When I was very young in my faith and knew little of how God works, I learned this verse: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, while it made me aware of obvious sins like lying or stealing, I was never prepared for the subtle ones. They crept in like thieves in the night.
For example, regarding tithing, I always believed God loves a cheerful giver. Because my husband and I decided early in our marriage that I would be a stay-at-home mom and he would work, we knew we had to put our tithing first, or the temptation to hold it back to make ends meet would be too great. While we always struggled to keep food on the table, we still believed it was essential to tithe each week, and so we continued to do so.
One day a well-meaning soul from church suggested we wouldn’t be struggling if we obeyed the Scriptures in regards to tithing. I was shocked. What did she mean? Of course, we followed the Scriptures in that regard. That is when she introduced me to this Scripture from Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
She pointed out to me that God wanted me to test Him in regards to our tithing. She said we should give over and above our regular tithe. “The more you give,” she said, “the more you will get back.”
Well, we were struggling quite a bit during that time, and wondering if she was right, I decided to put God to the test, forgetting the warning in Luke 4:12: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And also forgetting to look at Scripture in its context. The day came when we had given our very last penny to the church, and I wondered when the riches were going to start flowing in. They never did. However, God did provide food for us by prodding His servants to bring us enough groceries until my husband’s next paycheck. God loved us and met our needs. Yet, at the time, I was in shock that we weren’t rolling in dough. We had given so much money! Where was our return? It didn’t help that my friend would shake her head in confusion and say, “You must be doing something wrong. You should be rich by now.”
Oh, the subtle dangers of the prosperity gospel! Be wary of anyone who teaches that God “wants the best for you, and that means a better job, new car, fancy home, more money, good health, etc.” These teachers are like wolves in sheep’s clothing and think only of earthly riches, not heavenly ones.
My faith went into a tailspin. I questioned God’s love for us and doubted my faith. Maybe it wasn’t strong enough. I doubted the Scriptures, and I stopped tithing altogether. Satan, that roaring lion, was having a field day with me. Then God spoke, and His Holy Spirit gently reminded me I was to pursue Him, not riches. What I was doing was sinful, and I needed to stop and go back to what I had done before. I felt thoroughly chastised. Yet my friend continued to prosper, and I wondered, “Why her, Lord? Why not us? Would it hurt to give us just a wee bit more each month?” But the Lord reminded me His plan for me wasn’t the same plan He had for my friend.
One day she would struggle at a sudden loss of money and be like a fish out of water. She would come to me and ask, “How do you do it? How do you get by each day with only one salary?” And I could say with confidence, “We have faith that God will provide.”
We will all experience moments of faith-testing in life. Count on it. We need these times of testing to grow stronger not only in our relationship with God but in our faith in Him.
Revelation 3:18 says:
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich . . .”
To refine gold, it must be hot enough to burn away the dross or impurities. It is known as a “refiner’s fire.” If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s this: When God wants to deal with an issue in my life that He knows I’m not seeing clearly or haven’t worked towards refining, I can be sure I’ll go through a trial. Of course, when those trials go on for months, one starts to wonder, “What am I not getting?” But it may be that the dross is gone, but God knows He has to “test the gold,” as it were, to see if it endures.
Trials refine us to make us more like Jesus. They also strengthen godly attributes. Sometimes God’s glory, like gold, can only shine through us after the trial. For some, that may mean a terminal illness, a financial setback, or the loss of a loved one. Or, as of this writing, a pandemic. It is how you deal with trials and suffering that will determine how refined you are.
During this time of social distancing, we are all suffering in different ways. Some people are isolated and feeling alone. Others are worrying over elderly parents, and many are just trying to cope with what will no doubt be our new normal. Is your faith taking a beating? God must have a great deal of trust in you to endure this time of testing. He knows this trial will strengthen you, and in the end, it will strengthen those godly attributes He sees in you, making you better prepared not only to serve others but to one day enter into His kingdom purified and holy.