Does God really test us? If so, why? What is His purpose behind testing us?
A Trusted Faith
I believe that a faith that’s never been tested is a faith that cannot be trusted. James wrote that “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one means” (James 1:23)” and the word for “tempted” comes from the Greek word “peirazō” and means “to try whether a thing can be done.” God knows our hearts; He isn’t trying to find out something new about us but for us to find out something about ourselves. He is omniscient (all knowing) so He doesn’t need any new information. A tested faith is a truer faith because it’s been passed through the fire. They test metal to see its strength but God needs no test for us, He knows everything about us there is to know (Matt 10:30; Luke 12:7) so God tests us for our benefit; so that we’ll know the level of our own faith in God and to see if it’s shallow and superficial or whether it’s strong.
Tests of Trials
When Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray He said “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13) but this doesn’t mean that we’re to pray that God doesn’t lead us into temptation because God doesn’t do that. We are responsible for our own temptations and sin, if that follows. The Geek word used here for “temptation” is “peirasmos” and means “an experiment, an attempt, a trial,” or “proving” so we are to pray to God to help us avoid tests, trials, or experiments? If you put the Greek meaning in this verse, it would read as: “And lead us not into tests, trials, or experiments but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13). There is nothing wrong with praying to God that He doesn’t lead us into experiments or tests but rather, deliver us from the evil one.
Tests of Faith
Jesus told Satan in the Temptation in the Wilderness “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matt 4:7) and this word is closer to what God does to every believer and that is test them. The Greek word for “test” in this verse where Jesus told Satan “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” is “ekpeirazō” and this is not like the Greek word “peirazō” that James used (1:23) which means to see whether a thing can be done but instead the Greek word “ekpeirazō,” is used, meaning “to prove or test thoroughly,” so we are commanded to never put God to the test but He can and does test us. Once again, God doesn’t test us to see if He knows whether we’ll be faithful or not but He tests us so that we’ll know how strong or weak our faith is in Him. God does this as an act of love. He would never do us any harm for anything that He sovereignly appoints.
When we are looking for a new or used car, we almost always test drive it. This test is to prove if we are going to be satisfied with the vehicle or we should keep looking. There’s nothing wrong with testing things and yes, even testing people. That’s how education evaluates the competency of the students. They must be tested to see if they are considered worthy of graduation. God doesn’t test us to see if we’re worthy or not because there is none that are really worthy (Rom 3:10-12, 23). God may test us to strengthen us. God may test us to get our attention over some sin issue in our life. God may test us to see if we’ll be utterly dependent upon Him. God tests us for our own benefit. If we can learn to trust God in all of life’s tests, then perhaps we can endure these tests more easily. There are many storms or tests that I see from biblical principles where we are benefited; storms of correction, storms of reflection, storms of direction, and storms of perfection (moving toward perfection, yet never reaching it this side of heaven).
If you know anything about how they refine gold, you’ll know that every time the refiner puts the gold in the fire, the impurities are removed. It takes a lot of heat before most of the impurities are removed and here is how the refiner knows when the gold is at its purest; it’s when the refiner finally sees their own reflection in it. The purpose of trials is to shape us into the image of Christ so we should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1st Pet 4:13) since “we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom 8:17). This is part of the purpose of trials, testing and tribulation; that our faith, ultimately more precious than gold, will last for eternity and reflect the Refiner Himself.
When Paul looked at suffering, he thought of it as a compare and contrast thing; today’s suffering placed against an eternity of joyful bliss and so wrote “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18) so even during severe trials, it is “just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” (2nd Cor 1:5). Want to know the power of Christ? Paul really needed Christ’s power and so wrote, “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10). You cannot be Christ-like until you have suffered like Christ did; not to the same extent of course. Peter writes, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (or tests). These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1st Pet 1:6-7).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.