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The Trial of Sickness

As we continue our look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we come to a point where the Apostle makes a personal comment.  He speaks about his first visit to that area.  He was the first to bring the message of Christ to these people.

I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.  Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.  What has happened to all your joy?  I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
Galatians 4:12-15 (NIV)

Paul brought the Gospel to this region.  When they heard it, they accepted it as from the Lord, Himself.  They turned to Christ wholeheartedly and were saved.  Paul has a fond memory of this time.

But there is a controversy surrounding this passage.  There are those who use it as a proof text to show that God doesn’t want to heal everyone.  They say that this verse shows that Paul suffered from an ongoing eye problem that was never healed.  And, therefore, healing isn’t for everybody.

I believe that Jesus Christ paid for our healing on the cross.  It’s freely available to all who believe.  For a more in-depth look at this subject, you can read my Healing 101 Series and my Healing 201 Series.

For now, I simply want to look at what Paul is actually saying in this passage.  Normally I like the NIV translation because of its simple language.  In this case, however, it hasn’t been very accurate with the original Greek.

I believe that the NKJV is closer to the original.

You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.  And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
Galatians 4:13-14 (NKJV)

In these verses, Paul refers to the sickness in two ways.  He first calls it an infirmity in his flesh.  The next thing he calls it is a trial in his flesh.  This is a very important statement in understanding sickness.

Remember this – trials are NEVER meant to be permanent.  Paul said that it was – past tense – in his flesh.  By referring to his sickness as a trial that happened in the past, he is also testifying that his healing has already manifested.  He has no permanent, ongoing eye problem.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

What is the end goal of a trial?  To bring you to the place where you’re not lacking anything.  Are you lacking health?  Consider it a trial bringing you to a place where you’re physically healed and whole.

Christ is the Healer.  Paul believed it.  James believed it.  I believe it.  Don’t let anyone, who doubts the Scripture, steal your joy.  Jesus paid the price for your healing.  Trust Him to bring it to pass.

Question: Do you have a testimony of God’s healing power?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

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Posted by on September 6, 2017 in Faith, Healing, The Gospel

 

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Is Your Faith Known?

In my last post, I talked about the need for a faith-coach. In sports, coaches are needed to overcome the challenges that an athlete faces during their competition. I believe it’s the same in our Christian walk. It’s how we’ve been coached that gets us through our challenges.

Paul tells the Thessalonian church the reason he was sending Timothy to coach them…

…so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.
1 Thessalonians 3:3-5

First of all, let me say that I’m not particularly thrilled with this passage. Paul makes it clear that it’s an undeniable fact of life that we will certainly face trials. Both of the words he uses – trials and persecution – mean pressure, narrow spaces, and challenges.

The Good News is not that we have an easy life with Christ. Instead, the Lord strengthens us to overcome in all of our trials.

This is why Paul wants them to be coached. In our trials, we should never be unsettled. That word literally means to wag – like a dog wags his tail.

Too often we, as Christians, end up simply reacting to our trials. We don’t expect them. Worse than that, we don’t know how to correctly operate in faith to walk through them. God has a better way for us. Listen to what He said to Israel when He taught them the law.

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
Deuteronomy 28:13

The Lord never wants us to be wagged – to simply react – to the challenges of life. We have been given the Holy Spirit so that we can be ready for anything that comes our way. By watching others overcome, we can be equipped for the same victories.

Unfortunately, many refuse God’s mentoring system. They end up learning to overcome by trial and error. Personally, I want to know the strategy before I enter the heat of battle.

Back in the verse from Thessalonians, Paul said that he wanted to find out about their faith – literally he wanted to know their faith. The fact is, that true faith can be seen and known by those around you.

Trials and challenges – the pressures of life – serve an important purpose. They come so that the faith that you have on the inside can become evident on the outside.

Listen to how Peter describes the result of trials in our lives.

These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:7

Do what needs to be done in order to prepare your faith. Then when the trials come, as you know they will, Christ will be revealed in you.

Question: How has watching other believers prepared you for your trials?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Do You Know the Two Kinds of Testing?

ClimberWe all go through challenging times in our lives. The Bible calls them trials or tests. None of us are exempt, so we need to be aware of how they function.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Notice that James is not saying that the trial is a blessing. Our blessing is the result of coming through the test victoriously. If you remember from the first post in this series; it’s our faith that’s tried. This trial then brings perseverance and results in our faith being approved as genuine.

But what exactly are these tests all about? James goes on to explain it to us.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15

First, we must understand the words being used. In the English Bible, the words temptation, test, and trial all mean different things to us. In the original Greek they’re all the same word. The translators used these different English words depending upon the context.

In this verse, James is only referring to one kind of testing – testing by evil. In this post I want to talk about the two kinds that are spoken of in Scripture.

