Jacob, when presented with the opportunity to be cleansed, had to endure the dislocation of his hip joint, resulting in him permanently walking with a limp before his character was transformed, and his name was changed to Israel. Isaiah had to endure the scorching heat of burning coal on his lips before being sent to prophesy. John the Baptist had to sit in the loneliness of the desert, enduring lack and heat before being presented to Israel to prepare the way for Jesus. Peter had to endure seeing the Messiah crucified, and in his lack of understanding, almost taking the dream of the salvation of mankind with Him in the tomb. This same Peter had his own spiritual weakness be made plain, in his denial of Jesus, before he was sent to make known the truth of the gospel. Joseph had to watch his dream die, endure being sold into slavery by his brothers, as well as wrongful accusation, resulting in imprisonment and supposedly being forgotten by those he helped, before seeing the fulfilment of God’s promises.
James 1:2-4 – Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way (Message Version).
The reality is, the closest companion to God's purification is the death of all that we once stood on. Clenched in the fists of promise is the test that thrusts you into the forever-exposing light of God. Why? Because He desires truth in the inner parts, and He teaches wisdom in the secret heart (Psalm 51:6). The journey to purity is never complete until death occurs to every power of the human nature.
Personally, the journey to purity was embarked on with cries of an ignorant "No Lord!” and other stubborn remarks highlighting the rebellion that weaved through my heart. God's way of preparation and His process of purification often appears to deny us the opportunity to joyfully sing "Ah Sovereign Lord! Have Your way in me!” The road is mostly marked by broken dreams, pain, tears and sometimes even frustration, all these intent on revealing the true contents of the heart but we can be confident in the truth that God is with us as He was with all the others before us.
Malachi 3:2 – On the day the Lord comes, he will be like a furnace that purifies silver or like strong soap in a washbasin. No one will be able to stand up to him. (NIV)
The reality of testing and trials lie in the fact that the real test of character is not in lack or weakness but in power and abundance. God charged the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:10-11, not to forget Him in the times of their abundance. It's easy to call on God in times of struggles. Although frustration may surface in times of waiting, we do cry out to God when we are faced with difficulties. What happens during times of abundance is what reveals the true nature of the heart. Do I honour God with all my heart, mind, and body when there are 'options'?
Joseph, in Genesis 50:15-21, was given the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers for selling him into slavery. Instead, he chose to walk the road of humility, rightly declaring that he was not God so there was no right for him to judge (Genesis 50:19). Queen Esther, the Jewish orphan turned Persian Queen, enjoyed the benefits of prosperity and fame. She was also faced with her own testing ground when she was asked to put her life on the line by approaching King Xerxes when she was not summoned, an act that could result in a death sentence, or preserving herself by hiding under her royalty and fame as queen. She chose to risk her life for her people, and in great faith declared “if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther recognized her calling and yielded to her God-ordained purpose of preserving God’s people and saw God’s faithful deliverance (Esther 7). King David in 1 Samuel 24:3-7 was given the opportunity to kill Saul, who had on many occasions attempted to take his life. Instead, in honour to God, he refused, and chose to "touch not the Lord's anointed" (Genesis 24:6). When given the chance to accept as a gift the things required to make the sacrifices that the Lord required of him, David again chose to walk the road of humility and instead opted to buy the burnt offerings, faithfully declaring that he would not sacrifice to God anything that cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). And finally, the Lord Jesus, when beaten and persecuted by men lower than Himself, could have called down a host of angels to destroy them or could have simply uttered a word that could have caused humanity to cease to exist. He instead chose the path of humility before the Father and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
1 Peter 1:6-7 – I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
God had so refined the characters of these powerful leaders that even when they had the chance to exercise their power, albeit against the will of God, they refused. They were men and women of meekness – controlled strength. Their strength had been transformed, not only in the refining fire of testing, lack and weakness, but also in the fiery tests of abundance, fame, and wealth. The true measure of strength of character and love for the Lord is not solely evident in the paths of trials and tests, but in the paths of power and abundance. Does God have the reins of control in your life only when it appears beneficial to you? Or, do you respond to the will of God with a "Yes Lord!" even when there are other options that would be less painful? What the Lord requires more than anything else is a life devoted to Him, not for what we can gain but for who He is. True acknowledgment of His Lordship rests in obedience to His will in both poverty and wealth.
Colossian 1:16 – For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Roxann M. Morgan