Scripture is clear. The Lord tests our hearts before He promotes us to greater intimacy with Him and greater authority in His kingdom. Often, these tests come without our awareness. His manifold tests include faithfulness, honesty, keeping our word, speaking with grace, humility, purity of heart and love. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, the greatest of these is love. In our quest to know the Lord, grow in intimacy with Him and increase in grace, we must pass certain tests.
The apostle, Paul, writes “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” 1 Thes. 2:4
“Approved” and “tests” in the above passage are the same Greek word: dokimazo. “Dokimazo” means “to test/examine in order to approve or deem worthy”. The same word can be used to mean “test” and also “tested and approved”.
To the church at Thyatira, the Lord Jesus said: “All the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Rev. 2:23
This is parallel to Jeremiah 17:10 “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.”
In 2013 the Lord spoke to me about a mandatory test that His bride must pass in order to walk with Him: laying down our lives for Him and for His sheep. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16 This was illustrated to me through the following prophetic dream:
I found myself standing among a group of about 35-40 people. We were in a pleasant, outdoor, park-like setting enjoying fellowship with each other. I knew we were all “well fed” Christians, having been exposed to plenty of good Bible teaching and fresh prophetic revelations from some of God’s choice servants.
Suddenly a tall man approached us with a letter in his hand. He told us of a single mother stranded in a barren, distant wilderness. As He was speaking, I saw her in a vision isolated in a desert. She was terribly discouraged. She truly loved the Lord but was barely hanging on for emotional and spiritual survival. She desperately needed help.
He informed us that the letter he had would bring her the strength and encouragement that she needed. He asked if any of us would be willing to deliver it. We knew that the trip would be long, lonely and difficult. Although my heart was moved with compassion for this single mother, I hesitated momentarily, knowing the trip through the wilderness would be grueling. As the leader waited for a response, no one volunteered.
I raised my hand to go and was handed the letter. Taking it I immediately set off into the wilderness. I knew the long, hard journey would be worthwhile because she was in dire need of help.
I walked alone for quite some time through the barren desert on a narrow foot path, winding my way through cactus, up hills and down valleys. Eventually, I got maybe halfway to my destination and approached a large sand dune. As I climbed to the top I looked at the horizon in front of me and was overwhelmingly shocked. The landscape had changed into the most stunningly beautiful scene on earth. It literally took my breath away!! I saw trees, flowers, a waterfall, hills, a stream and plants that were colors that do not exist on earth. The magnificence of the scene was beyond words. The indescribable beauty sent a rush of exhilaration through my being. I felt a wave of the presence of the Lord go through me that instantly refreshed me physically and filled me with the joy of the Lord. I wondered to myself, “How did I end up in this beautiful place?”
I then remembered the group that stayed behind. I deeply wished they would have come with me. Like me, they didn’t want to leave their pleasant and comfortable setting to go through the wilderness. I wanted to go back and bring the others so they, too, could experience it. The clear, inward, authoritative voice of the Lord spoke “No. There is no time to go back.”
I knew that I MUST go forward to complete my mission. I also knew that none of the people who were part of the group would every see or experience what I was now enjoying. As I took my next step into the paradise before me the dream ended.
This experience was so real to me that when I woke up tears were streaming down my face. I was overcome with the beauty and presence of the Lord. A flood of revelation and Scriptures began to cascade over my soul. Here is what the Lord said to me.
I knew the moment I woke up that the tall man was the Lord Jesus Himself. The Holy Spirit then walked me back through the dream and explained it to me. All three groups of people (the group in the park, the single mother, and me) represented three different groups or types of believers. Each group is called to be the Lord’s bride. But we must pass the Lord’s test.
He said that the single mother who is desperately in need and stranded in the wilderness is part of His body who is called to be His bride (this includes those who are yet to be saved).
The group that did not volunteer to go help also represents a part of His body. These are saints who are “blessed and comfortable together” but are still unwilling to die for the Lord. Our unwillingness to sacrifice for the Lord will keep us in a state of immaturity and greatly limit our experience of Him thus diminishing our effectiveness in His kingdom.
If we will say “yes” to the call of God to be a “living sacrifice” out of love; if we take up our cross to follow Him, (even for the sake of blessing those in desperate need) we will be surprised to find out that the journey we thought was going to be a long, barren desert actually becomes the most beautiful, breathtaking journey imaginable.
The paradise is a picture of the “fullness of Christ” that we can experience in this life. It was like heaven on earth. We can move from a very ordinary, plain existence to a heavenly realm that is beyond description.
The Holy Spirit then brought these Scripture verses:
But as it is written “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”. 1Corinthians 2:9
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1John 3:16
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor”. John 12:24-26
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1
8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
11 This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. 2 Timothy 2:8-12
The Lord whispered in my heart: “I have arranged tests that will separate My bride unto Myself. I have allowed situations that will test the true love of My people. My bride will follow in My steps, and lay down her life for Me and for My sheep. I will surprise those who take up their cross, denying self, to follow Me. What they thought would be a bleak desert will turn into Paradise, even here on earth, as they are given greater access to Me and My Kingdom.
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
Shekinah Worship Center