We inevitably accomplish what we expect that we’re going to accomplish. You see this is the law of faith, and God says you and I get to choose how much He is able to work in our lives. Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith be it unto you.” As a matter of fact, in Hebrews 11:6, it tells us that faith is so vital – so crucial – so important to our Christian life, that without it, it is impossible for us to please God. The disciples of Jesus understood how crucial and vital this thing called faith was, so they came to Jesus in Luke 17:5 and said, “Lord, increase our faith.” If I were to ask you on a personal level, “How many of you want to have more faith?” Probably everyone of you would answer, “Yes, Pastor, I’d like to have an increase in my faith.”
So here’s the question that just naturally comes out at this point. How does God build our faith? Here’s the answer to that question. God builds our faith by testing us – trying us. You see faith is like a muscle. It is stretched. It is pulled. Just as muscles develop when you test them against weights, so faith only develops when it is tested – when it is stretched and pulled. This is what James is talking about in James 1:3 when he said, “the testing of your faith develops perseverance so that you may be mature and complete.” James is saying, “God tests your faith.”
Now here’s a fact of life you can depend on. All this week your faith is going to be tested. Every day this week you’re going to have faith building opportunities. The problem is some won’t recognize them when they come. I want to give you four ways God tests our faith so that you can be aware of these faith building tests when they come into your life. These are very common things and God tests each one of us in each of the following ways. Why? Because God wants you and I to grow in our faith.
I. God tests our faith through Difficulty.
By difficulties I mean trials, problems, pressure and circumstances. In 1 Peter 1:6-7, Peter says it like this; “For a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” I want to remind you that nothing ever happens by accident in the life of a Christian. The Scripture teaches that everything is Father filtered. I’m not saying that God plans it all, but I am saying that nothing comes into your life without God knowing about it. God uses everything that comes into our lives as part of His great plan to fulfill His purpose in our life. Sometimes, as in Jonah’s case, God allows a custom made problem to swallow us up to get our attention and to get us headed in the direction He wants us to go. In the midst of problems that swallow us up there is nothing or no one else we can look to but the Lord for help, and that’s exactly where He wants you and I to come. Yes, God uses difficulties to test and build our faith. Isaiah 48:10, “I have refined you, but not as silver, I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Listen – when the heat is on in your life, it’s a test. You may be feeling the heat of things that have happened this past week. You may be under pressure. It’s a test. It’s a test to build your faith. The Bible frequently compares our problems and difficulties to a furnace of a refiner who heats it up so high that the gold and silver will melt and all the impurities are burned away. I heard of an old Silver Smith that was asked this question. “How do you know when the impurities are burned away?” He replied, “When I can see my reflection in the silver.” When God can see His reflection in you and me, He knows that the impurities have all been burned away. Now here’s a question. Understanding that God uses difficulties to build our faith; How are we suppose to respond to difficulties? When problems come, what should be our proper response?
Listen again to James 1:2-3, Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Here is what James is saying in a very practical way. When you and I have problems, he said we are to relax, rejoice, and praise God. Why did he say that? Because God is with us, because God has a plan, because God has a purpose and because God will help us through any difficulty we are facing.
Here’s a truth to remember: If you and I want to really learn to live by faith, we have to learn to rejoice continually even in the face of difficulties. It’s not a matter of feeling. It’s a matter of faith.
Some of you are probably saying, “I ought to have a lot of joy because I’m going through a lot of difficulties.” Let’s do a little self evaluation. How quickly do you praise God when things go wrong? Never Sometimes Always The Bible says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.” This won’t be hard for a Christian to do if we understand that God uses the difficulties of our life as building blocks to a stronger faith in our Christian walk.
II, God tests our faith through Demands.
Did you know that in the New Testament alone there 1050 commands for a believer to obey? Some of these commands may seem unreasonable. Some of these commands may seem inconvenient. Some of these commands may seem impossible. But the truth is that everyone of them are there for our good and they are there to test our faith. You see, what God does in these commands is to bring us face to face with the issue of who are we going to believe. Are we going to believe what He says to do or are we going to do what we think is right? Everytime God gives a command in the Bible, it is a demand that He places on our life and it’s a test.
