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 sins, those that crept in so unexpectedly I wondered how I had been sucked in so easily.
For example, in regards to tithing, I always believed God loves a cheerful giver. Because my husband Jim 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 we would be tempted to hold it back to make ends meet. While we always struggled to keep food on the table, we still seemed to get by—just. But we still believed it was important 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 obeyed 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 admonition in Luke 4:12: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And also forgetting to look at Scripture in its context. Needless to say, 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 gave 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 preachers who teach that God “wants the best for you, and that means a better job, new car, fancy home, more money, 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. I questioned my faith; maybe it wasn’t strong enough. I doubted the Scriptures. 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 He had a plan for me and it 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 assurance, “We have faith that God will provide.”
There are many ways our faith can be tested in this life and I would suggest that a life that is tested is a life that God loves and has His eye on.
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 something about me 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 simply be that the dross is gone but God knows He has to “test the gold,” as it were, to see if it endures.
You see, trials aren’t just to refine us, to make us more like Jesus. They are also sent to strengthen godly attributes. Sometimes God’s glory, like gold, can only shine through us after we have been tested. For some, that may mean a terminal illness or a financial setback, or the loss of a loved one. It is how you deal with those times that will determine how refined you really are.
The next time your faith takes a beating - rejoice! God must have a great deal of faith in you to endure this time of testing. He knows you will be strengthened by this trial 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.