Christians are like “diamonds in the rough” with blemishes of faith called weak faith or wrong beliefs. Throughout our lives, God uses countless tests of faith to slowly evolve us into a mature and complete faith – that is, to mold us into diamonds that reflect God’s light and greatness to this dying world. Our testimony is more than words, it’s also the showcase of us striving to pass our faith tests and well as the completion of our purpose that these trials equip us for. To overcome trials, we must correct and or strengthen what we believe about God’s character while waiting for God’s deliverance. We cannot let worry and fear lead us toward failure, nor ruin the testimony we reveal when we face God’s tests of faith.
Rick Warren’s Six Phases of Faith
Dream – God has a dream for you to achieve. It could be a purpose, goal, or a test of faith or trial to overcome.
Decision – We make a series of decisions, starting with the decision to pursue the dream continually, and decisions and actions to place that goal into action, based upon God’s leadings, in hopes of achieving dream.
Difficulties – We will face difficulties or obstacles that get in the path of our dream to get achieved. This tests our faith.
Delays – Difficulties will bring delays in our dream getting achieved, testing our faith further.
Dead-end – Difficulties and delays bring about a dead-end, where defeat seems inevitable. Our faith is tested even greater. We must make a decision to continue the dream and believe.
Deliverance – God miraculously achieves the dream, out of nowhere, showing His greatness, giving us a reason to believe in Him further. People witness and benefit from the completion of the dream.
For any dream to be achieved, one must make sound decisions and have sufficient faith to remain strong in spite of difficulties, delays, and dead-ends, as one waits for God’s deliverance. The greater the dream, the more faith and wisdom you need. God has a giant-sized purpose or dream for every Christian – He wants to show His greatness to this dying world, by giving us assignments only He can do through us. This requires us having strong faith, so we can trust His wisdom, power, and faithfulness, working in our lives.
“Faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. That trust or confidence must be developed over time as the person or object must prove to be faithful repeatedly. Unfortunately, God is invisible, His greatness is incomprehensible, we are frail and imperfect, and potential consequences of an error can be potentially gigantic, so we often struggle with faith in trusting our trustworthy God who always honors His promises. Thus, we experience fear, worry, and negative emotions, which are symptoms that our faith has flaws. God desires for us to have unconditional faith in Him – that is, our trust remains firm, regardless of the conditions or circumstances. So, God gives us tests of faith, throughout our life, to mature our faith, to make it complete, and ready for anything:
James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Perseverance and faith are both required to overcome trials. If we don’t have sufficient faith and perseverance, the worries and fears accompanying difficulties, delays, and dead-ends of life will prevent us from reaching our dream, because we will give up hope before God’s deliverance arrives. Then this dying world won’t be able to witness God’s greatness through our God-given dream (life purpose).
God’s Other Objectives In Tests Of Faith
Because God is Love, and the world’s only hope, we must show evidence of Him in our walks of faith. God knows we are “diamonds in the rough”, and He wants to mature us into “diamonds that reflect His light and greatness”. He uses the pressure and heat of adversity perfectly to remove our faith’s imperfections so we can become more usable for His purposes. Insufficient pressure and heat fail to bring the “diamond in the rough” any closer to becoming a “diamond”; too much pressure and heat destroys the flawed diamond. So, like an expert craftsman, God gives enough adversity in the test of faith to make us uncomfortable to make progress in molding our faith, but still protects His children from destruction.
Other purposes of tests of faith include:
God assesses what we believe about Him and in His character in our tests of faith.
Trials give opportunity for us to correct our faulty beliefs or weak beliefs about God and His character.’
Tests of faith teach us to have peace and self-control in the midst of the storm.
Trials help us to see God’s greatness in action so we can hopefully trust Him more later.
Trials help the Christian be a living testimony of God’s greatness and work in his or her life.
Anatomy of a Test of Faith
Every test of faith evaluates what you believe about God and how much you believe about God and His character. God is more interested in your faith growing than the actual circumstances. (He promises to give us a test beyond what we can handle through Him – the test will almost always be greater than what ee can do in our own strength) – but never greater what we can do through His power. God wants to teach us to rely upon Him, and not on our strength or abilities, in pursuing His dream. We must make a decision to continue to trust in Him in spite of difficulties, delays, and dead-ends, that we will experience in the test of faith. However, if we steadfastly stay connected to Him through the trial, He will promise to bring forth deliverance.
