Inspirational Sunday

"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands."
Deuteronomy 8:2

Rae's Thought: After leading the Israelites to their freedom, you'd think God would lead them straight to the promised land, right? I mean, He did deliver them out of Egypt for that reason. He promised them a land flowing with milk and honey. They wandered around the desert for 40 years, experiencing many difficulties, before God led them across the Jordan River to their new home. I've often wondered why. Why would God make the Israelites wait 40 years before reaching their promised land? Deuteronomy 8:2 answers my question.

It was a test. God wanted to humble the Israelites and find out what was really in their hearts. I'm sure there were many who talked the talk (Oh the Lord, my God, is so mighty. I will serve Him for the rest of my life), but did they walk the walk? All throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, we see the Israelites constantly complaining and whining about their hardships. Some even went as far as worshipping idols (golden calf, anyone?), rebelling against Moses - which, if they were smart, they'd have realized that they were actually rebelling against God - and disobeying God. Yeah, they praised God when things were good and He performed wondrous miracles, but, as soon as the going got rough, they complained, whined, and blamed Moses (and God) for their difficulties. Thousands of Israelites died in that desert, never getting the chance to see God's promise come to light. God made it to where only the ones who passed the test got a chance to move into the promised land.

What does that have to do with us? Well, think about it. Has it ever occurred to you that the difficulties you're experiencing right now might be a test from God? FYI (for your information): Not all difficult experiences come from Satan. Yes, Satan often comes and throws an obstacle in your path, but there are times when God decides He needs to test you to see what's really in your heart. Rick Warren discusses this in his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, a book I strongly urge you to read. He says, "God continually tests people's character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty...You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies." Some of us, like the Israelites, talk the talk, but are we walking the walk? You may say that God is good and able, but do you really believe that? And what if God led you to straight to your promised land? Would you get the big head and automatically forget about Him? Unfortunately, it does happen. God goes and blesses someone, tremendously, and they end up forgetting who gave them the blessing in the first place.

If what you're going through is actually a test from God, how do you think you're doing? Are you passing with flying colors or failing miserably? You wanna know one of the awesome things about God? He actually wants you to pass the test! It isn't in His will for you to fail. "No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, MSG) God gives us so many ways to do well on the test. The question is, are we using them? All tests are open book, for goodness sake! When you're experiencing what you think might be a test from God, all you need to do is, (a) ask Him, then (b) read His study guide, the Bible. The answers are in there, I promise. You just have to know where to look (and really, if you ask God, He'll gladly show you). And, if, for some reason, you fail the test, do NOT beat yourself up. God still loves you. He even gives second (and third, fourth, fifth, etc) chances. Just ask Adam & Eve - who failed the first test in history - and David, who, although he failed several times, God called him a man after God's own heart.

I like to think of it this way: After God tested the Israelites for 40 years, where did they end up? The promised land...a land flowing with milk and honey. God's tests are taking me one step closer to my very own promised land. I'm not only talking about my heavenly home, though I know every time I pass His tests, He sets rewards aside for me to receive in heaven. I'm talking about a promised land here on Earth, also. God has some special blessings in store for me, but He must test me before I can receive them. He needs to see if I can be trusted with what He plans to give me. He needs to know will I be loyal to Him after He's blessed me, or will I forget all about Him. He wants to keep me humble because He has something great for me and I can very easily get the big head and say it was my own doing.

When God tests you, study up on His word. Talk to Him. Instead of asking, 'Why', ask, 'What do you want me to learn from this'. Instead of complaining about it to Him, thank Him. Yes, you read it right! Thank God for testing you. #1, it'll get your mind of your problem(s), #2, it'll help you pass your test with flying colors, and #3, your test may mean you're getting closer to your very own promised land!