Times of Testing


Many situations we experience in life are a test from the Lord for us to evaluate our faith in God. Many of us are tried with difficult conditions every day, and we are forced to respond to the question, “From where will I get that?” or, “What am I going to do now?” How pleased God is when we respond with a heart that says, “I am at the end of my resources, Father. Would You please help me?” We have an occasion in the Scriptures where Jesus put His disciples to a test:

5When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" 6He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" 8Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9"Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:5-9 Emphasis mine).

If Jesus already had in mind what He was going to do, why did He give the tests? (v. 6). What do you think He was hoping to accomplish with His words to Philip? Could God be doing the same in your life?

I believe that God often leads us into situations, which are entirely beyond our resources so that He might stretch our faith beyond our capacity. God is at work in our lives to prepare us for eternity. Our lives in this world is the school whereby the people of God are trained for her role as the Bride of Christ in eternity. We often cannot see the hands of the Divine Potter at work in shaping us for our eternal purpose. Alexander Maclaren once said:

"It is often our (God-given) duty to attempt tasks to which we are conspicuously inadequate, in the confidence that He who gives them has laid them on us to drive us to Himself, and there to find sufficiency. The best preparation of His servants for their work in the world is the discovery that their stores are small." [1]

God allows times of testing to come to His people. The Lord permits times of hardship and needs to come to us to reveal where our faith lies. Do you tend to rely on any natural resource that you can devise? Do you look expectantly to parents or friends? Is it to put more on the credit card? On whom do you rely upon when the going gets tough? Could it be that, like Philip, God has allowed a test of your faith to come through your circumstances? Where do you turn in your darkest hours?

Over the years that I have served as a pastor, I have found that men are like elastic bands: they have to be stretched to be effective. The greater the trial and hardship that you are enduring, to that same degree is the level of character and gifting that God wants to establish in your life. When you look at the impossibility of something you are experiencing, does it cause you to look more closely to the Lord in higher expectation and prayer for His help, and do you say with the Apostle Paul, “My God shall supply all your need…”? (Philippians 4:19)

Two disciples took the test that day. First, Jesus directed His words to Philip, who had been His disciple from the start of His ministry. Philip failed the test in three ways. First, he had seen most, if not all, of Jesus’ miracles, but his response was that of viewing the problem and not the solution. Sometimes, we can be so occupied with the circumstances of our difficulty, i.e., looking on the things which are seen rather than on the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). We need to remind ourselves that God is much bigger than our difficulties and that we should see each problem as an opportunity for us to look to the Lord for His provision. Secondly, he was more concerned about the odds against them than for them. He says that an ordinary man working for eight months could not have enough money for each person to have a bite (v. 7).

Thirdly, notice that Philip tended to think in terms of the barest minimum, as if Jesus would provide just a mouthful for each person! (v. 7). Would it glorify God to feed the poor and hungry to the barest minimum? Can we not believe God for a more significant blessing than the barest minimum? Let’s look at this some more tomorrow. Keith Thomas

This meditation is a shortened version of the in-depth study: Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word Series, Luke Volume One, Printed by Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, Page 332.