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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!

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