Proving Ground - Part 1
Testing always precedes promotion. We aren't able to move to the next level that God has for us without experiencing some degree of a trial. Are you prepared for the tests that are coming your way?
Recently we were introduced to a book by Pastor Kevin Gerald called Proving Ground. This book has been very timely for us and, while simple in its approach, it is a great reminder of the fact that testing precedes promotion.
There is a big difference between God testing us and the devil tempting us. The purpose of a test is to prove a product or to prove what you have already learned. Sin, on the other hand, is a device used to cause you to stumble and sin.
James 1:13 says, "no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone." When God tests you, it is always for your benefit. When you battle temptation it is always for your destruction.
God will sometimes allow temptation and use it as a test to prove us, much like what happened in the wilderness when the devil tempted Jesus. God used this to prove and propel Jesus into His ministry.
Let's start discussing the tests described in Proving Ground.
1. The Test of Small Things
This test comes to prove a leader's potential for greater opportunities.
In the book, Gerald says, "We cannot get to where we want to go tomorrow if we are always trying to bypass our today." We all have the tendency to want to bypass practice for game-day, but you don't become the champion in the ring; you become a champion in the gym. It's how you prepare that makes a difference.
Sometimes I test my leaders myself by giving them small tasks just to see how they will react and what their attitude will reveal. How they react will show me whether or not they are ready for something bigger.
If you as a leader are disciplined in growing yourself, it is inevitable that you will outgrow what you are leading right now. What you are overseeing now will suddenly feel too small and you will be in search of something bigger. Raise up leaders, grow your team, and invest in them even when you are tempted to begin investing elsewhere. Having the patience to finish well will better prepare you for what's next.
2. The Motivation Test
You could be doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, so this test challenges the why behind what you do.
Jesus taught us that there are two ways to see what is within a person's heart:
a) By the words they speak (Matthew 12:34).
b) By the way they spend their money (Matthew 6:21).
Both of these things help us to determine the motives of others as well as the motives of ourselves.
Motives are tested when we don't feel appreciated or wanted. One of the most common motives for a leader is the desire to please people. However, a leader who seeks only to please his followers will compromise the organization's goals to keep the peace and the organization will stop growing. It's a fine line, but Solomon said it this way in Proverbs 29:25, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." In other words, our ultimate motivation should be to please God, not man.
There are seasons where we find ourselves giving more than we are receiving. In order to get through these times, begin asking yourself a series of motives questions; What are you doing this for? Who are you doing this for? Why did you start doing this in the first place? When you started, did you expect it to be easy?
The best way to keep a check on your motives is through prayer. If we constantly cast all of our cares on God and lean into Him, He will make our paths straight.
I like what Gerald said in his book; "the definition of a motive is the compelling force behind our actions." For me, the compelling force behind my actions is Jesus. What He did for me personally causes me to want to share that hope with others. What He commanded me to do - to go into all the world and preach the gospel - gives me a lifelong mission to fight for.
I have seen the effect He has on my life and it keeps me going - regardless of opposition - because the church is the hope of the world, and we have a vision to reach every available person, at every available time, bu every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.
We would highly encourage all of our listeners to purchase their own copy of Proving Ground as we discuss this book together. If you'd like to purchase one, you can find them here.
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