“…your God is testing you…” Deuteronomy 13:3
These words, spoken to Moses on the mountain top, were given to teach the nation Israel how to discern between true and false prophets. It seems we humans are easily ‘schnookered’ into believing someone or something to be genuine or true, when it is actually a fake: a confederate, a charlatan, a counterfeit, etc. It is at that time when one feels ‘bamboozled’ and made to look the fool. It’s a tough morsel to swallow… eating crow is no fun.
Why would God want to test us anyway? He desires for each of us to reflect the righteousness of His Kingdom through our love for His Word and by embracing His Way. It’s oftentimes not the popular way, though it is the more blessed way. He desires for each of us to worship Him alone, not the idols of this world. Some of us are more fanatic about a professional sports team, a professional entertainer, or even our own possessions than we are about ascribing glory and honor to God’s name in worship.
What consumes our greatest attention, energies, time, and resources? What do we boast about most often? The answer to those two questions, if different from the Lord Jesus Christ, may reflect one’s own personal idol… even if the answer is family. (Jesus taught this precept in Luke 14:27, when teaching his disciples to take up a cross and follow Him.
A sermon I once heard by a Rev. Dale Sealy once described God’s tests as having three characteristics: each test is personal, each test is a pop test, and each test is graded on a pass-fail basis. Tests are opportunities given by God to demonstrate one’s ‘followship’ of His Way or one’s rejection of it, and thus the rejection of His truth for our lives found in His Word.
Every test is personal. God is a personal God: He is not some phantom of one’s imagination; neither is He some impersonal angry being seeking to make life difficult for all. The Bible teaches us that God is love (I John 4:8) and the calling card of those who follow Christ is the character of love. The apostle Paul taught that love was the chief of everything we could ever experience on earth: “…the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13). Just as some of the best love stories in history reflect a test or multiple tests which demonstrate the couple’s enduring love, so God tests each of us out of His love for us.
Every test we face is also a pop test: we never know when it will come upon us. I never liked pop tests in high school or college. I became very anxious at the thought of failing… sometimes because I was keenly aware of being woefully unprepared for the material of the day. Moses demonstrated his own opinions of such when God called to him from the burning bush. (Read the excuses Moses gave to God in Exodus chapters 3 and 4) God provides His Word for us to be prepared for the uncertainty of this life and to direct our hearts to His unchanging love. His pop tests may be reminders for His children to be students of His Word – the guidebook for those lost and who can’t find their way; the love letter for the broken hearted; the book of promises for those who have seen nothing but broken promises.
God’s test’s aren’t graded on a curve. God’s tests are given for each of us to know immediately if we passed or failed. There is no dread of waiting for the test results. There is no confusion for wondering one’s next steps. The Bible is full of examples about those who either passed or failed God’s ‘pass-fail’ tests (which were also personal and pop tests), allowing that one to understand his own weakness or strength in the dynamic of the moment:
- Sampson knew where his strength originated, yet realized he failed God when he awoke in chains with his eyes pierced out. (Read Judges 13-16 for the entire story)
- Joseph realized at an early age that God had a magnificent plan for his life, yet he was painfully aware of his failure to love and serve his brothers as a youth. (Read Genesis 37:1 – 44:9 for the entire story)
- David’s confidence grew as he understood his strengths in battle after defeating the lion, the bear, and even the giant – Goliath, only to realize the consequence of his sin at arranging the death of one of his best generals while he slept with the man’s wife. (Read 2 Samuel 11 – 12 for the entire story)
- The thief at the cross was able to agree with God concerning his sin, and discovered the joy of God’s love when Jesus promised him a quick reunion in paradise. (Read Luke 23:32-43 for the entire story)
What tests have you experienced lately? Do you recall times of testing in your life which perplexed you or brought you to a time of searching? Remember God’s promise through His Son, Jesus, when He said:
“I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
It’s been said that two things are certain in life: death and taxes. I would entertain a third certainty: life tests. Each one will be personal, pass-fail, and you will never know when it is coming… but you can be sure you are not immune to one coming your way. I guess that’s why I always loved the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared”. Being equipped both physically and mentally to face the unexpected is a spiritual precept found in today’s five understandable words: “…your God is testing you…”. The tests become moments to display one’s devotion and affection to God Who loved each of us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our place on a cruel cross – to pay the price of our sin. Jesus passed the test of total compliance to the Father’s will. The phrase immediately following today’s five simple words reveals God’s purpose for these tests: “…to see if you truly love Him with all your heart and soul.” The test goes full circle: it was given to us out of God’s love, so we, in turn, could demonstrate our love to Him.
The tests are important… for there is a reward that follows those who pass God’s tests of love. Paul echoed the words of Isaiah when he described the rewards to the church at Corinth:
“…eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, and neither has entered into the mind of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
In the gospel of John, chapter 21, Jesus posed a question to Peter three times, “…do you love me?” It could be said that each question was a mini pop-test, though the entire conversation was a test to determine the extent of Peter’s love for the Lord. The question rings true today…
Have you heard Him ask you recently?
steve (John 3:30)