General George S. Patton once said, “Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”
I’m sure you know people with amazing stories of the way God has worked in their lives. I always love to hear a great testimony, but I also know that behind every extraordinary account of someone’s life lies some kind of challenge or difficulty. No one has a testimony without a test.
We must pass all kinds of tests as we go through our lives, and passing them is part of never giving up. It’s vital for us to understand the important role that tests and trials play in our lives, because understanding them helps us endure that and actually be strengthened by them. Everything God permits us to go through will ultimately be good for us—no matter how much it hurts, how unfair it is, or how difficult it is. When we encounter tests and trials, if we will embrace them and refuse to run from them, we will learn some lessons that will help us in the future and become stronger.
Trials “try” us, and tests “test” us. Most of the time, the purpose of them is to show us who we really are, to reveal character in us. We can think all kinds of good thoughts about ourselves, but until we are put to the test, we don’t know whether those things have become realities in us or not. We may consider ourselves generous, honest, or deeply committed to a particular truth or ideal, but the depth of these dynamics only reveals itself when we’re under pressure.
We never know what we really believe until our beliefs are tested. We never know how godly we are until our faith is tried. We can’t predict how we will behave under pressure until the stress hits an all-time high. We don’t know whether we really are nice people until we have to be kind to someone when we don’t feel like it. When we go through tests, we learn whether or not we really have the character and commitment we think we have. I believe it’s very important for us to really know ourselves; so tests are good for us because they affirm strengths and reveal weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to face your weaknesses. God’s strength is available specifically for our weaknesses.
Why did Jesus—our perfect Jesus—have to go out into the wilderness so the devil could tempt Him for forty days and forty nights? God the Father already knew Jesus would not succumb to the temptation. I believe that, in His humanity, Jesus went into the wilderness to build His own confidence and to show the devil He would be faithful to His heavenly Father, no matter what.
Other people can’t always pray all your giants away; they cannot fight all your battles for you. Your pastor can only go so far with you, but then you have to take the ball and make the touchdown. Your best friend or work colleague can only pray you a certain amount of the way through, but sooner or later, you have to learn how to pray. You have to learn how to find your own scriptures. You have to learn how to stand your own ground. You have to get to the point where every single time you have a problem, the first place you run is to God. You get your answers and advice from Him, not from your pastor, your best friend, or the person who sits next to you at work.
First Peter 4:12 gives us great insight into the purpose of trials. “Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you.”
One reason we must go through trials is to test our quality. Often, we find ourselves wishing we had the faith of Sister so-and-so. I can assure you, if she has a strong and vibrant faith, she did not develop it easily. Just as muscles are built through exercise, firm faith comes from the furnace of affliction.
Sometimes people say to me, “Oh I wish I had the faith you have, Milley.” Well, I did not get it by wishing. These people were not around when I was feeling I couldn’t hold on one more second, begging God to help me not to quit or give up. They don’t know the tests and trials I’ve faced along the way. Through the experiences I have gone through and the many ways that God has shown me who He is, my faith has grown from little faith to great faith.
No one who does anything worthwhile for God has traveled an easy road. Doing great things for God requires character, and character is developed by passing life’s tests and staying faithful to Him through the trials.
After many years of tests and trials, I have become more steadfast and patient than I ever thought possible. I’m still growing in these areas, but circumstances do not move me the way they used to. James 1:2-3 says: “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.”
I must say that before my trials worked steadfastness and patience in my life they brought out many other negative qualities, mind-sets, and attitudes I didn’t know I had. One reason God allows us to go through tests and trials is so the hidden things in our hearts can be exposed. Until they are exposed, we cannot do anything about them. But once we see them, we can begin to face them and ask God to help us. God does not allow us to go through difficult times because He likes to see us suffer; He allows us to walk through them so we will recognize our need for Him. Never be afraid of the truth, because it is the truth that makes us free (see John 8:32).
Look again at James 1:3. The point is that everything you go through ultimately does work out for your good because it makes you stronger and builds your endurance; it develops godly character; it helps you to know yourself and to be able to deal with things on an honest level with God and take care of them so you can go on.
The next time you encounter some sort of test or trial, determine to believe it is for your good. Say to God: “Okay, Lord, I believe this is going to work out well for me. It doesn’t feel good. I don’t like it at all. I don’t understand it! It hurts! It doesn’t seem fair! But I believe You will use it for my good.” Placing your faith in God opens the door for Him to work miracles out of messes!
By faith I keep pressing on!