Today at Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded a series called “Speed of Life” which explores principles from the book of Hebrews. John Burke shared some of the following insights:
“All of life is a test, so how you live each small moment is more important than any grand accomplishment.
Remember growing up, the most asked question in school was what? ‘Is this on the test?’ Why did we ask that? Because we were only really going to pay attention if we knew it was on the test. And we’ve been talking about the importance of slowing down to seek God—daily, weekly, in faith, but especially when life’s NOT going your way…and here’s why… it’s all a on the Test.
The good news is that those things you hate about life can have a purpose. God hasn’t left us in the dark as to why he allows them for a purpose or how we can pass the test with flying colors. Take a look:
‘My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves…it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.’ – Hebrews 12:5-8, 12
All of life is about relationship. Our main purpose is relationship with God. God’s desire is that we grow up into a spiritually mature person who has a mature relationship with Him. How does He accomplish this in our lives? He allows tests to come—He uses them to train and equip us like a parent does a child, so that we grow up. In this passage, two different situations are in mind. When life doesn’t go my way, and when I go against God’s ways. God can make something beautiful out of all the ugly things.
God uses our circumstances to discipline us. That’s not what we may think. The New Testament was written in Greek. The word ‘discipline’ in Greek, ‘paidia,’ means to educate or train a child. It was a system of instruction in Athens in which students were given a well-rounded training and education for life. This doesn’t mean punish us, but rather to grow us up spiritually. When life doesn’t go our way, sometimes God allows it to help us grow up spiritually into people who truly love God and others.
We get tested… by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, even senseless tragedies. But here is what I want you to understand, there’s still a purpose even when life throws you a curve ball. You might not understand all the whys—ever–but How you respond counts. Seeking relationship with God, seeking his will through the desert—that matters–it’s all on the test.
Our natural reaction any time something goes wrong is to say, ‘God, why are you punishing me? What did I do to deserve this?’ This is a fundamentally wrong view of life.
First, it assumes that all of life is supposed to go my way. And secondly it assumes that if it doesn’t, I did something wrong and God’s punishing me. But that’s not true. As the passage we read said, “God’s not punishing you every time something goes wrong…but He can use it to train you…equip you spiritually…grow your soul in maturity and relationship. And how we respond to setbacks can mature us relationally.
The same God who designed our bodies designed our souls. Our muscles grow as we test them—as we push them to their limit, as we test them just a little more than before—and as our muscles break down just a little, and we feed our bodies and get rest, Those test causes them to grow back stronger than before! That’s how our soul grows to maturity as well. We face tests that break us down, push our limits, but as we seek God daily, weekly, feeding our souls in scripture, entering His rest in prayer, being restored daily and weekly as we’ve been talking about—we build back stronger than before.
Sometimes we can be doing everything God wants, yet life still doesn’t go our way. It’s not that God is doing it TO US, but He does allow it for a greater purpose. Because as we endure it with Him—in relationship with him, loving and trusting him, what we gain is a strong spiritual core—something no person or bad circumstance can take away. The ability to experience the strength of a life that can’t be shaken—no matter what comes our way.
So how do we pass these tests? By staying connected to God.
Consider the life of Jesus. He once said, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ Luke 22:42 In other words, God I don’t like this—I don’t want to go through it. If there’s any other way to accomplish your purposes, please—do it that way! But—not my will, I’ll trust Your will even through this trial! We make it count when we do what Jesus did.
God doesn’t do evil things to us to test us. God can’t do evil—that’s like saying Light can become darkness. There’s a huge difference in God allowing evil to befall us versus doing it to us!
How we go through the tests of life is often more important than what we accomplish.
God allows the painful consequences to prevent an even more tragic one. ‘While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best’. Hebrews 12:10
Sometimes, the trials or painful things we face are our own doing—you can see the cause and effect directly. When We keep reaping the consequences it’s because we’re not willing to respond to God’s correction. Once we understand this, an amazing truth opens up. It’s up to me! God loves me, and so I will only undergo this correction long enough for it to produce it’s purposes in my life.”
To listen or watch this message or the others in this series, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.