The Preciousness Of The Proving Grounds Of Faith

The past few days have been hard. I thought the trials that arose in the face of progress were simply to help me get on track and figure out what exactly God had created me to do. Though I firmly believe that my butt needed to be kicked in gear and in a direction that He has created me to go, that was not the purpose of the trials. Or, perhaps, the trials were preparing me for the testing period. I guess that depends on how you define the terms, and at 4am, I’m not getting technical–I’m getting sleepy. 🙂
While personal direction may have been a byproduct of the trials, and may have set the course for the “testing material” His goal is His glory and that my faith will result in that.
I will try to keep this as easily digestible as possible, because it could get very deep, and if it does for you, GREAT—may God use it to His glory; if this is put in terms that don’t get “deep” for you but instead into words and concepts that you understand (perhaps “finally”), GREAT—may God use it to His glory.
You “bet your bottom dollar” that God will get the glory, because 1 Peter 1 says that the purification of my faith will result in praise, honor, and glory of Jesus Christ, rejoicing at His revelation. That is the goal-to-be-accomplished.
“…though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”-1 Peter 1:6-9
We have been saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); we are receiving salvation through faith (1 Peter 1:9)–I tried reconciling these two concepts tonight, and I think that the initial salvation through faith is the initial faith in Christ, but the salvation that we are currently receiving through faith is more of a salvation in the world, dross-removal kind of salvation. We’re being spared much and prepared for glory.
Today and tonight I feel a faith that is so much different and stronger now than before. I don’t know what has happened, or what could have happened, outside of the miraculous work of God in me answering a prayer that I couldn’t have really found a practical way to resolve on my own. Whatever was battling against me circumstantially and creating doubt is gone.

Rewind to my last blog post. That Thursday, when I hit the literally hit the pavement, I was done with life for the day. I had tried, and affliction after affliction seemed to come my way. (Sidenote: I am SO thankful that God has enabled me to understand spiritual/life truth in an analogous way to cycling and running experiences. It’s like He speaks my languages and knows how to reach the depths of my soul..or..something.) So anyways, once I’d confined myself to the couch, simply because it had cushions, and was about to go to bed, I saw on Twitter that there was a sermon coming out of Harvest Bible Church, somewhere in California. I decided to listen in since I’ve been avoiding attending a church because all I’ve felt like I was doing was attending and just another face in the crowd. (shoutout to Believer’s Chapel in Allegany, NY! Never take the fellowship for granted!) The topic piqued my interest—“How to handle your ‘Giants’” ; I knew I needed to listen, but couldn’t think of a “Giant” I was combating. Typically, the opposite is true—I would have EASILY been able to identify a “Giant” such as an eating disorder, pride, bitterness, etc. that was conquering me, taunting me, and really just being a controlling factor in my life. I listened and made notes on a few things that struck me as profound, but despite knowing that the sermon had VERY good points and practical implications for me—as in I KNEW God had a purpose in me hearing it—I couldn’t pinpoint much in the way of “Giants” I was dealing with. Slowly the “small” thought of the fact that I was struggling with faith, or rather DOUBT, came to mind. What kind of giant was doubt, though? Really? All that I needed to do was…wait. I didn’t know what to do about doubt. After pondering it for a few minutes, realized that was, in fact, my “Giant” that needed to be conquered.

