Chapter 3 The Attack, Time of Testing
I have finally learned over the years that I can’t just “give Jesus a try.” You know, like test driving a new car. This is probably the most widespread problem facing new believers, a lack of total commitment to God. We have to make sure people understand that a “total commitment” is essential if we are going to successfully follow Jesus, because the first thing God does is to “Test” us to determine the quality of our faith.
At first, when we discover and receive the Spirit of God, there is a short burst of bliss and excitement that is unmatched by anything else in the world. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long. Little did I know there was an inescapable time of testing just waiting for me. I learned the hard way why Jesus said, “many fall away when the time of testing comes.” (Luke 8:13) I hope to prepare you however for the unexpected transitions, which caught me completely off guard. In this chapter I will point out the problems of bad evangelism and spiritual degeneration, discuss the value of being tested and tempted, as well as the most common reasons for spiritual failure.
The Problem of Bad Evangelism:
Evangelists need to be more practical and realistic when leading people to Christ. It is crucial that people don’t make a hasty superficial decision to follow Jesus without all the facts involved. A false notion is perceived when we tell people that all they have to do is come to Jesus and miraculously all their problems will instantly disappear. This misleads people and sets them up for failure when they discover that things don’t just magically disappear.
Irresponsible preachers and teachers are the main cause for much of the attrition for new believers. They paint an unrealistic picture of the Christian life, making flimsy claims and lofty pretenses, which quickly comes crashing down as soon as the first spiritual attack or test comes along. Without solid doctrine to stand on they are just wasting their time trying to make conversions.
What does it profit to misguide someone by exaggerating all the benefits of knowing Jesus, but failing to emphasize and prepare them for the enormous challenges to come. Without properly teaching and warning new believers of the real cost of following Jesus, which is making a lifelong sacrificial commitment, most of them will consequently fall away. If we are going to help build the body of Christ with new dedicated followers, our efforts should be founded on solid realistic teachings, so as to properly equip people for the calling of God.
I am not going to blame my spiritual failures on bad evangelism, but it might have been helpful to know that the blissful feelings of joy would eventually end and that I would be viciously attached by the Devil and ruthlessly enticed by my old evil desires. I certainly didn’t have a solid foundation to stand on when I first believed in the Son. Too many evangelists are trying to “sell Jesus” rather than being real with the truth. That’s one reason why so many people degenerate and fall away.
The process of spiritual degeneration is different for everyone. Since I was dominantly controlled by my “feelings,” every time I felt uncomfortable or pressured by the world I would slowly begin to give up. I didn’t want to work very hard at following Christ, so as long as I had my blissful feelings I did what I was supposed to do. Even now, when I overflow with joy, peace and happiness, I feel like I can do anything, but as soon as the problems of life begin to cave in on me, my commitment to God is immediately challenged.
I can’t let my feelings control me because they are influenced by the ever changing circumstance of life. They are unreliable and can change in the blink of an eye. First there might be difficulties at work, then unexpected financial responsibilities, followed by family stress and then physical illness. Before I realized it my whole world can be turned upside down, causing my blissful feeling to dissipate rather quickly.
I have learned that I can not allow my spiritual commitment to Jesus to be controlled by my temporary “feelings.” Life will get hard and my emotions will change, but I must force myself to follow his teachings anyway. If I rely on my feelings to be my strength, I will never stand firm in my faith for very long. I must rely on God’s power to be my strength during the tests and trials of life.
Time of Testing: Why is it essential?
No matter how committed to God we are, sooner or later, we will all be tested and tempted. It is interesting that God and the Devil both work at the same time when we are tested, although they definitely have different intentions. In the Luke 8:13, the Greek word used for “temptation” means to “Test,” as well as, to “Tempt.” Whenever I am “Tested” by God, at the very same instance, I am also “Tempted” by the Devil. This is like a double edged sword. One side is used by God to purify and strengthen me, while the other is intended to literally rip me apart.
If you study the book of Job, you will clearly see how God and the Devil operate in a man’s life. It is crucial that we love, trust and believe in our God. He will never try to make us fall, but he will purify and prune our hearts by testing us and allowing the Devil to tempt us. God loves us, but the Devil wants to destroy us. He is the one who lies, kills and destroys. Study genesis chapter 3 and you will notice that Satan tempted, lied and deceived Eve, which brought mankind under the laws of sin and death.
