Adversity in the life of a believer can have two main sources – sin that gives Satan legal authority over specific areas of our life or God allowing us to be tested. Sin can be created from actions taken by our forefathers or by ourselves (Lam. 5:7; Num. 14:18). Ultimately, whichever source the adversity is coming from, we are called to be more than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour (Rom. 8:37). However, to be conquerors it is important that we be able to discern the source so that we can act according to what is required in the situation.
Is this a test from God or have we (or others in our family) by our own action or lack of action brought suffering upon ourselves? How can we know? Simple, ask God. Ask the Holy Spirit to tell you if there are things you have done or not done that have given place to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27, 6:11; Jas. 4:7; Lk. 4:6; Rev. 20:10). Trust me, He will be quick to show you if you honestly want to know. God wants above all things that you would prosper and be in good health even as your SOUL PROSPERS (3 John 1:2). He wants you to have good success and to have an abundant life (Josh. 1:8; John 10:10). He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3). He therefore has a vested interest in your victory over the enemy and will not withhold from you that which is necessary to gain full freedom. That was the purpose for His coming (Isa. 61:1; 1 John 3:8). If you are the one who has sinned, then most likely you will already be aware of the issue that needs to be dealt with as the Holy Spirit would have been convicting you to repent and receive forgiveness, resist and rebuke, and walk into freedom rejoicing (John 16:8; Prov. 28:13; 2 Tim. 2:25; Lev. 26:40-42; Jas. 4:7; Lk. 4:35).
On the other hand, when we are being tested, God usually doesn’t answer us right away. Job is our example. God did not warn Job that the test was coming and during the test He kept silent. It’s like your teacher coming to class one day and giving a pop quiz. There is no prior warning and the teacher is not going to answer your questions, after all it is a test. You are being tested to determine how much you have learnt so expect the silent treatment. When you know that this is the kind of teacher you have it is in your best interest to always be prepared so when the test comes you are not taken off guard. God allowed Satan’s request to attack Job because He could trust in Job’s commitment to Him. God was showing off. God knew that Job’s commitment to Him was not just based on what God had blessed him with. That even if he lost everything he would still praise the Lord.
And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb. And naked shall I return there. The Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. (Job 13:15)
Job understood that God was his source and all that he had, including his family, did not belong to him, he was merely a steward over what God had given to him. Job was going to serve God not based on the condition that God bless him but simply because God deserves it because of who He is, his Creator. Are you at that place? Many of us have been weaned on the prosperity message and truly believe that God owes us something. We have developed an entitlement mentality. To the extent that if God doesn’t respond in the way we think He should, because we have been faithful and obedient, we get upset with Him.
Another reason for testing is evidenced in the life of Jesus Christ. Who was more faithful and obedient than Jesus? But He was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted of the devil (Mt. 4:1). This was prior to being released into ministry. Why then do we feel that we will not also be required to walk that same road if we are serious about being used of God? (Phil. 3:10)
God also allows adversity to build our faith in a God who will take us through. So, having overcome we can strengthen and encourage others.
Yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me; (Ps. 23:4a, emphasis mine)
Note, God is not taking us out of the valley, He is helping us to go through it. He is allowing us to be strengthened through adversity. When we go through then we are strengthened in our faith because we know it if hadn’t been for the Lord at our side we would have perished (Ps. 16:8) and we must needs go through hardship if we are soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3).
No matter the source of our adversity, it is critical that in the midst we maintain trust in God our Father. He tests us not because He seeks to harm us but because He wants to build character in us so we can be overcomers and become the image of Jesus Christ (Jer. 29:11; Rom. 8:29).
In the midst of adversity then let us seek God to determine, “Is this test or consequence?”