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Load Tests

While meeting with a group of co-workers in Singapore, I looked out a seventh-story window and noticed a pile of huge, concrete blocks.

When I asked about it, a colleague gave me some background. He said that since Singapore is a city-state built on an island, it is a common practice to test the stability of the ground before building a multistory building. So we were looking at 500 tons of concrete blocks that were being used as a load test for the foundation of a planned high-rise.

Later, an ancient proverb came to mind. “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small” (Proverbs 24:10 NLT). Then I remembered the words of the apostle Paul who assured his readers that God would not give them more than they could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

While the proverb may sound like an insult, many have found comfort and courage in Paul’s assuring words. Others, however, have lived long enough to be confused and disillusioned by what he wrote. They ask important questions: Can’t even strong people meet their match in overwhelmingly difficult circumstances? And what about those who have lost their physical and emotional health while trying to care for the needs of others?

Even more important, why does Paul in a second letter say that while he and his co-workers cared for the churches in Asia, they experienced troubles that went far beyond their ability to endure (2 Corinthians 1:8)? Hadn’t he assured his readers that God would not give them more than they could bear?

Let’s take a closer look at what Paul meant by this assurance (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Paul writes these words while describing how the chosen and rescued nation of Israel had given into temptation and turned after other gods (10:1-13). Within weeks of their miraculous deliverance, the fathers and mothers of Israel began to wonder how they were going to protect their children in a hot, barren, dangerous wilderness.

In the 40 years that followed, those pressures and temptations kept showing up. The results were often disastrous.

Even though the Lord’s presence remained visibly with His people, most of the generation that experienced the miracle of the exodus became examples of what not to do. Under pressures that tempted them to complain, worry, and look for other gods, most of the generation that had walked through the Red Sea on dry ground died in rebellion.

So what was Paul’s point in telling the story? Was it just to say, as the proverb suggests, that their strength wasn’t great?

No, Paul goes on in verse 14 to show that he has something far more important in mind. Immediately after saying that God will not give us more than we can bear, but will with the temptation make a way of escape, he writes, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (10:14 NIV).

In other words, when the pressures of life reveal our weakness, when trouble shows that we aren’t up to the challenge, and when we find ourselves tempted to give up—when all of that happens—the Lord is still with us. Even when we are tempted to throw in the towel saying, “I didn’t sign up for this,” our God has not abandoned us.

As we learn from the mistakes of Israel—and the better example of Paul’s physical, emotional, and financial breakdowns—this is not the whole story. The more important part is in the discovery that at the end of ourselves, we come to a fork in the road. Broken and shattered, we can either turn after other gods or wait for our God to show Himself faithful.

Having discovered why God sometimes allows us to collapse, the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed . . . , and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT).

So when Paul writes that God will not subject us to pressures we are not able to bear, he isn’t promising that we won’t feel as if we cannot go on in our own strength. He’s reminding us that when we discover that our own strength is small, the God who made us for Himself can enable us to resist the temptation to go looking for another god.

Father in heaven, thank You for Your patience with us. You have given us every reason to believe that at the end of our own strength, You are waiting to show Yourself faithful. —Mart DeHaan


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16 Responses to “Load Tests”

  1. carolynb says:

    Wonderfully deeper insights into a passage that can leave the reader who is going through something that appears to be overwhelming feeling hopeless and helpless. Your commentary reminds us that no matter how hot the “fires of our particular furnace” are, God is always the “other Man” in there with us. He never promised that we would never have another problem or hard time when we joined His army. Soldiers sign up for war! Jesus was straight forward when He said, if you choose to follow Me you shall have, not you might have, tribulations. But, He commands us to cheer up and take heart because He is with us through every fire! He says to us “I overcame” and “if you remain in Me,” you too will overcome.

  2. pneumatika says:

    Mart,
    I think this devotional would fit nicely in the next ODB Military edition.

  3. theswafferone says:

    As always wonderful insight and something to chew on for the day or as long as it takes. Thank you for your stead-
    fast devotion to the Lord and His Word.

  4. chgogirl says:

    Thank you for the clarification. I have struggled over that verse (1 Corinthians 10:13) and often felt it added an additional burden during difficult times. If I am understanding you correctly you are saying that the victory over temptation is continuing to look to the Lord in faith during times of intolerable suffering. The suffering is still hideous and unbearable, but He gives us the grace, the ability, to believe in Him and not look elsewhere.

  5. richardsax says:

    Dear Mart, thank you so much for this insiteful article on the testing of out faith in difficult times. You have no idea what a blessing this has been to me on this particular day. At this time my wife & I are going to difficult times, one of them being the loss of a young niece to drug & alcohol abuse. She left 4 children behind. But it is at times like this that I can say, as Paul did, “when I am weak (through Him) I am strong”. Blessings.

