Does God really test us?
…is it really possible that God tests us?
I was asked a really good question, which was:
Does God test us?
If so, how do you square that with being loved? A loving father wouldn’t test his children, but rather trust them? And why would he do it when he already knows our hearts??? And what is involved in a trial…?
If no, then how does that square with e.g. Abraham and Isaac?
The short and simple answer is YES, God tests us… And the most famous example is precisely in the Old Testament, where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
So he said, “Here I am.”
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me!”
This story is probably the story where matters come the most to a head in terms of God testing us.
How do you square that with being loved? A loving father wouldn’t test his children, but rather trust them?
God is a loving God, but he is also “selfish”, meaning He does not allow any other gods in addition to Himself – and He is just, so we MUST follow God’s rules – rather than our own.
Since our mind is just a “human mind”, which is based in time, place, and dimension, it is just really difficult to understand the paradox that God can do all things and knows all things. He can see into the future, and God knows our innermost heart and motives (Psalms 17:3 + Romans 8:27 + Hebrews 4:12)… but at the same time, He needs to test us…?? Does that make sense? No – not in our thinking! BUT, that being said, we must understand that God CAN see the future… but He often chooses NOT to do so. God looks into our hearts as far as our relationship with Him and our motives, but He chooses NOT to look into it as it relates to the future.
BEFORE you continue reading, it is important to understand that Satan just loves to attack us Christians!! And if he can make it look like something is just God testing us, then he has reached his goal! Because that way many become angry at God and they fail to understand Him, or they turn it inward, saying “God doesn’t care about me” – and then you end up NOT taking up the fight against Satan and not applying the promises Jesus has given us. You see, it is not God’s nature to “just” pour on the trials to see how much we can handle!!! God CAN choose to test us in certain situations to see how far we are willing to go for His sake.
Let’s compare it with an earthly father who has, say, five children ages 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, who have all been faithful to their father in even the littlest things, and who have all “honored” him. This father knows very well that his children love him – and as a matter of fact, he has never had to worry about them being rebellious against him – not even behind his back… but on the other hand, the father doesn’t really know HOW far each child is willing to go. Now, it so happens that this father has a huge international firm, where one of the children will be made vice-president in 10 years, just below his father… and it must be the child that will go furthest for him in ALL things. The rest of them will certainly get their “piece of the pie”, but not as vice-president. How will he find out? He’ll do it by testing them independently of each other – not just test them, but also pressure them, perhaps play them against each other and expose them to peer pressure to see how far they are willing to go.
Is that a mean thing for this dad to do? Does he not love them when he does that sort of thing? Is he just a selfish jerk? …Actually, this dad loves all his five children very deeply – equally deeply, even, but he wants to place each of the children in the right position suitable to the individual child. Because it is one thing that they love their father and that he loves them. Let’s assume that this father knows their hearts and their motives, but what about when they are pushed to their limits – will they be as steadfast as their father hoped? What if some things happen that make them think their father is unreasonable? Will they stand by his side when none of them know what to expect? Or will they only stand by their father, if they know ahead of time what they might “win”? Will the “honor” they hold for their father prevail? Or their own selfishness?
You see, God doesn’t always choose to see into the future, although He could easily do so. In fact, He knows that the trials we go through purify us, make us alert, and strengthen us… and at the same time, he can sort out the ones who can’t do God when it really counts (separating the sheep from the goats) – because it is so easy to say with your mouth and your heart, “God, I love you – and I will never fail you”, but what happens when the accident happens? When peer pressure hits you? When people turn their backs on you because you believe in Jesus? When loneliness strikes? How far are we willing to go when we have to make a sacrifice? Would you as a last resort be willing to sacrifice your home or your family for God’s sake? Are you willing when it really hurts, and you have to go without or even sacrifice something valuable? Or will give God the stink eye and be angry at Him, because you don’t understand Him?
– These five teenagers here in my example, who are all in the process of forming their identities, have no idea what their father ‘has up his sleeve’ either. They know nothing about the amazing task/gift their father has for each of them, if they pass the test – and we don’t know either! But will we listen to our father? Or to those around us and the world?