Reasons for being Tested:
The most obvious reason why we need to be tested is to expose our weaknesses. Tests and temptations will teach us exactly what we still need to work on in our lives. God’s methods for strengthening and purifying us will always involve trials and tribulations. We are actually instructed to not be surprised when trouble comes our way, but to embrace it and consider it a valuable opportunity to be perfected and strengthened.
God deliberately puts us through fiery tests, so he can purify and perfect us. Even though it seems terrible at the time, our tests don’t last forever and God promises to always be with us. We are told that after we have suffered a while, that he will perfect, strengthen and establish us. It is not a comfortable process being transformed into the children of God. (James 1:1-8, 1 Peter 5:10, 1 Peter 1:7)
Another reason God tests us is to determine the strength of our commitment and the quality of our faith. Tests will separate those who are loyal to God from those who are not. Jesus warns us that when the time of testing and temptation come many will fall away from the faith. (Luke 8:13) Those who do not really love Jesus, who are only superficially claiming their faith, will fall away as soon as the first difficult event comes along. In the beginning of my walk with God, it didn’t take much pressure to make me quiver and fall away from God. I only had “dead faith” at the time.
Although everyone must endure a measure of trouble, the Bible teaches us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear and that he will always provide a way out. (1 Cor. 10:13) The book of James tells us that every man is tempted, when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lust, but Jesus told us to pray that we will be led away from these strong enticements. (Matt. 6:13, James 1:14)
The temptations that we face in life are common to all of us and they force us to depend on God, because we are not able to overcome them with our own strength. It is through our weaknesses that we will experience the “Power” of God in our lives. That is why it is crucial that we endure all the tests and temptation that we face, so that God can build us up in his power. Every victory that I have is by the grace and power of God in my life.
The most common reasons for failure:
Whether a test or a temptation, we must learn how to conquer our weaknesses through our faith in God’s power. He is continuously teaching me how to overcome all my weaknesses by depending on him, although there are many obstacles that we face.
The most obvious challenge that we face is the Devil. The Bible tells us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:12) Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been meticulously manipulating and deceiving mankind. This fallen angel, also known as Lucifer, the Great Dragon and the Devil, is roaming the entire earth to see whom he can devour and destroy.(1 Peter 5:8) His whole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy us. (John 10:10)
If we are not wise we can make it easy for the spiritual enemy to enter into our lives and bombard us with his fiery darts. For instance, if we allow anger to control our lives, he is able to find a way into our minds and eventfully plants a seed of destruction into our hearts. (Eph. 4:26-27) As a matter of fact, anytime we disobey God, we give the Devil an opportunity to oppress us. Alcohol, drugs, gossip, slander and envy are just a few of the ways we allow the enemy to control our mind and lives. But if we follow the Holy Spirit, we can prevent the vast majority of the Devil’s influence in our lives.
Fortunately, God has given us everything we need to defeat this enemy. We have the power of God’s Sword as our weapon to defend ourselves, whereby we can destroy the power of the Devil. (Eph. 6:14-17) That is why we must always walk worthy and continue to grow in the knowledge of God. As long as we are obeying and following God’s teachings, we never have to be worried about the Devil. He has no authority or power over the children of God. The more we grow in faith and stand in the word of God, the more we will live in victory and freedom.
Another reason we fail is because we are allowing our old human nature to control us. This inner weakness has nothing to do with the Devil, but comes from the innermost parts of our very being. The “Flesh” that used to control us still desires to dominate our minds and souls. “The “Flesh” is the original evil nature of a person, including all the emotions, thoughts and desires that make up that persons since birth.
Everyone is born into the bondage of sin and controlled by the “Flesh,” until we are “Born Again” through the power of God’s Spirit. We were all born self-centered, lying, gossiping thieves. Just take a look at the behavior of our children. No one has to teach them to lie, cheat or steal. It’s a natural instinct. It is by the power of spiritual regeneration through the miraculous work of God that we are able to eventually overcome all these sins. No one is perfect without God, even if they think they are.
