2.3.3 Trials & Tests: The Training of Being Chosen

2.3.3 試驗乃呼召的訓練過程

Speaker: Ming

What is the first proof that you are filled with the Holy Spirit and are called to preach with assurance? The famous evangelist replied: You are going to encounter trouble. There is actually evidence for what he said. Luke 3:16-17 says that He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. I don’t know if the church talks about trials, but we know that once we start the ministry, we will definitely encounter this. Because God is here to elevate people from regional to global ministry, you must encounter the baptism of fire. Just like what Ephesians says, in order to accomplish everything and still stand, you must stand firm. We see that many of the great men of faith in the Bible had to endure a difficult process of being deprived when they received God's calling by faith.  Just like what is said in the book of Hebrews: Others endured severe torture and refused to be released in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mocking, whippings, chains, and imprisonment, were stoned to death, were sawn to death, were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. (Hebrews 11:33-38) This means that when we receive the call and know that God is going to use us, these great men of faith in the Bible that I just talked about are people the world are not worthy of, because they have faith and are willing to pay the price for the kingdom of God. Regardless of whether we admit it or not, or what kind of situation we encounter, the first thing we will face when we enter the ministry is this kind of situation. Whether you are happy or not, you will go through it.

So who is testing us? Is it God or the devil? We all have common sense, we know that it comes from God. But still some people think that the pain we experience comes from the devil, and therefore they blame the devil. Sometimes we do have difficulties that come from devil, such as attacks and unfair treatment. But we also have to see the other aspect: God allows certain things to happen to His beloved children. The most famous one we know is Job. The Bible says that Satan got God’s permission to test Job.  One important point to note in many passages is that Job said, God’s hand is against me. Even though God strikes me down, I still have faith in Him. We see that although Job was attacked by Satan, when he faced that situation, he talked to God instead of Satan. He even refused to blame Satan for his trials and sufferings. He knows that God is on his side. The only thing he can trust is that no matter what kind of environment he is in, his God is with him. The Lord also has words to comfort us in such experiences, saying that we will not be tempted beyond our strength. That is to say, even if we are tempted, the temptation is not something that we cannot handle or overcome. Peter also said that you should not be surprised if a fiery ordeal comes upon you to test you. The reason why we share this message today is because we have seen that many events will become more and more intense in the future, and the entire world will become more difficult than we thought.

I went to a meeting today and there was an Israeli speaker from Canada. He was a newscaster. I used to see him on TV. He was sent by God to Israel to report on the scene. He said that Israel is a foundation and a center of the future kingdom of God. It is also a center of the kingdom of heaven. He said that Israel on earth and Israel in heaven have the same spiritual meaning. What happens to Israel will affect the whole world, this is mentioned in the Bible. He said that when Israel was suffering, we Christians would also encounter almost the same situation spiritually. So when a country wants to attack another country and take over this country, what is the first thing it should do? It is to attack its capital. This is what is taught in the army. If you want to win a war and take over a country, you must first attack its capital. So he said that when God comes back in the future, the first thing he will capture is Israel’s Jerusalem. Jerusalem is also a type of spiritual capital. The first thing God will do when he comes back is to capture the country’s kingdom. That is to take the city of Jerusalem.

