Thursday, January 9, 2020

This is a Test ~ This is Only a Test

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."
James 1:3
(ESV)

When I was a little girl growing up in Ohio, Mom and Dad used to regularly listen to Moon Mullins' bluegrass radio show on a station called WPFB.  They also loved to listen to a station called WYSO on Saturday nights, when a bluegrass show came on every week.  Our house was full of old-time country, gospel, and bluegrass music, with Dad often taking out his five-string banjo or guitar, as he and Mom and I would belt out those old bluegrass, gospel, and country tunes.  As Mom drove me back and forth to school, she and I would often listen to country music on the car radio.  I still love some of the old songs I grew to love back then - some of my favorites being
John Conlee's 1978 "Rose Colored Glasses,"
Merle Haggard's 1980 "The Way I Am,"
Dolly Parton's 1973 "My Tennessee Mountain Home,"
Mel Street's 1975 "Smoky Mountain Memories,"
Glen Campbell's 1968 "Wichita Lineman,"
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash's 1970 "If I Were A Carpenter," just to name a few.

And let's not forget the music of my still-all-time-favorite singer, Ricky Skaggs, whose music was first introduced to me while he was a member of Emmy Lou Harris' band.  In fact, it was on Moon Mullins' radio show that I first heard Ricky's voice with Emmy Lou singing background harmony.  I'll never forget that moment or the song, "Could You Love Me One More Time."  Kevin later bought me the album that had that song on it while we were on our honeymoon in Nashville shopping at the Ernest Tubb Record Store.  During our honeymoon trip, imagine our thrill when we also got to meet Ricky and his wife, Sharon White, during a live taping of "Hee Haw!!!"  Kevin and I were SO excited as Ricky so graciously stopped and took time for Kevin to take this picture of us. 😁


Here's a video I found of one of the songs Ricky and Sharon, along with her sister, Cheryl, and her Dad, Buck, sang during that Hee Haw taping the very day we met them!!!

As Mom, Dad, and I would listen to that music coming through our house stereo or car speakers, we would sometimes hear an annoying, loud, alarm, siren-type noise, accompanied by a radio announcer's voice saying, "This is a test.  This station is conducting a test of the emergency broadcasting system.  This is only a test."  It was like the announcer was wanting to let listeners know as quickly as possible that there was no imminent danger or cause for concern—it was simply a test to make sure equipment was working that would be used should there ever be a real emergency of which we all needed to be made aware.

Those words have been coming back to me a lot lately as I have considered the fiery trials that come into the lives of those who follow Jesus.  Sometimes, they can seem to be way too much, am I right?  Sometimes, they stretch us to the very limit of our endurance, and then some.  Sometimes, the overwhelm feels like a tidal wave that knocks us off our feet and threatens to hold us under until we drown.  It is hard to find our footing after such a bombardment.

The word "trial" means -
test to assess suitability or performance

In a nutshell, trials are tests, and I got to thinking and wondering how it would affect us if each time one was presented to our lives, we would immediately hear God's voice say, "This is a test.  I am conducting a test of your endurance and faithfulness.  This is only a test."

I don't know about anyone else, but if I audibly heard God's voice saying that to me, I believe it would completely transform the way I walk through the tests He allows to come into my life.  Let me tell you why.

1.  I would immediately know that there is no cause to panic.
Just as relief washed over our minds when we would hear the voice of the emergency broadcasting system's announcer letting us know there was no imminent danger, that it was only a test and not the real thing, my mind would be quickly set at ease to hear God telling me He was merely conducting a test, and there was NO threat for me to be concerned about.

"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."  I Peter 4:12-13 (NKJV)

2.  I would be reminded that God is the One who is in control.
Not the person who appears to be the root of the trial.  Not the devil.  Not the overwhelming circumstances.  I would know that even though it feels like the whole world is reeling out of control, every, single thing is still under His feet and nothing can operate outside of His permission and command.