The only other question is: Is it even necessary for God to test us? Can’t God just CHOOSE to see into the future WITHOUT testing us…? Sure, He can, but God also wants to get us ready for the task He hopes we will take upon ourselves. You see, all the trials we go through contribute to making us even stronger in our relationship with and faith in God. At the same time, something very important is happening here…. Every time we say YES to God and say NO to the world or our own selfishness and ‘attitudes’, we also give God the opportunity to bless us.
Another example in the Old Testament of how God sends tests and trials is when he leads the Israelites through the desert.
And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
Here, again, is precisely the same human paradox: God CAN see into the future, but He chooses not to do so. Also, because we get strong through trials, and through trials we also gain an understanding of other people.
There is yet another place in the Old Testament when God tests us – but in the middle of the trials, He also takes care of us and protects us.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.
We read about this quite literally in the book of Daniel, chapter 3, verses 16-26 in the story of three Judeans who refused to “fall down with their face to the ground and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue! And whoever didn’t do it would be thrown into the fiery furnace!”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.”
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
…They trusted in God – and Jesus was with them in the fire. I wonder what it would take for the three NOT to worship Nebuchadnezzar? This wasn’t just a matter of peer pressure, but they knew the consequences from Nebuchadnezzar if they refused – but even then, they chose to stand up for Jesus, which is exactly what He blesses… and Jesus is WITH them in the trial.
Even in the New Testament, Jesus says we will be tested:
“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
BUT!!!! In this case, it is actually Satan trying to tempt us, and it is precisely through the temptation/trial that we are cleansed. In other words, God uses Satan’s temptations and trials to mature and ‘educate’ us. Does that mean God sends misfortune upon us? No, definitely not!!! But it does mean that when Satan tests us, God delights in the fact that we stand our ground, not giving in, and cling to God’s promises – because it is the word of God (Jesus) who is the Truth, and Jesus says that the Truth will set us FREE.
God has a plan for us, which Satan, at any given time, will try to prevent – so Satan fights against us, God is with us, and God honors when we are willing to go for Him and endure.…
Silver, of course, is absolutely beautiful, but before it is processed, it has a dark and dull surface. Once it has been through the so-called melting pot, it shines – and all impurities are burned out.
Did you notice the expression “seasoned with fire” in the gospel of Mark? That is precisely what happens in the book of Psalms:
For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined..
In Matthew 4, we read that even Jesus was tried and tested. It says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the desert, and right there is where God allowed Satan to tempt Jesus – and Jesus didn’t give! Fortunately, in every single case of “temptation” we have our own free will to say YES or NO in the concrete situation we are in.
1 Cor. 10:12-13
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Yes, other tests could, as mentioned earlier, be anything from finances to family, peer pressure (such as drinking), watching porn or anything else. We just need to remember that God wants to be STRONG through it all, so we can get the position and reward He wants for us! The only question is whether or not we will be steadfast – and for that He has to test us.
2 Tim. 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
1 Cor. 3:12-13
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
But does being tested/tried have anything to do with salvation? No, not directly, but it has to do with the reward we get some day when we get into heaven, which is described so aptly in Matthew 25:14-30 (the parable of the talents). Here, we can read that, in fact, God not only tests us, but he wants to see how we manage the task we have been given.
Another important thing to remember is that God never tempts – not even to try or test you.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
We have been given our own will to say NO THANK YOU to temptations, so we can NEVER blame God if we stumble.
Generally, you need to remember that trials can be many things, BUT it can be pretty hard to determine what are direct attacks from Satan and what are trials. Actually, I don’t think we as humans can ever evaluate that – only in very few cases, once we have come out on the other side. Therefore, it is also important that we don’t just put everything into “bin” of these are probably just “trials”, because Satan is certainly “on the prowl” as well… making it very important to stand against Satan and live according to the promises of God – because the promises and truth of God is what set us free… Satan’s lies, on the other hand, bind us!!! So, don’t EVER bind yourself in Satan’s attack with the lie “This is probably just God testing me” or “God probably has a plan with this”.
We also need to remember that God does NOT “try” us or “test” us in disease, for when Jesus was crucified, one of the things he took on the cross was our sickness, so we can be free by placing it all at on Him for TRUST and FAITH in Him.
Surely He (Jesus) has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.