Robert Jeffress - The Truth About Testing - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Every day, you and I are faced with difficult situations, but what many people don't realize is this. The outcome of our trials entirely depends upon our response to them. We can let Satan use hardships to destroy us or we can let God use them to strengthen us. So which will you choose? Last time we learned that while difficult situations can have a positive effect, it's okay to ask God to exempt us from those difficult situations. And today we'll learn how to pray for protection through our problems. My message is titled, "The Truth About Testing" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Remember the background for this prayer, the disciples had hung around Jesus just long enough to be captivated by the kind of life he led. They saw the supernatural power that flowed through him. They saw that how he had piece of mind no matter what was happening around him. They saw his intimacy with God and they said, "You know what? We want some of that in our life". Now these weren't the smartest bulbs in the universe, these disciples. But even they were able to connect the dots between the kind of supernatural power Jesus experienced every day and his prayer life. They put the two together, they realized that prayer was the channel through which the power of God flowed into Jesus' life. And so they said to Jesus, "Jesus teach us to pray the way you pray. We want some of that power in our life. Teach us to pray the way you pray". Remember how Jesus responded? He said, "Okay, you wanna know how to pray? Pray in this way". He didn't say, "Pray this prayer".
Nowhere did he instruct us to pray this prayer word for word. These are not magical words kinda like "Hocus pocus" or "Abracadabra" that if you just say them, great things happen in your life. No, this is a pattern for how to pray. Pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it's being done in heaven". That is "Father just in the same way that one day you're gonna rule over this entire world, I want you to take charge of my life. Today I am submitting every part of my life to your rule". That's how we begin to pray, but then it's fine to go into a list of things you're interested in. Things you want from God. Jesus taught us to pray for our needs and he mentions three of them, beginning in verse 11. He said first of all, we have a need for provision. That means food and shelter and clothing and money. We need those things. God knows that. "Give us this day our daily bread". Give us what we need.
Secondly, we're to pray for a pardon from sins. "And forgive us of our debts, our sins, as we have forgiven our debtors". That's not just a one time prayer of salvation for our forgiveness of sins it is a daily confessing, repenting, turning away from sin so that our family relationship with our father stays intact. And then when we get to verse 13, the final need we all have is for protection. Look at verse 13. "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil".
Now that raises the question does God ever tempt us? Doesn't it stand to reason that if Jesus said, "Pray that God wouldn't lead you into temptation" that maybe sometimes he does lead you into temptation? Why would you pray this prayer if it were not a possibility? James said the reason we fall into sin is because of our corrupt desires on the inside and Satan who dangles the right bait in front of us on the outside. Satan is a master fisherman, he knows exactly what bait will hook you. For some people it's sex. For some people it's prestige. For some people it's money. He knows exactly the right bait to dangle in front of you and when you're corrupt desires see that bait and you snap at it, James says you're hooked. That's what the word "Enticed" means, it's a fishing term that's used for the hooking of a fish. That's how temptation comes, our corrupt desires coupled with Satan's temptation.
Now in English, we have two different words. We have one word, temptation. If you look up temptation in "Webster's dictionary," it means to entice to do evil. That's what temptation is, it's an enticement to do evil. It's true, God never entices anybody to do evil. On the other hand, we have a word "Test". When we talk about testing that always has a positive result in mind. It means a difficult circumstance that is used to strengthen our faith. The Bible says God tests people all of the time. There is nothing wrong and everything right to ask God to keep you out of difficulties. Jesus said, "When you pray, ask God to spare you from testing".
Nothing wrong with that. You know why Jesus said it's okay to ask God to keep you from testing, from difficult circumstances? Because that's how Jesus prayed himself. Remember when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, the choir just sang about it. The night before he was crucified, what did Jesus say to God? He said "God, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not go through this experience. Let this cup pass from me". It wasn't just the physical torture Jesus dreaded, but the spiritual suffering of bearing the sins of the entire world, of taking God's condemnation upon himself. He said, "Father, I'd rather not go through this". Why did he say that? Because he knew this test could go either way. If indeed he were obedient to the father, then there would be great victory. But if he refused to submit to the father's will and gave into Satan, it would be the greatest disaster in history. So he said, "Father, if it's all the same to you, I would just prefer not to have to go through this test". But then he quickly added, "Yet not my will, but your will be done".
Jesus said in the same way we ought to daily ask God to protect us from difficult situations. "Lead us not into difficulties". In his book "Prayer, the great adventure," David Jeremiah lists four specific exemptions we ought to ask God for from dangers. He said first of all we oughta pray for an exemption from persecution. We oughta ask God to exempt us from persecution. You know in Matthew chapter five, Jesus said to his disciples, "Now when you are persecuted for your faith, rejoice for great is your reward". Five chapters later in chapter 10, he says now when persecution comes, run for the hills. Why did he say that? He said it because he knew persecution could strengthen somebody's faith, but it could also destroy somebody's faith.
David prayed for exemption from persecution. In Psalm 7, verses one and two, David prayed, "O Lord, my God, in thee I have taken refuge. Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me lest he tear my soul like a lion, dragging me away, while there is none to deliver". Second, we oughta pray for an exemption from danger. Now listen to the request of David in Psalm 22, verses 19 to 21. "But you, o Lord, be not far off. O my strength come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of lions. Save me from the horns of the wild oxen".