An Old Testament example of this is Israel coming out of Egypt and going to the promise land, and God providing manna for them. In Exodus 16 God had said, “I’m going to rain down manna everyday. You can pick up just enough for that day, but don’t save any for tomorrow because I want you to learn to depend on me for your daily bread. I want you to learn to live expectantly.” (paraphrased) The people were to go out each day and gather enough manna for that day. In that way, God was testing them to see whether or not they would follow His instructions. You see, that is what God is doing in our life with the demands He makes on us in His Word. He is testing us to see whether we’re going to follow His instructions or not.
Often in His demands, God asks us to do things that to us may seem impossible. I think about Abraham at 75 years of age. God came to him and said, “Abraham, fold up your tent and let’s go somewhere.”
“Well where am I going Lord? How will I know that I’ve arrived at the place you want me to go?
The Lord answers, “I’ll tell you when you get there.” Would you go at 75 years of age? Abraham stepped out in faith. Hebrews 11:8, By faith Abraham obeyed and went.”
God came to Noah one day and said, “Noah, I’ve got a demand on you. I want you to build an ark.” Remember, we read this story historically. But when God came to Noah, Noah was living in the middle of a desert. The Bible says up to that time it had never rained. Now think about it. Would you build a boat in the middle of the desert if God told you to do it? The Bible said, By faith Noah built an ark. Let me tell you one more time. God tests our faith through difficulties and God tests our faith through demands that He makes on our lives.
Here’s another truth to remember: If you and I want to learn to live by faith, not only do we have to learn to rejoice continually, but it also means we have to learn to obey immediately.
When God tells us to do something, we need to do it whether we understand or not – whether it makes sense or not, because you see, it’s a test of faith. Again, I want us to evaluate ourselves. How quickly do we do what God tells us to do? When it’s convenient? Do you struggle with it and then do it? Do you just do it when God speaks?
III. God tests our faith through Delays.
If every prayer was immediately answered, if every need was automatically me, if every problem was instantly solved; we wouldn’t need faith and we wouldn’t be stretched. A third way God test our faith is through this thing of delay. In our human nature we don’t like to wait. We don’t like lines. We don’t like traffic jams. We don’t like to wait in doctor’s offices. We just don’t like to wait. But the truth is, a large part of our lives is spent waiting and God uses those delays in our lives to test our faith. A good example of this in the Bible again is the children of Israel. They came out of Egypt. They could have gone into the promise land in a matter of weeks, but it took them 40 years to go that short distance. Why did it take them so long? Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us why. Listen to this. “God led you all the way in the desert these 40 years… to test you in order to know what was in your heart…”(NIV). Israel kept failing the test and every time they failed God would tell them, “Ok, take another lap around.” What should have taken two or three weeks took 40 years. That first generation of Israelites never did understand that in those delays in their wilderness journeys God was testing them. As a matter of fact, there were seven tests that Israel was faced with and they blew every one of them.
What is it that you’ve been waiting for God to do in you life that He hasn’t done? Do you find yourself asking the “when” questions? When is my marriage going to turn around? When am I going to meet that right person? When am I going to get well? How long is it going to be before I have a baby? How long is it going to be before I find the right job? What’s God doing in this waiting stage of your life? He’s testing your faith and He’s using the instrument of delay to do it. Isaiah 64:4, says, “God acts on the behalf of those who wait for Him” (NIV). This verse teaches us that it pays to wait. The truth is, while you are waiting – God is working. It may be behind the scene and you don’t see it – you don’t feel it and you can’t figure it out. But God says, “I’m testing your faith so I can build your faith. I’m working while you’re waiting.
Psalms 37:34, “Wait for the Lord and keep His ways and He will exalt you to inherit the land.” Just because God can do things instantaneously doesn’t mean He’s bound to do these kinds of things in your life all the time. He’s not always going to give you a quick answer to every problem. You know why? It’s because He wants you to grow in faith. He want to build your faith.
Let’s evaluate ourselves again to see how well we’re doing. How well do you wait? Do you give up after a few days or months? Do you grumble and complain while you wait? Do you keep on believing during the waiting season? Do you live expectantly? Remember, God wants to build your faith and He does that by testing you and I. He test our faith with difficulties, with demands and with delays. If we want to really learn to live by faith, we’ve got to learn to rejoice continually, obey immediately, and wait patiently.
