“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4 MSG).
Obedience through tests, trials, and temptations develop your spiritual strength like physical strength is developed from weight lifting. With the weight lifting analogy in mind, if you’re able to lift a “145 pound” spiritual challenge, but God has a plan or position that requires the capacity to lift 185 pounds of opposition, persecution, temptation, and trials, He won’t permit it—you’re just not strong enough. Instead, He will allow the training process to commence. He will permit—He won’t author—perhaps a 155-pound trial that will further test but not overwhelm you.
For example, maybe somebody gossips about you and spreads a rumor. Instead of countering the attack by defending yourself and spreading gossip about that person, you, in obedience to God’s Word, chose to say nothing and bless instead. That’s great—you lifted the 155-pound test! Now it’s on to the next level—165 pounds. If you continue to obey His Word through the permitted adversities, your training continues until you arrive at the 185-pound level. You are now prepared for this higher plan or new position in the kingdom. This is the end intended by the Lord.
But if you respond to the gossip by getting offended and lashing back at the person—you guessed it—the Lord weeps and says, “I’m sorry, but you need to go back and lift some more 145-pound challenges.” You’re still in the “gym” but not benefitting from it.
The training continues but at the same level. Next, He permits a financial trouble—another “155-pound test”—to come against you. But instead of seeking God’s provision, you immediately say, “No problem! Our credit cards not maxed out!” And takes off the extra weight and says, “Back to 145.”
If wilderness tests—the “weight training”—are continually failed, the time will eventually come when God needs you for that particular kingdom task or position that carries the 185 pounds of opposition, but He can’t use you because you don’t have the spiritual muscle to lift the adversity in that situation or position. This is when He must find someone other than you to handle the task or take the position.
An opportunity lost. This is why the trials we go through are spiritual strength training that helps prepare us for even greater tests in the future. With this understanding, we can count it all joy whenever tests and challenges come our way, knowing that they are working for us, strengthening our spiritual muscles and capacity—if we remain obedient through them. Keep pushing, even when you feel like you can’t push anymore. This is when the real growth occurs.
Are you developing your spiritual strength? Or are you fighting in your own strength?