"But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."  I Thessalonians 2:4 (NKJV)

3.  I would know that the trial is only temporary.
Those tests of the emergency broadcasting system didn't last very long.  It was relieving to know that the annoying sound would soon stop, and life would resume normalcy.  Being told that at the onset of the noise made the irritating commotion bearable.  When we are walking through a season of testing, it can feel like it is going to last forever.  We look ahead, and all we see is more of the same, with no way out.  We aren't given an ending date for the testing season, so we have no idea of its duration.  The truth is, this life, every season, and everything about it, is temporary, and there is a beginning and an end to every trial.  Tests start.  We walk through them.  They end.  Life goes on.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
I Peter 1:6-7 (NKJV)

4.  I would realize that my profession of faith isn't worth its salt if it is never tested.
Even though those emergency broadcasting sirens were beyond irritating, they seemed to be so unnecessary, and they interrupted what we would rather be doing and listening to, there was a reason they happened.  The person administering those tests was not just causing them to happen to punish us or make us miserable, but in reality, the testing was for our own good and benefit.  Those tests were to make sure all of us could hear and make necessary preparations in case they one day needed to sound that alarm for real.  What if a real emergency had happened, and due to inadequate testing, the emergency broadcasting system's alarm had an undetected malfunction that was never discovered?  What if this negligence prevented innocent, trusting people from being duly warned of real impending danger?  What if they hadn't performed those regularly-scheduled tests and just assumed that because they had been told all was working properly, there was no need to test their equipment?  We can sing, "Living By Faith," lift our hands in worship, and raise a hallelujah all day long, but can't anyone and everyone do that?  What good is a testimony that hasn't been adequately tested?  When life is going along unruffled, it is an easy thing to praise God and rejoice, but can we still rejoice when the Teacher is completely silent during the test?  Do we still believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him?  (Hebrews 11:6)  Do we really believe what we say we do, and how will we really know unless we are put to the test from time to time?  Don't we really want to know if what we have on hand is real before we face God on Judgment Day?  Isn't it better to have it tested now while there is still time and space for repentance and adjustment before the REAL thing happens one day and we find ourselves standing one-on-one, face-to-face with Almighty God?

"Examine me, God, and know my mind, test me, and know my thoughts.  See if there is any offensive tendency in me, and lead me in the eternal way."
Psalm 139:23-24 (ISV)

5.  I would remember that at the end of testing, there is a guaranteed reward.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3 (Berean Study Bible)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."  James 1:12 (ESV)

"The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His throne."  Revelation 3:21 (ESV)

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Hebrews 12:11 (KJV)

As I was seeking God earnestly in prayer recently, He took me to Genesis 22:1-14, and OH, the lessons He began and continues to teach me through that passage!  Truly, Abraham was presented with the ultimate test.  God told him to take his son, his only son, Isaac, the son God had promised and given him at a ripe, old age, and sacrifice him on an altar!
Can you imagine what Abraham must have felt like and the questions that were swirling through his mind?  After all God had promised him, now He was asking him to lay down the son whom the very promises hinged upon?  Seriously?  But, without hesitation, we see Abraham begin to make preparations to make the three-day journey to the specific place where God wanted to conduct this test.

Looking at this remarkable story from the vantage point of history, we know that it was NEVER God's intention for Abraham to kill his own son!  But, when God presents us with a test, we do not know His mind or intentions.  All we are given is a specific set of instructions and a choice as to whether or not we will be obedient in that test.

After Abraham and Isaac made the three-day journey and climbed the mountain God specifically designated as the test site, Abraham bound Isaac, just like he would have bound an animal sacrifice.  He then took the next natural step and raised the knife to kill his son, as God had instructed.  At the moment his arm was raised, the testing period was over.  Abraham had completely followed God's plan, he had proven that he would walk out obedience to God no matter what the directive, and he had aced the test with flying colors.

God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."  Genesis 22:12

And, the next verse is the one that has been ringing in my head for days—
"Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son."
Genesis 22:13

Only after his test of obedience was 100% complete, did Abraham see the ram—what had been God's plan from the beginning.
I believe that ram had been there all along.  Abraham just couldn't see it because he was in the middle of a test.  Had he seen the ram, he would have known God had everything under control, and even though it looked like he would be required to kill his only son, he would have known that couldn't have been farther from the truth.

What are you going through?  I'd like to ask you to stop and consider your current circumstances and identify any test(s) you are currently walking through, and as you think about that, may I please encourage you?

This is a test.  It is only a test.  You are not going under.  You will not be overcome by your circumstances.  There is a ram.  It is caught in the thicket by its horns.  You can't see it, but it is there.  It has been there all along, and once you reach the point of proving complete faithfulness to God, in HIS time, He will say, "Enough!"  THEN, my friend, you will do this —
You will lift up your eyes and look, and there behind you, (something from your past that is behind you, something you have not seen before) will be a ram.  Caught in the thicket by its horns.  Unable to move or be shaken or stolen from your grasp.  God placed it there.  He orchestrated the "catch of its horns."  He caused it to become lodged in such a way that all of earth and hell below cannot wrench it away from its designated purpose—YOUR DELIVERANCE!  Your reward for being faithful to walk out God's plan and the sacrifice needed to substitute for what it looked like was being taken from you.  When the ram becomes evident and visible to you, you will courageously go and take the ram and use it for its God-ordained purpose.  "Taking the ram" may require some work on your part.  God did not loose the ram, pick it up, and place it on the altar for Abraham.  God placed the ram there and allowed it to become lodged and rendered incapable of leaving the very spot most visible to Abraham, but once Abraham saw it and recognized what God was doing, he had to put forth the necessary effort to free the ram's horns from the thicket, so it could provide for his needs.

In verse 14, we read,
"And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

I am not sure who God may be talking to through this post, but I know without a doubt that God has a ram for you!  Stay the course until the ram becomes evident.  Walk in obedience to the path of testing God has placed in front of you.  Don't quit.  When God hits the "Stop" button on the test timer, you will look behind you and see the ram.  When you do, go and place full trust in God's plan of deliverance.  Take the ram and enjoy the blessing of it providing exactly what you need.

This is only a test.  It will come to an end.  Keep trusting God and walking forward in faith and watch as God amazes you with what has been His plan all along. 



P.S.  Remember how in this post we said we wanted to do more of the sharing posts similar to what we did at Christmas?
Please STAY TUNED!  In just a few days, we will be making an announcement about our next Writing Opportunity here at Homespun Devotions!  You will NOT want to miss being a part of it!

22 comments:

  1. Great reminder, Cheryl, that the trials and tests we must endure in life are only temporary. Best of all, God walks right there with us through every single one!
    Blessings!

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    1. YES! He absolutely does walk through them with us. I am so thankful He promised to never leave us nor forsake us. What hope would we have without Christ? How grateful I am for His faithfulness!

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  2. Thank you Cheryl. It's very hard to go through tests. Sometimes I'm needed to discern whether I'm being tested or going through a spiritual attack.
    I can't wait for the next writing opportunity. Have a wonderful day!

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    1. I totally agree. It can be so difficult to decipher whether something is a God-ordered test or an attack from the enemy. The only way I know to combat this is to strongly resist the devil OUT LOUD and continue to do that, keeping a strong resistance against him. We are more than conquerors through Jesus, and greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. If it is satan coming against us, he has no choice but to flee when we resist him in the name of Jesus! Praise God that He is on our side! I am hoping YOU will feel led to participate in the upcoming writing opportunity! I would love that. More to come on that tomorrow, Lord willing! You have a wonderful day, too!!

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  3. Well, I need to ponder, absorb and re-read this at least a dozen times Cheryl. It is such a great reminder to me. I have to get off of the computer now though because we have our Bible Study Christmas party tonight here at our house and I have lots of cooking to get done. I will be back to read it again because I really need it. Thank you for taking the time to write tese words. I'm so glad God doesn't make us go through these trials alone.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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    1. Thank you so much, Betsy. I am thrilled that the post was an encouragement to you. I hope your party went well and all of you had a wonderful time. I know you did! I am so thankful the dear Lord doesn't make us go through these trials alone, either, and we always walk with a Friend who is able to keep us in spite of all satan does to destroy us. Many blessings to you, too!

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  4. Good analogy and reminder. I have been reminded of the verse "Be not afraid of sudden fear …." those tests seem to trigger "sudden fear" and yet I have often been reminded that fear is not from God and He has a plan. I am learning to more quickly change my focus and maybe someday I won't go to fear first. Life tends to be a learning ground where we keep learning those lessons He has for us. I am so thankful for the plan He has and for the loving way He leads in such terrible times as the trials we walk through. Thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Yes, they surely do trigger sudden fear. So, so true. I think fear is the default mode for so many of us, and our knee-jerk reaction is to panic. I am so grateful God does not fault our humanity, and He remembers that we are dust and how fragile we truly are. I am so grateful for your comment and encouragement!