Now when's the last time you prayed that prayer? "Lord, deliver me from the dogs, from the oxen, from the lions". We don't pray those prayers because they don't represent real dangers to us unless, you know, you go to the Dallas zoo and something gets loose at the zoo, you're probably okay from the tigers and the bears and the lions and so forth. But in David's day, those were very real dangers. David says, "You ought to pray that God saves you from danger". Today if David were telling us how to pray, he would say, "You ought to pray this way. Lord, deliver me from cancer. Spare me from muggers. Save me from those SUVs that come roaring past me on the Dallas North Tollway. Save me. Protect me". We pray for an exemption from danger.
Thirdly, we ought to pray for an exemption from poverty. Some people are surprised that I would say that, but that's a biblical prayer. Lord, keep me from going through financial difficulty. In Psalm 33, verses 18 and 19, David prayed, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope for his lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in time of famine". Fourth, David tells us we ought to pray for an exemption from fear. Don't let fear overwhelm me. How many of you have ever had this situation? You're sitting at your computer working or maybe enjoying just some family time together, having a great time, when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, this alien thought comes into your mind. "What if this happens. What if this happens. What if this happens". And suddenly, your sense of well being is strangled and you are paralyzed by fear. Everybody experiences that.
David had his own anxiety issues and that's why in Psalm 34 verse four, he prayed, he said, "I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and he delivered me from all my fears". Jesus said, "When you pray every day, ask God to protect you from difficult circumstances to keep you from difficulties". You know, I think as Christians, we've almost Romanticized difficult situations. We think somehow they're just so wonderful, these wonderful tests that come into our life. No, they're really not. They could strengthen us, they could destroy us. So like Jesus, we should say, "Lord, if it's all the same to you, please keep these things from happening to me". But we also know, like Jesus discovered, that sometimes God has a different plan for us. Instead of sparing us, exempting us from problems, his plan is to take us through problems and that's why Jesus added the second part of the prayer, "Deliver us from evil". That is a prayer for protection through problems. A protection through problems.
There are some of you here this morning, some of you watching on television right now, you're facing the single, greatest challenge you have ever faced before in your life. Maybe it's the breakup of a relationship. Maybe it's a rebellious child. It may be the loss of a job. It may be the loss of a dream. And right now, it's during this time that you feel separated from God. And maybe like Jesus and Paul, you have prayed over and over again, "Lord, deliver me out of this problem" and up to this point God has said no. "My plan is to take you through this problem".
If that's true for you, if it appears that God's plan for your life is for you to go through this difficulty, let me share with you three timeless truths about testing that will help you, especially those of you right now who are right in the middle of a crucible of testing. When you're going through this time of testing, God chooses not to exempt you from suffering, but to have you experience it, remember these three things. First of all, tests do not take God by surprise. Tests do not take God by surprise. Whether God directly caused the difficulty you're experiencing, whether he allowed Satan to cause it, or whether your problem is just the result of your own stupidity, you know. Sometimes we suffer for our own stupidity, don't we? But whatever the cause the catalyst for your suffering, it didn't take God by surprise.
In Psalm 139, David said every detail of every day of our lives were written in God's book before we ever breathed our first breath. Isn't that an amazing thought? Before the foundation of the world, he wrote down every detail of our life. But listen to this, God not only knew every detail of your life, God has planned every detail of your life for a great, eternal purpose. When you go through that failed marriage, when you go through that bankruptcy, when you go through that loss of an important relationship in your life, when you're going through cancer, God doesn't slap his forehead and say, "Oh, I can't believe that happened, what are we going to do now"? It doesn't take God by surprise. These things that come into your life, listen to this, are not detours from God's plan for your life, they are a part of God's plan for your life. A plan for your good. A plan for the strengthening of your faith.
I love the words of Allan Redpath, who wrote, "There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until first of all it has come past God, past Christ, right through to me: and if it's come that far, it has come with a great purpose". Aren't those great words? God's tests never take God by surprise. Secondly, tests are evidence of God's love for us. The tests that come into our lives are evidence of God's love for us. Here's an interesting fact, search through the Bible and you never find God testing the ungodly. There's no instance that God ever tested the heathen nations, only Israel. Furthermore, he never tested unbelievers, only believers. Take for example, job. Remember job? We talked about him a few moments ago. The opening verse of his story reads this way, "There was a man named job who was an upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil". That was job. And yet for this upright man, God planned a test.
Or think about Abraham. He was known as the friend of God. Here was Abraham, a life of faithfulness from the time of 75 on, and yet in Genesis chapter 22, it says, "And God tested Abraham". He tested his friend Abraham, why? Not to destroy his faith, but to strengthen it. F.B. Meyer has written, "Tests are God's vote of confidence in us". God never tests the unfaithful, but only the faithful. They are evidence of his love for me. And number three, tests are momentary, but God's faithfulness is forever. Tests are momentary, but God's faithfulness is forever.
In his book "A Grace Disguised," Gerald Sittser tells about his struggle to make sense out of an automobile accident that took the life of his wife, his daughter, and his mother, all at the same time. Listen to what he writes, "Loss creates a barren present as if one were sailing on a vast sea of nothingness. Those who suffer loss live suspended between a past for which they long and a future for which they hope. They want to return to the harbor of a familiar past and recover what was lost or they want to sail on and discover a meaningful future that promises to bring them life again. Instead, they find themselves living in a barren present that is empty of meaning".
There are some of you here today who can identify with those words. You've lost something important to you. You feel like you're on that sea of nothingness and you have some serious questions about God. "God, do you know about my situation? Do you care about my situation? Do you even exist"? Corrie ten boom said, "If you're on a train that is going through a dark tunnel, you don't throw away your ticket and jump off the train. Instead, you trust the engineer". There are some of you right now who are going through that tunnel of testing. This is not the time to abandon your faith, to jump off. Jesus said this is the time to trust the engineer to lead you safely to the other side. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil".