Your faith will be tested. Count on it. It is the nature of faith. It will be tested to the point that you wonder if you can hold on. It will seem like your heart is made of lead. The sky will be black. Things will seem hopeless.
Your faith will be tested by temptation. You will be sorely tempted. You will wonder where that strong pull comes from. You will wonder how a person who has Christ living in him can also be drawn to what is so contrary to His purity. Yet, you will face that kind of temptation. And it will make you heavy on the inside.
Your faith will be tested when you wonder why there seem to be no answers to your prayers. When you have prayed and cried and pled and it seems as if God is hiding on the right hand and on the left and is invisible in front of and behind you.
Your faith will be tested when you have failed in some way personally. You will think that God has become your enemy. You will feel too small and unworthy to lift up your head.
Your faith will be tested when you compare yourself with others who seem to have it all together. Why are their lives so carefree while you are burdened down with a load too great to be endured? Why does everyone else have an easy road while your road seems especially rough and strewn with incredible challenges?
Your faith will be tested when there is an inner accusatory voice telling how much of a failure you are. If only you had done things differently you would be living an easier life.
Your faith will be tested by fire. Fire! One of the martyrs was facing being burned at the stake. He wondered if he could withstand the pain of the flames. There was a candle in his room. He tried holding his hands above the flames. Could he endure it? No. He snatched his hands back. The pain was too intense. The trying of fire is not just working up a sweat under the burning sun. It is far greater. It is agony. It is too great to be sustained. That is how the testing of your faith will feel.
Here is how Peter described the experience of a test of faith: “though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire” (1 Pet. 1:6b, 7a).
Notice the phrase, “if need be.” Who knows what kind of trial your faith needs? Only God knows. We do not. We do not know how we will respond to any of the tests of faith until we are in the trial. We do not know if we need to be chastened. If we would choose our path, it would be a lot smoother, a lot more level, a lot less dangerous. But God chooses. It is as Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take.” We don’t like to think that God would chasten us for some weakness of our faith. Why Lord? If need be, we are led through the fire, so that God can purify our faith. If need be, we are allowed to face a sore temptation. If need be, we are called to wait a long time for an answer to prayer. If need be, we are reminded that it is not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves. If need be, we are allowed to see a personal weakness that we’ve tried to excuse. If need be.
But God loves us too much to allow us to go on with a faith that is not challenged.
“For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth…” (Heb. 12:6a). Not every trial of faith is allowed for the purpose of chastisement, but sometimes we need that discipline. Have we grown complacent? Have we become smug in self-satisfaction, thinking ourselves above what we ought to think? Do we see ourselves “rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing?” It is out of love that God allows chastisement, for “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
There is another reason for the trial of faith. You will be an encouragement to others who will also go through the fire. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:3, 4). When you come through the trial of your faith and find that our Lord is faithful even in the furnace, you will be a blessing to others.
As pastor of an independent church in the mid-west, I found myself going through a difficult time. I called my friend and mentor, G. R. French, and asked for some counsel. It is not his advice that I remember, but his prayer. “Lord, may they sense the presence of the Fourth Man that walked with the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace.” And we did sense that divine help from a friend who himself had gone through trials and understood what we needed.
You may not feel that you are much of an example, but keeping the faith through trial is a great witness to others who will need to be comforted. That Christian martyr did not realize that though he failed the candle test, he passed a far greater test the next day. As they lit the faggots around him, his voice was raised in praise to the Lord Jesus Christ until the flames extinguished his life. His example of dying grace has been a comfort to believers for centuries.
Faith that is tried in the fire comes out more precious, more valuable. Gold that is purified is highly valued. Faith even more so. The trial of faith is not something new. It has always been so. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:12,13).
Faith will be tried. But it is God who is leading. George Young understood it and left these memorable lines:
Some through the water, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
When in the midst of the fire, remember the words of our Lord. “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…”