Testing; Growth, Maturity, Service. Genesis 31:22
Review: What is a test?
1) God picks the time and the place and it often happens when we are just not ready for it. A test is, first of all, an examination or an evaluation of what we have learned. God teaches us something, we learn some doctrine, and then we immediately are involved in some circumstance or situation where we have to apply what we learn. It is the aggregate of divine viewpoint that accumulates in our souls. A test is not only an examination or an evaluation of the doctrine that we know, it is also an opportunity to apply the doctrine that we do know. A test may not be a difficult situation, it may be just an opportunity to minister, to witness, to serve the Lord in some way, and the test is how we are going to respond to that opportunity. So it is also an opportunity to apply doctrine to a situation, and event, an experience in life with a view toward our service in the Christian life.
2) We pass these tests through the use of ten spiritual skills. These spiritual skills are things that we practice over and over again. The use of the word "skill" emphasizes learning the mechanics. Skill involves repetition and practice.
3) There are different kinds of tests.
a) There are people tests, all kinds of people tests. There is authority tests, family tests, marriage tests, work tests, tests with friends, tests with co-workers, romance.
b) Then there are system tests. These often involve people, the place we work, the school we go to, where there are certain policies and procedures.
c) There are health tests, crises in life, weather tests, financial tests.
d) Tests of service. This is related to our priesthood and our ambassadorship. These are tests related to prayer, the study of doctrine, putting a priority on our relationship with God. The priesthood aspect has to do with our relationship to God; the ambassadorship aspect has to do with our relationship to other believers and to the world.
4) The use of the spiritual skills is not an end in itself. For example, confession of sin is not an end in itself. All you are doing is getting back in fellowship. You are supposed to be going somewhere; there is direction. People have often commented that if you don't know what your target is you certainly won't hit it. Most people don't have a target. The experience is getting out of fellowship and getting back in fellowship, and they don't understand that getting back in fellowship is a means of recovery to go somewhere. They are not spending enough time in the house to finish building the house. The goal is to get the house finished. The spiritual skills are not an end in themselves, they are the means the Holy Spirit is going to produce spiritual growth and maturity for a purpose of serving the Lord.
5) We have five basic spiritual skills which are all part of our package. When we master these the more advanced spiritual skills automatically fall in.
6) We need to think, not just react emotionally. We have to develop the ability to think under pressure. God chooses the situation, the time, the place, related to particular tests. There are two words here to remember. The first is adversity. Adversity is the outside pressure of events of circumstances of people, as well as the pressure of our own emotions and son nature (that is internal). How many times do we have sinful thoughts or ideas or lust patterns, whatever they are, that just pop up in your soul from the source of your own sin nature? It is not an outside pressure, it is an inner pressure from the sin nature to sin. So adversity is not only the outside pressure, but also pressure from our own emotions, anger, bitterness, fear, worry, etc. We have a choice of how we are going to respond to that. We can be in a situation where we become fearful, but then the test is whether we are going to act on the fear or choose to apply biblical promises to the fear and move out in trust and the faith-rest drill. The second word is stress. Stress is the result of the internal reaction in our soul to the outside pressure. It is the outside pressure that often reveals the flaws and weaknesses in our own soul, in our own ability to handle circumstances.
Confession: This is the foundation because confession just gets us back in the game. Confession isn't the game. When you sin you get taken out of the game. When you confess sin you are put back in the game, but the issue is to spend maximum amount of time in the game. So confession is simply a means of recovery so that we can get back into the game, and the game for the Christian life is spiritual growth toward maturity.
Walking by the Holy Spirit: This is that moment by moment dependence on the Holy Spirit which, of course, is a focus on His Word. We have the faith-rest drill. We grow by means of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3, 4. So we have to learn promises and procedures and trust God, and focus on those. We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ—2 Peter 3:18. We have to be oriented to grace and to doctrine. We see that emphasis on knowledge, knowledge, knowledge all the time because we can't operate on a vacuum of ignorance.
