Why Tests Are Good

by Oct 21, 2015

Why Tests Are Good

by Oct 21, 2015

When I was in college, everyone knew that the hardest undergrad class was organic chemistry. O-chem was the weeder class for every science major. If you couldn’t pass it, you couldn’t be a science major anymore. My freshman roommate was an engineering major until he took O-chem. Then, suddenly, he was a philosophy major.

Tests are necessary tools for self-evaluation. They help us see where we’re weak and where we’re strong. They help us see how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.

God puts his people through tests all the time. It’s not so he can see where our hearts are (Solomon said to God in 1 Kings 8:39, “You, and you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind”), it’s so he can help us see where our own hearts are.

He tested Abraham when he told him to go sacrifice his son on the top of a mountain. He tested Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. He tested Job when he took everything he loved in life away from him. He tested Peter three times on the night Jesus was crucified. Unlike the others, Peter failed spectacularly all three times. He denied Jesus repeatedly, even stooping so low as to lie out of fear of a middle-school girl.

And here’s the thing: Peter even knew the test was coming! Jesus had predicted it just a few hours before. Peter knew what would be on the test, and he even knew the answers to the test.

What if you were in O-chem, and the professor gave you all the answers to the final, before you took the test? That’s exactly what Jesus did. He said to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41).

In other words, “Peter, this test is coming! Do you know what the answer is? You need to pray!” And what did Peter do instead? He fell asleep. Jesus is saying, “Peter, you have the answer sheet for the O-chem final! The test is in two hours!” And Peter says, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll look at it later. Right now, I think I’ll just take a little nap.”

We’re always going to go through tests, and the answer for each test is that we need to pray. In fact, a major reason why God gives us tests is to drive us toward prayerful dependence on him. When Paul went through one of the most traumatic tests he’d had in life, that’s what he realized:

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Cor 1:8-9)

When God puts us through tests, he’s forcing us to ask ourselves some very tough but very necessary questions. Am I going to lean harder on God, or am I going to lean on my own understanding? Am I going to go into prayer mode, or am I going to go into self-sufficient survival mode?

Who do I really trust? God? Or myself?