Lent – Day 9 — The Heart Test
“The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.” Proverbs 17:3
For professional athletes, regular health checkups now routinely include stress tests which measure the heart’s ability to supply sufficient blood flow (and therefore oxygen) to all parts of the body under maximum physical activity, running, bicycling, rowing and so forth. For those of us over fifty, stress tests are important for discovering any changes in the heart’s function as we age.
When precious metals, like gold and silver, are refined for purity they are put under extreme pressure or fired to a temperature that burns-off everything that cannot survive the pressure or the heat. The hotter the flame the more impurities are consumed, leaving only the purest form of gold or silver. And these then have their greatest value when they are purest.
"But the Lord tests the heart…"
God has a refinery also for every believer. It is a refinery that tests the heart of the soul, not with physical stress or measures of endurance, but of our motives, passions, allegiances and devotions, of our integrity, honesty, obedience and fidelity, particularly our faith. But you could ask, doesn’t God know everything? Why does He have to test us? Is it to find out something He doesn’t already know? Obviously not. So then, why the test?
The term testis used here to mean to purge as one does with fire to refine gold. We are allowed to be put under the pressure of temptation and the burning desire for what is not holy and pure so that we can ultimately overcome those desires and be transformed to earnestly desire what please God, our Father. The testis not for God’s benefit to know something He doesn’t already know, but for our benefit to be transformed into His likeness.
When our faith is tried it is being tested (refined in us) to make us stronger in faith not to beat us down or overburden us to the point of brokenness unto dust. God does not want to break us or grind us into useless shards of clay. He does want to break the yokes that are binding us and weighing us down, so we can be truly free to enjoy and pursue life. Every temptation to sin is a test of our faith. Every resistance we exercise against doubting God or despairing when we don’t see immediate results to our prayers is a test of our faith. Every urge to think or fear the worst of any unknown pending situation is a test of our faith.
In such times God wants us to stand firm in His Word, to look to Him to be our Deliverer and to recue and restore us in due time and not to waiver from it. Rarely in our time do we see the kinds of ultimate circumstances Jesus faced everyday. Leprosy, blindness, demonic possession, persecution and death were common in the places He went to minister. But He healed the leper, He restored sight to the blind, He delivered the demon possessed. He suffered persecution but did not succumb to it, and He raised the dead to life again.
A friend shared with me the lyric of a new Christian song that says, “We ought to be walking on water by now!” His inspiration was drawn from the many years the Church has been in existence, the sheer numbers of people claiming faith in Jesus Christ, the millions of sermons that have been preached, Bibles published, songs composed, movies produced, books written about God and the teachings of Jesus Christ and the fact that we now have the Hoy Spirit with us. Why are we not allworking miracles and doing signs and wonders and demonstrating the power of God in our lives? As I thought about it, the question resonated in me at a personal level. After 40 years of doing full time ministry and study in the Word, I ought to be walking on water by now.
Now, before the devil gets in this and tries to make it and indictment of condemnation against the church, let me say unequivocally, “It is NOT!”
It is however, something to earnestly consider while we are in this season (Lent) of reflection and earnest self-examination, desiring God to purge us of dead things and make us ready to serve His purposes more effectively and to be more fulfilled in the realization of renewed life and that more abundantly.
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:3-4
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
Consider the promised result of being refined as fire.
“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’ ‘If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall beas the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:8-11
Now God does not tempt us. He is not tempted by sin nor does He tempt anyone.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” James 1:13-14
God does not temp us, but He also does not jump in the middle of it to take it away from us. Rather, He works in us by the Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith so we can resist the temptation and overcome it. In so doing we are transformed little by little into the likeness of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.