Saturday, February 4, 2012

Testing... is it really all about pass or fail?

by Shelley Hendrix, Special Guest Blogger

In the Christian world, and even in the secular, we're often told that tests come before promotion or
blessings or a new level. Having been in the Church most of my life, I've heard this a lot! {Preachers and teachers often tell us that it's up to us to "pass the test" so we don't have to repeat it or lose out on the intended blessing God has for us.

But when I read the Bible, and what God is talking about when it comes to "tests" or "testing", it has nothing to do with a sheet of paper, #2 Pencils, or whether or not I've studied or crammed enough to pull off a passing grade.

Take this verse for example: Job 23:10b says, "...when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." (NIV)

Or this one, James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (NIV)

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not an argumentative person, and I can totally see the relevance to the illustration many teachers use when they say that we need to be responsible for how we handle tests because how we respond will have an affect on what happens next. But, I want to share something with you that God has shown me in my studies. For one, I've come to realize that far too often, Westernized Christians view the Bible through a Westernized culture's lens. We are so accustomed to being "tested" by our teachers, bosses, parents, co-workers, spouses, and our friends to see if we can pass the test they place in front of us.

Think of all the reality shows now that have to do with catching people when they think no one is looking! It's frightening, really, to see how people behave when they think no one sees.


In tests, there are questions posed, and answers given. If you know the right answers, you pass the test. If you don't know, and you try to guess, you might find out how creative you can be, you might get some right; but, let's face it, you probably won't pass. If you don't know and don't care, you are pretty much guaranteed to fail. Follow me so far? That's how we view tests and testing. It's all about our score--our ability to perform well enough to pass and move on up.

But what if God's tests have nothing to do with this kind of thinking?
What if God has a higher purpose than simply to show us how much of a failure we are and how far we need to go in our striving and self effort to please Him when the tests come? What if it's not about us pridefully seeing how far we have come so that we are able and capable of passing His tests?

What if His purposes for testing us have more to do with purifying us from pollutants, exposing weak places so He can bring His strength to fortify us? What if testing us was more about His loving work in us than about our proving our love for Him by whether or not we pass or fail?

We are all familiar, at least to some extent, of the work of a goldsmith or silversmith. The goldsmith takes the precious metal pulled out of the earth. Metal that is not much to look at when it is unrefined, and yet he sees what it can become! The goldsmith knows that what he is holding in his hand has the potential to become something great--given the right time, pressure, heat, and more time, and more heat, and more pressure....
As the goldsmith patiently works with the metal in the refiner's pot, he has to stay with the metal, watching carefully, stirring when necessary, raising the temperature at the right time, and letting the temperature cool before permanently damaging the metal he is so carefully protecting and perfecting. You see, it's not just about the gold being purified, it's also about the intented purpose for the gold's future use!

As the temperature rises, impurities that have attached and enmeshed to the pure metal rise to the surface of the liquified gold during times of intense heat. The goldsmith feels the heat produced through this testing process--testing not to see if the metal is truly gold, for he already knows it is!--but testing which means purifying, to remove any and every single thing that doesn't belong within the gold. As he watches these impurities rise to the surface in the midst of the heat, he skillfully removes them himself! He exposes what is really inside, knowing full well to expect there to be impurities. Would he have rejected this gold had he known of its impurities--obviously the answer is no. Gold is gold. But some will require more heat and more pressure, and only the goldsmith is qualified to make the determination of how much heat, how often, and how much pressure will be applied.

The goldsmith knows that the testing and re-testing, and testing again are vital because some impurities are far more deeply attached to the gold than others, and greater heat will be necessary to expose those so they can be removed. He know the testings have been accomplished successfully when he is able to see his own reflection in the liquid metal beneath his face.

And, once this happens, he is then able to move on to the reason he began this process in the first place. You see, he knows the purposes and intended destiny of the metal he has now purified. He knew it before the process even began! Will it become jewelry to enhance a woman's natural beauty? Will it become a coin to help fund the work of ministry or to purchase necessities or desired goods? Will it become ornamental to bring lasting beauty to a home or church or city? Gold has been used in so many various ways, but the gold itself doesn't get to decide how or where or when it will be used. Once it has been purified, it's only job is to surrender itself to the one who patiently and carefully tested it, purified, and perfected it for its purpose.

So, no, I definitely don't believe God is waiting to see if I'm going to pass the tests I've been given. I don't believe I'll have to re-take the test if I don't muster up enough strength, courage or godliness to pass it this time around. I do believe, though, very strongly, that God tests me, raises the temperature, and adds pressure over and over as He is gently and very carefully exposing the impurities that remain within me so that as I surrender to His touch, He can remove those things that would only serve to hinder and pollute me if they were to remain.

May we, with Job, faithfully declare, that when He has tested us, we will come forth as GOLD!

I am honored to have Shelley Hendrix, my friend and mentor, here on my blog. Shelley will bless you with her wisdom and grace. She is the real deal; authentic, transparent, and seeking after God's heart. Her life (like mine and yours) is not always easy, but her God is trustworthy. I know you will enjoy reading her blog.  Thank you, Shelley, you have blessed my life !

Enjoy more good stuff from Shelley at www.shelleyhendrix.org.

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