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Testing 1-2-3

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. —Proverbs 17:3

Perhaps nothing produces a greater groan among students than these six words: “We’re going to have a test.” For many, this means study time (or avoiding it) and the prospect of missing their mark yet again. Moreover, for the “fixed mindsets”1 among us, tests results are self-defining, our very identity hinging on peer comparisons. But here is what we overlook when focusing only on our rigors and our errors: tests reveal and affirm what we do know and what we are doing well. IT teams test constantly to find glitches, yes, but also to verify what is functioning as it should. Engineers and manufacturers test routinely, both to assure customer safety and to improve it. Lab results pinpoint real problems and rule out mere possibilities. Tests reveal both progress and potential.

Then should we be surprised that God tests us? After all, isn’t our eternal soul more important than computer programs, consumer products and clinical prognoses that vanish over time? Marveled Job before God, “What is man that You magnify him, and that You are concerned about him, that You examine him every morning and try him every moment?”2 Even in his affliction—and perhaps especially so—this man of legendary suffering understood that tests are ultimately for our good and our glory. “How so?” we ask. First, testing grows us up. “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”3 Second, the more we suffer as Christ did, the more closely we relate with Him—we “participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that [we] may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”4 Then as we press on through life’s challenges, our tests yield their intended result, for “blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”5

What temptations once snared you, but not so much any longer? I’m guessing there are some. Have you come to trust God more and doubt Him less as you navigated life’s trials with Him? I’ll bet you have. Whether God initiates tests or merely allows them, they serve His purposes and work for our good, for tests reveal our progress and lead us toward our potential, both displaying His handiwork in our lives. Thank God for tests.

Search me, 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.7 In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 See more on “fixed” and “growth” mindsets in last week’s post: “The Mindset of Christ.”
2 Job 7:17-18 ESV
3 James 1:2-4
4 1 Peter 4:12-13
5 James 1:12
6 Psalm 139:23-24

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Loud and Clear

“Can you hear me now?” It was the “the Verizon guy’s” advertising tagline as he crisscrossed the country to test the company’s network coverage. Seemingly every square yard or so, he would stop and ask his unseen correspondent if he could be heard. Verizon at the time could not engage in a price war with its more well-heeled competitors, so it devoted itself to connectivity and launched this highly successful ad campaign. Its market share took off and the telecommunications conglomerate soared.

There are moments and seasons in life when we are the ones being tested and tried. At times, it seems our signal with God is weak, or that we have lost connection altogether. “Hello? Hello? You’re breaking up!” or so it seems to us. We question our faith; we question God’s faithfulness. We feel out of touch, and we despair. “Can you hear me now, God? I can’t hear you. Please don’t hang up.” In these times, however, God truly is with us and very much at work in us, using the challenges of a fallen world to test our faith and commanding them ultimately to work for our own good. For testing reveals that which is going well and exposes that which is not; trials show us where we are safe and alert us to where we are exposed. Then with clearer understanding, we savor God’s correction, embrace His ways and seek His guidance. As King David penned to lyrics: “Search me, 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.”1

It was James, the brother of Jesus, who instructed the early church, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”2 The apostle went on to add, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”3 God never neglects us in our testing or abandons us in our trials; He sees us through them and ultimately removes us from them—stronger, wiser, humbler. Our spirits soar. “Can you hear me now?” “Yes, Lord, we hear you, loud and clear. Thank You.”

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. —Psalm 66:10

Father, hard lessons are the best lessons, the ones that stick. So we thank You for testing and trials; though they are never fun, they are always helpful and, in the end, gratifying. So have Your way in us. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 139:23-24
2 James 1:2-4
3 James 1:12