‘Testing will surely come’ ~ Ezekiel 21:13
‘I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold’ ~ Zechariah 13:9
Life is a test, and within it are series of tests. Just like a litmus test is used to figure if something is acidic or basic, tests in life produce only two outcomes. However, to understand the outcome of the tests, we must understand the Tester and the reason for His testing. Solomon writes, ‘As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so does the other’ (Ecclesiastes 3:18-19). If the fate of all men is death, then life is the soluble mixture of our experiences where we, litmus papers, are dipped by God for testing. As we journey through life, some tests are subtle while others are apparent, and so it is only God who judges the outcome, ‘For who can bring him (mankind) to see what will happen after him?’ (v22). When God tests, He only declares two outcomes; ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23) or ‘you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting’ (Daniel 5:27).
Whatever the form, format, or unit that God uses in our tests, He is only concerned with taking note of two things; our faith in Him and our faithfulness to Him. Peter writes, ‘Though for a while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. So that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:6-7). When Jesus beckoned to this same Peter to defy scientific laws so that he ‘walked on water and came towards Jesus’ (Matthew 14:29), Peter probably thought he would do it just for fun, or just to see. Little did he know that even in that situation, Jesus was testing him. Jesus was measuring something vital and so when Peter ‘saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’’(v30). Jesus response simply was, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’(v31). At that time, the test showed little faith, and Peter was found wanting. Likewise, our life is not just for living or for just going with the flow in our experiences.
In every conduct of our lives, God is only interested in two things- our level of faith and faithfulness to Him because, ‘without faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6). That is why Jesus would say, ‘your faith has healed you’ to ‘a woman subject to bleeding for twelve years’ (Mark 5:34), to ‘a blind man, Bartimaeus’ (10:v52), and a man healed of leprosy (Luke 17:19). To a sinful woman, Jesus said, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (7:v50). These people were facing prolonged trials, fateful even, because they were in tests of adversities that never seem to lift. It is through them we see that faithfulness also interlocks with faith in that, ‘anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Those who believed in Jesus approached Him in faith that He exists and is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek him. Their healing and forgiveness of sins was thus their reward.
Sometimes though, our reward is not earthly. Of the great men and women of faith, Paul observes, ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect’ (11:v39-40). Therefore, faith through testing not only rewards but also qualifies. For if we cannot please God, we cannot be qualified to be in His presence. Therefore, He ensures our faith is refined so that, ‘To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints’ (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Not wanting anyone to miss out on this glorious eternal gift, God uses tests to ‘perfect that which is lacking in your faith’ (v10). So throughout life, God tests us and takes note of the;
Responses we make: Sometimes when trouble hits us, they seem like storms in our lives, but in reality, they are just tests. When a woman told Jesus that her ‘daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’ (Matthew 15:22), ‘Jesus did not answer a word’ (v23). Likewise, when we make our request to God and He does not immediately say a word, it is not that He is unbothered, but could be that He is testing our faith. Because true faith recognizes God’s sovereignty and man’s frailty. Jesus eventually tells the woman that, ‘It is not right to take children’s bread and toss it to their dogs’ (v26). The woman then responds, ‘Yes, Lord but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table’ (v27). Even when things did not go her way, the woman still recognized Jesus as Lord and Master. She also acknowledged her frailaity comparing it to that of an animal, and acknowledged God’s mercies irregardless of the crumbs He sent- because no one is deserving to eat at the Master’s table in the first place. In hearing her response, Jesus tested and gauged her response and eventually said, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’ (v28).
Instructions we take: Other times, God gives us explicit and clear instructions to follow in order to test our faith. ‘Some time later God tested Abraham . . . God said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’ (Genesis 22:1,2). When Abraham followed the instruction and ‘took the knife to slay his son’ (v10), the angel of the Lord stopped him and said, ‘Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’ (v12).
When God asks us to give up something dear, it is not that He is in need of it, but is rather testing our faith. When He sees our faith and complete obedience to His instructions, He restores and multiplies. To Abraham, God says, ‘I swear by myself . . . I will sure bless you and make your descendants as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. . . and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you obeyed me’ (v16,17,18). Abraham’s faith was found in good measure when tested based on the seemingly unfavourable instructions he followed. ‘By faith Abraham, when God tested him offered Isaac as a sacrifice . . . Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead’ (Hebrews 11:17,19).
Sins we tolerate: Although God does not bring sin into our lives to test us, temptations arise from the lust of our flesh or by the devil’s cunning devices. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts any man; But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James 1:13-14). Irregardless, how we respond when temptations cross our way directly correlates with our faith. Being tempted is not sin, but giving in to temptation is sin. So God tests our faith by the sins we tolerate in our lives. He says, ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?’ (Jeremiah 9:7). When we continually tolerate sin in our lives, God sees us as, ‘hardened rebels . . . the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out’ (6:v28,29). So God says, ‘I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another’ (Isaiah 48:10-11).
Choices we make: ‘Are you still holding your integrity? Curse God and die!’ (Job 2:9). Job facing loss and anguish is presented with two choices. His wife urges him to let go of his integrity, his faith in God, and curse Him so he can die- so that his troubles can come to an ‘end’. How far one is willing to go to rid off their misfortune is a measure of their faith and faithfulness to God. In life, we are presented with choices. Some take the wide road contrary to God’s will in order to become rich, famous, admired, comfortable, or ‘happy’. Our choices reflect our faith in God and our readiness, or lack thereof, in the Kingdom class. Job replies, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? In all this, Job did not sin in what he said’ (v10). Job knew his adversities were a test and that the choice he made would not only determine his outcome, but his perception of God. He eventually says of God, ‘But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold’ (23:v10).
‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart’ ~ Proverbs 17:3