Testing in the Christian life

MforMarcus, Flickr

My son Fionn held up two toy cars. “Which one is faster?” he asked. I gave him my answer and he said, “No. Neither is faster. It depends on who is driving them.” Trick question. I confess to being a little irritated in that moment by this answer.

“Then why ask me which one?” I asked.

Oblivious to my irritation, Fionn answered with a question: “What’s the point of a test if you don’t learn something?”

That’s an interesting answer. We are used to thinking of tests as a way to measure what we already know, not to teach what we don’t yet understand. They are the means by which our teachers find out if we were paying attention in class.

So now think of this in relation to God’s testing. God is no school teacher issuing a spiritual scantron hoping to check our progress. He knows our progress already. Rather, we are the beneficiaries of the testing. We are tested to teach, not measure.

Notice the emphasis of James: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1.2-4).

Testing in our life isn’t to measure what’s already there. It’s to produce something additional to it. It’s to help us grow in Christ.

C.S. Lewis once said that if you think of the world as a place to make you happy, then you’ll be disappointed. Instead, he said, “think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

Fionn was exactly right: “What’s the point of a test if you don’t learn something?” We need to get more comfortable assuming the goodness of God. The trials and tests that we endure are there for our good.

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  • A test. An opportunity for learning. Humm. Very interesting. When I think of testing it usually involves a temptation. Do I fail or pass the temptation—loosing my temper, eating to excess, worrying too much? How am I doing? Where am I going wrong, where do need to improve and where should I work harder?

    But with your suggestion that I could be learning something, the “test” is taken to a whole new level. What can I learn? How can I grow? What can I learn about myself—what’s behind what I do? About others—what hurts are they reacting out of? My surroundings—what culture am I working with? The future— what opportunities exist right now? What does this situation make possible?

    Great stuff. Much food for thought.

    • Like Kinglsy says below, now just to do it. I pray that I think of my tests this way. I fear that my more natural reaction not to see it that way at all. My heart’s got a long way to go.

    • Tom Weber

      My morning Bible study elaborated on testing vs. temptation. “We know that God tempts no one (James 1:13). Rather, Satan is the tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Cor. 7:5). Yet God can use Satan’s temptation to test us; God redeems what Satan intended for evil and uses it to accomplish something good.”

      So yes, testing does usually involve temptation.

    • Judy Saxelby

      I like the questions you listed in regards to a test. If I stop and ask these questions and allow the Holy Spirit time to speak I might just learn something. Thank you.I wrote out the questions to save for future use.Judy
      PS I am a friend of the Millers and my son Matthew and Joel were best buds growing up.

  • Abby Lockett

    Great insight. So true.

    • Thanks, Abby! Or should I say thank your very wise nephew.

  • Great Post to read…but to practice its difficult for me…To count it all Joy….i find it hard…

    Thanks for the Post…it gives some new perspective..thanks to your son too 🙂

    • Kingsly, thanks for the note. Difficult for me, too. Lord have mercy on us both.

  • This really is a wonderful one. I can take all the encouragement.

  • God tries us with our trials so that we can truly be like Jesus. He is our Master and therefore we cannot expect to go without trials equal to our capacity to overcome with the help of the Savior. I loved this! What is the purpose of a test if we do not learn something indeed! I am so glad the God has a purpose for us and he tests us to see if we will follow Christ no matter the situations. The price of dicipleship is high, but worth it.