No matter what trials and tests we go through, there is a scripture that we often read, "Whoever waits for the Lord will soar with wings like an eagle; he will walk and not faint, run and not be weary." Deuteronomy 32:11 talks about the eagle, “As an eagle stirs up its nest and spreads its wings over its young, it takes the young and carries them on its wings, so the Lord alone guides them, and no foreign gods were with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12) These two verses are talking about one thing, that is, how the mother eagle trains her young eagles to learn to fly. I don’t know how many of us know this training. The mother eagle often resembles God in the Bible, and like the eaglets we are sheltered under the shadow of His wings. Eagles are special. They build their nests on very high cliffs. They first use some thorny shrubs to make the structure of the nest, then use some branches and leaves to spread it over, and finally use some furry things like down and feathers to spread it over. So when its children are born, it is in a very warm and comfortable nest, away from all harms outside, because the nest it builds for its children is high, on the cliff wall, which means that when we first became babies of Christ, we were in such a stage where we were extremely comfortable, taken care of, and enjoyed pure spiritual milk. God had abundant supplies at that time. In the second step, if the mother eagle feels that the young should start learning to fly, what will she do? She starts to remove the fluffy feathers and the like in the nest, exposing the thorny shrub structure below, which will make the eaglets feel uncomfortable, and then the mother eagle will drive them out.  Now the wind can blow into the nest, as there are several eaglets in one nest, they have to fight each one for the most comfortable place to stay, you will see them croaking. They complained and grumbled because they felt very uncomfortable, the soft things were removed, and they resided in a very harsh environment.  Before these little eagles know what discomfort and pain really are, the mother eagle has a plan to start disturbing the nest and force these little eagles to learn to fly.

The growth of our spiritual life is based on the same principle as this metaphor of nature.  Although we clearly know that we are strangers in this world, we also clearly know that whether it is eighty years, one hundred years, or one hundred and twenty years for us to stay in the world, we will finally see God in the future, and then we will enter eternal life. The concept of eternal life is an unlimited one, but we have no way to imagine the proportion of the eternal life in our entire lives compared to the time period we live on earth.  Because we have not yet entered that part of eternal life, just like those little eagles, we have accustomed to live in a comfortable place, and we are satisfied with our status quo, so as those little eagles, we do not want to experience those difficulties, and we don’t want to move forward because the original environment was very comfortable.  Whether we are listening to sermons in church or listening to various messages, we quite enjoy them. But when God wants to talk to us, because of this ease and comfort, we often get distracted. Therefore His voice cannot be heard. When God thinks that our time has come, that our lives are about to begin to enter the calling, that we are about to enter the part that He has destined for us, and that we need to make progress in our lives in His plan, many things suddenly change. What change? Suddenly problems arise, pain comes, or even torture and blows follow. Then our response is to start rebuking evil spirits or start binding them. Because we are like those young eagles, the air is filled with complaints, discomfort, moans, and even grumbles. These painful environments begin to attract our attention.  At this time, if we want to solve this problem, we start to concentrate and seek God, otherwise we will have no way out. This is the second step of the mother eagle's plan for the little ones. When the mother eagle drove them to the edge of the nest where it was blown by the wind, she put the little eagle on her back and started to fly. At the beginning, the little eagle was very scared and held it tightly with its talons. It jumps on the back of the female eagle and starts learning the first lesson of flying. The mother eagle begins to fly up to thousands of feet. The young eagle will be very excited on the back of the mother eagle. It turns out that the outside is so beautiful and broad, not as narrow as the inside of the nest. For us, the first flight is when we were first called by God and led out by God. Like the eaglet, it didn’t understand it yet, as it was completely unprepared for accepting the mother’s plan.  Just when it was not ready yet, the mother eagle planned for it and she will suddenly dive downward thus throwing her child into the air. What is the purpose? The purpose is to say that you now know the joy of rising and flying on the back of the mother eagle, but mom just wants to throw the eaglet out and let them learn to fly on their own. The young eagle began to struggle at this time, constantly flapping its small wings to try to control its flight, but in most cases it would keep falling until it was close to the bottom of the cliff.  At this time, the mother eagle felt that the young eagle was almost in danger. The little eagle also felt that it had no strength and was almost finished.  At the time when it was almost hitting the bottom of the cliff, the mother eagle suddenly went down and caught it, put it on its back and flew up again. The eagle uses this repetitive method of throwing up, falling, throwing up, and falling to teach the eaglet to spread its wings and fly.