Since we all have imperfect faith, we will experience trials on and off until we die. The are no escaping of tests of faiths, and if you fail them, you will be given retakes of the same trial again in the future until you succeed in them. Trials are given to teach us how to overcome, and we overcome them by learning to steadfastly trust in the character of God, regardless of the circumstances. As you grow in faith, tests will also gradually get more difficult, but your faith will also be stronger to deal with them. God promises “never to leave nor forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6) during the tests, that “everything we experience will be for our own good” (Romans 8:28), that He is always in complete control (Isaiah 14:24), that He will always be our Shepherd (Psalms 23:1), and that He will never give us a trial that we cannot handle through Him (Philippians 4:13). These are promises of God found in the Bible.
Examples of Tests of Faith
Rick Warren lists four kinds of tests of faith: difficulties, demands, dollars, and delays.
“Trials, problems, pressures, tough circumstances – life stressors”. These are examples of Difficulties, according to Rick Warren.
Responsibilities given to us, by either God directly or indirectly by people, that seem impossible for us to accomplish. For example, the boss gives you an extremely difficult project to accomplish in a very short time. You feel the pressure of being a good parent to a disabled and or unruly child. You feel uncomfortable leading a small group at church.
Tests and or stressors involving money. The God-given responsibility of being a good steward with your finances, financial problems, lures not to tithe after losing a job, etc., temptations to not to trust in God’s provision, and following God’s leading on how to manage your money, are all examples of tests of faiths involving dollars.
Anything that makes you wait for a longer period time than desired and creates fear, impatience, and or worry. Waiting lines, perceived delays in God’s deliverance to a problem or a dream, red lights, doctor’s offices, waiting for important news or information, traffic jams, etc. Daily praying to find a mate, get a job or promotion, to graduate from college, and having a child, etc., and then experiencing delays in that dream coming true, are also examples of a test of faith.
Almost anything that causes worry, fear, and negative emotions could be considered as a test of faith, regardless of what category it falls into. It isn’t the circumstances or events that produces the test of faith, it is how we perceive the situation. One individual may not be worried, afraid, angry, etc., over one life event, while another person may experience great fear and worry over that same situation. Worry, fear, and negative emotions are signs that your faith is facing at least some struggle, because fear normally entails a lack of trust in something, and worry is a symptom of fear, and fear and worry usually lead to negative emotions like anger and sadness. So, when you notice you are afraid and worrying, especially during life pressures, chances are you are experiencing a test of faith.
As you probably know, a test of faith situation usually comes unannounced and by surprise. Most of the time people don’t realize they are experiencing a test of faith until it’s too late. That’s why it’s critical to identify as early as possible when you are in a test. The sooner you become aware, the more time you have to gather your emotions and prepare yourself by taking the necessary steps required to pass the test. So how do you approach the test?
a. Recognize as early as possible that you are in a test of faith.
b. Seek God’s wisdom to make sound decisions throughout the test.
Passing through perceived crises, successfully, requires sound decision making. We definitely need God’s wisdom to guide us in the decision-making process. In our tests of faith, because God wants us to learn to rely upon His direction when we make choices, He usually makes the threat of us making a bad decision seem scary to us, in order to prepare us for our personal “ministry” work for God (God often gives what we perceive as “giant-sized assignments” to accomplish in our life purpose). So, through our trials, God encourages us to seek His wisdom.
James 1:5-7 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
Part of the test of faith is to trust that God will give us the right wisdom at the appropriate time during the perceived crisis. If you don’t have faith He will do that, during the test, you failed the test, because trusting in His wisdom and deliverance is part of the test. If you don’t have faith in His wisdom, fear can cause your mind to be “unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.” This would lead to an unstable mind that has to react to the perceived crises your mind believes it is experiencing. So, it is critical for us to trust in His wisdom. Always ask and trust in God’s wisdom, for we definitely need it during our tests of faith.
3. Identify and monitor the worries, fears, and negative emotions you experience during the test of faith. Then change your thinking about God’s character.
As stated before, when our faith is weak or based upon wrong beliefs, the fears of future potential trial consequences almost always creates worry and negative emotions. We worry and have negative emotions because we are afraid, and we are normally fearful because our faith is lacking. Worry intensifies fear and works against our faith, making it harder for us to pass God’s test of faith. So, to combat this, and to restore our weakened faith, we must remove our minds of fear and not worry, by changing how we think about God and His character.
For example, if we become convinced that God has unlimited power and always in complete control of every negative circumstance and situation we experience in life, we will feel safe and secure in the midst of the storm. If we believe that this trial is for our own good, that God loves me unconditionally, that He will never leave nor forsake us, He will always provide, I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me, and that He will always provide, regardless of who bleak the trial, our faith would also be strengthened. When our faith become strengthened to the point, that it becomes strong, not only would we pass the test, but we would also have sufficient faith to overcome the trial. Change your thoughts about God and His character – and your perspective, your behaviors, your hope and faith, and your life will all change, for the better.
