Points to Ponder: A.C.T.S.: The Tests of Life Refine Us

Points to Ponder
A.C.T.S.: The Tests of Life Refine Us

Some people tell me: "I wish God didn't trust me so much." Folks who are going through tough times hear well-intentioned friends tell them that God doesn't allow us to be tempted - or tested - beyond what we can bear (I Corinthians 10:13).
Tests refine us, strengthen us, take us deeper into ourselves than we would have gone without them. We rarely seek God, or even nod to His existence at times, when things are good and calm. But testing motivates us to confess our need. Your heavier burdens drive you to your knees. Dr. Charles Stanley says that anything that drives you closer to God is a good thing.
Tests that can drive us closer to God meet us in at least four areas. Using the acronym A.C.T.S., consider the sources of the tests you've faced.
1. Adversaries
Sometimes these are opponents on an issue who are otherwise friends. Other times these are enemies who have ill will toward you.
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who
rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:14-15).
It helps to empathize, even if you can't compromise. It tests your resolve to remain calm and to meet the opposition on their own "turf" spiritually.
"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (12:17-18).
You do what's right regardless of the response that may or may not come.
2. Circumstances
In this fallen world of over six billion fallen people, unpleasant, even tragic, circumstances will come. "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." (Deuteronomy 33:27). These tests are to our spirits what a barbell set is to a weight lifter. Heavy resistance against the muscle causes it to get stronger. And the Lord is our Personal Trainer.
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
3. Temptations
The promise is this:
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).
When we love the Lord, we desire to obey His word (John 14:23) and to please Him, just as a little child loves to please their Mom or Daddy. We gain strength with every "NO" response when temptations come, realizing that their source is within us.
"But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15)
Our needs, our weaknesses and insecurities can stoke an appetite inside. The desire for what we think we need, deserve, or must have "entices." It "conceives" when we submit to its pull. Sin is born and its end result is destruction. Desires test our humility before God. Proper submission is power for God's mission.
"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:7-8a).
4. Silent Times
When you feel as if God is far away, it's as if your prayers go nowhere. God's word, whether you read it or hear it, seems to bounce off your brain. You're not getting answers or direction. Will you stay the course? How tempting it is to say "What's the point?" and then give up, or to go with your own heart.
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:3-4).
A spiritual training regimen grows your faith and builds character as you run through a gauntlet of A.C.T.S. The mature believer can comprehend and apply the deeper truths of scripture because they've face the challenges and "by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:14b).
Look at your time of testing, not as punishment, but as a training ground.
"...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:3b-5).

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com. Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 2:10am and 10:45am both days.