Perhaps I have testing on the mind. For the past few weeks, my job has focused on getting ready and supporting the new computer-based standardized test students are taking this spring. So this morning while researching the phrase “God is…” I ran across this verse in Deuteronomy – “you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:3, NASB95) The first thing that popped into my head was “Wait! What? I’m out of school doesn’t that mean no more tests?” The second thing that ran through my noggin was, “isn’t there a verse that says something about God not tempting us?”
James does say, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13, NASB95) Temptation and testing are a lot alike but the goals are completely different. Temptation wants you to fail its test. It wants you to eat the whole king sized chocolate bar even though you know you should not. Temptation entices with false promises and clouds the mind from the truth. Temptation’s goal is to keep you on the throne of your life instead of Jesus. On the other hand, God’s tests are for our benefit. He already knows whether we love Him with all of our heart and soul, God’s tests reveal the truth to us. It’s like using acid to test the purity of gold, God’s testing shows us where our heart is fully His and where it is not.
People react in different ways when it’s testing time. Some blow off the test, their goal is to finish first rather than to answer well. Some get so anxious they feel sick, believing that their whole existence and worth is hinging on the outcome. Some see tests as challenges to overcome, a mountain to climb, a puzzle to solve. It’s that last group that typically does the best. Every day in our journey with Jesus there are tests and temptations, often small like a pop quiz, sometimes huge like the ACT or SAT college exams. Here’s the secret – God’s already given us the answer key for each and every test and temptation.
Most of us attempt to answer tests and temptations with will-power or knowledge or by pragmatism – what is best for us or what works. The force of will is often simply not enough to overcome what is before us. Knowledge has its limits, no one knows everything. Pragmatism often takes the easy path instead of the right path. In the end, we fall short and agonize over our failures, determining to grow our will or our faith so that we can do better next time. But God’s already given us the answer to every temptation and every test. It’s not the strength of our will, the breadth of our knowledge, or how wise we are that matters, instead it is the purity of our love. Why did God test the Israelites in Deuteronomy? To reveal their love for Him. Falling into temptation or failing the tests of God are always a failure of love; the Jesus kind of love that would lay down its own life, will, desires, passions, time, and resources for the sake of another.
Teacher: Ok students. Put away your books we are going to have a pop quiz.
A student quickly raises his hand and frantically waves it around to attract the teacher’s attention.
Teacher: Yes Dave?
Dave: You said we were having a pop quiz, that’s my answer. Pepsi. That’s the soda pop I like the best. Do I get an A?
Class: groans, head slaps, and giggles.