My dear friend and fellow Army Veteran, Ann Marie Ash, joins us today around My Messy Desk to discuss the word Test. It’s a tough topic, but one that we all face, yet seldom recognize. I pray you’ll be blessed by her thorough study!
Test (Hebrew; bahan, v.): to test, try, probe, examine; to test and learn the genuineness of an object, process of assaying ametalto determine the purity of its nature; to challenge. Also, (Hebrew; nasah, v.): to test, usually to prove character or faithfulness.
Test (Greek; dokimion, n.): testing, proved genuiness; proved to be genuine. Also, (Greek; ekpeirazo, v.): to test, put to a test, try, tempt.
The word test and its derivatives (including testify and testimony) appear almost 300 times and in nearly every book of the Bible. For a word that we surely would not miss if it were eliminated completely from all lexicons, God certainly saw it as important!
For many of us, simply hearing the word test can bring about a wide range of emotional responses. We may break out in a cold sweat remembering the heart-racing fear of showing up unprepared for a high school Calculus test; we may recall the apprehension and anxiety brought on by medical tests that revealed an unforeseen diagnosis or we may dread the stress of preparing for a performance test that would promote us to the next level at work.
But what about all those other ‘tests’ we don’t often want to talk about? Enduring the loss of a loved one, confronting the trial of living in an abusive marriage, battling the daily struggle of dealing with addiction, or questioning the distance we feel when we don’t believe God hears us…?
Why would a loving God want us to face so many tests? How do we even know how to tackle these tests in life?
When we take any kind of test, we usually want to know what ‘passing’ looks like. Do we need to achieve a certain score, accomplish certain tasks, or from a biblical perspective, respond in a certain way? Two things stuck out to me as I dug into the ancient definitions of the word test:
1. Testing is a process and not a singular event!!
2. There is an expectation of genuineness and purity as a result of a test!!
Wow! God is not necessarily concerned about the score or outcome of these tests, but He IS concerned about our hearts, motives, and responses as we prepare for, endure, and grow through our tests!!
God Tests our Faith.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3
As one of the most popular references to testing in the scriptures, God did not imply that His people might face trials or might be tested, but that assuredly we would. It was not His desire to punish His people through such tests, but rather that His children would prove themselves obedient and faithful to Him. He packed His Word full of examples of those who withstood and ultimately spiritually prospered through various tests.
The Old Testament characters who were “commended for their faith” in Hebrews 11, endured test after test.
“By faith, Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.” Hebrews 11:17
“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.” Psalm 105:19 NLT
“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20:20
God Tests our Hearts.
God taught us through David to eagerly approach Him to test our hearts and motives. Through trial, we are to seek Him to help purify our hearts and to grow in genuine love of Him.
“Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
Throughout the New Testament, God’s test of obedience and faith becomes more directly focused on testing the genuineness of our hearts. As children of God (Galatians 3:26), Jesus now takes residence in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17). It is no longer our old selves, but Jesus who lives in us (Romans 8:10).
As Jesus was preparing to feed the 5000, He asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” John 6:5-6
Paul pleaded with the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
God Commands us to Test the Spirits.
As our hearts, knowledge, and faith grow through testing, we are commanded to test the validity and genuineness of others. As Jesus showed us, not even all those who profess the Word of God are genuine.
When Satan’s first two attempts to tempt Jesus in the wilderness failed, he attempted to use God’s Word against Him. “Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Luke 4:12
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”1 John 4:1
“Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
But, What About Testing God?
Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7, and Luke 4:12 told us to NOT put God to the test. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance included in its definition, “to test God implies a lack of confidence in His revealed character, thus is wicked.” But Malachi 3:10 offers what could be viewed at quick glance as a contradictory statement.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Malachi 3:10
Did God seriously tell His people to test Him?
Throughout the book of the prophet Malachi, God is speaking to His people in Jerusalem who having once received His love, grace, and provision have turned away from Him. In His conversation with the disobedient, selfish Jews about obedience, tithing, and faithfulness to Him and His Kingdom, God orders His people to test HIM!
God is not condoning His people to test Him out of their own personal desires, but rather challenging them to test the enormity of His goodness and faithfulness out of the gratitude and generosity of their hearts. Holman Christian Standard Bible Commentary offers, “Although testing God with complaining, rebellion, and unbelief is wrong (v15; Ex 17:2-7; Ps 95:8-9), testing His faithfulness with our obedience is not.”
This final reference, for me more than any other as I studied and prepared this summary, magnified the two points I noted earlier.
1) No matter the type of test, trial, or temptation that we encounter, God intends for it to be an intimate, ongoing test of our hearts. In the process of our testing, He expects us to seek Him as we continue to grow in our faith and relationship with Jesus. He expects us to constantly test our hearts, our motives, and our actions against the Truth of His Word.
2) Yes, God expects our obedience, but He wants our genuine love. He wants us to have pure hearts (Psalm 51:10) that can only be made pure by the cleansing of Jesus’ blood. Malachi 3 reminds us that all we have been given is from Him…our gifts, our talents, our finances, as well as the genuine love of Jesus when we accept Him into our hearts. To ‘pass’ God’s test, is to be faithful in returning those things to Him and His Kingdom.
Finally, He expects us to genuinely find joy in knowing that we are intimately known by Jesus as we face the tests of our lives.