As we read through the Bible we come across many men and women who displayed tremendous faith in God. We’re inspired in our daily walk with the Lord as we see those willing to take a stand for what they believed in even if it meant that they faced the fiery furnace, the sword, lions and a giant.
How were they able to live out their convictions in such a way?
The early Church didn’t have devotionals in the morning yet they had the courage to stand against the Roman Empire. A courageous young mother called Vibia Perpetua who lived in the 2nd century comes to mind. In refusing to renounce her faith and worship Emperor Septimus Severus, she faced a wild bull in the amphitheatre as well as a gladiator. She said these words to her father who fiercely objected her decision, “So I also cannot be called anything else than what I am, which is a Christian”.
Many other early saints were either thrown to the lions or burnt alive. Some may argue they were able to remain strong because some of them were living in the time of the Apostles or maybe because they witnessed many miraculous signs. I believe both played a big part in why many were able to stand strong but I think there is much more to it than we might first think. I believe they gained such courage because they had to. To be a Christian at that time was to put your life on the line.
When your life is at stake, you live out not what you hope is true but what you know is true.
Apostle Paul writing to the Church of Corinth puts it this way, “And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus —if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!”’ – (1 Corinthians 15:30–32 NLT).
Apostle Paul intentionally put himself in harm’s way in order to preach the gospel. This doesn’t automatically mean what he was preaching is true. But would he choose to face death for what he knew wasn’t true? Trials have a way of pressing all of us to get to the core of what we say we believe.
Why do we face test and trials?
James the brother of Jesus had a view of tribulation that many Christians today may find troubling (I know I did) …“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – (James 1:2 – 4 NLT).
Ask any endurance athlete about how they developed their endurance. They most likely would reply by saying, “long hard runs”. The kind of runs that, over years, builds up their body to be able to compete at the highest level. When the time to compete comes, their body isn’t taken by surprise by all of the pain as it has built up a resilience to it over the years.
The same principle applies to our faith as it’s the repeated testing of it that gives us the endurance to be able to grow in maturity – the kind of maturity that only comes as a result of resilience.
How did Abraham become a man of faith?
Well, we have to first understand he didn’t start off that way. He was a pagan whose people worshipped the Babylonian gods (especially the moon God Sin). But God called him out of the land of Ur. Leaving all he knew behind was his first act of faith. As he continued to walk with God, his trust in God was repeatedly tested. It was in the testing that the opportunity to trust in God came. However, your trust is of no benefit if the one whom you trust isn’t trustworthy. In other words, if God hadn’t repeatedly shown Himself to be dependable, Abraham never would have offered up his son. Abraham messed up many times, but he remained with the process and when his final test came, he was able to pass it. How? Because he was fully persuaded by God’s trustworthiness (Hebrews 11:17-19).
How should we deal with our doubts in our walk of faith?
Firstly, I believe we must approach our doubts in a similar way that scientists analyse viruses through a microscope. Over the centuries, doctors have sought various methods to cure diseases; many of which modern scientists would find questionable today. Before the concept of a microscope was developed in the 15-16th century by two Dutch spectacle makers Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lipperhey, viruses and bacteria would have gone largely undetected. As a result, a doctor’s prognosis may have been wrong because the right equipment to perform test on their patients wasn’t available. Although, diseases may have been visible what was causing those diseases often were missed. Sometimes, as Christians we come up with formulas and strange teaching rather than address the problems that we have. We assume we know the solutions to the problems rather than take the time needed to examine and analyse what is really going on. Common clichés replace answers that come from rigorous study, prayer and discussions. Doubts can be used to serve a similar purpose that microscopes have to modern science. The diligent analysis of viruses through a microscope often helped to identify the viruses that otherwise would have been left undetected.
Likewise, our doubts can bring us to a place where we take the questions of our head and heart seriously, such questions that otherwise would have been neglected.
So, can test be a good thing?
Why do teachers give out test in schools? Why did you have to do the dreaded beep test in PE? These tests are aimed towards giving you an accurate view of where you are. Socrates, a Greek philosopher said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Brian Chilton, a Christian apologist adds, “an unexamined faith is not worth having”. This is why James says it’s a joyous thing to have our faith tested. A time of testing causes us to fall back to what we know. As the athlete falls back to his/her training, we fall back to ours. Secondly, test can give us an accurate picture of where we actually are in our faith walk, leaving us with no place to hide what we truly believe comes to the surface. Thirdly, doubts should be taken seriously as they can help to drive us to seek out truth. Truth is found in the seeking so we should take questions seriously. Finally, trust can’t be faked. It flows out naturally from a person who has confidence in the reliability of the one whom they trust. We should therefore model our lives like the early Church who took seriously the claims of Jesus and were able to stand strong because they knew the One who promised is Faithful.
By guest writer Praise Anyanegbu
God Loves You, Always & Forever!5