I believe that many of our leaders will encounter or are in such a situation. God is merciful to us. He first allows us not to know the anxiety, pain, torture, and even complaints that we will experience in preparation and training. He is merciful to us, so if we are not prepared in this way, or we do not even know what price we have to pay, many unsatisfactory situations will occur in our environment. For example, our secular work environment may produce many unpleasant things, until the pain pushes us into a state of complete obedience. At the beginning of our ministry, we sometimes encountered some situations, but they were quickly solved later. But if we continue to move forward for a while, the problem breaks out again, and it seems to be worse than before, even our close partners and friends are no longer as close as they used to be, because they said they didn't want to be with someone who might lose, or that they needed to go to a greater place to study.  When we encounter these situations in ministry, we know that it is God’s permission. God allows us to be just like the young eagle learning to fly.  It is thrown into the air by the mother eagle on its back and learns to fly a little by itself, and then He holds it, carries it up again, then dives again, and again. So we know that God broadens us in trials, sufferings, and pressures. Just like Isaiah 48:10, “I chose you when you were in the furnace of suffering.” The word 'choose' in the original text of the scripture means grading, which is the grading of school examinations or tests. I often meet some brothers and sisters who share with me that they often dream about taking exams at night, and always fail, or barely pass the exam. This part turns out to be mentioned in the Bible, you are suffering. I chose you in the furnace, that is, we were graded by God in the examination. So how does God decide whether we can pass an exam or upgrade us? It is to judge by viewing our performance in the furnace of suffering and checking our response to setbacks and trials. If our response and attitude are correct, the Lord can let us move to the next level, into the next situation. When I share this, I don’t mean that all the lessons God gives us involve constant hardship, no rest, and are very hard. That’s not the case. We enjoy His great blessings in our ministry, because as the environment continues to become more difficult, we enjoy His richness in Him, and every experience we have makes us broader and makes us know that He is full of blessings and grace for us. We know that we serve God because we love Him, not because we want to show off. Because we love Him, we respond to His love. This is ministry. Well, Jesus also knew that some people followed Him for loaves and fish, hoping to get something from Him. Despite this, God still allows many severe tests or trials to come to us. What is the purpose? The purpose is like Deuteronomy 8:15-16: "He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you." It turns out that God gives you trials, and the purpose of the trials is to make you enjoy blessings forever. So we see that even though Job experienced great sufferings, he maintained, even though God attacked me, I will still trust in Him. Later, God returned to Job twice as much as he had lost in order to let him know that God’s grace and blessings were in the part of his life that he persevered in. Therefore, suffering and trials are tests to see whether our lives are in humility. When we first begin to believe in the Lord and God bestows grace and power, we can easily become proud and feel that because we are good, we have gained it. When people gain comfort and enjoyment, it is easy for pride to set in, but trials and testing can indeed test whether we have a humble heart like Job before Him and can still trust God.

The second part is that when God allows trials to fall on us, such suffering can increase God’s power within us. Just like Paul, Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn, but God told him constantly that "my grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in the weakness".  When we go through trials, we start to understand: First, spiritual experiences often broaden our lives. When our lives are broadened, we tend to be proud. God wants trials to come to us so that we can be humbled. Second, the development of our character is more important to the Lord than the pain we suffer. So God allows for some things to happen, like Job, God even sent Satan as a messenger to attack Job’s weakness. In this situation, in order to temper Job’s character, the Lord said that our character is more significant to Him compared to what we have suffered.  Only through humility and even weakness in our lives can God's power be manifested in us, so that we are willing to let go of ourselves and say, "we can't do it anymore. We can't do it on our own." Only then can we focus on seeking God, and God’s power can be manifested in us through that life. Therefore, when we pray, we must be mentally prepared, that is, God’s response to our prayers usually does not appear in the way we expect. Otherwise, it will be like I have my own ideas and ask God to sign it for me. No, God often answers the questions we ask in ways we can’t imagine. So we need to understand that these blows or even fierce tests are real, and may be it is God who works in our hearts to accomplish His will, which is what Philippians 2:13 talks about, when we go through these trials and pains, we will be set apart sanctified, so that we know that there is a difference between being called and being chosen.

