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Tested and Tried

Plato attributes the famous saying, “Know thyself” (Γνώθι σεατόν) to fellow Greek philosopher and mentor, Socrates. Socrates’ notion seems to be the preoccupation of the privileged, an activity of leisure. Not so. Consider what Paul had to say to the church at Corinth when preparing to visit them:
“Examine yourselves; to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
While Plato was using Socrates’ teaching to make some philosophical point to other philosophers, Paul was writing to ordinary people, some of them really messed up and in need of transformation, in order to give them means to remain strong in the faith, to make a daily choice to stand.
To examine and test one’s soul is no easy task. Says commentator Simon J. Kistemaker: “True faith is active and constantly forces Christians to test themselves to see whether Jesus Christ through the Holy spirit lives in their hearts. True faith testifies to intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3).” (Emphasis mine.)
Yet this intimate fellowship we have with the Father and the Son draws us into deeper, more challenging testing. This fellowship takes us beyond our own conscience, placing us in the domain of the Father’s testing us. Consider what is written in Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
When we examine or test ourselves, we find either affirmation that we are in Christ or not. When God the Father tests us, he humbles us, removes our mistaken ideas that we exist on the merit of our own strength and genius, to see whether or not we will still follow him when it doesn’t make us look good in the eyes of those around us. What pride can we possibly derive from being fed and watered and lead, helpless and needy?
We are prone toward pride and independence, are we not? Hence the warning in verses 17-18: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
It can be easy to become discouraged in times of testing, misinterpreting the purpose of the test. We can feel attacked, forgotten, isolated, devalued. We can fall into the Satanic trap of feeling less than zero. But, in this case, truth trumps emotion.
Deuteronomy 8:16 indicates that God humbles us to do us good. He can use broken, submitted, humble servants: those are qualities ascribed to Jesus’ time in the flesh, on the earth. Our pilgrimage is to become Christ-like is it not?
Should you choose to take up the mission to shake the gates of Hell in your generation, you must take up the habit of examining and testing yourself, to see whether or not you are in the faith. You must take up the habit of submitting to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Jesus might be represented well in this generation, that those who have ears to hear might receive the gospel, that those who choose to reject Him will do so not on the basis of ignorance, but having been informed of what they choose to reject. Friend, “Know thy faith.”


[1] Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Pg. 450. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.

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You Can Still Shake the Gates of Hell When Things Don’t Go As Planned

You Can Shake the Gates of Hell

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the Lord.”

– Isaiah 55:8

In the West, we highly value productivity — or at least the appearance of productivity. We Western Christians all too often herald the expectation of productivity as a core value of following Jesus. Many of us believe that our life in Christ is only valuable if there are attendant measurable, attainable results (products)—or the appearance of them. Many of us even stake our identity in this idea.

What happens when God the Father decides that our dependence upon productivity is a huge hurdle to our growth in maturity and Christlikeness? How do we respond when God’s highest purpose for a season may very well be to teach us to deal with frustration, waiting, desperate praying, or trusting that there is real activity in the other realm that eyes cannot see?

I am a Bible translator in Papua New Guinea. My family and I live in a mountain village that gets upwards of 200 inches of rain a year. Mountainsides slide. Roads erode. Floods flow. The nearest city is over 60 kilometers away and is sometimes blocked by all of the above. Used to these realities, the locals here are … patient, easygoing, not concerned with speed or efficiency. Survival is enough.

These realities are disruptive, as are the questions. In the moments when this world is caving in on my expectations and the flesh is tired of waiting, the enemy goes to work on my sense of self-worth and accomplishment. He knows all too well how to use the expectation of productivity against me—and perhaps you, too.

Satan wants us to lean into our efficiency, to depend upon our productivity as a means of earning God’s affections. He wants us to think that if our productivity is interrupted by cancer or car wreck or even living in the developing world, that our faith is worthless and our position in God is null and void.

If you want to shake the gates of Hell, don’t take the bait. Don’t allow the adversary to convince you that the substance of your life is pent-up in getting things done efficiently any more than it is in the abundance of your worldly goods.

My college-aged sons and I were walking between villages a few months ago. We were talking about life and what we had planned for that day. We had made very efficient and productive plans for that day, but we instead found ourselves hiking and talking.

Our original plans thwarted, we asked God for his plan. The answers to that prayer took us to the house of a man who was sick and needed to be encouraged. They took us on a journey that would help establish a program board to streamline the work of translation among the Somau Garia people. God’s efficiency is about building people and his kingdom rather than merely giving us a personal sense of accomplishment.

The enemy hates it when we respond to frustration with prayer; when we choose to trust the Unseen rather than wallow in despair of what is only dimly seen. His designs for our destruction are thwarted when we surrender to our Father and his plans.

Are efficiency and productivity negative values? Of course not. Ministries like Bible translation are too great a task to finish without employing these values. But we dare not confuse the outcome of a set of work habits with fruit born of the Holy Spirit. Shaking the gates of Hell is done in the Spirit, by fruit born of Him and effort made through the strength of Christ—especially when things don’t go according to our plans.