So, every time you start worrying, ask yourself, “What am I afraid and or worried about? Why am I experiencing this negative emotion?” “What belief about God’s character that I don’t believe correctly, or that I do believe right, but insufficiently, that is causing my faith to become weak?” Critically analyze your fears, worries, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, with the help of God’s guidance, and then change your thinking to truth. Lack of faith is always a truth problem: either not believing in truth sufficiently, or believing in something that isn’t true.
“Feed your fears and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will.” ― Max Lucado, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear
Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
4. Grab hold of a promise of God and hook your worries and fears to the “anchor of your soul”.
According to Charles Spurgeon, “faith is knowledge, belief, and trust.”
Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” By regularly studying God’s Word, we gain knowledge and truths about God’s character, His ways, and His promises. The Holy Spirit helps in this learning process. After gaining this knowledge and believing it is true, our faith increases. But our faith is only as strong as what we believe in spite of the life circumstances that we daily experience. It is one thing to gain knowledge that a parachute will save me from harm if I jump out of an airplane, another to believe it is true, but even far greater is to trust the parachute by actually jumping out of the plane. We gain this component of faith the most through experience or tests of faith.
The Bible is full of promises of God we must gain knowledge of through daily reading. Believing in the truth “God cannot lie” enables us to believe in these promises and to start the process of trusting and relying upon them during tests of faith. Never underestimate the power of promises in our tests of faith. They are the anchor of our soul. Please read the following:
“For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in own name, saying: ‘I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised. Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we how have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrew 6:13-19).
God gave Abraham a promise to “bless and multiply his descendants beyond number”. God bound that promise with an oath under God, a promise so perfectly sure because God would never change His mind and that it is “impossible for Him to lie”. So Abraham was able to have great confidence that what God promised to him would happen. And God kept His promise to Abraham, and his dream found God’s deliverance. And every human since can share the same hope that Abraham did – once God makes a promise, it will come true, because “it is under oath” and “it is impossible for God to lie”.
Every truth in the Bible is reliable – every statement about God’s character and His ways, every promise of God can be trusted because – it is under oath and it is impossible for God to lie. So, when we face life troubles, our weak faith can read the Bible and find countless truths and promises of God that we can base our faith upon and trust will come true. These promises of God are the anchor of the soul: God made a promise, swore by oath to Him, and we can count on that promise because He made an oath. That promise will anchor our soul to God, keep our soul firm, steadfast, immovable, like how an anchor keeps a boat in the water. So, when the trials “make our soul scared and want to run away”, we can have sufficient faith realizing: God is connected to us, because of the anchor, and that promise that He gave, will come true. This fact should give hope to our faith, whenever our faith begins to weaken.
5. Cry out and pray to God. Ask Him to be your Shepherd daily. Surrender your fears and worries to God.
God has given each of us promises in the Bible to live by and to be relied upon. Now during our tests of faith, it is time to make our requests to God. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7).
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need” (Psalms 23:1). God desperately wants to be your Shepherd. He wants to take care of us immensely.
Just because trials occur doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. “He promises never to leave nor forsake us”; “to give us a future and a hope”;” that everything works together for our good”; that “we can do all things through Christ which strengthened me” (this also means overcome any trial or test of faith, to do any task He gives us, regardless of how difficult it may be). But He gives tests of faith to strengthen our faith, to make us realize these truths and others, to make us mature, complete, and ready for anything.” So, “we have to experience grief for a little while”. But don’t lose hope, according to James 1:12: “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”. He will also bless us on Earth for our successful completions of tests.
As Psalms 23:1 above implies: The Lord is perfect at provision, like everything else. “I have everything I need” implies He is perfect at provision (Psalms 23:1). So we have a perfect reason to trust in His perfect provision.
In Matthew 6:25-34, it says: “Therefore I tell you, 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? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Ask the Lord to be your Shepherd daily as you surrender your worries and fears and your entire life to Him. Surrender not only says “You are Lord”, but also is giving Him responsibility of handling your worries and fears. Remember: “The Lord is my Shepherd: I have everything I need.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
6. Avoid sinning. Confess any unconfessed sin.
Sin temporary separates us from the Father, until we confess our sins. I think that when you are in a battle, a trial, a test of faith, a perceived crisis, you want to continuously remain connected as much and as long as possible to the only Source that can bring deliverance. If you are in a storm, you want to hang onto a lifeline as long as possible, or the stormy waves would pull you apart and away from safety. Hang onto God at all times during the storm, and try to minimize sinning against Him.
Not sinning also means not doing like the Israelites did during their test of faith:
In the Old Testament, God tested the Israelites as they were wandering in the wilderness for forty years until they found the Promised Land. God also allowed them to become hungry to assess their faith in whether they believed that God would still be their Great Provider. They failed the test as they compromised their faith, complained, criticized the leader (Moses) in charge, came against the Lord in anger, and corrupted other people’s faith. Over time, God became angry and took it personally at these sins of the Israelites. God chastened them. This is also the same thing for us.
