We left off last time seeing that God tested His people’s faith in the OT, and asking if He also tests His people in the NT or even today.
Well, dangit, it appears His people are tested in the NT as well!
Let’s see what Paul, Peter, and James have to say about it.
It’s interesting to note that Paul actually calls on the Corinthian Church to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor 13:5). Paul does not want his hearers to be complacent, but rather to look at their lives to see if indeed they are reflecting their professed faith, or if they are counterfeit. So there is a testing that can be done ourselves to see if the life of the new creation does indeed flow through us–a sign that God’s Spirit is within us. A simple yet sobering test is to see if the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives. Are those nine qualities (which are merely natural outgrowth of one who has the Holy Spirit inside them for realz) given in Galatians 5:22-23 evident in my life?
Love, joy, peace, magnanimity*, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-mastery.
In the Corinthian passage, I think Paul may be saying “test yourselves, because tests are coming, and you will be sifted.”
That the Christian life is tested is also indicated by Peter’s admonition to his readers: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come upon you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet 4:12-13). “Thus, Peter tells us that life’s difficulties, their tragedies, are means of testing the mettle of our faith. Do we respond with faith to life’s hardships or with fear and withdrawal? The answer to that question exposes the strength of our faith.” (Tremper Longman)
We do suffer, yet can actually experience joy in the midst of our suffering. James reminds us that the trials of life are occasions for joy and the building up of our faith: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (Jas 1:2-3).
Masochistic sicko? Or man of God with tremendous insight?
As A.W. Tozer reminded us 60 years ago, that God’s supreme purpose for us is not to be comfortable all the time, but to make us like His Son, Jesus Christ.**
Notice James says “whenever you face trials”, and not “if you are one of the unlucky few who goes through something difficult.”
Look, in our Christ-following life here and now we can just expect to be tested. I don’t love it, but we won’t be at any sort of peace unless we can, to some degree, allow reality to be what it is. I try to teach our daughters to look at every tough situation or circumstance as opportunity and not simply as obstacle. I do understand how terribly difficult this can be, and have failed countless times, but if we can train ourselves to view life through this lens, which ultimately comes through Christ as we have seen in Scripture, how much more effectively could we live?
*This is from David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament. I love this description of magnanimity from Wikipedia: The virtue of being great of mind and heart. It encompasses, usually, a refusal to be petty, a willingness to face danger, and actions for noble purposes.
**From The Crucified Life page 199.