The first I want to share about is testing by evil. This is usually called temptation by the translators. This is when we are given the opportunity to do something against God’s law or human law. It could also be troublesome, injurious, or destructive to us or others.

In thinking about testing, it’s important that we don’t get our theology from cartoons. There isn’t any little demon or angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering into our ears!

James makes it clear that usually the devil is not even involved. I think that we give him too much credit. It’s actually our own flesh that brings on the temptations that we face. We are tempted when our sin nature wants something that’s not God’s best for us. The only way to overcome consistantly is by a lifestyle of fasting and prayer in the spirit. (For more detail on these, click fasting or prayer)

The second kind is testing by God. James only says that God doesn’t use evil to test us, but there is a test that He sets up for us. This happened a lot with Jesus and His disciples.

When 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?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
John 6:5-6

In this kind of testing, the Lord brings opportunities before us. Their purpose is to show forth the faith that has been produced in us as a result of hearing His Word. He wants us and others to see the growth that’s taking place in us. The result should bring glory to Christ working in us.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

Knowing these two types of trials will help us to be victorious no matter what challenges we face. As we rely upon the Holy Spirit, we can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Question: How has the testing process worked maturity in your Christian walk?

©Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
 

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Has Your Faith Been Approved?

ApproveStarting with this post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I usually talk about issues dealing with revival, church leadership, God’s power or the return of Christ. But up until now I haven’t really followed any plan.

Lately I’ve been feeling that I need to write in a more systematic way. Over the past couple of years the Holy Spirit has been teaching me a lot by having me read through the New Testament in the order that it was given to the church.

In that way you can see how some of these themes were expanded upon as the Spirit revealed more and more to His people. I want to take that same approach to the teachings in this blog.

Of course, if the Lord gives me a message to share that will benefit you; I can always follow His leading at any time. I can post it when I receive it and then pick right back up where I left off.

I believe that the book of James was the first Scripture to be recorded for the church. So that’s where I’ll begin.

It was written by a pastor to give his congregation the foundation they needed in serving Christ. James was the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. His words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time identifying with James when he equates trials with joy. And he’s not the only one. The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his letters. It’s not that I don’t want to grow, but I would prefer not going through trials – they just don’t feel good to me.

On the other hand, I realize that they’re a part of life. There’s never going to be a time when we’re not faced with something challenging. Nobody is exempt from this. The world is full of problems, and people who cause them. I’ve even been known to bring them upon myself from time to time.

The real issue is what I do with the trial once I’m in it. They can’t be avoided, so I might as well make the best of it. James is explaining to us the attitude best suited to overcome our trials. He doesn’t say to be joyful because you’re being tested. He says to count it pure joy because of what you know.

It’s our knowledge of what the trial produces the gives us joy during the hard times. What is it that I know? If you read this section in the original Greek, you find that James says that it’s the “approved part of our faith” that produces perseverance – the ability to come through a challenge victoriously.

Everyone says that they have faith. The question asked by this verse is – Is that faith approved? Has it been tested and found to be genuine? It’s easy to say that I trust God, yet give up in the hard times. It’s the genuine, approved faith that carries us through.

It’s like the song that says, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Well, I know that the Lord won’t allow the test to kill me. But as it tries my faith, it will strengthen me to trust God in a greater way.

So the joy is not that I’m being tried, but that I’m growing stronger. My faith is being proved, and I’ll be able to stand in it. I may never look forward to tests and hardships, but at least I know that they provide a vital part of my growth in Christ.

Question: What have you gone through that has increased your faith?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Walking with Christ…and You!

WalkI’ve been posting about the benefits of walking closely with the Lord. It’s how we get to truly know Christ. It’s also how we receive guidance from the Holy Spirit.

But there’s another aspect to walking with Christ that we sometimes overlook. It’s why many don’t want that close a relationship with Christ.

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
Psalms 26:2-3

To walk closely with the Lord requires testing. We don’t like that word – testing. It sounds uncomfortable.

But actually, testing is a good thing. It shows us how far we’ve progressed. It lets us know that we’re becoming more and more mature in Christ.

It’s a part of everyday life. If you’re in a close relationship with someone, and you truly love that person, something will happen. It’s called change. People in relationships undergo change. There’s no way around it.

Our relationship with Christ is no different. The more I know of Christ, the more I want to be like Him. This puts the pressure on me to change. All testing does, is confirm the changes that are taking place in my life.

But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:5-6

What a privilege we have. God has placed in us the potential to walk and minister just like Jesus did. We should desire this type of walk.

One thing is clear. You can’t live like Jesus did unless you can access the same power He had. That’s the key to a supernatural ministry.

