What will it take to reach a lost and hurting world? A small army of soldiers that has been enrolled in the school of hardship and trials! God is seeking those who are willing to be tried by fire, whose faith He can refine and bring forth as pure gold.
Throughout my years in ministry, I have noticed a pattern in the lives of most Christians. Almost immediately after God saves us, He leads us into a wilderness of testing. Why? Because God is looking for a people who will trust Him in impossible situations before the whole world. This was true even in Jesus' life. As our Lord came up out of the baptismal waters, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was sorely tested (see Luke 4:1-2).
We see this kind of trust demonstrated by Daniel. Daniel's jealous co-governors devised a plot against him, convincing King Darius to ban prayer for thirty days. Just as his peers expected, Daniel disobeyed the ban and kept praying three times a day. Although King Darius respected Daniel, he was forced by his own decree to cast this devout man into the lions' den.
Daniel was fully aware that the penalty for disobeying the ban on prayer was death. Yet he never stopped praying, because he trusted God. He knew the Lord would see him through his trial.
Throughout this ordeal, King Darius observed Daniel anxiously. He had tried every means possible to save Daniel, but he simply couldn't. Finally, just before Daniel was cast to the lions, the king assured him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16).
If you tell the world that Jesus is your lord, your savior and your healer, a God who can perform the impossible, they will watch to see how you react in impossible situations. Their eyes are glued to everyone who boasts of God's goodness, power and glory. And the devil looks on, too, hoping our faith will fail.
The Psalmist writes, "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men" (Psalm 31:19). What is this "great goodness" that God lays up for those who trust in Him through trying times? It's an impenetrable, glorious testimony to the world that your faith can survive any situation.
How did God respond to Daniel's faith? He shut the mouths of those hungry lions (see Daniel 6:22).
Under pressure, most of us rehearse our need over and over: “If only I had this one thing. If I could just work on that one weakness.” But Jesus tells us not to fixate on our need but on our supplier. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”(Matthew 6:25-27).
In the Old Testament when things looked impossible for King Asa, he fixated on his supplier, not his problem. When the kingdom was surrounded by a massive enemy with no hope in sight, Asa prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are fixed on you” (see 2 Chronicles 14:9-12)
Jesus shows us we are to give thanks in the midst of our situation. Facing the starving masses with just a handful of fishes and bread loaves, Jesus gave thanks to God: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them” (John 6:11).
Jesus thanked the Father before the need was even filled—and a miracle followed: “When they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (6:12-14).
Your situation doesn’t depend on your resources—it depends on God’s. “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).
You may have cried your heart out over your need. Now is no time to review your failures; instead, it’s time to remind yourself of God’s goodness. It’s time to stop fretting over your vast need and instead give Him thanks. It’s time to draw on the strength of your faith-family when you don’t have it for yourself. Rest assured, your God is about to show Himself great in your life. Believe it—and find rest in Him!
Let’s meet with Abraham again. He has a message for us. He is going to teach us about faith to rebuild and to take back. In answer to the call and promises of God, “Come out of your father’s house to a land of promise that I will show you; I will bless you and make you a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2), Abraham does something particular and extremely significant—he builds an altar to the Lord (see Genesis 12 and 13).
The altar was a testimony, a public commitment, a vow. It was as if Abraham has said, “This is the expression of my faith. I want every person who sees this altar to know that I am not ashamed to proclaim that I belong to God. I believe in Him; my faith is in His promises.”
This concept of an “altar to the Lord” was extremely intense, serious and binding in the Abrahamic and Jewish culture of Abraham’s day. In fact, “building an altar” meant to be truthful, honest and serious with God; to be sincere and to make decisions with all one’s heart before God with truth and commitment.
I know full well that many reading this devotional walk with this kind of heart toward God. It’s not to boast or for show; you really want to please God, to obey Him and to be true to His will and His Word. You are genuine; your consecration is authentic.
You have built an altar of faith, prayer, worship, generosity, forgiveness and sanctification before your God. You are alive with the faith that “He that has begun a good work in you will have the power to complete it fully for the day we will appear before Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Beyond the accolades, career successes or promotions you may accomplish on this earth, you live each day to hear His voice welcoming you into the portals of the afterlife with these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
You have built an altar before God!
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
Beloved, the Lord didn't save us simply so we could bask endlessly in His goodness, mercy and glory. He had an eternal purpose in choosing each one of us and that purpose goes beyond blessings, fellowship and revelation. The fact is, God still reaches out to lost humankind. And He's searching for a believing, trusting people He can shape into His greatest evangelistic tool.
Our Lord doesn't use angels to witness of His glory, He uses His people. He desires to train us as a special, "peculiar" breed (see 1 Peter 2:9). He is looking to prove His Word in our lives so that the world will believe it when we proclaim it. He wants to present to the unbelieving nations a faithful people who have been rocked by hard times, broken by deep trials, yet who continue to trust Him.
We see God searching for such a people in Gideon's day. When Gideon issued a call for volunteers to fight the Midianites, thousands of Israelites responded. But the Lord told Gideon, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands. . . . Proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart" (Judges 7:2-3).
God was telling Gideon, "If anybody here is afraid, tell him to go home now. I won't allow My army to be infected by fear." God was actually turning away volunteers for His army; in fact, at one point, some 22,000 doubters were sent home. Gideon eventually reduced the number of volunteers to 10,000 but God told him there were still too many. The Lord finally settled on 300 battle-tested soldiers.
This ought to tell us something. As the Lord seeks gospel messengers He can send out to the world, He is not going to recruit churches whose pews are filled with fearful, doubting, untested people. He won't look for powerful, efficient religious organizations or highly educated seminarians. God uses organizations and the educated, of course, but in themselves not one of these has the resources needed to be God's tried and tested messenger.
Of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God. According to both Old and New Testaments, our doubting grieves the Lord, provokes Him, causes Him much pain. We see a prime example of this in ancient Israel after God had delivered His people from the hands of Pharaoh.
The Psalmist laments, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea" (Psalm 106:6-7).
The writer is making a confession here. What was the wicked sin that Israel had committed? It was their doubt that God would further deliver them, even after He had performed an incredible miracle for them at the Red Sea.
The psalmist is asking us to imagine God's people as they stood rejoicing on the victory side of the sea. The Lord had just performed one of the greatest miracles in the history of humankind, delivering Israel from the mighty Egyptians. Yet, how did these same people react as they faced hardship afterward? They doubted God's faithfulness.
The writer is saying, essentially, "Can you believe it? Our Lord had moved supernaturally on our behalf, delivering us from the enemy. Yet, even after this incredible miracle, we mistrusted Him. How could we ever provoke God that way?"
It was a different story altogether when Israel stood on the victory side of the sea. They sang and danced as they watched the mighty Egyptian army sink to destruction: "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:9-12).
The Israelites sang the right song—a song of praise to almighty God—but they sang it on the wrong side of the sea. Anyone can sing and rejoice after they have the victory. But Israel had failed miserably on the testing side of the Red Sea. There they hadn't trusted God at all.