Do you like to take tests? Most likely, the answer is no. It’s not the most enjoyable activity in the world. After all, being under pressure to remember all the answers to all the questions puts a strain on your mind … and your body. However, if there were never tests, there would never be new things to learn, new things to study, and new ways to grow … and growing is an essential part of being a Christian. It’s not good to stay the same forever; it’s important to be open to change and open to new challenges. As we do, we find we have more opportunities to live for Jesus. We find we have more people to witness to. We discover both the gifts we have to pass on to others as well as the gifts other people have that get passed on to us. Therefore, tests become a part of our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. James 1:2-4 The Message (MSG) says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” And James 1:12 The Message (MSG) goes on to say, “Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” So, these timeless truths further enlighten us to the importance of not only tests, but also of passing the tests; that is, passing therm to the extent that we “stuck it out” until the end … we didn’t give up half way through … we didn’t try to get out of anything prematurely, but, rather, we allowed the test to do its work so we could become mature; so we could become all God wanted us to become … for His glory alone. So, today, if you are facing a test – of any kind – keep in mind that it does, indeed, have a greater purpose … probably greater than you could ever imagine! That will help you endure to the end … and one day, when you see Jesus face to face you can have the expectation to hear the words of Matthew 25:21 (NIV) that tells us, “…Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Are you the stubborn type? Do you like to have everything go a certain way (your way) and do you easily get upset when your plans get changed? Well, there’s good news … you’re not alone! It’s quite common for people to think their way is the best way (perhaps the only way) to get things done, and get them done efficiently! The up side of that mentality is that you generally have a good work ethic; the down side is that you may not realize there’s a problem until someone else points it out (hopefully gently) … and that’s when humility needs to come into play. You need to be willing to accept there really are other ways of doing things … and some ways just could be better than what you imagined. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So, this timeless truth lets us know that God’s plan for our lives is good (period). Even when it may not look that way on the surface, God’s plan is always good … the problem often comes when we may not see things the way God sees them. We may have a vision of how our lives ought to go … how one thing will lead to another, and another, and another so that eventually our vision comes to pass. However, as we quickly learn (as in all of life) our plans often undergo several “revisions” before the “final draft” is completed … and even then, it’s still not over until it’s over (meaning even more revisions will most likely be needed before all is said and done). The key is being open and willing to allow Jesus to be Lord (not just Savior) of our lives. Think of the word revisions as re-visions … being willing to change and get a new vision … being willing to change course (as the Lord leads). Suppose you had gone through the process of applying for several new jobs and had started to think maybe there was one other job you might be willing to apply for as well and you had started to open yourself up to that possibility but had not yet actually gone and done it. Then suppose you get a phone call out of the blue from a company in the same business as the one you had been thinking about (but had not applied to yet). This company got your resume online when you filled out all the information for the job bank and you had no clue until you got that phone call that you “just so happened” to answer without knowing who it was. What would you do? Would you be open and willing to at least talk to the person on the other end … even though it wasn’t in your plan? Would you be willing to “change course” and see what they had to say/what they had to offer you? Would you realize perhaps this was a blessing from God you hadn’t fully considered receiving yet? Would you revise your own plan and be open to a new plan – a new vision? Hopefully (and prayerfully) you would … otherwise, it’s possible you may miss making the change that could be needed … the change that could lead to a new destiny for you … a new blessing for you to grow in the grace and knowledge of God … into the knowledge of how much of a loving and gracious God we have the privilege of knowing personally. Remember, when God tells us a revision is needed to our original plan, we can trust that His plans are always good and always better than anything we could have dreamed up ourselves!
Have you gotten comfortable? Maybe with this whole pandemic you’ve been enjoying having time off from work or school and you’ve fallen into a routine of getting up when you’ve wanted to, going to bed when you’ve wanted to, and wearing whatever you’ve wanted to … after all, without ever having to leave the house, who is going to see you wearing your bunny slippers all day? Problem is, it has been all too easy to get complacent … and when it’s time to actually get back into the habit of going to work or school (or just getting out of the house more frequently in general) it may not be so easy to get back into the swing of things. Taking a break is fine … and needed … from time to time. However, when that break becomes your “new normal” and the break turns into complacency into not just your outward appearance but your inward character as well, then there could be an issue that needs to be dealt with and dealt with decisively. Scripture warns against complacency. Proverbs 1:32,33 (NIV) declares, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” So, this is a timeless truth we would all do well to remember … complacency isn’t something to be treated lightly. It’s one thing to let your appearance go when no one else can see you; it’s another thing entirely if you’ve let your inward character go … you may think nobody else sees … but God always sees … and He always loves us so much He doesn’t want our hearts to get complacent; He doesn’t want us to have a self-satisfied, smug, unbothered attitude that thinks no changes need to be made even if a situation is dangerous or harmful (the definition of a complacent person). We are always supposed to be growing, learning, and changing throughout all of our lives … no matter how old we are. Philippians 1:6 (NIV) tells us “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” So, we should come into agreement with God’s plan and open ourselves up to change – trusting it’s actually good for us – and will actually help us to have the kind of life Jesus tells us He wants us to have when He says in John 10:10 (NIV), “… I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” Therefore, be aware of complacency … it can be even more dangerous than the pandemic!