If I’m going to walk His walk, then I am going to have to be tested just like Christ was. The more I learn, the more I grow in knowledge and faith, the more testing will take place in me. Our greatest desire should be to walk as the Lord did.

Then, as this begins to take place in us, there will be another effect that we see.

If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7

As we walk closer to God on an individual basis, we end up walking closer to each other collectively. That’s because we’re all headed toward the same goal. The closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to each other.

There’s two ways of working for agreement among believers. I can spend all my time and energy trying to convince you that I’m right, and you need to agree with me. Or…we can spend time in the Lord’s presence and become convinced that He’s right, and we both agree with Him.

The second method is obviously the correct one. We need embrace the privilege we’ve been given to walk with Christ. To learn and grow with Him. To become like Him and draw closer to others on the same path. Then the world will see Jesus in His people.

Question: How has testing shown you areas of growth in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
 

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Our Living Hope

Cross SunsetI want to take a few posts to look at the hope we have that’s talked about in I Peter 1:6-9.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:6-7

This truth is seen all through the Bible. It’s one of those teachings that we don’t want to hear. The fact of the matter is that we will all face trials and challenges.

Yet in spite of all this we can walk in the joy of the Lord. It’s also good to know that in those trials our faith being perfected.

In all of this, Peter understands that there’s a problem we face.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9

The problem is that we don’t see the Lord. Because we can’t see Him we must operate by faith. We have to trust in His Word to us.

Of course faith always has a goal. Our goal is to see God’s life-changing power at work in us. Because we look to this goal by faith, it inspires hope – expectation – in our hearts.

As we continue to walk with Christ, we learn more about His ways. This causes us to love Him more and more.

So actually, the trials of life are foundational to our spiritual growth. They produce faith, hope and love in us as we continue to look to the Lord. These are the three essentials that we can’t live without if we want to live a life pleasing to God.

Of all the apostles, Peter had the best handle on this. When it came to persevering under trials, there was no one else like him. When Paul and Silas were in jail they had to start singing to keep their spirits up. When Peter was in prison, chained between two guards, he actually fell asleep!

The question is; how can I rejoice in trials? The secret is in the verses before these.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
1 Peter 1:3

We’ve been given a Living Hope, an expectation of what God’s going to accomplish in and through us. It’s this living hope that causes rejoicing in the trials. The prophet Jeremiah understood this truth.

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.
Jeremiah 17:13

He knew that the hope of Israel was the Lord, as the spring of living water. Israel missed it. I don’t want to miss it.

It’s clear from the above verse that the Lord’s mercy gives birth to a Living Hope. Hope is birthed in His mercy. In my next posts I’m going to expand on this thought.

Question: How has placing your hope in Christ changed your outlook?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Jehovah Jireh – The Mountain

TrailThis is the final post about how Abraham positioned himself to receive God’s supernatural provision.  At this point we find him with the knife raised, about to sacrifice his only son.

But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham!  Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said.  “Do not do anything to him.  Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Genesis 22:11-12

Abraham was able to come through this time of testing victoriously.  But there was something that always puzzled me.  God said, “Now I know that you fear God.”  I thought God knew everything, so why would He say that?

The Hebrew word for know is Yada, which means to know by seeing.  What God said was that now Abraham’s faith could be seen.  His fear of God was now obvious to everyone.

That’s the reason for trials and testing.  We may have faith quietly tucked away in our hearts.  Without works, it’s not yet a living faith.  It must be proved genuine.

It’s the trying of our faith that causes it to be seen by those around us.  That’s why Scripture tells us over and over again that without trials we’ll never become mature in Christ.

It was when his faith was tested, and proved genuine, that Abraham’s eyes were opened to the provision of God that was before him.

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.  [Jehovah Jireh]  And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
Genesis 22:13-14

Jehovah Jireh – the God Who provides.  There are many who think this name is a promise of unbridled wealth.  They think that it’s all about their physical comfort.  What they fail to see is that Jehovah Jireh is a place of supernatural provision in Christ.

As I said in the first post of this series, it’s a spiritual mountain that must be climbed.  To get to that place in God, it will require the same thing from us that it did of Abraham.

It will take a life of immediate obedience to God, perseverance, speaking our faith, and a decision to give up everything for the cause of Christ.  That’s the real mountain that Abraham had to climb.  The physical mountain was easy in comparison.

As with all things in Christ, God has already provided everything we need for life and godliness.  The problem is that we need to position ourselves to receive the provision of God.

That’s the point.  Why do we want God’s blessing?  To accomplish His will or ours?

If you want Christ to be exalted in you, then you’re in a position to receive.

I ask everyone who reads this post to pray and believe God for those who respond to the following question…

Question: What is God calling you to do that you need His supernatural provision for?

© Nick Zaccardi 2013

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2013 in Faith, God's Provision, Prayer

 

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