The Bible makes it clear that our trials are orchestrated by God. It was he who allowed the Israelites to hunger and thirst — even though he was always faithful to his Word and miraculously provided for his people. “He brought quail, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock, and water gushed out … For He remembered His holy promise” (Psalm 105:40-42).
The Father led the children of Israel into dire testings for a specific purpose: to prepare them to trust his holy Word. Why? Because he was about to take them into a land where they would need absolute confidence in his promises.
How many Christians have experienced God’s deliverance, only to be brought quickly to a place of severe testing? The fact is, all true faith is birthed in affliction and can’t be drawn out of us in any other way. When we are in the midst of a trial and we turn to God’s Word — choosing to live or die by his promises to us — the outcome is faith! Faith grows from test to test, until the Lord has a people whose testimony is, “Our God is faithful.”
Without faith, it is simply impossible to please God. You may object, “But everything you’re talking about so far is Old Testament. We live in a day of grace.” Remember God’s Word in Hebrews: “To whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief … Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:18-19, 12).
Whenever we become discouraged in our faith, we have to discipline ourselves to recall all that God has brought us through. We must remember the miracles he has provided in our hard times and rejoice, knowing he is pleased with what he has done.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Choose today to trust your heavenly Father!
On his way to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul made a stop at Ephesus where he called for a special meeting of all the leaders of the church. He told those Ephesian believers solemnly, “This is the last time I’ll see you and this will be my final message to you” (see Acts 20:25).
In his last message to the Ephesians, Paul told them, in essence, “I’ve been with you before and you know what I stand for. I have served you with humility and tears. I’ve preached in your church and from house to house — all under great trials and persecution. And I have kept nothing back from you.”
Then, with tears, he gave them this sober warning, “For three years now I’ve warned you night and day about what I see coming to the church after I’m gone. Now I want you to hear this warning one more time” (see 20:31).
What did Paul see coming? In short, his warnings were not about the chaos going on outside the church doors, but he was grieved over what he saw coming to God’s house. He warned the Ephesians about what was coming upon the ministry, upon shepherds, in particular, at the hands of deceivers who would flood into the church.
“The Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (20:28). In other words, “Bishops, overseers, leaders, feed your flocks and fill them with God’s pure Word. Savage wolves and deceivers are coming and they’re going to take aim at the weak sheep.” Paul’s deep heart-cry was, “Pastors, take heed. Be on guard for yourselves and for your people.”
Paul stated to these men, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (20:27). What is the whole counsel of God? In short, it includes the tough subjects of Scripture, not just the blessings. It includes the message of godly sorrow over sin, of repentance, of taking up your cross, of self-denial and sacrifice, and separation from the world.
Beloved, as one of the sheep, be sure that you are sitting under the ministry of a true shepherd, not one who just wants to make you feel good. Purpose in your heart to be a servant of God who is fearless, holy and fully prepared be a part of the body of overcomers that rises up in the end times.
A precious missionary wrote to our ministry about quitting his post. He explained, “I felt as if God had brought me into a wilderness and then left me twisting in the wind. I left the ministry in utter dismay and became bitter. I now see what my problem was. I didn’t put down any roots of trust during my testing time. When the trials came, I didn’t rely on what I knew of God’s Word and his faithfulness. I forgot his promise that he would never fail me.”
In Jeremiah 20:14 and18, the prophet let loose with a tirade that sounds near-suicidal: “Cursed be the day in which I was born! … Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?”
Maybe right now you feel as they all did. You’ve been twisted and contorted by the enemy and you think, “I’ve cried out day and night but my prayers haven’t been answered. I can’t go on anymore.” Some Christians may say this is talk against the Lord and calls for a stern rebuke, but the truth is, we are able to consider only the outward man. God sees the heart! He knew Jeremiah’s inward parts and he chose not to rebuke the despairing prophet.
It was as if God said, “Jeremiah won’t quit! Yes, he’ll let off steam as he vents his confusion but he still believes my Word. It’s burning in his soul and he is going to come out of this fire with a faith that can’t be shaken. His best days are ahead of him.”
“His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back and I could not [quit]” (Jeremiah 20:9).
Jeremiah did get a second wind and suddenly he was filled with new life. He rose up as if to say, “Hold on, Satan! You can’t deceive me. The Lord called me and I know his Word is sure.” “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
That dear missionary got hold of this truth and you can, too! Whatever your specific battle is, let God’s Word speak to your heart today and bring you healing and courage.
Teachings about divine authority — God’s power — abound in the church today. When I hear such discourse, I immediately think of Elijah. This prophet lived in a period much like ours, one marked by spiritual decline, when honoring God was at an all-time low.
Elijah’s life illustrates the divine authority God wants to endow us with, especially in these times. There was strife in Israel in Elijah’s time, with God’s people divided into two kingdoms — Samaria in the north and Judah in the south. The Samaritans’ faith became corrupted because they allowed other religions to mix with Judaism. Ahab, the noted king behind all this, took God’s ways lightly: “As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam” (1 Kings 16:31).
Under Ahab’s rule, the people sinned freely and felt no conviction over it. The Bible says Ahab committed more evil than any king of Israel up to that time. “And Ahab … did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:30).
We are also living in a time of great spiritual decline. It is happening because Satan knows his time is short — and he is using every weapon possible to chip away at divine authority, not merely in cultural expressions but in the heart of every Christian.
In this time of great compromise in the nation and in the church, you may wonder how you can have an effect on the world around you. But do not forget who you are in Christ! It does not matter what your background is, who your parents are, what sort of degrees you may have. God has a role for each one to play in this darkening generation. You have been called to bring hope and life to the lost and doubting, especially in this hour.
Elijah was an ordinary man who accomplished supernatural works of God (see James 5:17-18). He was already qualified to do what God asked of him because he had a history with his Father. Likewise, devote yourself to a quiet and diligent pursuit of God in order that you will be ready when he calls you to step forward and join his army to bring about change in these last days.
The Bible teaches us that true faith hopes against all hope, calling into existence what does not exist, bringing life where there is death. God wants to supernaturally grant us spiritual and divine insight so that we no longer look at people, circumstances and situations as we did before. He wants us to see with new eyes, by faith, supernaturally, as He sees. “For God does not look as men look, for man looks at the outward, at what meets the eye, but God looks at what is invisible. He looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
An amazing and revealing encounter between Jesus and Peter illustrates this truth brilliantly. Peter walked three years with Jesus. He seemed to be a man capable of the best and the worst, alternating between the divine and the diabolical with frightening instability. As Jesus announced His death and resurrection and the scattering of the disciples immediately following His arrest, Peter boldly exclaimed, “Even if all the others forsake You, I will stay with You, even to my death!” (see Luke 22:33).
As Jesus looked at Peter and heard his audacious statement, He discerned two destinies, two plans and two very distinct paths over the life of His disciple. The words that He spoke to Simon Peter are a balm on the wounds of the hearts of those who are trapped in the grip of discouragement or who have lost their vision. Our Lord spoke prophetically to Peter and He is also speaking to us, calling our name: “Simon, Simon! Satan had desired to have you, to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith would not fail and when you come back, you will strengthen your brothers” (22:31-32).
Peter denied Jesus and repented with bitter tears. Jesus possessed the redemptive capacity to vividly see the worst in Peter but also to pray for him and to supernaturally foresee that barely fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, Peter would stand in the midst of an agitated and tumultuous crowd and speak words that would literally give birth to the Church!
Just as with Peter, Jesus sees where you have been, where you are presently and what you can become by faith in Him. He knows what has been prepared for you in the invisible realm and He wants you to learn to see yourself, as well as others, through that dimension of faith.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. 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.