Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Monday, August 22, 2011

God's Tests

Dr. Gary Roberts
Robertson School of Government

Exodus 20:20: “Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” NLT

As an educator and a life-long learner, I am very comfortable with the notion that our time on earth consists of a series of “tests.” We are simultaneously “cramming” and taking exams of one sort or another every day of our temporal existence. There are numerous biblical references to testing in the bible, and the “life is as a series of tests” metaphor instills a variety of emotions depending on our own personality, life experiences, and understanding of the nature and attributes of God. For those wracked by text anxiety and the fear of judgment or failure, this concept is frightening given the identity of the “teacher” and the predicted dire consequences. Conversely, for those who relish life’s final exams and take great pleasure from the adrenaline rush, the prideful bravado instills a sense of false confidence that produces a spiritual recklessness.

There is a Godly middle ground that I am beginning to grasp but having great difficulty putting into practice. The greatest danger is for us to use our own wisdom and reasoning and select the tests. It is analogous to having the students write the exam questions based upon imperfect knowledge, limited experience, and scope of understanding. Scripture states in Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” If I can accomplish this task such as complete my tithe, forgive someone once at work, read my bible everyday for 30 minutes, I am “okay” and passed the test. These types of tests can become a form of “sacrifice” that temporarily assuages our conscience, but does not address the root sin issues.

From a Godly perspective, tests are not about performance, but about obedience, trust and character development. I am not “okay” and set free for what I do or for how many self developed tests I pass with high grades. Liberty springs from humbly taking the daily tests that the Lord provides through ongoing life circumstances, those “dying to the self” moments that validates our willingness to obey the Lord. The tests that we create are “fixed” to feed our egos. They are means to self medicate and anesthetize the pain and avoid facing the true root cause of our problems.

I pray for the Lord’s strength and courage to starve and abandon my works based tests, and feed the love and fellowship based obedience exams while rejecting the self protective tests that our conscious recognizes as inadequate in solving problem. When we develop our own tests, we define success and failure and attempt to predict and control the consequences. All such attempts are vanity and usurp God’s power and wisdom. Satan manipulates our self tests, as man judges on appearance, but only God tests the secret innermost motives of our heart as Samuel learned when God selected David over his more “Kingly” brothers (1 Samuel 16:7).

We commit the same errors, both in assessing ourselves and others, we grade and judge the inner man in a superficial manner. When we write the exam, develop the answer key, and set the grading standards, this deflects us from God’s will and purpose as we confuse the best from good and make mountains out of molehills (and vice a versa). God’s test produces Godly wisdom and learning, our tests generate confusion. I can practice, but only God tests. God grades and evaluates using His standards which is always based on love and promoting our best interests. Truly we grow in faith when we test ourselves according to God’s principles. One of the most comforting aspects is that there is a test within the test. Even if we fail, if we embrace Godly sorrow, seek and apply His grace and forgiveness, and try again, we have passed a very important examination, that of learning to fail with grace as we “fall forward”. To God be the glory!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Answering the Call

Justin Murff
Admissions Recruiter, Robertson School of Government

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

The beginning of the semester brings a sense of newness, excitement, and a healthy dose of trepidation for others. Beginning a graduate degree is challenging enough, but starting a graduate education at Regent University includes the preparation to answer the unique calling that God has on our lives. Stretching beyond the mere academic rigor of the normal grad school experience, Regent students are called to prepare for the fulfillment of their role in God’s plan for the nations through the integration of faith and learning. The Apostle Paul teaches in his Epistle to the Romans that:

"There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good." Romans 13:1-4

Many scholars would agree that this text refers to the governing authority as being God appointed. Oftentimes, people grumble about politicians and bureaucrats using the negative stereotypes that have become associated with those in leadership. But, one can often wonder if those leaders are just the second, third, or one hundredth choice in God’s economy. Many gripe and complain about the government and its leaders, but few rise to the occasion to make the bold declaration like Isaiah did when he cried out, “Here am I Lord, send me.” The Lord issues the calling; ultimately, it is our responsibility to answer the calling and step up and into the best plan that God has for our lives.

Answering the call to public service is not an easy task. It requires stewarding the awesome responsibility to govern and lead others. One key principle that must be learned is that the stewardship of leadership requires service above self. Answering the call to lead, govern, administrate, and serve our nations, our communities and those around us is not for the faint of heart. Alumni from RSG have served in positions from the White House to the City Hall and everywhere in between. When, we, as Christians serve others, love others, and diligently seek the Lord’s direction, it is no surprise that we find ourselves ministering in a unique arena that few are privileged to be called to. RSG students have the opportunity to walk the halls of government, intern in Congress, serve at numerous foundations, and glean knowledge from our professors every week who bring a wealth of personal experience that causes us to be acutely aware that as “God is doing a new thing” in our own lives.

As the semester wares on, take solace and comfort in the fact that it is the Lord who orders our steps, if we will only listen; for when we do, we can then begin to perceive the path that the Lord has for us. God may be calling you to be the next city council member, State Delegate, Governor, Congressman, Senator, or even President. Whatever you’re called to do, your journey begins here. Through diligent preparation, you will be used for His glory and that is the highest calling of all.