Tests in life are common. From childhood we have faced tests in examinations. But none of us have liked or welcomed the idea of facing tests. Yet they came at set times. The purpose of these tests was to find out how much we knew about what was taught. Most of us, in spite of having done well in tests, still have bad memories of the anxiety tests have created.
In Christian life too there are tests. They are sent by God. Often they come without warning. Quite naturally we are uncomfortable when the clouds do not allow the sunshine to come through. We wonder what’s the purpose behind all this? Is it because of sin in my life? If we discover sin then it is easy to accept what God sends our way saying, “It is because of my sin.” But when you’ve walked with God and held close to His commands and then unexpectedly tests come upon you; ah that is when it is difficult to accept the tests!
Job was a man who knew nothing about the drama in the heavens that had created the difficulties and tragedies in his life (when we read the Book of Job we should keep this fact in mind). At one point he despairs that he can’t find God even though he has searched hard for Him at the four corners of the earth. But then he finds comfort in the fact that God knows the way that he is travelling and “when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 NIV). His confidence is in the fact that he has closely followed God’s commands; not turning away from it, and treasured the words of God’s mouth more than his daily bread.
Job is confident that at the end of the test, like gold removed of its impurities, he will come out shining. Some tests in life are intended to be like that. James says that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:3). The author of Hebrews points to another aspect. He tells us that hardship is the school of discipline that God as our heavenly Father sends our way. These tests, though painful at the time, are for our good so that we will share in God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:7-13).
Some other tests come as a test of our obedience to God. Abraham was thus tested (Genesis 22:1, Hebrews 11:17). Abraham readily obeyed because of his unshakable faith in God. Also, God tested the Israelites at bitter waters of Marah (Exodus 15:25b); He tested them with instructions about gathering manna every day (Exodus 16:4). Both these tests are linked to listening to God’s voice and obeying Him.
One final thought on tests. God tests the motives of our heart. Often our motives are wrong, especially when asking in prayer (James 4:3). So, David in his last instructions warns his son Solomon that “the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9 NIV). It was in this manner that Hezekiah was tested by God when envoys came from Babylon. Then the Bible records, “God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31 NIV). This godly king failed in this test. Let it serve as a warning to you and me. So let us pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23 NIV).