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Understand that this life is a temporal testing ground

When I was in school, I had to take a lot of tests and exams. The teacher would teach, and teach, and teach. Then, at some point later, the teacher would announce a test, and tell us what we would be tested in. I would study. I would practice. I’d take the test, and be full of relief when it was over. I usually did well.

Sometimes, but not too often, the teacher would give us ‘surprise’ tests. There was no announcement for such a test. Suddenly, at the beginning of the class, the teacher would say with a naughty smile, "Close your books and your notes; there is going to be a test today." Immediately, the entire class would resound in sighs and groans.

In life – which is God’s university – things go one step further. Most of the tests are surprise tests, and many a time you don’t even know that you are being tested.

When Eve approached Adam, a seductive look in her eyes, a juicy apple in her hands, and slowly opened her mouth, crunched on the apple, and then playfully stretched out her hand, offered him the apple, speaking in a low, husky voice, "Want a bite?" do you think Adam realized that God was testing him?

In Genesis 22, we read about how God tested Abraham by asking Abraham to sacrifice that which was most precious to him. Because Abraham passed the test, he got to be the father of the Jews, the nation through which the Law would come, and the nation through which the Messiah would come.

When Joseph was in Potiphar’s house, and Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and he ended up in jail, little did he know that he successfully passed the test, and he would meet someone in the jail who would provide him an audience with Pharaoh. What a test that was! It is mentioned in Ps 105:19.

Ps 105:19 Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.

The entire wilderness journey of the Israelites was one of testing, but the Israelites didn’t realize it.

Deut 8:2 You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

Here we see the purpose of the test – to humble us, and show us what is in our heart, and whether we really love God or not.

Did the Israelites realize that God was testing them while they were collecting manna from heaven?

Num 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.

God also tested the Israelites to see whether they would desert Him and follow other gods.

Deut 13:1-4 If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

In Judges 3 we read about how the Lord allowed the next generation of Israelites to be tested through the other nations in the land that He was to give them. But they didn’t know that.

In Judges 7 we read about how God tested the men who were with Gideon by observing whether they lapped the water with their tongues as a dog laps or whether they knelt to drink. Little did they know that they were being tested by God for a crucial mission!

In 1 Sam 3:10-19 we read about how God tested Samuel before making him His prophet. He told Samuel of the terrible judgment that would befall Eli’s house, and He wanted to see if Samuel would flinch and lie when Eli made him tell him what the Lord said. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the truth but he did, and passed the test. It was in this way that Samuel grew spiritually and received both favor and a prophetic ministry from the Lord (verse 19).

When David was in the field, tending to his father’s sheep and perfecting his aim with the slingshot little, did he realize that God was training him for greatness. If he was at home, he probably wouldn’t have been practicing his slingshot, or writing beautiful psalms or practicing his harp. What if he neglected that training and instead mopped around in frustration complaining why his father unjustly made him do all the difficult chores?

In 1 Sam 13 we read about how Saul acted rashly when Samuel didn’t come in time. He never knew that he was being tested and that by acting rashly he failed a test and lost his kingdom.

God blessed Hezekiah immensely. And then, He tested him to see if he would take the glory himself for all the wonderful things that God did for him. Hezekiah didn’t realize that he was failing the test, and that by boasting he was giving up his kingdom in the latter times to the ones he boasted to.

2 Chron 32:31 Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.

Even Jesus was tested.

Is 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

In the light of what I’ve said above, one of the things that you must understand is that God will test you before He gives you a ministry, and anything of eternal value.

Ps 11:4-5 4 The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. 5 The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Pr 17:3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts.

Jer 17:10 "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

It is through testing that the bond between God and you is strengthened.

Zech 13:9 "And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’"

When you are tested you are put under pressure, and it is under that pressure that you have to excel.

Graphite and diamond are chemically identical – both are made of carbon atoms. But physically, they are so different. When you shine light on graphite it looks dull whereas when you shine light on diamond it is brilliant. Further, graphite is softer than most known materials whereas diamond is the hardest known substance in nature.

Why the difference? The difference is because it takes high temperatures and tremendous amount of pressure (i.e. testing) to create a diamond.

This natural truth has a spiritual lesson in it, and ties to Zech 13:9. When we go through the fire with the proper attitude, we no longer remain like graphite but end up like a diamond.

Job was tested. He wasn’t tested because he was weak, but because he was strong. He was tested severely because he was very strong. The strength of our test is commensurate with our ability to handle the test.

The test always involves temptation to go against God’s will. However, its intensity is carefully regulated. God will never let you be tested beyond your current capability.

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

In every test there is a way to of escape – not a way to avoid the test but a way to endure the test. We must find it and use it.

Think of the test as an opportunity to excel rather than a burden from an evil taskmaster.

Jas 1:2-3 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Peter suffered the ignominy of being told that he would fail the test before the test was given, and even after being told what the test would be, and even after confidently asserting that he would pass the test with flying colors. When you find yourself in that situation you should realize that God is doing that to accomplish in you what He wanted to accomplish in Peter – God wanted to humble Peter because he was too proud. Peter thought too highly of his own spirituality and needed a big dose of humility.

When you find yourself falling in areas you consider yourself strong, in areas that you know better than to fall into, areas that people around you don’t fall into then you must realize and acknowledge that you have been very proud.

By the time some people get to their middle age, they find that they have no spiritual depth, no eternal treasure, and that God has not entrusted them with any ministry, and they wonder why. It is not because God is partial. Rather, it is because they failed the tests that God gave them. It is not God’s will for any of His children to be fruitless. Rather He desires that they bear a lot of fruit.

