Today I had a blessed opportunity to sit with a local brother in Christ who pours his heart out into a small body of believers and encourages them to follow Jesus. We had only met once before at a local coffee shop, but I sensed it was time to meet up again. We actually started the texting process three or four weeks ago, but today we finally met.
What I can say from todays meeting is that I left encouraged and uplifted. But I also left with some things to ponder in my own walk. What I loved about this time with my brother in Christ was his openness and honesty. Although a pastor, he is also wide open about his flaws and his struggle to be real. This is a rare combination in a man who is serving the Lord. Too often, power takes over the head of the one sent to shepherd and they tend to think too highly of themselves.
This reality played out in the Scriptures over and over. We can look at Samson who began to think his strength came from within himself, so he told Delilah to cut his hair. God led Gideon with 300 men and defeated a massive army, however in later years people began to worship Gideon for the "great thing he had done" and the Ephod he had made came a stumbling block to Gideon and his family. How about king Saul? Given charge to watch over the people of God, but soon he was more interested in his own power and abilities than waiting on God. All these men and more played a huge role in the training and knowledge Jesus obtained as he was growing up in the Jewish culture of his day. Seeing these men, who once lived with the power of the Spirit of the Lord upon them, turn into men who tried and do things in their own strength and their own knowledge, showed Jesus just how easy it was to fall prey to living in his own strength and doing things his own way.
As I listend to my brother he wrote out this diagram
God - Test --------------> Deliverance
Satan - Temptation --------------> Destruction
In other words, God test us to prove our faith, to strengthen our resolve, and to show us His power to deliver us. Satan tempts us to destroy our faith, diminish our belief, and deny our faith. God is testing us for our good. Satan is tempting us to destroy us.
The words I was encouraged by were these, "If we fail the test God sends our way, he sends us back around the mountain to train us again, so when we face the test once more, we can show ourselves approved through Christ His Son."
I realized as I listened that I made a choice toward the end of last year to not trust God in a test I was facing. I chose instead to try and fix my situation my own way instead of waiting on him (like Saul sacrificing to the Lord instead of waiting on Samuel to arrive.) Saul however was given another opportunity to obey God by wiping out the Amalekites, but instead, he spared the king as a trophy and saved the best of the animals. From there God stripped away the kingdom and gave it to a man "after God's own heart" in David.
My decision to fix things my way led me to enslave myself once again to debt to man. God had radically delivered me from that place in 2014, but in 2016 I, in fear of not paying taxes on time and losing my farm, in fear of disappointing my wife, in fear of not having food on the table for my kids, chose to use my ability to fix my situation instead of praying and asking God to move in his power on my behalf, even if it meant owing Uncle Sam, disappointing my wife, or not having food for my kids. My decision left my spirit in pain and defeat and I allowed the temptation to fix it my way to cause me to fail the test of my faith in My God.
Today I was convicted of this and I began to see why my heart has been aching since that decision was made. But I was also encouraged that He is not finished with me yet. I was reminded I will face the test again and it is sure to not be an easy situation, however, I can look back now and see that God is even using my failures to prepare me for the road ahead.