Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you, in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
There is no such thing as untested Christian faith.
Not that God sets us tests we need to pass to qualify to be a Christian. If he did, none of us would make the grade! But our faith is tested and ‘proved’ in life generally when, for example, we face sickness, bereavement, and family problems, or when we experience doubt, depression, or injustice.
Our faith will certainly be tested in our work when we have to deal with long hours, stressful situations, and difficult people. Will we trust God when the going gets tough? Will we compromise our values when it suits us? Will our faith prove to be true and lasting, or just religious talk?
In the Bible we find that testing has always been part of the experience of God’s people.
The Israelites were tested as they wandered through the desert before entering the promised land. For 40 years, life was hard and the future uncertain. The people doubted God knew what he was doing. They rebelled and rejected God’s appointed leaders. They grumbled and even longed to go back to slavery in Egypt. They wouldn’t trust God to provide for them or lead them to a better future.
As they were finally about to enter the land, Moses urges the people to look back at this prolonged testing experience. He reminds them that though they had repeatedly failed the tests, God’s purpose was all for their good:
‘He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness… to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you’ (Deuteronomy 8:16).
But isn’t ‘testing’ usually a negative thing? Aren’t testing experiences often unpleasant or even traumatic? I never enjoyed exams at school. I don’t enjoy having blood tests, X-rays, or more invasive medical tests. I certainly wouldn’t want to re-take my driving test! Isn’t God’s ‘testing’ an experience we would rather avoid if we want to enjoy life?
In reality, every Christian experiences ‘testing’ in one way or another, whether from God probing and revealing our motives (what really motivates us to work?), or from dealing with difficult experiences like harassment, corruption, exploitation, and redundancy.
God’s testing isn’t a ‘negative’, though it sometimes feels like is! It’s a lifelong learning experience as God works to produce ‘gold’, in terms of Christ-like character, from the unpromising raw material of our lives.
Graham is a Company Director and former Senior Executive with a global infrastructure company. His latest book Proving Ground – 40 Reflections on Growing Faith at Work is published by Christian Focus.
Looking back, what testing experiences have you faced and how do you think God has used them for good? What encouragement does that give you as you face tough situations now? Join in the conservation in the comments below.