I’m at the age where many people around me are turning eighty or have been in their eighties for a while now. In Ontario, once you turn eighty, you have to submit to a driver’s test in order to have your permit to drive renewed. For many in my life who have reached this milestone, as if realizing one is now eighty years old is not enough, the anxiety of having to go for a driver’s test after all these years is somewhat overwhelming. Now I have not been tested for driving for over 40 years. Imagine getting your license at 16 and then for 64 years of your life just hopping in the car and driving. And then all of a sudden, after 60 years of experience, someone is forcing you to get tested by someone whose parents were not even around when you were driving. The driver’s test for 80-year-olds and up has caused great angst for the people I know who are in that predicament. For many it is the first time they are forced to admit that their eyesight is not where it should be, their reaction time is not as quick as it used to be, and maybe for the safety of others on the road, it would be better to be retested before something serious happens. For most, the test is fairly simple, but for others it can be immobilizing as one works themselves into an anxious state of panic, at just the thought that they might not pass and lose their license. We all fear being evaluated! The thought of being “found wanting” could be a serious blow to our ego and self confidence. From the gruelling job interview to the aptitude test, to the eye test, and fitness test, and school test, and so on, life is filled with tests to prove where our deficiencies and strengths lie. The child of God, and follower of Jesus does not escape these tests either. Scripture is filled with passages and examples of God’s people being tested to see if their faith is genuine. Thankfully, the test does not come to revoke our license to drive on the King’s highway, but to demonstrate where we need to grow in our faith when the highway takes us into the unknown and downright scary. If the people in the Bible were not exempt from “the test”, why would we be?A confident David writes, “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin” (Psa. 17:3). And again boldly declares, “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Psa. 26:2). Do we welcome the tests of God or do we try to avoid them so that we will not be found lacking?
When God tests come, they should be a major blow to our self-confidence; for our confidence should be in God not self. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible for test have the idea of proving what is true, and the idea of refining to make more pure. God’s tests are good and life transforming! We have examples from Genesis to Revelation of people who have had to pass (or fail) incredible testing circumstances in order for faith to grow, maturity to take place, and confidence in God to be realized. One of the firsts is in Genesis 22 where God “tested” Abraham, by ordering him to sacrifice Isaac on a burning altar. Isaac was the very thing Abe had been waiting 25 years for – he was the child of promise through whom all of God’s promises would be realized! Was Abe willing to lay down everything for the Lord? We know the story…Abe never even flinched – his faith was proven to be genuine, so deep in fact that he even believed that if he went through with killing Isaac, that God would raise him from the dead to fulfill the promises He had made (Hebrews 11:17-19). OK; maybe that example was a little extreme – God would never test me by asking me to offer my child on the altar…would He?
What about the people of God wandering through the desert. God brought them on the brink of hunger and thirst to prove that He would provide; their lack of immediate gratification developed a faith in the provision of God (Ex. 15:25; 16:4). The Israelites 40 year journey was a walk of growing in faith, being repeatedly tested so they would learn to trust God and obey Him, rather than lean on their own ability. God’s tests come to kill self-reliance and develop God reliance (Please read Deuteronomy 8:1-3; 16). God continues to test His people even after they had entered the land of promise to learn that their strength and defense was God himself (Judges 3:1-4). According to Psalm 11, God is always testing, examining the righteous, looking for those who are upright, keeping His commandments, walking in His ways. This ought to humble us – that we are continually under the watchful eye of God who is looking for faithfulness. The Lord tests hearts; like a refining fire is He, purifying His children, growing them in faith (Prov. 17:3). Jeremiah knew this as he endured great persecution for following the Lord (Jer. 17:10; 20:12) and Daniel knew the testing of God as he refused to defile himself with the king’s food (Dan. 1:12-15) and bow to the idols of Babylon.
In the New Testament, we get an even greater picture of the testing of the follower of Jesus. Jesus is continually testing the faith of His disciples, whether by giving them an impossible task like feeding five thousand with meager rations or experiencing severe storms to see what they are made of and where their faith is. Paul speaks of the test of forgiving a sinning brother (2Cor. 2:9); the test of love by giving generously to those fellow believers in need (2 Cor. 8:8); testing those who want to serve in the church (1Tim. 3:10). James and Peter are quite clear that tests come to grow us in every possible way, producing a faith that is genuine and steadfast (James 1:2-4; 1Peter 1:6-7; 4:12-13). Jesus tells the church in Smyrna that their suffering is a test, which will lead to the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).
Friends, the conclusion is that testing is the will of God for us to purify our hearts and minds, so that we are more conformed to the image of Christ. Tests are a good thing not to prove any strength in ourselves, but to develop a deeper dependence on an all-powerful God. We can fear the test when it comes or welcome it for the purpose it will accomplish in our lives. Actually, Paul advises us to, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2Cor. 13:5). How often do we do that? Where do we need to grow? What area of our life needs to be more conformed to the image of Christ? In what way does our faith need to be strengthened? We have many examples in scripture of testings people experienced that grew them in their trust in the Lord. Next time the test comes, welcome it and receive it as a time to go deeper in the Lord to take you further down the King’s highway, where you have actually handed in your license and said, “Jesus take the wheel... I will walk by faith and let you lead me, no matter what lies ahead."