These three spiritual skills—faith-rest drill, grace orientation, doctrinal orientation—all inter-relate to one another. The faith-rest drill is the act of trusting the promise, the provision of God. Grace orientation is understanding what underlies all of God's plan and policy for man (His grace). Doctrinal orientation is related to content related to all the different things. These all interact, you can't really separate them in the way we actually learn and apply the Word.
Then we go through a period of spiritual adolescence where we focus on God's future plan for our life. This is our personal sense of eternal destiny. This is what John refers to as the "young man" in 1 John 2:13, the adolescent believer. Then we have spiritual adults: the adult son of Romans 8:14. This is where we focus on our personal love for God as a motivation for spiritual growth, our impersonal love for all mankind, our unconditional love for all mankind, and our occupation with Christ—He is the focus of our spiritual life, Hebrews 12:2.
The ultimate crowning point is inner happiness, James 1:20—counting it all joy because we know certain things, we understand what God is doing.
We use the spiritual skills to stay in fellowship. When we don't use them we are going to use the sin nature and we are going to be going out. We are going to be in carnality, walking in darkness. What terms does the Bible use to describe that? It uses the term "abiding in Christ." The goal is not to go in and out, in and out, it is to stay, to abide, to live to walk in the light, to walk by means of the Holy Spirit. It is all up to out volition. As soon as we choose to stop walking, to stop abiding, then we are out of fellowship. Then we have to use 1 John 1:9, we get back in the light, and we use the spiritual skills to stay there. But what happens when we stay there? When we stay there the Holy Spirit is working to produce maturity. The ultimate goal has to do with building that character of Christ who came not to be served but to serve.
The ultimate goal then is related to Christian service in terms of our ambassadorship towards other members of the human race. This involves evangelism, giving, and the utilization of our spiritual gift to other members of the body of Christ in the local church. All of that is part of ambassadorship. Then we have the priesthood, our individual priesthood. The more we grow the more effective we are in those areas related to our priesthood and our relationship with God. It all relates to Christian service. That is what we are saved for, to actually be more engaged in things than just sitting and learning doctrine and creating a doctrinal notebook and knowing all these things. It ultimately culminates in doing certain things in terms of service and we do it under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, and we stay in fellowship by utilizing the spiritual skills. As all of that is going on, God the Holy Spirit is the one who is working in us to produce maturity.
We need to look and see how all of this worked out in the life of Jacob. In the interaction between Jacob and Laban confession isn't mentioned in any of this. However we do know that as a background and as a normative practice throughout the patriarchal period they were offering burnt offerings to God, and sin offerings, and they understood the whole principle of confession. Secondly, there is no mention of walking by the Spirit because there was no indwelling of the Holy Spirit for the believers in the Old Testament. But there is the faith-rest drill. The object of the faith-rest drill is ultimately a promise of God, something that is stated in the Word. So we have the specific promise that God made to Jacob back in chapter 28:15. He has a promise which has to do with personal protection and blessing while he is out of the land, but it is also is goal directed. For us, we have a personal sense of our eternal destiny, where God is taking us, but the destiny that God is taking Jacob to is the land. It is God's plan in time for bringing out a new nation through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants. So the promise is not only the promise of day to day protection while he is out of the land, the promise of provision and bringing blessing while he is outside of the land, but also the promise of a future destiny that He will bring him back to the land to fulfill God's promises to him and to his fathers. So the faith-rest drill not only relates to the promises God made to him but also goes back to the promises in the Abrahamic covenant.
He has to learn grace orientation because he is in a circumstance with Laban where he has to deal with Laban in grace. If we are going to pass any people test we are going to have to do it by understanding grace. Understanding grace involves a number of different elements. One of those elements is humility. If we come to the cross we have to be humble. We have to recognize we can't do anything to please God. God has to do it all; that is a position of humility. So grace involves humility. Jacob learns to deal with Laban in grace, not in anger and resentment.
Then there is doctrinal orientation. He learns that God does have a plan for his life; God does bring him back to the land; and he has to orient his thinking to what God's plan is. He learns that God has His plan and he has to do things the right way in order to have the full blessing that God intends for him. So all these chapters set up in the Jacob-Laban conflict a real pattern that all of us can learn from in applying the principles of the problem-solving devices to people testing and any other kind of testing.