Jn 15:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

It is imperative that you don’t end up like the people I just mentioned. Therefore, when you go to high school, and then to college, be on your guard, for that is general the time of a lot of the testing.

As a young person, suppose your find yourself with a disability. You find yourself limited. It may be your speech, or your looks, or your IQ, or your athletic prowess, or your social or financial status, or some other thing. How are you going to handle it? Will you be discontent, or will you accept what God has allotted to you?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be the best that you can be. I’m just saying that as long as you are limited, you should be content with your limitations, while you try and make the best of what you have.

What if your IQ is not so good, and you are tempted to cheat in exams? What if many others in your class are cheating? Will you give in and cheat too?

What if you face some injustice, like Joseph did? It is a test of your faith whether you realize it or not. Will it make you so angry that you are almost ready to kill? Will you allow it to affect your mind so much that it stops you from functioning? Or will you leave it in the hands of the Almighty, the way Jesus did?

What if God takes away something that is very dear to you, like He did for Abraham and Job? Will it turn you against God?

What if God your parents make you do more chores that your siblings, and do not listen to your pleas to make the chores equal? Will you harbor a deep resentment towards your parents, or will you do your chores unto God, and perfect yourself while doing them, just like David did?

What if God rewards your faith in Him, and gives you everything, like He did for Hezekiah? Will you take all the glory yourself, or will you acknowledge that it was the grace of God that brought you where you are?

What if there is an incident at school, and you are called upon to tell the truth, and you know that doing it might get you into trouble? Will you lie to get out of the situation, or will you be bold and tell the truth like Samuel did?

What if you wanted a career and a spouse by a certain age, and didn’t get either or both? Would you be angry with God and go and do some rash thing, like Saul did – a thing that cost him his kingdom?

When you are on a mission from God, will you be careless, like those men who knelt to drink the water? Or will you take your task very seriously?

What if the person you want to marry is not a wholehearted believer, and you know that God has said that you should not be unequally yoked? Will you find an excuse to marry that person, or try to get that person to pretend to be a believer, just so that you can marry that person? If so, you have failed the test, just like Adam did, when he ate the apple that God told him to not eat.

When a friend passes the cigarette or the meth or the whisky, what will you do? When there’s fornication at the frat party, what will you do?

When your friends all laugh at Christians and poke fun at them will you tremble from peer pressure and hide the fact that you are Christian, or will you be bold and identify yourself as a Christian, and face the ridicule?

God looks for people who are loyal to Him no matter what. He tests them, in many ways, often while they are young, and even when they are older. To those who pass the test, He reveals Himself in amazing ways, and uses them to build His kingdom. They are to Him as precious stones on a king’s crown. One day they will shine like the brightest stars in the heavens.

You can be such a person, if you pass the tests.

So who do you want to be like? Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his only son just because asked him to? Joseph, who remained calm and faithful under all sorts of pressure? David, who took everything that came to him and used it to better himself so that he could be outstanding at the right time? Samuel, who was not afraid to boldly speak the truth and thus became a man whose words God never let fail?

Let me throw you a curved ball now…

In my own personal experience, I don’t identify with the ones who have passed all the tests with excellence; rather, I identify with Peter – the guy who failed miserably when it counted the most. While it’s true that I’ve passed a few tests, it’s also true that I’ve failed a few tests. And that failure has taught me humility – namely, that I’m not so spiritual after all, and never will be.

If Peter had never failed, he may have thought too highly of himself, and would never have become the great apostle that he went on to be. It was his failure that brought him the right mindset.

The apostle Paul had to fail too. His failure was that he was so sure that he was doing the right thing when he was actually doing the worst wrong possible. If Paul had never failed early on by persecuting Christians all his later successes would have made him proud, and ultimately destroyed him.

Even Job learnt humility at the end of all his testing. He started out being the most spiritual man in the land. There was no one like him. The problem was that he knew it. For this reason, God decided to do something about it. And He let Satan do it for Him. Satan thought that he was going to destroy Job, but actually he was refining Job and taking his spirituality to a new level.

You see, when Job lost almost everything, he asked why. In his mind, he thought that God was pleased with him (which was true) and concluded that therefore God should protect and bless him. When God allowed Satan to hurt him, Job maintained that he was without fault, and God was mistaken to find fault with him. To make matters worse, Job’s friends took the position that God would never have hurt Job if Job didn’t do something to offend God.

But neither position was true! God wasn’t finding fault with Job, but was actually taking Job to the next level – a level that Job never knew existed.

Then God spoke to Job, and told him that Job had no right to put God in a box and question Him because Job was too little to comprehend what God is up to. Job finally understood, and realized that he had too high an opinion of himself and repented and took back his position.

At the end of the entire experience Job was still the best man in the land, but he no longer considered himself so. And that was exactly what God wanted to accomplish in Job.

That is also exactly what God wants to accomplish in us too.

So then, in retrospect, for some of us, failure is but a stepping stone to greater success. It is only when we see ourselves as failures that we can properly navigate through our successes.

Strive to pass every test with flying colors, but let your failures teach you what your successes cannot –a lesson in humility.

Finally, find the balance – when your life is filled with successes, that is the time to focus on your past failures, and when your life is filled with failures, that is the time to focus on your past successes.

Copyright (c) 2007-2026, Rosario (Ross) D'Souza. All Rights Reserved
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