IV. God test our faith with Dollars.
God uses money as a test of our faith and for a lot of people, finances are the greatest test of all. Some people have no idea that God is testing them with what they have. Luke 6:11, Jesus said, “If you haven’t been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with riches?” (NIV). Jesus is speaking a truth that is taught all through the Scriptures; that there is a definite direct relationship between how one handles money and the spiritual depth of ones life. He said if you’re unfaithful in handling material wealth, He’ll not trust you with spiritual wealth. Money is a test. The fact is, what you do with your money determines how much God can bless your life. That principle is taught throughout all of Scriptures. Listen, everytime you sit down and you write out a check for your tithes (10% of income) knowing it could be used to pay another bill – is that a test of faith? Absolutely! When you willingly choose to give to the Lord, knowing that you could take that same amount of money and use it somewhere else –It’s a test of your faith. Just like He uses difficulties – demands – and delays, God uses dollars to test our faith.
I Chronicles 29 in the Old Testament tells the story of how David and the people raised money to build the temple. They raised in today’s currency about 400 million dollars. It was the largest and most successful building campaign in history. God had said that He wanted David to raise money to build His
house and the people responded with sacrificial giving. Listen to what David said after they had given the offering. I Chronicle 29 beginning at verse 14. “Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you God and we’ve only given you what comes from your hands, O Lord our God. For all this abundance we have provided for building you a temple for your holy name. It comes from your hand and all of this belongs to you. I know my God that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent, and now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (NIV). David said that through their sacrificial giving that not only was it a test of their love, but it was also a test of the integrity of their heart.
God doesn’t manipulate us to give and God doesn’t try to get us to give because of guilt. God want us to give because we know it’s the right thing to do. God want us to be a cheerful giver. Question! As a child of God, is there anything of value that you have that you can’t give to God? Let’s evaluate again. What kind of faith does your giving reveal? Would God say that you really trust Him or that you’ve been afraid to take Him at His Word?
Some of you are being tested in one of these four areas. God is trying to build your faith. It might be a testing in:
Difficulties – If it is, let your prayer be, “Heavenly Father help me to rejoice in testing. I know that You have everything under control. I know that you have a purpose to be worked out in all this for my life. I know that you will give me the power to see it through. I am going to rejoice in the midst of it all.
Demands – What is it that you know God has told you to do but you keep putting it off? It’s not a matter of not knowing what to do. You know what to do, but you’re just not doing it. Maybe it’s…spending more time in the Word and in prayer. Or being baptized in water as the Scripture has commanded. Or starting a consistent tithing. It might be that God wants you to forgive someone. Perhaps God is speaking to you to build and strengthen your marriage. It could be any a number of things, but you know it’s right and you ought to be doing it.
Listen, He’s testing your faith by the instruction He has given to you to see if you’re going to obey Him or not. Let your prayer be, “Lord, I want to be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer. Help me to follow through immediately on what you have asked me to do.”
Delays – What is it you have been expecting God to do in your life that He hasn’t done yet? Don’t give up. The delay could be a test of your faith. Hebrews 6:12 says, “With faith and patience we’ll inherit the promises of God.” In delays God is not saying no – but grow. God uses delays to build your faith. Let your prayer be, “Lord, help me to learn to wait.”
Dollars – To God, our attitude toward money is a serious issue. Why? Because there is no area in our life that is untouched by money. Therefore, money has a way of impacting everything about us. What we do with money says a lot about what we consider important and where our values are. Is God testing you in the area of money? Are you passing the test? Are you wise in the way you handle the finances? Are you giving back to God the tithes and offerings that belong to Him? Let your prayer be, “Lord, teach me to be a good steward of what you have blessed me with. Help me to commit to you the material part of my life, for in so doing it will help me to commit all other parts of my life to you.” God builds our faith by putting us in a position where it can be stretched and tested.
Expect it. It’s part of His growing program for us. Enjoy it. It’s good for us. Endure it. Its benefits are worth it.