Although we have been created into new creatures, by faith in Christ, we still face the challenge of crucifying our old evil desires on a daily basis. The Bible makes it clear that our old flesh and our new identity in Christ are constantly in conflict with one another. (more on this later) The passions and carnality of our flesh must always be managed properly. We must learn how to crucify the old person we used to be, because the evil that used to control us will try and overpower us if we let it. The Bible warns us that our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? But God is slowly transforming us as we learn how to follow and obey his teachings. (Gal. 5:17, Jer. 17:9)
It takes time for God to transform us and we must co-operate with his indwelling Spirit if we are going to be successful at overcoming our flesh and the traps of this wicked world. The big advantage now is that God is living inside us and we now have his power to overcome with. As long as we remain in his Spirit, we will pass every test and overcome every temptation. However, there are a few more significant reasons why we fail at walking worthy of God that need to be pointed out.
Ignorance is a very serious problem. Hosea 4:6 tells us that people are destroyed by their lack of knowledge. If we do not grow in the knowledge of God we will remain defeated in life. If we ignorantly drink something with poison in it, we could still die. It doesn’t matter if we didn’t know about it. The Devil will always takes advantage of our ignorance and keep us in bondage. The best defense we have for this issue is to grow in the knowledge of God’s Power. Let us love and be eager to learn, read and study. (1 Peter 3:15, 2 Tim. 2:15)
Foolishness is a major problem. When I know what to do and I don’t do it, I am acting like a fool. This is rooted in rebellion and self-centeredness in my opinion. I have discovered that the root cause of my foolish behavior has been the search for immediate gratification. Instead of being patient and waiting on the God the provide a solution, I would try to seek the easiest answer for myself and wind up falling right on my face. I am still learning how to wait for the wisdom of God.
Lack of motivation:
A lack of motivation is another huge problem. I love always being motivated and enthusiastic about my life and God. So when I start to lose my steam, I begin to notice that more complacency and unproductively in my life. A failure to be hungry and passionate for God leads me towards self destructive and wasteful behavior. I am learning how to keep myself motivated, but it’s a lot of work. Fortunately, God is good at providing the resources that I need.
If we are not spiritually alert, on guard and prepared, we can easily get snagged into one of the Devil’s many traps. I know this for a fact. We must be constantly aware of the path that we are on, the choices that we make, the people, places and things in our lives, so that we will not foolishly trip into any unnecessary trouble. I have learned over the years that the Devil will wait patiently for the perfect opportunity to attack me. Those moments usually happen when I let my guard down for a brief moment. When I get prideful or lose a my passion and motivation, the Devil is right there to sucker punch right in the face. (Phil 2:12)
Although God is my strength and continues to transform me daily, I still must remember to surrender my weaknesses to him everyday. In the blink of an eye I can slip and fall into self-centeredness and allow my flesh to control me again. I must stay alert and humble myself before things get out of hand. If I quickly apply the wisdom of God that I have learned, I will make better decisions and not get entangled again by the corruption of the world. I love these scriptures when I am killing my pride: “Don’t think too highly of yourself,” (Rom 12:3) and “When you think you are standing firm, be careful, you may fall also.” (1 Cor. 10:12)
In conclusion, if we are going to be victorious against the Devil and our “Flesh,” it helps to be fully aware of the imminent attacks and pressures right from the beginning. I hope you also understand why we are tested and tempted. God is only trying to transform, purify and strengthen us to be more like him. Don’t tell anyone that following Jesus is an easy task. You will be lying to them. All we can promise someone is that God will be our strength. He will provide us with all the resources that we need to overcome our weaknesses and he will rescue us in due time. He will guide us through the pain of life and transform us by his power, but not exempt us from it.
If we are going to endure the inevitable storms that arise, we must evaluate our hearts and make certain that our commitment to God is real. We must expect and be prepared for the tests and temptations that creep into our lives and not be surprised when trouble comes our way. If we are well equipped and dedicated to God, we can withstand the many pitfalls and traps that are just waiting around the corner for us. But is we fail to recognize and endure these spiritual realities, then we are sure to be victimized many times over. The next chapter is a reflection of what happens when we are not wise and faithful to the teachings of God. Falling away from God is a very painful experience and can be minimized, but not completely avoided. We all will fall sooner or later as we learn to grow in our relationship with God.