The coming of spring, with the return of brighter and warmer days, has always been a joyful time of year for cultures around the world. Even so, spring is the deadliest time in nature. Animals that made it through the worst of the winter have been weakened by scarce food and harsh weather, so when the winds turn cold again and the rains morph back into snow (as they often do in spring), those that have mustered all their strength to make it through the dark months find they can go no further. Far from being joyful, spring in the animal kingdom marks a time of mass culling of the weakest.
The deadliness of spring is mirrored in the deadliness of our final spiritual tests. As I’ve mentioned before, our tests don’t get easier the closer we get to Heaven; they get much harder. In scripture, this stage is known as the “refining fire”, a burning off of inferior elements until all that remains is gold. There is no retirement in God’s Kingdom on Earth. If you’re “going for the gold”, you’ve got to give it all you’ve got to the very end, even if you don’t think you have anything left to give. Jesus says: “Those who endure to the end will be saved”, not those who give up before the end. You don’t win a marathon by collapsing 5 feet from the finish line.
So, if our tests get harder the closer we get to our end, and if only those who endure to the end will be saved, how do we survive the culling that will strike down the spiritually weak? We survive it the same way Jesus survived it – by relying on the strength of God’s Holy Spirit not just in times of trouble but at ALL times. We build that dependency now as a daily habit, so that when the worst of our tests come (and we never know when that will be), relying on God will be second-nature to us.
Hebrews used to bind scrolls of scripture onto their hands and forehead, in accordance with Deuteronomy 6:8. Some still do. They did this as a reminder of God’s Commandments for the wearer and for those looking at the wearer. The wearer of the scrolls would see them on his own hand, while those looking at him would see them on his forehead. These physical signs would then trigger a reminder of what was important and how they should respond to provocations.
We could use similar reminder-triggers about the importance of relying on God’s Spirit on a day-to-day basis, not just in times of crisis. Ask yourself these questions: When you are insulted or attacked, do you run to social media to complain, or do you run to God? When things don’t go as planned, do you seek out your friends and family for sympathy and commiseration, or do you take your complaints to God? When you’ve had a hard day at work, do you find solace in feeling sorry for yourself and having a drink or two, or do you thank God for the tests he’s putting you through to strengthen you spiritually?
If you haven’t honestly answered “God”, “God”, “God” to those three questions, you need to change now how you respond to adversity. Relying on any other source but God for support and comfort on a day-to-day basis will not serve you well when the final tests come. And come they will, if Heaven is your goal. You don’t get a guaranteed ticket to Heaven just because you’re born-again, any more than the Hebrews got a guaranteed ticket to Heaven for being children of Abraham. What you get for being born-again is God’s Holy Spirit as a constant companion and source of strength. That is your guarantee. You are then meant to make full use of God’s Spirit at all times. If you don’t make full use of God’s Spirit, you won’t develop either the habit of running to God for help, or the spiritual fortitude (strength) that you’ll need to make it through to the end.
If your tendency is still to go to people for help and healing, here is what I suggest: Take a marker and write on your left hand “God”. Write it in whatever color you want and whatever size you want, but write it so that you plainly see it, and leave it there. It’s meant as a reminder for you, not for others. When it wears away, replace it. Keep doing this until your first response to every adversity that you encounter is to run to God for help, just as your first response to every joy and blessing should be to thank God.
We can’t stop the hard tests from coming, if our aim is Heaven, but we can be ready for them.
The time to prepare is now.