My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – Jam 1:2-4 NKJV
Every year, school children across the state of Georgia must take the CRCT standardized achievement tests designed to measure how much of the grade-level content material each student has learned. I have to tell you that the CRCT is no fun for anyone. The administration of these tests causes pressure on everyone involved… students, teachers, parents, and school administrators alike. Test results can impact everything from student advancement to teacher salaries to the amount of state and federal money given to the school systems. As much as you’d like to downplay the test, the reality is that a great deal is determined by their outcome.
It’s funny to me how natural tests are expected, anticipated, and accepted as the normal course of life. Everyone knows there is no advancement in school without the passing of tests. Why do we have a different mindset for the Kingdom?
Jesus was announcing a forthcoming test when He said to the disciples, “Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” They had seen how He was mocked and scorned, and I’m sure they thought He was up for more of that. They had no idea the death He was about to undertake, nor did they understand what their own association with Him would truly cost them. When the trying of their faith hit, they scattered.
The weight of the test was a shock to Jesus’ disciples, as it often is to you and I. “You mean I have to die totally to myself every day? You mean I have to be willing to lay down my life for others? You mean I really have to take up my cross and follow? There’s real pain in this calling?” Yes… there is. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to you.
We will be tested with every new revelation, with every new gift, with each new assignment. The test is not designed for us to fail, but it is designed to give us an opportunity to show what we know and what we’ve learned so far. God doesn’t test us with sickness and disease, poverty and lack, or death and destruction. Those are things that come at us because we are in a world that is cursed. No, our tests are those of obedience, willingness, sacrifice, and love. Do we have our priorities straight? Can we listen and obey with a glad heart? Can we trust and act upon His Word? When we do those things, we are sharpened and strengthened, so that when the trials of this life come at us from the world, our faith is already strong.
You wouldn’t expect my fifth grade students to be able to pass a driving test, or to go to work in a factory, or perform brain surgery. But if these children pass the required tests along the way in school, those opportunities become increasingly more likely for them every time they advance.
Our preparation comes through the practicing… or trying… of our faith. Don’t look at the test you are having right now as something meant for your destruction, but rather look at it as a tool for advancement. After all, there are great things in store for us, but we must be prepared if we are to walk in them.
By Linda Frederick