“In the whole land, declares the Lord,
two thirds shall be cut off and perish,
and one third shall be left alive.
And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:8-9
“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
There are many tests in life that determine whose we are: where and when will we stand, what do we believe, how will we behave. The Lord separates His own from unbelievers and promises clear distinctions at the last day. But He also has tests for only His own, fires of refinement to purify and sanctify, to prove our faith and teach the manners of heaven. These tests identify us as His. (Genesis 22:1,12; Psalm 17:3; 66:10; Matthew 25:31-46)
How we respond to His tests reveals how devoted we are, how wholehearted in faith, how deep we are willing to go. Some choose cursory commitment, wanting to be salvation-safe, but unwilling to wear the label of Christ and bearing only anemic fruit. Too close an identification or alliance might cramp lifestyle or friendship or employment choices. Speaking up or standing out might lead to social cancellation. While these may escape eternal condemnation, they miss out on the fullness of life the Lord intends, and have ashes rather than crowns to offer Him on the last day. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 4:10-11)
Then there are those who call on God’s name with strong, hearty voice, and gratefully wear His identification for all to see. When facing trials, they persevere, developing their faith to maturity. When tested by temptation, their priority is partaking of and displaying God’s divine nature. Godliness, expressed in self-control, and love for Christ, motivate their responses. Every test is an opportunity to be chiseled and formed to be more like Jesus and to live robustly for His name’s sake. (James 1:2-4; 2 Peter 1:3-7)
Are there idols lurking in heart recesses that dilute our allegiance and passion for Christ? How willing are we to undergo holy scrutiny, and therein, how well do the thoughts of our hearts and our conduct align? How securely do we stand ‘above all’ when buffeted by criticism, slander, or trials? How courageously do we withstand the onslaught of spiritual opposition that attempts to delude us into idolatry, lies, and self-pampering? Do we fear God more than man, and if so, what is the proof in our daily decisions and interactions? Do those around me recognize I have the Lord’s DNA? (Daniel 3:14-18; Psalm 139:23-24; Acts 4:18-20; Ephesians 6:10-17)
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
the trumpet call obey;
forth to the mighty conflict
in this his glorious day.
Ye that are men now serve him
against unnumbered foes;
let courage rise with danger
and strength to strength oppose.” ~George Duffield (1858)