To test is to ascertain the worth of something by subjecting it to various pressures and assessments.
A product can’t be safely and profitably used until it has been thoroughly tested.
In the Christian context, a test or trial is a difficulty deliberately sent by God to provide the opportunity to prove, and then improve, the quality of our faith and character so we emerge as over-comers if we respond correctly. Conversely Satan endeavours to use the same situation to exploit our sinful desires, tempting us to sin and suffer defeat (Gen 2:16,17, 3:1-4; Jas 1:13-15). Every temptation begins with a test – will we “choose life” by being obedient to God or fail the test. God’s plan is to mature and strengthen us in our Christian walk as we apply godly lessons, while Satan’s is to destroy us (Deut 30:19; Jn 10:10; Rom 12:2). Being tested is necessary before any advancement can be made and so it is vital to be prepared for it will often uncover issues in our hearts that are not God-honouring and must be resolved. “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips” (Job 23:10-12).
1/. Some testing scenarios
God tests people by putting them in situations that reveal the quality of their faith, devotion and heart attitude (Gen 22:1-12; Ex 16:4; Deut 8:2). The Lord tests or looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7; 1 Chr 29:17; Ps 44:21, 139:23; Prov 17:3; Jer 11:20; 1 Thes 2:4). We should rejoice in His purifying, strengthening and maturing our Christian character, while enlarging our appreciation of His love for us and our love to Him (Rom 5:3-5, 8:35-39; Jas 1:2-4,12; 1 Pet 1:6,7).
Satan tests believers by difficult circumstances or trails (within the limits God permits) which are the consequence of living in a fallen world, in an attempt to make us desert God’s will (Job 1:12, 2:6; 1 Cor 10:13). In effect, Joseph said to his brothers, you (and Satan) meant it for evil, but God intended it for good, and I chose the best option (Gen 50:20). As Christians we must be constantly on our guard and actively resist Satan for he is trying to make us fall (Mk 14:38; 2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8,9). The various tactics he uses include the crushing weight of pain and hardship (Job 1:13-19, 2:7; Rev 2:10); the urge to fulfill sinful desires (Mt 5:27,28; Jas 1:14); making us careless or complacent (Gal 6:1; Eph 4:27; Rev 3:15); misrepresenting God’s truth (Gen 3:1-5; Mt 4:5,6; 2 Cor 11:14,15).
We are to test ourselves before partaking of the Lord’s Supper and at other times too (1 Cor 11:27-29; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 6:4). In disciplined self-scrutiny evaluate your spiritual state and have a proper perspective so you don’t go astray (Lk 12:16-21; Rom 12:3; 1 Tim 6:9,10). Our reaction to praise is a good test of character – do we receive it in pride or are we jealous if our rival is praised (1 Sam 18:7,8; Prov 27:21; Lk 6:26)?
Humanity even tests God by defiantly challenging Him to prove the truth of His Word, the goodness and justice of His ways, and demanding that He meet their materialistic needs or wants but the Bible forbids such irreverent behaviour (Ex 17:2; Num 14:22,23; Deut 6:16; Ps 78:18,41,56; Act 5:9). It’s not the right of ‘the clay’ to tell the ‘potter’ what to do (Isa 45:9; Rom 9:21).
We also test the patience of others as they do to us through the interactions of life. Interpersonal relationships are the cause of much conflict and wounding in the human spirit. Instead, scripture says that we are to be “kind and compassionate … forgiving each other...” (Gal 5:26; Eph 4:2,29,31,32; Col 3:13).
2/. Handling trials well
What is my response to trials?
(1 Jn 4:4). Yet with only a superficial experience of Christ, many fall away during a time of testing because their spiritual roots haven’t penetrated below the surface to effect life transforming and sustaining power (Lk 8:13). In another illustration Jesus said people who only hear but do not act on His teaching do not have a robust foundation and will crumble in adversity (Mt 7:24-27). Don’t try to carry the burden alone, enlist the help of Jesus and be focused on others, aware that they could be going through testing too, and often on a bigger scale (Mt 11:28-30; 2 Cor 8:2; 1 Pet 5:7).
