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Does God Test Us?

I've been thinking recently about the idea that God tests us. It has been an interesting year and it has stretched Marie and I in ways that we would not have imagined just a year ago.

Some of these areas of stretching could be interpreted as tests. Now some might think a test from God comes as a judgment or punishment, but I don’t think that is the case and it's certainly not what I'm talking about here.

So, what does scripture say about testing?

We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:4

So God “tests our hearts.” Does he not already know what’s in my heart? James talks about it almost like it’s a workout… building something up to make you stronger.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ~ James 1:2–4

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ~ James 1:12

It seems, then, that the goal of God’s testing is not for God’s benefit but for ours. Testing is not to show God something about us but it is to show us something about God.

Testing is not to show God something about us but it is to show us something about God.

That makes sense since I already know God knows my heart and God knows how I will respond in a given situation better than I do. So, it doesn't surprise me that he would give us situations that are designed to show us how we're doing and where we still need continued focus.

This story in Matthew comes to mind.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” ~ Matthew 8:23–27

This was without question a test from the Lord. There was a situation that He was already fully in control of and understood exactly how it was going to transpire. So, this was not for Jesus to get a bead on how His disciples were doing. This was about letting the disciples see how they were doing. He used this as an educational moment to be able to instruct them and to demonstrate to them that they had not yet fully grasped the lessons that He was teaching.

That's sobering. I find myself in the last year feeling like I'm in almost the exact same position those disciples on the lake were in. There are things that the Lord has been teaching us.

From the start, there have been lessons that he had for us to learn, and I have found that many of the circumstances that we have encountered were not so much "problems" as they were mirrors. And the mirrors were not always flattering.

God has tested our ability to trust him for our Provision.

We have walked this challenge before, and I thought we had learned what we needed to learn and had graduated to deeper and more important things. But we just moved on to the next grade level. It's not enough anymore to trust that God will supply all our needs… now we are challenged to KNOW it is already supplied and to order our thoughts and actions accordingly.

God has tested our ability to trust him with our Vision and our Purpose.

Occasionally opportunities or circumstances will present themselves as logical and wise alternatives to the path we have felt the Lord lead us on. This one has not been as difficult to navigate, but it is amazing how often it corresponds to a test in the provision arena. I'm reminded of the serpent's question to Eve, "Did God really say?"

God has tested our ability to trust him with our Ministry.

When we go into an environment where we are expected to “Do The Stuff” as Wimber used to say… to go demonstrate supernatural ministry… there is almost always a moment in there where the thought comes, “What if nothing happens?” We know we can’t make something happen and I’ve never been terribly concerned about it while in our local church environment but going to someone else’s church with their expectations has challenged us to lean into who God is with a deeper certainty and confidence.

God has tested our ability to trust him with our Reputation.

I think this has surprised me the most. I have found myself on occasion concerned about what people thought or said about the decisions we have made and the direction we have chosen. There have been a handful of encounters where I would hear or, more likely, just perceive out of some insecurity, someone respond to our story by saying “that is crazy.” “That’s a terrible investment.” “That seems really reckless.” “You guys should be doing this thing or that thing differently.” To be very certain, most people we have shared our story with have been super supportive. They have said we inspire them, they are encouraged, challenged, etc., so this is absolutely about me and my identity… not about anyone else. I’ve had to renew my mind more regularly on my identity in Christ.

These tests are not to bring guilt or shame. They are not to bring judgment or discipline. They are simply to let us hold a mirror up to ourselves to see where there is room to grow. I don’t even think God is going to force us to change…. but it is clear that as we accept His invitation to bring these things to Him that our peace, joy, and contentment will be more complete as we grow into maturity in these areas.

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