Life is full of tests. We are tested in schools, colleges, and our places of employment. However, the most important tests are not about knowledge or skills, but faith. We need a certain level of proficiency in math and reading to function and achieve in the workforce. But when it comes to faith, we need a biblical kind of faith to manage life and the unavoidable end of life-death.
I never liked tests in school, except when I received one back that I did exceptionally well on. Of course, my perception of tests was quite misguided at that time. I saw tests as proof of what I know, instead of evidence of what I didn't know. I saw tests as an end game, not a means to prepare for the main game, the game of life. We cannot grow until we see the need for growth. We cannot fill in the voids in our life until we come to realize that voids exist. We cannot learn what we don't know until we know about what we don't know.
In my reading of C. S. Lewis's book "A Grief Observed," I saw more clearly the need for difficulties and hardships in life. If the main and most essential aspect of life is God and our relationship to Him, (which it most definitely is), then we need to be sure that our faith is real and test worthy.
James 1:2-4 ESV states, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
But what type of trials count as tests given by God? Does a flat tire count when it interferes with a scheduled meeting? What about when your spouse, sibling, or child says or does something that injures you? When your physician says, "the tests show you have terminal cancer," does that count? Actually, all of the above.
A few weeks ago I put away much of our Christmas decorations. One decoration, (A Snoopy mailbox), requires strings attached to each side and anchored to the ground to prevent the wind from damaging it. This past holiday season, the strings broke, so I retired them to the stake, but I didn't replace them. Before packing it away, I removed the old strings and acquired some new strings, however, before attaching the string to the decoration, I pulled as hard as I could on the string to determine if I could break it. I could not. It passed the test. I now have confidence that the string will protect my decoration next winter should a storm batter it with wind, sleet, and rain.
However, the real test of faith involves so much more than having our strings pulled or our comforts disturbed. It may involve having part of our lives ripped away from us. C. S. Lewis's book is about the grief he experienced due to the death of his wife. He shares about the anger, hurt, and doubts that filled his mind after his wife's passing. But he also adds, You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?
If God is concerned about our heavenly future, and the death of Christ shows He is, then would it not be His duty to reveal to us a faulty faith. Shouldn't He be willing to administer pain just like a surgeon in order to bring about healing and long-term health?
Lewis goes on to say in his book, The kinder and more conscientious he (a surgeon) is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.
We may not understand God and we may not agree with what God is doing or allowing to be done in our lives, but if we truly know Jesus as Lord and Savior, we can trust Him. Therefore, we need to be tested. If we fail the test, we need to cry out to God for the real kind of faith, the saving kind of faith, the life-transforming kind of faith, the kind that enables us to love, forgive, and show mercy the way Christ did and all believers can, who have the right kind of faith.
God Bless and thanks for reading.
Eddie D. Fleming