  6. narrowpathseeker says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed this message and how God made sure I would get it. Just yesterday I deleted this site from my bookmark list. Although there are often profound and uplifting messages I find some quite transparent and thus discouraging which pretty much defeated the purpose of coming here. My load has been heavy and I didn’t need any additional baggage to carry. I don’t usually get emails for new commentaries, but this morning I did! Not only did I need to hear it, but I am even more encouraged that God used someone to alert me as I had no intention of logging on. I wasn’t sure I could take anymore, but now I have once again been strengthened. Thank You

  7. poohpity says:

    In Singapore they purposely placed the heavy load to test the area but in life it just happens and we get heart attacks and strokes when we try and carry the load on our own. Thank you for the reminder we were never built to carry it alone, there is help in our times of trouble. Other people will always let us down in some way or another but God will never let us down and is totally willing to share our load even when we can not ask and see His hand, we can trust His heart.

  8. handmaiden says:

    After reading your piece, I am reminded of how much load I have to carry, and that my Lord Jesus said I should take his yoke, for it is easier and lighter. Yet the narrow path seems so hard from time to time, because my “want to” hasn’t changed over to “His want to”. Thanks for the reminder, that my God is faithful (even when I am tempted to be faithless…).

  9. dependent says:

    1Cor 10:13b
    “… but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

    Interesting juxtaposition of ‘escape’ and ‘endure’ as Paul describes God’s provision during temptation.

    I suppose I normally associate these terms as “either-or” instead of “both-and”.

    That is, I naturally want to escape that situation which tests my endurance. I long for God to manifest himself as Deliverer of my soul more than I tend to seek him as Perfecter of my faith during those hard times (James 1:2). I honestly don’t find myself ‘glorying’ in my tribulations because they produce perseverance and character and hope (Romans 5:3-4).

    Paul enjoyed some miraculous escapes from some pretty serious threats to his well-being. But he also found himself enduring and suffering through some very long-term seasons of adversity and trials.

    Are we to simply be content during these seasons–in the hope for that eventual, ultimate escape from the bonds of these natural bodies? [More crudely put: suffer, endure and hope until we die?]

    Are we to trust and look for a more immediate ‘way of escape’ and bypass all the promised benefits of patience, endurance, etc?

    Personally I often hang on to Psalm 73:26. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

    I am grateful that he knows my frame, remembers that I am but dust. (Psalm 103:14)

  10. poohpity says:

    It seemed that the tendency of the Israelites was grumbling, complaining and wanting what they did not have. I do not remember them asking when they tired of the Bread from Heaven that was provided daily for meat but complained. They had shade of the cloud during the day and fire for warmth at night as well as guidance always from God yet wanted a king as the nations around them had. They had been freed from slavery and oppression of the worst kind yet they desired to return. The temptation we all face is to grumble and complain and that keeps us from looking beyond the trials and suffering to ways out or to be thankful for what is right in front of our eyes.

    I believe we have freedom to ask for help through our tough times that may be, respite help, counseling, or another way of doing things that is different than what we always have done, asking someone to come in and help. The temptation to be pride filled when we could ask for help seems to allude us in the midst of the storms. Having to be taken to a point where our strength is zapped from us is a very hard lesson but because of hardedness we rely on our selves rather than asking for help. In God providing a way out may mean we have to ask for someone to come in.

  11. Siluvainathan says:

    Ya that is true. Load Tests lead us towards Him. Thank you very much for such a wonderful article.

  12. jlujan69 says:

    I’ve always understood 1 Cor. 10:13 to mean that the reality is that whatever God allows us to be tempted with, we CAN in fact bear, but sometimes we don’t pass the test. To me, Paul’s explaining the reality of the situation of our trials from Heaven’s perspective, not on how we feel at the time. Whether we stand or collapse during our toughest trials isn’t the point. The central question is does the tough trial result in a stronger view of God or a weakened one.

  13. foreverblessed says:

    How do you get to this post, only when someone makes a comment here, i can see it on the list of recent comments, but otherwise I so not know how you can get here.
    This is an awesome article, thank you very much for posting this Mart, when I read this I was so encouraged, it happened in my heart, a gladness I cannot explain: this is good for us, God is with us always, even if we despair for our lives.

  14. poohpity says:

    foreverblessed, these articles come out once at the beginning of the month also in ODB that is delivered to our homes. On the left hand side where the comment guidelines are there is after “Home” a section called “Articles” that is where they are found. :-)

  15. poohpity says:

    Plus you can get on an email list to have it come to your email or on facebook.

  16. oct0840 says:

    Mart, What a blessing it was to read “Load Tests early in June! My Mom at 96 yrs. of age, is in a nursing facility. Over the past two months she has developed increasing Dementia…in fact, she has been on Hospice for over a month. She has gone from an energetic Mom who had a great vocabulary, worked crossword puzzles, and always read the morning paper, to a person with very limited language and no desire to do any of the former things. On top of that, I have been sick for a month (but getting better)and haven’t been able to visit her as of late. However, when I read “Load Tests”, it encouraged my heart! When we “take our burdens to the Lord, and leave them there”, He always lifts our spirits! Some of my favorite Scriptures are: Isaiah 40:28-31, Isaiah 41:10,13 Isaih 43:1-3a God’s blessings on you and your ministry! Keep those sending those encouraging articles. (BTW, I accepted Christ as my personel Savior when I was about 9 years old, in a Test Revival, in Texas!! God’s Blessings.

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