Wednesday, January 11, 2023

When Is a Test More than a Test?

Any trial can be a test from God.  But sometimes a test is more than a test.  Sometimes it is also correction for a fault - a signal that we need to change something in our lives, in our thinking, in our behavior.  Sometimes God sends us a trial to get our attention and to let us know that something is wrong.  Sometimes God uses a trial to punish us for our good, to correct us, so we make needed changes in our lives - to turn us from a wrong path.

Any trial can be a test of faith.  Actually, blessings can be a test - will we still seek God or will we become spiritually lazy and complacent if He blesses us?

Some of us might want God to test us that way.  If I had a million dollars, would I still diligently seek God or would I rely on my wealth?  I might want God to test me that way, but so far he hasn't.

But a trial can be a test of faith only, or a test and a correction also.

And when a trial comes, or a series of trials, we should certainly examine ourselves to see if God may be correcting us for a fault.  We should not just assume we are OK spiritually and not in need of correction.

Consider how we want the public we preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to to react to our message and the tribulation itself.

Putting ourselves in the place of modern Israel can be a useful exercise, and I have explored this before in this blog, though in a different context to make a different point.

One leader of a group in a sermon has said that it is important that we practice what we preach.  He is absolutely right.

I have used this principle before to show that we must be willing to do what we ask the public to do in our message - to believe God, that is the Bible, more than any man, church, or tradition and to be willing to learn new knowledge, even knowledge that changes and corrects the teachings of our religious leaders, to believe the Bible.  We say to the public, don't believe us, don't believe any man, believe God, believe the Bible.  We must do the same.  We must believe the Bible more than Herbert W. Armstrong and be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible that he did not have as well as correct his errors.  That is what he did and that is what he would do today if he were alive, and we should hold fast to that way of life that he taught us by his example.  I have also shown that any reluctance to do this because we believe that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come to restore all things and that, since all things have been restored, nothing needs to be changed, is false and contrary to scripture.  I believe that the Bible teaches that the work of Elijah of restoring all things continues past Mr. Armstrong's death, and I have given the evidence from the Bible in past posts.

But in this matter of examining ourselves to see if a trial is a correction for our faults. the principle of considering how modern Israelites will react to our message and prophetic events also applies.

There are many religious Israelites, Catholic and Protestant for instance, who follow their false traditions and think they are OK with God.  They trust in their traditions they have learned since childhood.  They keep Christmas and Easter, Sunday, etc. but not the Sabbath and holy days.  They think they are right in what they are doing.

What happens when they hear our message?  The vast majority will reject our message as a false message.  They won't believe it.  They will believe their traditions and their church leaders more than the Bible (just as some Church of God members believe Mr. Armstrong's writings and the traditions we get from him more than the Bible).  We warn them that the great tribulation is coming as punishment for their wrong practices and thinking if they do not repent, but they do not believe our warning (most of them).

So the tribulation comes upon them.

But how do they react?  Instead of repenting in the tribulation, they think it is just a test.  "We need to have faith in our traditions of Sunday, Christmas, Easter, the trinity, the immortality of the soul, etc.  God is just testing our faith.  We need to continue to be righteous by keeping our traditions, in spite of our trials."

Then, in the millennium, those who receive no rain because they do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles will say, "God does not want us to go to Jerusalem to keep this feast.  He is just testing our faith by withholding the rain."

God chastens every son that He loves (Hebrews 12:5-11).  But how can He chasten us to teach us lessons if we keep saying, "I am not doing anything wrong - God is just testing my faith"?

If you study trials in the Bible, you will find some that are only a test and not a correction (Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel and the den of lions, etc.) and some that are both a test and a correction (Job's suffering).  You will also find the principle of God punishing to turn us from sin expounded in various places.

When we go through a trial, we need to examine ourselves with an open mind to see if God may be correcting us for our faults, and if so, repent.  "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1).

When God chastens us with trials, He wants us to repent and go a different way, not stubbornly say, "I am right, I am not sinning, God is just testing my faith".  God chastens us to wake us up and teach us lessons.  It is a dangerous thing to resist those lessons.  It is better to cry out to God and say, "God show me where I am wrong" and then examine ourselves with prayer, fasting, Bible study, and meditation to find our faults.

Isn't that what Mr. Armstrong did as related in his autobiography?  At one point, God was not answering his prayers, so he fasted and prayed till he found out what was wrong with him.  Here is one more lesson we can learn from Mr. Armstrong's example.  He didn't say, "This is just a test of my faith."  He knew it was correction from God for his fault.  

And if we are wise, we will consider the counsel of others.

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

Punishment from God should lead us to repentance.  If we just say, "I am not sinning, this is just a test of my faith" when God is trying to get our attention so we wake up and repent, then we are refusing to repent and we are resisting God.

And when we seek to find out our faults, if we are wise, we will consider the counsel of others.  Not all counsel is right, but we should at least think about it.  If we don't, then we are not wise.

We must practice what we preach.  We must do as we want the public to do and we must practice the message we preach if we want that message to bear fruit.  If we tell the people, don't believe me, don't believe your religious leaders, believe God, believe the Bible, then we must practice the same thing.  We must not make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong, making faith in him equal to faith in the Bible.  We must not have faith in Mystery of the Ages or any other writings of Mr. Armstrong.  Faith is a form of worship, and we should only have faith in God.

We must be willing to change Mr. Armstrong's teaching and correct his mistakes, and we must be willing to add new knowledge to what he gave us, based on God's word, the Bible.  We must hold fast to Mr. Armstrong's example in this.  If we don't, we have no right to expect success in preaching the gospel, and we have no right to expect good fruits from our efforts.  We fall into danger of becoming a self-centered social club more than a dynamic and fruitful Church of God.

And if God sends us trials, maybe He is correcting us for our hypocrisy.

One necessary note and reminder.  If a change in doctrine, either a correction to an existing doctrine that is wrong or an additional new doctrine that gives us new knowledge, truth from the Bible we did not have before, is necessary, things must be done lawfu1lly and in order.  God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  If a member becomes aware of a need for a change, he can submit the change and the scriptural basis for it in confidence, privately, to the leadership.  The leadership can then evaluate the change, according to the Bible, not according to Mystery of the Ages or any other teaching of Mr. Armstrong, and then, perhaps with counsel, make the decision for the whole Church.  That way we preserve unity and all speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10, Romans 16:17-18).  It is not the role of the lay members to create division and spread their ideas to the other members on their own.

It is the role of the leadership to base doctrine solidly on the Bible and on godly principles of sincerity and truth as Christ leads.

And if the leader refuses to do that, Christ may deal with him as He sees fit.