Many times, when we face a test, we act negatively. We allow circumstances to compromise our faith, we complain to others and to God, we criticize authority figures, we become angry at God, and we tarnish other people’s faith in God and freedom. These are sins in God’s eyes and it doesn’t make Him happy. We fail the test of faith when we commit these acts. God may not bless at all and depending upon His intentions, may discipline out of love. “Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:35-38), though.
Always confess any unconfessed sin and the relationship would be restored as before. However, prolonged sin or minor sins can cause interruptions in our connection with God that we may view as essential. Major sins can definitely create more unstable conditions or hurdles we have to overcome. Also, we don’t do well in God’s tests when we sin. Sin certainly can be a potential definite roadblock in our maturation process in our walk with God. Even though we are imperfect, the less sin we do, the better.
7. Recall past victories with the help of a faith journal.
Hebrews 6:12 says, “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” History is full of saints who through patience and faith inherited what has been promised – God’s deliverance to their tests of faith, using the promises of God, aka, the “anchor of the soul”. We aren’t to be lazy in our walk with God, but to imitate these people who exhibited such faith and patience in their walks with God; their ministries, and their tests of faith.
David was such a man of God who exhibited great faith and patience as he overcame a great test of faith, the giant Goliath, which gave the country of Israel freedom and newfound faith in God. That is our purpose: to overcome our personal giants; to exhibit much faith in the process; to help our world sphere experience a newfound faith in God and freedom in Christ, by being a living example of a man or woman who imitated the faith of others.
God’s promises are the “anchor of the soul”. We must be like David who kept His focus upon God and His promises and not on the giant (Goliath, fear, worry, circumstances) as he waited for God’s deliverance of his test of faith. Difficulties, delays, and dead-ends didn’t waver his patience and faith; neither did his worries and fears called Goliath.
1 Samuel 17:45-47: “But David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand. This day I will strike you down, cut off your head, and give the carcasses of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the creatures of the earth. Then the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. And all those assembled here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.””
David had faith in God. He surrendered the outcome of his test of faith to God as he was confident of victory found in God’s deliverance. And God defeated David’s giant as his faith was strong in believing in God’s provision of safety from Goliath. And David’s faith remained strong in the midst of his test of faith. Soon after, God did a miracle and defeated Goliath, and a country of Israelites won their freedom from the Philistines. And the whole “world found out that there was a God in Israel”.
How could a boy defeat such a great giant? How was he able to muster so much faith and courage on that day? Reading 1 Samuel 17: 32-27, gives us insight:
“And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of this Philistine. Your servant will go and fight him!”
But Saul replied, “You cannot go out against this Philistine to fight him. You are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
David replied, “Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep, and whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and delivered the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
David added, “The LORD, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.””
In verse 37, David said “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David undoubtedly remembered past victories of faith tests (lion and bear) that God delivered David through successful, as he faced a more challenging test of faith (Goliath), giving him hope and faith. His focus was on the past (he recalled the victory of lions and bears) and also on the future (he presumably remembered God’s promise of Psalms 23:1 and let it become the anchor of his soul) as he focused on the present: his current test of faith (Goliath). When facing a test of belief, focus your attention on the past, present, and future: recall past victories of faith that God delivered you through (past), then place your attention on the future (God’s promises in the future He will give me deliverance), and then focus on the present situation as you seek God’s wisdom in faith while keeping His commands.
Psalms 78:7 says: “Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.”
God used David’s past lions and bears tests as providence that “God’s provision can always be trusted”, inspiring David’s Psalms 23 passage in the Bible. God likes to utilize past tests to give us lessons for future tests and for our ministry life. Record your lessons in some sort of spiritual journal so you can recall them and not forget His deeds when you face a future trial. Also note, David’s smaller trials prepared him for greater, more challenging tests of faith. If your faith is weak, work at having faith in small things first, then gradually work yourself up. Great faith is not required to do great things: mustard seed-sized faith will suffice.
Luke 17:5: “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Faith and fear cannot exist together. Worry is the opposite of trust in God. When you have faith in God, your faith overpowers both fear and worry. However, none of us have arrived yet in our faith. That is why we must constantly study and gain knowledge about the character of God, believe in it, and take the tests of faith God gives to strengthen that faith. God has a giant-sized purpose for you, and you will be rewarded beyond reason for your efforts. Be strong and continue to work to change your thoughts to those of faith, and to avoid sin, in the process, until God ends the trial. “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Remember: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me” (Philippians 4:13). Imitate the men of the past by letting God’s promises become the anchor of your soul. Don’t give up hope and good luck!
The Testing of Your Faith by Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson