” Then [Jesus] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:31-34).
Peter was warned of the trial he was about to face, yet he still stumbled and denied Jesus. If we can learn from Peter’s experience, perhaps we will be better prepared when our time of testing arrives.
In the same way, it is important for us to identify the strengths and weaknesses in our spiritual life. We are in many ways self-directed in our spiritual education. Certainly the Holy Spirit guides us, and we receive help from our brothers and sisters, but whether we learn and what we learn is pretty much up to us. It is, therefore, helpful to know what we do well and what we do poorly, where we are strong and where we are weak. A time of testing helps reveal to us the areas in our spiritual lives that need some work.
Giving the right
Peter was tested many times and repeatedly got the answers wrong. He lacked faith and hope when he rebuked the Lord and tried to hinder the Father’s plan. He lacked love and courage when he denied the Lord, as Jesus was being sentenced to crucifixion. Failing these tests painfully revealed to Peter his faults and weakness. In the same way, when we are tested, the Lord reveals to us areas in our lives that need some work.
We will be tested many times in our lives. The Lord is looking for us to respond with “correct answers” as we experience these trails. Here is a hint: the correct answers are faith, and hope, and love – and prudence, justice, temperance, and courage. The Lord looks for virtue and strength of character. He also looks for the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Often, people seek miraculous deliverance as the answer to their tests. From time to time deliverance may part of it, but normally the right answer is virtue.
Giving the wrong
When we fail a test – give the wrong answer – it really is important to recognize that failure and repent. If we keep giving the wrong answer over and over we will never become the person that God wants us to be. We will wallow in fear, anxiety, resentment, and despair instead of growing in the virtue and fruit that pleases our Lord and makes us useful in building his kingdom.
There is life
There is fruitful ministry following our tests – even if we do not score 100%. Tests today prepare us to serve the Lord tomorrow. It is important to respond rightly during a test; it is also important to respond rightly after the test. It is especially important to respond rightly after a failed test: like Peter we need to return to the Lord Jesus in love, repentance, and obedience.
In the time of Christ a newly-forged sword would be heated until it glowed like the evening sky. It was then thrust into cold water. This “testing” made the sword stronger and better able to hold a sharp edge. (It was because of this technology that the Roman army won so many wars. Their swords could literally cut their opponents’ swords in two.) In the same way we are made stronger and more useful to our Lord as we experience the fire of testing.
Seeing the test
Often times we fail to recognize tests as they happen, even when we are warned of them in advance. Jesus warned Peter he was going to be tested just as he has warned us we will be tested. Will we recognize the test when the time comes? Often tests are subtle, like a servant girl asking, “Aren’t you one of his followers?” If we are expecting something dramatic, we may miss the subtle test, just as Peter did.
When tests are small, more like quizzes, the smallness, the ordinariness, blinds us to the fact that a test is taking place. What kind of spiritual “quizzes” might be going on right now?
Note: Those who we are close to will also go through times of testing, and their tests can spill into our laps. For example, the Lord Jesus was going through a huge test as he was preparing to die for us. Peter’s test in the courtyard was the result of Jesus’ test. When we see that a brother or sister is being tested, perhaps a test will come our way as a result. Will we respond to our brethren in faith, hope, and love – and prudence, justice, temperance, and courage.
We should prepare for tests through prayer. When the Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he included the phrase, “lead us not into temptation”: literally “lead us not into hard testing” (Matthew 6:13). The Lord has been telling us as a community that a test is coming. He is doing this for a reason. I think the reason is so we can prepare. We should pray for his strength and for his grace; we should pray that we will recognize the test when it comes and answer it with faith, and hope, and love.
I thought it was
supposed to be easy
The word easy is translated from the Greek word chrestos, which means useful, good, or manageable. Testing is useful for us, although not always easy in the English sense of the word; but it is good for us and the Lord never gives a test that is unmanageable. Tests are useful because they prepare us for the future work God has for us. Difficult is not always bad, nor is easy always good. The Lord’s yoke, the harness that makes our work purposeful, is good, and useful, and manageable.
The word light in the text is translated from the Greek word elow’no, which means “driven by the wind.” I see this as implying the power of the Holy Spirit, as wind in scripture is often associated with the Holy Spirit. Along with the yoke and burden, the Holy Spirit fills us with his power. He enables us to bear the burdens that come in his service by supplying his own power – the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
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