By Femi Aribisala
Persecution arises because of the word, and not in spite of it. The Lord himself sometimes offers us up to the devil.
The university experience is rich and rewarding. There are so many things a university offers. You can play sports. You can go to parties and have a good time. You can join debating societies and clubs. You can also study and get a degree.
But you need to be careful with all the choices available. In the final analysis, a University is designed for a specific purpose; to take exams and get a degree. So if you spend all your time playing football or going to parties, you will have yourself to blame if at the end you fail your exams.
Beware of those who insist the point of going to university is to have the time of your life; wining and dining and being a teenage nuisance. Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needful in the university and that is to pass your exams and get a good degree. I want you to know that Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Holy Spirit University
Believers are in the University of Life and the Holy Spirit is our headmaster. Therefore, Joe Christian, how many exams did you take last week? How many did you pass? You can study and fail if you don’t know the day of your visitation or exam. That means you will be missing in action on exam day. Or you can fail if you are unaware that the lion share of the grades is determined by class-participation; but foolishly think everything depends on your performance on exam day.
So it is with the walk of faith. It is about taking exams. God sets exams, and he sets them every day. He says: “I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10). Most Christians fail God’s exams because we are not even aware of them. We are completely oblivious of them.
God’s exams are used to determine those who will spend eternity with him. They are also used to determine the recipients of heavenly crowns. A crown of life is given to those who endure temptations and trials for Christ’s sake. James says: Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12).
A crown of righteousness is awarded to those who pour out their lives in the propagation of the gospel. (2 Timothy 4:7-8). An incorruptible crown of glory is given to those who “feed the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2-4). An imperishable crown is given to those whose hearts’ desires are rooted in obedience to God. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Faith with works
Note that our reward will not be determined by the popular Christian notions of the grace of God, which is allegedly without merit. Paul says: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). On the contrary, our reward is going to be determined by how well we do in our God-given exams. Thus, James warns: “just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26).
God’s exams must be passed by faith with works. God is not in the business of promoting do-nothings who fail his exams. If we fail, we remain in the same class for years on end until we pass. But make no mistake about it. If you are a child of God, you are automatically enrolled in the School of the Holy Spirit, where you are subjected systematically to tests.
This is what happened to the children of Israel. The psalmist says: “You, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; but you brought us out to rich fulfilment.” (Psalm 66:10-12).
Note that there is glory to be had at the end of the exams for those who pass with flying colours.
Therefore, it is imperative for the believer to be aware that we are constantly being tested, even in blazing hot furnaces. Thus, Peter says: “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.” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged. But in all situations and circumstances, we should confess like Job: “(God) knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).
Lessons from Israel
The things that happened to Israel are designed to serve as instructions to us, so that we would not fail God’s exams the way Israel failed. “All these things happened to them as examples for others, and they were written down as a warning for us. For we live at a time when the end is about to come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Lack of trust and faith in God caused Israel to fail its exams in the wilderness. Lack of faith in God equally bodes ill for us. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Whatever is not of faith is sin. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering his rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Hebrews 4:1-2).
The believer in Christ magnetises problems. The psalmist says in acknowledgement: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19). Indeed, the word of God sown in our heart makes us candidates for testing. Every word must be proved. Once we receive the word, problems are going to come to try it or to test it.
Thus Jesus says: “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Persecution arises because of the word, and not in spite of it. The Lord himself sometimes offers us up to the devil for testing. However, he says: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10).