I Hate Tests
Is God so insecure or man so fickle that He must continually test man's faithfulness? Knowing the outcome, what pleasure does God receive from the continual testing of His children's faith? What perverted sense of self-loathing has the believer stooped to conclude that suffering and pain "has a purpose"? My devotional reading today consisted of this passage,
"They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord." Judges 2
This was the cycle: Joshua didn't chase out the inhabitants in the land, a generation rose up who didn't know the Lord and abandoned God for other gods, God gave them over to be plundered by their new neighbors, Israel finally cried out to God who then rescued them through a judge, as long as the judge lived Israel followed God, when the judge died so did Israel's faithfulness, repeat. Each successive generation had their faith tested, and they always failed. I think it was the futility of Israel's faith that drove Solomon to write,
"I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts." Ecc. 3:18
Tests are an educational device that reveals a student's understanding of a prescribed set of precepts. What did God's test reveal? Left to himself, man's sinful nature will always reject God. How many times did Israel need to be tested before God got his point across? The answer, every generation, and he is still testing. Look at these verses,
- "They believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away." Luke 8:13
- "That by testing you may discern what is the will of God." Romans 12:2
- “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness." Hebrews 3:8
- "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2,3
Maybe it's just me and my test anxiety. I go to chemical plants and have to watch their safety videos and take a short test (while watching the video) to see if I was paying attention. I stress over them because what if I fail? I have a doctorate, can you imagine how many tests I have had to fret over? Now the Bible tells me that life is testing me, Satan is testing me, and God is testing me. The Luke and Hebrews passage seem to talk about believers who fail the test, while James says a positive outcome is a reason for joy. I guess what doesn't kill you will make you stronger, AHHHH!
In education the real value of a test is not the revelation of what you know, but what you don't know. It allows both teacher and student to focus on the right areas in order to improve. Our educational system is so dysfunctional that tests are used to weed out the smart and the dumb, and reward good test takers and punish failures. Every good teacher hates our testing system.
So, is God's test pass or fail? No, because we all fail, we all miss the mark. That is the purpose of God's test, to reveal that we need Him. Our constant bent to believe that we are sufficient apart from God results in further testing. Maybe I go through so much testing because without it I would have the tendency to abandon God in the little things. I need to use the tests to see where I am weak and where I start to turn away from faith.
The big test has been taken and passed by Jesus. He was obedient unto death and still paid the penalty of my failure so that I wouldn't have to. That was the only pass/fail test that mattered and Jesus aced it. The tests that I go through reveal weakness in my character, places where temptation is strong, disciplines that have been forgotten, and relationships that need to be repaired.
I still don't like tests, but I am glad that I have a loving test giver who has and does rescue me in failure, teaches me through my mistakes, and passes me on the basis of His Son. Now grab your number 2 pencil and color in the right bubble. I'm just saying.