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  5. It's interesting dear Cheryl, that you mention Genesis 22 as i read it last night, i read through Bible each so am in Genesis at mo. As I read and re-read it I was yet again overwhelmed with wonder at his faith in respect to Isaac .. yet a few chapters earlier he'd lied yet again about Sarah being his wife, due to a lack of faith.
    I love Genesis, it's certainly is a book of Beginnings.
    Mm, tests are no fun. A great post .. thanks for your thoughts and beautiful scripture used too. so encouraging. Appreciated it in my inbox.
    Thanks for sharing, and may God bless you dear sis in all these tests and trials.
    Hugs, Shaz in Oz.x

    {Wonderful Words of Life - Shaz in Oz}
    {Calligraphy Cards - Shaz in Oz}

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    1. Oh, wow, that is so neat that you just read that chapter last night! It truly is overwhelming to think of the whole situation with Abraham and Isaac and the measure of faith Abraham possessed. You're right, I think about his shortcomings, too. Kevin, Zach, and I have been studying Genesis in our family worship and going through it very slowly so we can absorb the lessons, and we have often talked about how Abraham lied and Jacob was so deceptive and so many other people were flawed. It comforts me to know that God loved them anyway and how He has always chosen imperfect people to do His best work. It gives me hope! I was so thankful to see that you had visited and commented, dear sister. I do trust you are feeling much better by now. I continue to pray for you.

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  6. Cheryl, such powerful writing my friend. Such a timely reminder it is only a TEST...It will not be permanent. Isn’t God so good to allow us to see His truths in scripture that we haven’t pondered before. The ram was placed where Abraham could see it.

    Blessings always,
    Pam

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    1. Yes, amen! I am so grateful for your sweet visit and kind words, Pam! Many blessings to you, too, my friend.

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  7. You are so right, my friend, we are all tested with trials, tribulations and sufferings along this way of life. However, if we keep the FAITH through prayers, we eventually see, in God’s time, how He has been caring for us.

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    1. Yes, He is surely so faithful to show us His providential care! Sometimes, we can't see it or feel it at the time, but later we look back and realize He was there all along. It is hard to discern His presence in the dark, but how blessed we are that He never leaves us. May He bless you, my friend.

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  8. I forgot to mention that we also need to TRUST!

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  9. Wonderful post, Cheryl. I liked the referenced to country music - favourite of mine.

    “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out”. (1 Corinthians Chapter 10 Verse 13).

    God bless.

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    1. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Victor! God bless you, too!

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  10. So cool that you got to meet Ricky! Honeymoon in Nashville? That says all we need to know about your love of the music!

    This is only a test... love your summary. That is a ton of God given wisdom, sister.

    I'm encouraged by your words coupled with His. He is on the throne!!! We need to fear and revere Him first!

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    1. Oh, my word! It really was such a neat thing. I will never forget it. He and Sharon had walked out back of the studio where the show was being taped, and when we walked out there, his daughter, Molly, was out there with a box of puppies right there in front of that brick wall that is behind us in the picture. YES, that old-time country, bluegrass, and Gospel music is in my blood, I guess you could say. SO much history with all of it. My family used to have a lot of hootenannies where we would all get together and pick and sing. Precious, precious memories to me now - so many of them have passed away, and it hurts to even think about it. There are a few of us left, though, and the ones who are still love to sing and play music every chance we get. Kevin was raised on the old-time country and bluegrass, too, and we have called him "the walking country music encyclopedia" for years! Thank you for your encouragement. It is such a blessing to me! God bless you richly, in return, brother.

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  11. What a very timely post, my friend. My year is starting out pretty much like last year...more tests, trials and unanswered questions. I know the Lord knows all of the answers...He just hasn't shared them with me yet. :) How do people who have no hope in Jesus get through this life full of trials? I wouldn't even want to know actually. I also can't imagine a life without tests and trials....why would we even need a God? Oh, and I love that old time bluegrass too...Ricky looked like such a baby back then...LOL! How cool that you got yo meet him...always has been one of faves! I pray your 2020 has been blessed thus far, my friend!

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  12. Oh dear friend! This post is probably my favorite, but then I don't know how to pick a favorite because they are ALL so edifying! But this one, at this day and time, brought such hope and encouragement to me as I seem to be in affliction upon affliction simultaneously.

    I never looked up the definition of trial. I had no idea that was the definition! That really puts it into perspective!

    I LOVE the analogy you drew with the radio test. Wow! The great comfort that brought me! And then to tie it in with Abraham and the ram in the thicket! Wow again! I soaked up every word of this post and it just encouraged me soo much!

    Oh sweet friend! How faithful you are that in your own trials such Words of Wisdom are born that you bless us all with.

    I love and appreciate you, your friendship and your faithfulness to our Lord and Savior, so much!

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