Only a Test

During my years of teaching, I gave numerous tests. Some of these tests checked basic understanding: listing verb tenses for a particular word, matching definitions to literary terms and labeling cellular structures on a diagram. But most of the tests pushed the students deeper. During any given unit, I would hammer the application of the knowledge in an effort to show the students how to use the information. Knowing the facts is necessary, but applying those ideas is the source of great power. “We teach you to think better,” I would say. It’s a noble idea, but one met often with yawns and rolled eyes.

Until test time…

After papers were distributed, and silence fell over the room save the scratching of pens, hands would rise and, with them, protests. “This question was not in the material,” one would say. Other students would agree loudly.

“Which question?” I would ask.

“This one. It says, ‘Using the concepts you learned in this unit, determine which of the following factors would best fit into the overall narrative of the decline of the Roman Empire and explain your reasoning.’ None of the factors you have listed were included in the notes.”

“True, but there is a related factor listed there, and if you understand the overall concept, it should jump out at you. I am not interested in teaching you to regurgitate information; I want you to learn to apply truth.”

This is why some grumbled about my classes. This is also why I grumble about God at times.

God is concerned about the application of truth during tests. He never gives a principle without an opportunity to practice it. This is a familiar scenario for many of us. You go before God, seek him, praying without ceasing, and he answers. A promise comes. He gives you a truth from scripture, and you cling to it. You hold in your heart the seed of hope. Your soul is comforted. Finally, you have heard from God. You know your next step. God seems so close to you.

But then, the test comes. Everything begins to change. The waiting begins. You thought that the fulfillment would be sooner, but time continues to plod along, and nothing seems to change. The seed of hope is buried, but by now there should be a sprout, right? You see nothing but empty ground, and for a long while, the only thing a seed sees is the dark. The light of revelation always meets the darkness of circumstance.

The testing has begun. And it is right about this time that I begin to protest. “This was not expected. God, why did you give this closeness, this intimacy, this great truth only to allow the emptiness, the distance and the pressure to come?”

The testing comes precisely because the truth is given. The trial of distance follows intimacy. The forge used to prove your faith can heat up quickly.

On the heels of Jesus’ baptism, and hearing God declare his unreserved favor upon his Son, there is an immediate test: the Holy Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness and Satan seizes the opportunity (Mark 1:10-12). In my life, it seems that the closer I grow to Christ, the sooner the trials arise after hearing God’s truth and deciding to obey.

As soon as you decide to follow Jesus in a area, an option for a seemingly easier route will be offered. When you make the choice to seek purity, the temptation for impurity will appear, and it will be fashioned specifically for you. Immediately upon hearing the truth, the attempt to undermine it has already been planned.

Satan will always offer you a shortcut. Always.

The test you face will serve as a crucible to burn away anything that is not true. Your dependence upon the sufficiency of God or your lack thereof will be seen clearly. The test will come; you can count on that. It will reveal the validity of what you regard as truth.

One step of faith will land you in the center of impossibility, but “impossible” means nothing to God.

Pray that…

As we wait, we would seek God’s will and follow him faithfully. – Psalm 25:3-5 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

We will trust that God will complete what he begins in his children and trust the goodness of his plan. –  Job 23:14 For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind.

We will remember that nothing is too difficult for God. – Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”

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