Wednesday afternoon. In various Bible translations, the word testing can also be interpreted as temptation. Do we know when we are being tested or tempted? If it’s something big, I’d like to think yes. But, there are so many ways to deceive ourselves. It can happen so easily: for example, receiving too much change in the checkout line at the grocery store. Do we decide that we overpay for all these groceries anyway? A few cents won’t matter. But, those little choices start the slide, making it easier to allow more dishonest choices. As “they” say, it’s a slippery slope!
When things are going well, we can become complacent. Or prideful. We can become self-reliant. Who needs God when everything is coming up roses? Sometimes I wonder about those who so blatantly ridicule Christianity (Bill Maher comes to mind). What about when good times turn difficult for them? Will they know where to turn for strength and salvation? Do we? Perhaps not, if we’ve come to the point of ignoring God as a way of life.
On the other hand, when times get hard, do we give in to self-pity? Does it seem like no one else has “this” on their plate? The way Paul dealt with his thorn-in-the-flesh is a great example to follow. Asking the Lord to remove x-y-z, but then accepting His answer, even if it’s not what we’d choose, takes some deep trust and faith. Does God really love me or not? Does He have me (and the whole world) in His hands or not? Does He have: my husband, my children, my sister, etc., in His hands?
The following is excerpted from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church’s Daily Lenten Devotional:
So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
–1 Corinthians 10: 12-13
Complacency. Pride. Self-satisfaction. Few things are more poisonous to our faith than these. We can go to church every Sunday, be baptized…, partake in the Lord’s Supper, but all these things added up do not necessarily equal a pure heart. The true test of our faith is not what we do on Sunday, but how we handle situations of temptation and hardship. Will we give up the second we face a moment of despair?
Will we doubt God’s faithfulness at the first sight of anguish? Or will we trust that God does not test us beyond what we can handle? God asks more of us than just showing up to church and acting the part. God calls us to remain pure and strong in the face of adversity, relying on the strength of the one who died for us on the cross.
Spirit, enter our hearts and minds this day so that we may not become satisfied in our own works, but rather keep our eyes fixed upon you. When we are tempted, show us the way out. When we are discouraged, remind us of your truth. When we are about to give up, restore our hope. Amen.
Charlene Han Powell, Associate Pastor