Testing the Righteous

The Lord tests the Righteous - Psalm 11:5

     I was visiting a church in New Hampshire when I was privileged to hear the testimonies from their mission team that had just returned from an outreach at an Indian reservation.
     Amid the glowing stories of lives changed, especially among the children of that tribe, team members also shared how difficult it was to minister there. They had to cook a large meal with only a couple of pans. When it was time to drive the children home from the meetings, the driver was not given specific directions.
     In spite of these things and other hardships, the glowing joy on their faces as the team members recounted their experiences never diminished. The value of the ministry they accomplished was not overshadowed by any of the difficulties they encountered, and all of them expressed an exuberant desire to return to that mission field.

Just a few weeks after I heard that testimony, I visited another church in Connecticut. In a conversation with the pastor he also began to tell me about his mission trip with members of his congregation that had also participated in ministry at an Indian reservation. He told me glumly that they would never go back. “They made the women sleep on the floor.”
     There was no mention of what was accomplished for the Lord. The focus was on their hardships and apparently it overrode any joy at seeing lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I remembered the first group and their excitement, and at the same time I also remembered the team leader tell what happened when he expressed to the tribe’s leadership his team’s desire to return to minister there again soon. He was told with smiles that they deliberately made things difficult for the ministry teams that came there just so they could see which ones cared about them enough to return and minister to them in spite of the obstacles.
     “The Lord tests the righteous” for the same reason.
     When hardships come our way, do we fall away, or keep moving forward in our faith because we love the Lord and desire to serve and please Him?

Job was tested and despite the incredible sufferings he endured, he never denied his God and came forth out of the furnace of affliction shining like gold. A just man was perfected, and God was glorified as a result.

Evaluating the contrast between the two groups, I have to smile at the Lord’s skill in orchestrating a parable that so aptly illustrates a valuable lesson. Whatever hardships we must endure in this life, we must never allow them to diminish our zeal and desire to serve the Lord. We are being tested and like any of His students, when we graduate we want to hear our Lord say, “Well done.”

Copyright 2011 by H. D. Shively

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