Now I get that with those other things, there are spiritual and practical steps to be taken in combating them. With addictive “Giants” or interpersonal “Giants” there are a lot of practical steps within your control to “kill” the “Giant” so it never returns again–you might get its nasty spawn, but I digress. Been there, done that. Combating doubt?! I had no idea HOW in the world to do that with controllable results, and after the worst day I’d had in a long time, in which I had been rejected from a job and it was like one thing after another was rising against any progress I was trying to make, I was having my share of doubts again. For some reason, it just seems like the doubt and faith battle is just a different kind of beast. You don’t handle it like an addiction, you don’t just “remove” yourself or the M.O. from the scene of temptation, you don’t reconcile with someone. What do you do? Convince yourself to believe something that might very well fly in the face of everything experience has shown you. Try justifying that one with yourself. I really had no idea what to do outside of simply pray, so I did. I asked God to give me faith, because I couldn’t do it for myself; I was tired of doubting. It’s tiresome and stressful to worry and doubt, and at that point in the day and experience over the past month (and a few weeks) I was just tired and “SO..DONE.” (Referencing my previous post—seriously, if you have not read it yet, do it when you’re done reading this.)
I did not have a lot going on yesterday, so spent most of it home on the couch, in the safety of the cushions, simply reflecting, and the concept of “proving grounds” kept coming to mind. I just thought it was kind of a fleeting, witty concept, but that was all. The thought kept coming back, so I paid it a little more attention. I read through Streams in the Desert frequently, especially when life is unusually difficult, and February 28th stood out to me as rather profound: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/desert/streams-in-the-desert-feb-28-11530587.html
Most of the time I’ll become inspired to read the context in which the scriptural reference exists, and this time I was hooked. The proving grounds didn’t end for the Israelites after they’d faced the attacking Egyptians and looming prospect of being stuck between that and the Red Sea—certain death. They reached the other side, rejoiced, and were immediately tried to the breaking point of desperation again. Suddenly I had compassion for them—they thought they had received complete salvation, only to have their faith tested to the breaking point again. False. These people were God’s and for their own good, their faith was on the table again. He was about to prove to them that He is God, that He provides their needs, that they don’t need to “stock up just in case He doesn’t come through or deprives” them, or all of this really was chance timing—because the Red Sea divides on its own every third full moon that takes place on a Thursday.

Okay, not really, but I hope my exaggeration was obvious on that last one..

But there they found themselves—on God’s proving ground. He proved Himself to them, put them in a place of essentially having to trust Him for their survival, and consistently at the breaking point. Yes, there were times of reprieve, as well as times in which they disobeyed and suffered the consequences, but He kept them on the proving grounds only letting their faith be tested as far as it was strong enough to be.

I have to say, that through God proving Himself and the fact that He is trustworthy, He has also proven to me so quite a bit beyond that. He has proven that I am His child—how? Because testing proves what is there—it does not create something that is not, nor does it destroy what is. Being in tumult and doubting God, I have also called my salvation into question. There are some things I’ve pleaded with God regarding for so long and seemed to have received no answer for that I wondered if He even loved me or cared; at one point it was so bad that I believed that I was not the object of His love, but His wrath. Wrong, illogical, but desperation for answers can cause you to scrape for any reasoning to cling to—logical or not. I began to reflect upon what had happened during my most trying times, where I’d turned, what the result had been, and it was a concept that Charles Spurgeon perfectly not only put into words, but also provided an answer to my dilemma:

“Remember that we have no more faith at any time than we have in the hour of trial. All that will not bear to be tested is mere carnal confidence. Fair-weather faith is no faith.”
–C. H. Spurgeon

Boom. Just like that, a light turned on and I was immediately encouraged—I’ve seen the genuineness of my faith come through the fiery trials. It has not been completely perfect all the time, but genuine faith has come through—my heart turns to Him during the most difficult times because I believe that He alone is sovereign and strong enough to handle it; I do not have that kind of faith in myself. I do not want to be understood as saying that to my own prideful “glory” but to God’s—not only does He put us through the refining process and proving grounds so that He can prove Himself to us, but He can prove what lies within us as true and genuine faith in a way that we can see and experience. Faith is a gift from God—I cannot initiate its existence in my life. He deems these times in the proving grounds as so valuable, and I am beginning to see how truly precious they are! He sees the beauty and value in our faith and is willing to do what is necessary to draw it out, making it pure, genuine, and beautiful.

Being the analytical type, needing to have an understanding of everything known to man, I decided to do a Google search of how gold is actually refined, and its spiritual analogy is spot on. When gold is refined, it’s washed, cut up, and thrown into the fire. An element referred to as the “flux” is added to draw the dross (impurities) to the surface to be removed. What is left is precious, valuable, and beautiful. Dross doesn’t make gold useless, but it does make it a less beautiful adornment–do we want to be Christ displayed to the world, yet full of dross? Dross can be equated to carnality, basically anything that contaminates our faith and our “inner man” or our hearts/lives. The fire is quite obviously the trial and testing. The flux is the method in the trial used to remove the “dross.” Now, you cannot make any more gold than what is already there without actually adding gold to the mix—which would put the giver of the gold in the position of God—for more gold, one needs to actually add gold; for more faith, God must give it.
Once the dross has been lifted to the surface, it is removed, and what is left is more purified gold. The purifier is left with what is valuable and has gotten rid of the contaminating junk.

The past few weeks have seen prayers answered that I had been both praying for years, as well as merely days or hours. I am convinced He hears every prayer His children utter and not once do they go unnoticed.

All things to His glory.

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