Cop-out or Opportunity?

By The Mad Preacher, Rod Davis

DefiningMoment“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28a)

What do you pray for when your “hour” comes? Every believer has one, you know, an hour of testing. We often face seasons of intense testing that can assault the senses and shake us right down to the bone. It separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. In fact, it can even separate the sheep from the goats.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God―having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Timothy is describing a world filled with hate, deceit and greed. We see that today. We’re surrounded by a people who have an insatiable bent toward selfishness. Therefore, one of the first lessons we learn in life is that the world is seldom just. Try as hard as you will, you won’t always get a fair shake. The reason for this is simple. The world stinks!

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world―the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does―comes not from the Father but from the world.” –Jesus (1John 2:15-16)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” —Jesus (John 15:18-19)

Because of the world’s fallen condition troubles abound for followers of Christ. People hate us because we love the Savior. As a result every true Christian will eventually have his “hour”—his moment of truth. He will face his defining moment.

Jesus encountered his hour and it filled his heart with anguish. There in the midst of his agony he was faced with a choice. How would he respond? “What shall I do?” he said. “Shall I cop-out and choose the easy way out? Shall I ask God to save me from this hour?” Then he answered his question with a resounding, “NO! This is why I was brought to this place in time. This is my hour! And this is my purpose… to glorify my God!”

How do you respond to your hour of testing? Do you see it only as a time of anguish that should be avoided at all costs? Or… do you view it as an opportunity to press on, grow up in Christ and learn to walk in victory? More importantly, do you see it as a chance for your life to glorify the name of the LORD? Do you see a cop-out or an opportunity?

 

 

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God’s Graduate School

School testsby The Mad Preacher, Rod Davis

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.( Jeremiah 29:11NIV)

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1Corinthians 10:13 NIV) The Greek word in this passage translated “temptation” means a test or a proving. When we were in school we couldn’t go on to the next level of education, the next grade, until we passed all the necessary tests. The same holds true with the Christian walk. God wants us to grow up spiritually. He wants us to graduate to bigger and better things in him. However, we have to pass the tests that come our way in order to go on to the next class, or level, where God can reveal his plan for our lives, teach us new and wonderful things about him and show us how to live victoriously. So, God allows tests, or fiery trials, to come our way. Only through his strength and our submission to the process will we pass the tests and graduate to the next level of learning. Now, notice the promise in the second part of 1Corinthians 10:13. God will not allow the pressure, the test, to go beyond our personal endurance. Wow! He knows that we’re not superman. (I don’t know about you, but I haven’t changed clothes in a phone booth in years) God knows our breaking point. Therefore, he provides a way out before it goes too far; before it goes beyond what we can personally handle and short of that which would be detrimental to us.

It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV) The Greek word translated “mature” means “having reached its end”, “finished, complete, perfect”, “fully grown, mature.”[1] Bear this in mind; God wants us to stretch and grow toward new levels of endurance, power and new levels of maturity in him. So, he allows the fire to fall on us. “No pain, no gain,” as the body builders say. Or, as I like to put it, “Know pain, know gain.”

The phrase “provide a way out”, in 1Corinthians 10:13, literally says in the Greek, “provide the way out.” There is only one way out of the testing, my friend, and that is by passing the tests that come our way. You see, when I was in grammar school there was only one way for me to get into high school. I had to pass the eighth grade first. I would not advance until I passed the required tests. Try as I could to find an alternative, this was the only way to move on.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) Now, let’s take it a step further. Consider the fact that Sovereign LORD orchestrates the events in our lives. Therefore, he also allows the fire to fall and the pressures to come on our lives for another reason. This fact points out an amazing fundamental truth that took me years to discover. When the pressures of life are increased and all Hell seems to be breaking loose, God is saying something very personal to us. He’s saying, “I trust you.” Therefore, “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” God knows that you are stretching beyond your comfort zone and that you’re trying to grow. Therefore, he’s allowing the testing to take place because he believes in you!

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”  Jesus (Luke 16:10a NIV)

Think about it; the Great God of the universe is saying to you, “I trust you with more because your level of faith is growing. You’ve shown me, in the mist of the flames, that you trust me. So, I’m going to reciprocate by trusting you with more. I’m also going to show you more of the deep recesses of my heart.” So when you feel like your being stretched to the breaking point bear this in mind; God thinks that you can handle it. He’s seen your trust level grow, and his trust in you has grown as well. As a result, God thinks you are able to “stand up under it.” Mother Teresa once said, “I know God promises not to give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” You may share the same sentiments as this dear lady, but the Sovereign Lord knows what grade you’re in and when to pass you to the next grade. Just remember these words of the Apostle Peter, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up [pass you to the next level] in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV) God has a purpose for our lives. He has planted his Word in the spirit of ever follower if Jesus. He has also place a vision in us of striving to be more than we are right now. However, that vision must be refined in order for us to see our purpose more clearly and then be able to move onto the next level of understanding of what God is doing in our lives.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25 NIV)

And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. (Psalm 12:6 NIV) Fire is one of the tools that God uses. Our everyday life is often in the “furnace of clay”. Note that our education never ends. There’s no fall break or summer vacation in God’s Graduate School. The testing continues throughout our lives. Things seldom get easier, but our joy becomes fuller. Testing can be very painful at times, but it’s in the fire that we gain more strength, more knowledge and a deeper wisdom. In addition, like the three men thrown into the furnace, the things that bind us and impede our growth are burned off the flames of adversity. Most importantly, our relationship with God grows deeper and deeper as he walks along side us through life’s furnace.

The fire seldom dies down this side of Heaven. To be “purified seven times” means that it’s an ongoing process. Going from one level of education to another is seldom easier, never ending, but it’s astonishingly rewarding.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23 NIV)

As the process continues, we will become closer to God. He will treat us as a dear friend. Indeed, we will become more enlightened as we go deeper in the things of God. We’ll become more resilient, as well. Higher education is not free. God’s Graduate School has a costly tuition. Salvation is free but power, wisdom, authority and a closer relationship with God are not. Are you ready to move on?

I wanna give you my all and no less                                                                                                             I wanna live my life with no regrets                                                                                                       I’ll listen to the call ‘Cause you gave it all                                                                                              So when you put me to the test                                                                                                                I’m gonna give You no less [2]

[1] Vines Expository Dictionary of NT Words – http://vines.mike-obrien.net/

[2] No Less by Joy Williams from her album, Joy Williams, 2001 Reunion