When trials and difficulties come, we will learn to be obedient because of the suffering we endure. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” This verse in the scripture says that Jesus learned to be obedient because of the suffering he experienced, so that we can understand why the Lord said, "The Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and scourges whom he receives as sons. If you do not have discipline, you are an illegitimate son." Then it is said in 1 Peter, "whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God ". It says here that after we have suffered and have been tested in life, we are done with sin. Because after experiencing it, we will no longer follow human desires, but we know that we will live the rest of our lives in the world according to God's will.  This is a teaching in 1 Peter chapter 4 verses 1 to 19. We know that we all expect effective ministry, but we don’t like the pain that makes it effective. It won’t work, because God Himself went through such suffering to make Jesus perfect. What He endured, we will also endure in the future. So when troubles and unsatisfactory things happen in our lives, we must understand what attitude we should adopt to accept them. Just like a butterfly has to struggle for a long time in its cocoon as a pupa before it becomes a beautiful butterfly. Each of its struggles is a process of transformation. If we cut the cocoon open to help, it will die. What we mean here is that we have to go through many difficulties in our lives before we can learn the lessons God wants to teach us. This is inevitable, especially when many of our leaders are led by God into a calling, we have already encountered such things. If we see brothers and sisters encountering problems and struggling with difficulties, our hearts feel very painful, and we want to try to help them out, but we often find that when we help in our way, after a while, the same situation recurred, and he had the same difficulty again. Therefore sometimes we need discernment in this area. What should we discern? We must pray and ask the Lord to give us wisdom to discern whether this matter is God’s work, whether it is a trouble caused by himself or whether it is not in line with God’s will and thus attacked by Satan. Leaders must ask the questions when counseling brothers and sisters. The Lord gives wisdom to tell these things, otherwise it will be like the example I gave just now, the butterfly cannot fly out of its cocoon. If we use the scissors in advance to help it cut open the cocoon and remove the difficulty, it will cause God’s plan to abort, don’t we know?

Let’s talk about the last point, what is our  proper attitude when we suffer. Let me give you a small example. I just mentioned that if our brothers and sisters encounter difficulties, I hope that our leaders can first pray and ask the Lord to learn to discern through God’s wisdom whether this is God’s will or it is due to a trouble caused by himself, or he is not in line with God’s will and is attacked by Satan. We need God’s wisdom to know how to help him. Recently I came across such a situation, and I will share with you. I don’t know how many of you know that Pastor Lin has passed away. When he was ill, he hoped that many people would go over and pray for him. But during our all-night prayer meeting, I clearly received the Lord’s voice saying, "You can't go." In this case, we must learn to obey God, so that after we obeyed God, we soon realized that it was right, otherwise we will have to receive God's discipline. Therefore, when brothers and sisters encounter difficulties, we must first seek God and then do things accordingly. When tests and trials come into our lives, our attitude should be to triumph in Christ, and we must learn not to complain in such an environment, as in the scriptures we have shared earlier. In 1 Corinthians 10:10 it says, "And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel". Just like the Israelites in Exodus, it turns out that when we grumble, we will be killed. So, in this situation, when we have the environment, the first thing is not to complain, but to be like Paul and Silas. When they were thrown into prison, they did the opposite thing, which was to praise God. So when circumstances and trials come, the first thing is not to complain, and the second thing is to stand up and praise God, praise His deeds, and persevere in that environment. So much so that we can hear God comforting us by saying, “Since you have been faithful in small things, I have made you ruler over many things.”

Okay, this is what I want to share today. As leaders, when we are called by God to enter our positions and enter the destiny God has prepared for us, we will have situations like those of a young eagle. The situation is the same, it must be passed through. I am very grateful to God that each of us mentioned the troubles we encountered in our lives. These things we encountered were Okay, as they made it easier for us to learn to listen to God’s voice, and to learn to understand God’s will and know how to go through it. These environments and troublesome things make our lives broader and allow us to experience such things in our lives.