There is a story about a little boy who complained bitterly because his schoolteacher always gave the class a surprise test every Friday. Now, if this surprise came every Friday, how was it a surprise? We likewise should not be surprised that our Heavenly Father gives us tests throughout our lifetime. It not only happens regularly, but we are told that it will happen: “The Lord corrects the ones he loves and disciplines those he calls his own.” We have the comfort of knowing that He does it for our ultimate benefit.
Words like “trials”, “temptations”, “refining”, and “testing” occur hundreds of times in the Bible. We read that God tested Abraham by asking him to offer up his son, Isaac. God tested Jacob when he had to work an additional seven years for Rachel. God tested Joseph very severely with Potiphar’s wife and the resulting prison sentence, and he came through with flying colors.
Not everyone in the Scriptures passes every test. The Bible is full of examples of what people did, written for our admonition. Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden; Cain also failed; David failed some of his tests; and Jonah failed, learned, and then succeeded. We have examples of many faithful passing their tests brilliantly, such as Ruth, Esther, and Daniel and other prophets.
Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is actually a test. We are always being tested. God watches our response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather. Do not be surprised by the testing that God gives us because He does it for our good, to develop our righteousness. Thankfully, He has promised never to test us beyond our ability to bear it. If we are having a tough time, we can be confident that not only does God know about it, but that He knows that we are capable of handling the challenge with His help, because otherwise it would not be happening. We learn to trust our God, to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us.
God often helps us to get started on the right way with support from spiritual guides. King Saul had Samuel, King Joram had Jehoida the priest, and many people have godly parents or teachers. But then, God may want to know what kind of decisions we will make independently. Both kings failed without the guidance of their advisers. Even a godly king like Hezekiah, who had enjoyed a close fellowship with God, was left alone at a crucial point in his life to test his character, which revealed a weakness. We are told, “When envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” Unfortunately, Hezekiah proudly showed off all his treasures.
When we understand that life is a test, then we come to realize that nothing in our life is insignificant. Every happening should be viewed with the understand-ing that God is testing us. The aggressive driver, the rude teenager, the ordinary distractions of life all give us opportunities to choose to react in a godly or ungodly manner.
Making right choices does not guarantee a problem-free life. God wanted Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and Nehemiah was willing to dedicate himself to the task. Yet God allowed Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem to oppose the good that God wanted done. The unrelenting opposition tested the resolve of Nehemiah and all the others who had to struggle to do the work in a time of trouble.
God allows adversaries to challenge us to see how we react to the test. We must overcome, as Jesus tells us, and every test we face is an opportunity to overcome and jump over a hurdle in the way of life that we are taking to the Kingdom.
Imagine a high hurdler getting ready to run a race in the Olympics and discovering that the organizers had forgotten to put up the hurdles in his lane. The athlete would ask for the race to be delayed until the hurdles could be set up, because without the hurdles he could not win. We need to take a positive attitude towards the hurdles that God has placed on our path on the race for the Kingdom. They are there for us to overcome, and we cannot overcome without something there to overcome. God wants us to learn to depend on Him, to seek Him for help in overcoming, and we learn this lesson from trials, the hurdles in our life. Fortunately God will never try us beyond that which we are able to bear. We can jump over whatever hurdles we find in our path because otherwise the Father would not have allowed them to be there.
When we are tried, we should not be surprised but rejoice that God loves us and gives us these tests to fulfill His promise: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
Robert J. Lloyd