I have never liked taking academic tests. This has nothing to do with my ability to pass or excel on them. What makes tests distasteful to me is the enormous stress and anxiety experienced in preparing to take them.
Then, of course, there is the debilitating exhaustion and needed recovery after they are completed. But no matter how difficult taking academic tests might be, it is nothing compared to having our faith in God tested.
Am I being tested?
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.  Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. ”Genesis 22:1-2 NIV
God will test us just as he tested Abraham. This is a clear and simple truth. I don’t personally like it and can make a case that it isn’t fair, but none of this will change the fact that God tests us. You might not like it and might be able to make a different case for the unjust nature of his testing, but again, this will not change the fact that God tests us.
Perhaps you take exception, because you do not believe in God. Once again this is fine, but it does not change the fact that God tests us. Like any other trial, the sooner we accept it is happening, the better our chances of passing.
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I’m feeling confused
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.Exodus 16:4 NIV
Obedience seems to always be a key part of God’s testing. He gives us things to do which make no sense to us and are not particularly appealing, although they are good for us. Then he watches our response to learn exactly how we feel about our relationship with him.
If we trust him, we typically obey. If we don’t trust him, we disobey. Either way God knows exactly how we feel about him.
I’m feeling stressed
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.Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV
God wants to know our hearts. He doesn’t test us to punish us. His tests are not unlike those we use with each other in human relationships. When we invite someone to a party, join a club, play for a team, watch a movie, go on a date, or spend the rest of our lives together in marriage, we are, in each of these instances, testing the relationship.
The “yes” or “no” answer determines our next step of progress, or in some cases, the end of pursuit. Testing is how we determine where we are at with whomever we are attempting to build a relationship. It’s how we know what “trusting God” really means.
Our faith is the spiritual pathway to a relationship with God. When our faith is tested, our relationship with God is tested. Practically, when our faith is tested, our life is tested. I would much rather take an academic test than submit to a test of my life.
Our lives are tested in a variety of ways through the Holy Spirit. Does God test in relationships? In our jobs? With school? With bad news? Good news? We may ask, “why am I constantly being tested? Why am I constantly facing trials?”
Paying attention to what’s happening in our lives should lead us to see that God is trying to teach us through everyday life situations.
One day it might be our financial health (or the lack thereof). Another time it might be our housing situation or the state of our health. Then there are the relationship tests, be they familial, friendship, or romantic, where intimacy is determined by our willingness to listen and learn, forgive and forget, challenge and change, then in the end discover the authenticity of our attachment by whether we grow together or apart.
Finally, there is the test we sometimes forget to classify as a test, which is the job interview. We walk through the doors of a potential employer and submit ourselves to a visual, emotional, intellectual, and sometimes deeply personal evaluation of our worthiness to work.
These tests and more are what God allows or causes to happen so he can learn what is truly in our hearts, whether or not he has a place there. Only these tests can reveal the heart behind our words and give honest expression to God of where he stands with us.
There is simply no other way, so rather than be angry about our tests, we must learn to embrace and even rejoice in them as an opportunity to show God that our desire and love for relationship with him are real (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). This is a truth we must embrace if we are to truly love God.
I’m feeling inadequate
These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan  (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):Judges 3:1-2 NIV
When we lack a necessary attribute for future success, God provides the tests capable of developing those qualities. This is exactly what he did with Israel in Judges 3:1-2 when they lacked the ability to fight.
What vision has God laid on our hearts for which we find ourselves totally inadequate? He may place the tests in our path which get us ready to make those dreams come true, but remember, taking the tests is not enough. We have to pass them to be made ready to receive our destiny.
I’m feeling irritated
Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.  Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;  for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.Psalm 26:1-3 NIV
God wants us to welcome testing. This is my least favorite point so far, and I do not want to write about it. Nevertheless, God makes clear, by the inclusion in scripture of Psalm 26:1-3, that the person who is truly in pursuit of a great walk with God will want to be tested.
Let me be clear, I do not like nor am I in emotional agreement with this passage. From my point of view I have been tested enough. What I would really like God to do is test some other people, and I have a few in mind who seem to be benefiting from some type of social promotion where they are never tested but only blessed by God.
My self-indulgent sarcasm aside, the truth is that inviting God to test us is very difficult. Yet it is the best evidence that we understand and trust him. When we invite God to test us, it is in recognition of the fact that we understand he does it to know us, make us better, and ultimately save us.
I’m feeling inspired
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:6-9 NIV
God has a goal with all of his tests. Almost anyone who has taken a test can tell you the secret to enduring the experience is keeping your focus on the goal.
For the student taking the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), the goal is acceptance to medical school. The graduate taking the bar exam wants to practice law. And with equal but different difficulty, the college football player participating in the NFL combine envisions playing for a professional team.
Reading I Peter 1:6-9 makes clear that the end result of our tests and faith is the salvation of our souls. I do not think this is limited to our heavenward destination but rather the type of person we become, something pointedly referred to by Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26 when he cautions against selling our souls for worldly gain in this life:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?Matthew 16:24-26 NIV
Living a life where we save our souls is about living a life of focused integrity (I Chronicles 29:17), being free from corrupting motives (Psalm 17:3), seeking to please God rather than living solely for the praise of people (Romans 12:2), and joyfully embracing our tests with the confident joy that comes to those who see these moments as opportunities for innovation (James 1:2-4) and doing good (Galatians 6:7-10).
There is so much more to be said and learned about being tested. For this further study I would recommend reading the book of Job. Far from being a book with the singular theme of suffering, Job is the story of a man of God who faced inexplicable suffering without disengaging from or giving up on his relationship with God.
He passed the test, and we all know it worked out very well for him. So let’s take encouragement from his life and fearlessly embrace the opportunity to be faithful and receive God’s blessing whenever we are tested.