When we come under the dealings of God, we need to humbly pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me...see if there is any offensive way in me...” (Ps 139:23,24). We need to be able to withstand both the ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ tests – persecution and prosperity – not deterred by the one nor entangled by the other, for testing takes us beyond our comfort zone and reveals our true character exposing any weakness in our personality (2 Chr 32:31). In our emotions, this weakness may be fear, depression, or discouragement. With our personal relationships, this may be anger or jealousy, while in our fleshly nature this may be revealed as unrestrained lusts or appetites. In the spiritual arena, this may exhibit as pride or self-confidence.
What we have been taught is worthless until it has been tested or outworked in our experience. God knows but it is for us to know and acknowledge our weakness and submit to His corrective hand (Heb 12:11). The present test you are experiencing is just an indication of the level of blessing that is awaiting you when you come through it. There will always be a time gap – involving a lack of provision, negative comments and contrary circumstances – between a promise being given and the fulfilment.
View these trails as special instruments of God’s love to make us, not to break us. We can either complain and resist or co-operate in the development of our character for His focus is on eternity, not the ease of today.
3/. Trials as blessings
When things are not going particularly pleasantly we are prone to attribute it to Satan, though it may be God preparing us for the future. The Lord, who is always with us, uses the tests and trials of life to prepare us for His service, for “When He has tried me I shall come forth as pure gold...Through many trials we will enter heaven...We are destined for them” for God is working in us what is pleasing to Him and knows how to rescue the godly from temptation (Job 23:10; Act 14:22; 1 Thes 3:2-4; Heb 13:21; 2 Pet 2:9). We will be much richer in godly character and in our relationship with Him as we continue to hold fast to our faith in Christ, confident of the beneficial result that includes the removal of what is worthless, understanding it is the heat of the fire that separates the dross from the purifying metal (Deut 13:4; 2 Cor 8:2; Heb 4:14, 10:23,35). As difficult situations can bring about a greater reliance on God, would my faith and dedication stand-up to what was experienced by some mentioned in the Bible? (2 Cor 11:23-28; Heb 11:33-38).
Trials are part of God’s loving plan for us in the Kingdom of God, so endure hardship as a vital part of His training, confident He is with us and victory is certain (1 Cor 15:57,58; Eph 6:13; Heb 12:7-13, 13:5; 1 Pet 5:9). Anything that makes me desperate for God is a blessing, though at the present it may seem hard. Trials provide a real opportunity to work for my eternal glory. God in His love and sovereignty provides these growth occasions. The unsaved have trials too; Satan desires they turn unbelievers further from God, though they can be the reason for seeking Him.
Do I have the confidence they are working for my good? – Romans 8:28
outweigh them all (2 Cor 4:17; Gal 5:22,23; 1 Pet 1:6,7). Trials are God-designed tools to shape us, “so in the end it may go well with you”. They work for our good to conform us to the image of His Son and advance the Kingdom of God provided we are doing what is right (Deut 8:16; Rom 5:3-5, 8:28,29; Jas 1:2,3; 1 Pet 4:12-16,19). Trials are an integral and essential part of life. Many times the trials reveal things in our lives that need to be dealt with. God tailors the refining process to the raw material available [us] and the final product required, consequently it is in our best interests to submit to Him even when we don’t comprehend His ways (Isa 55:8,9).
Many people followed Jesus for the physical benefits received, yet deserted Him when the cost of being a follower became too high (Jn 6:60-69). They were unaware that the testing of their character was the foundation of the long-term spiritual benefits He wanted to impart. Joseph was tested and tried in many ways, including being rejected by his brothers, the human indignity of being made a slave and being cast into prison, but his greatest trial was that “The Word of God tried him” (Ps 105:17,19). What tried Joseph’s spirit was the clear word from God he had received, that he would be given great authority, yet his circumstances indicated otherwise. In confusion he must have questioned, ‘Did I hear correctly?’ yet he remained faithful to his call, realising that “it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Gen 45:5,7,8).
See also: challenge, character, choice, compromise, defeat, disillusion, endurance, excuse, faith, focus, judgement, not being ministered to, peer pressure, perspective, pressure, problems, reaction, response, responsibility, self-control, sovereignty, suffering, temptation, tribulation, trouble, victory, why.