God Tests Obedience, the Enemy Tests Faith
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
Yesterday, I went on a run and I asked God to explain to me whether or not He tests our faith. I was thinking about Job and how the enemy brought disaster upon him. I also remember that God allowed it to happen. I always thought of this as a test of Job’s faith, but I was confused because for some reason, I was thinking that God doesn’t test our faith. I told God that I hear people say, “Oh, yep, God’s testing my faith,” or, “This is a real test of my faith…” etc. I’ve probably said it too, but lately, I felt a press in my spirit that I was not understanding the truth on this matter.
I asked God to explain. I heard nothing until the last couple steps of my run. He said, “I test obedience, the enemy tests faith.” I was floored! Now, I did know that God tests our obedience. He asks us to do something and we do or do not do it. If we do it, we are blessed, and as a result, our faith in Him and our ability to hear Him increases! It’s cool. But, when God said that the enemy tests our faith, my curiosity rose and I felt truth approaching within me. I told God, “I’m going to have to confirm that with your Word to make sure that’s in there. I can’t write and tell other people about things I hear You say unless I can back it up with your Word.” I’m sure He laughed at me, but seriously, I did not remember ever reading anything like that. It kind of made sense because my good friend said, “The enemy does not want you to have faith; he wants to destroy it.” I agreed with her, but I needed scripture to back up what the Lord said to me.
Later that day, I was reading the Word for encouragement, and I came across 1 Thessalonians 3:5
I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts [in teaching you how to live and survive by faith] might have been useless.
Isn’t that amazing?! Paul was concerned that the tempter had diluted, broken down, and destroyed his friends’ faith. Paul, however, greatly rejoices when he discovers that his friends stood firm under fire and clung more tightly to their faith. As a result, Paul’s faith increases too. Paul had been encouraging for so long, and now that he was away from those whom he had trained up in the faith, he was anxiously awaiting news about the status of their faith. “Did they still have their faith?”
When Paul heard that the answer was, “Yes!” he was greatly encouraged. Faith creates more faith! No wonder the enemy wants us to quit having it. What excited me was that while I was studying about encouragement, God brought me to the exact scripture that would clarify and support what He said to me hours earlier, “I test obedience, the enemy tests faith.” When God tests our obedience, and we are obedient (even when and especially when we are obedient, regardless of the uncertainty, fear, or questions we have), our faith increases. God builds our faith by testing our obedience!
In thinking about this, and in thinking about the character of God, it made even more sense. God tests our obedience to build us up. Testing our obedience is not vindictive or mean. He tests our obedience so He can grow our faith. He presents us with a positive (notice, I didn’t say easy or fun; it’s positive because we sense it’s of God) opportunity to obey.
It can be as simple as asking us to help someone at the grocery store, helping someone move, or in stepping up to lead a small group at church. God doesn’t present us with horrible things (that sicken us in our gut) to test our obedience (sure, we may feel nervous but we know it’s positive and we wonder if we can press through any ambiguity and obey). He presents us with positive opportunities (yes, they may be difficult to say yes to because they require sacrifice, but they have a positive yet sacrificial essence to them).
When God told Noah to build and arc, Noah was obedient. Sure, it may have been hard, but God asked Noah to do it, so he did. If we obey, we gain even more positive rewards from the act of being obedient (i.e., Noah saved his family through his act of obedience; I’d say that’s a pretty positive pay-off). God’s plan of building us up and growing our faith is comprised of a positive plan – and if we obey – we can have an even more positive result. The structure of it is a +/+.
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, so that you may enjoy a long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers promised you.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
The reason I wrote you is to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything.
On the other hand, when the enemy tests our faith, he wants to destroy our faith. These things have a negative essence to them, and they are comprised of vindictiveness, pain, anger, fear, hate, loss of something, etc. (Read Job). This is because the enemy works to tear us and our faith down, not build it or us up. The structure of it is – (negative) (-,-). However, if we obediently persevere through the negative trials, trusting God and claiming and quoting the Truth of the Word, our faith increases. As a result, what the enemy meant for harm, God uses for our good.
You see, the enemy’s plan is a negative action that if we persevere in the faith, can have a positive result. Hopefully, the final structure of the enemy’s plan is -/+ (negative/positive) rather than -/- (negative/negative). (Keep reading Job; there’s a positive end).
I am relieved to find that God tests our obedience in order to grow our faith. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith (Romans 1:5). As a result of the firmness of our faith, we are able to withstand the tests that the tempter brings against our faith.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the saints.
Did you notice that we have a shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one? Yes, the enemy definitely attacks our faith. He tests the quality and perseverance of our faith by constantly attacking our faith in an attempt to weaken us. He wants to destroy our shield of faith so we can’t defend ourselves against his streams of schemes and arrows. This is why it is essential to be equipped in the Word of God – continually. Be obedient to God’s press on every matter; in so doing your faith will increase – which is your shield against the tempter. Amen!
Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina's Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can't survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/. God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.