Friday, September 23, 2016

THE TEST IN LIFE


There are periods when we are tested. There are times when we are the tester. One of the characteristics of life is the power of choice. Whether or not that choice is a test is situational. Not every choice is a test. Some choices are mere decisions with consequences. A test implies a tester. The tester might be our education. We acquire great amounts of knowledge to test what we have learned in class. The tester might be ourselves. As youngsters and adults, we are always testing the boundaries of different things (i.e. authority, technology, imagination) to see how far we can go. 

As Christians, our faith is tested to mature us as believers and give another opportunity for God to showcase His love and faithfulness. Pastor Rick Renner said this best when he commented in a newsletter - "You will never know what God can do unless you do something that gives Him the opportunity to show you!" That is the willingness to put your faith to the test and allow God to show you who He already is. 

Testing is found throughout Scripture. We have Jesus teaching us about times of testing in Luke 8:13. Then later in Hebrews 8:13 a specific time of testing is mentioned as an example. Our "fidelity to Christ" might be tested, among other things, as seen in Romans 16:10. We are encouraged to test all prophecies in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, test our faith in James 1:3, test the spirits in 1 John 4:1 and test those who are about to become deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10.

We are warned that our life will experience suffering for Christ but not to be surprised, even if the ordeal or testing is "fiery" (1 Peter 4:12) - your life will go on in one form or another. In addition, we are encouraged, as we continue, to keep the prize in sight. Not only do we receive Jesus as our ultimate reward, but 1 Corinthians 3:13 reminds the believer our deeds/work will be tested and rewarded -  their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s workAnd for those who persevere under hardship, who endure the test, a Crown of Life awaits (James 1:12).

Is life a test? No. We were never meant for reincarnation - to keep coming back as something else until we perfect life or "get it right". Jesus came and paid the ultimate redeeming, ransom price for all of Creation. His life for everything will not be repeated! This love-gift was a one and done deal. Humans were made in God's image with relationship in mind. Sin or disobedience ushered in testing. If there were no tendencies to rebel against God's plan for our lives then there would be no need for Him to mold us through testing. Why was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and available in the first place? Because sin had already been formed by the decision of Lucifer to rebel against God. Now, that opportunity was present for God's own likeness, not a robot. So with The Fall of humanity there came a rebellious nature toward God that everybody is born with, therefore we have testing throughout our lives. 

Life is a decision-making journey with seasons of testing. Thought of that myself, you like it? Sometimes life does seem like one large test. However, I think the all-inclusive mindset and emotion haunts me when I get a glimpse of life without Christ. Sure we have testings throughout our Christian walk in order to grow/mature in Christ, but to say the entirety of life is a test would put me back on eggshells or The Law of Moses. This lifestyle would be akin to God making sure every i was dotted, every t was crossed and grading me on it too. Now that Christ has come and fulfilled every letter of The Law, I live under the Spirit of Grace. The most important test you will ever face in life then is who you know. What you know helps, but who you know is the most important decision in life.

Talk about a test you don't want to get wrong. The ramifications are eternal. However, fear not, God has made it easy. The one He sent, Christ Jesus, said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) The test is this - Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth to you? "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (C.S. Lewis) 

True life and a different kind of testing all start with knowing God personally through Christ Jesus, also known as The Good Teacher (Mark 10:17). He not only gives the test but supplies help/guidance in the problem-solving. One example of God testing His kids that I remember is Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:17 says, "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice." This was a foreshadow of what God was willing to give, once-and-for-all, for the separation between God and humanity. IF you have answered the test question - Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth to you? - by declaring His Lordship and Saving Grace over your life, THEN you have passed The Test In Life and have Him as your Good Teacher for the tests in life.