For the third time in the last few months I have had the interesting experience of people of "faith" reacting negatively to any speaking of God testing his children. I find this curious that the verbage of testing is so scary to these folks. So I thought that I would ponder it a bit on my blog today.
First, it is clear to me that God tests his children. I don't think any careful student of the Bible can reject this. In the Old Testament we read a pretty clear verse in Genesis 22.1 "...God tested Abraham..." Proverbs 17.3 tells us that "the Lord tests men's hearts" as a crucible tests silver and gold. Jeremiah 20.12 specifically tells us that the Lord tests "the righteous". So clearly God behaved this way in the past. Some might object and say that God does not do these things in the New Testament. But that is clearly NOT how the Apostle Paul viewed God when he wrote in 1 Thess 2.3-4 "... we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts..." My understanding is that God tests us and that he does so to let us see what is in our heart. We are tested to assess this heart that can be "decietfully wicked" and mask our true intent and our true allegiances.
Second, God is good even when life is bad. I suspect that the fear that these "faith" people have is that God will be percieved as the author of some malady that is upon someone, or be blamed for what is perceived as unanswered prayer, or to be accused as the cause for some circumstance. There is a difference between God allowing something to come upon someone and God designing something specifically for someone. When God says in Ex 4.11 that he makes the deafened ears clearly he is speaking to Moses regarding Moses' excuse making in response to God call. God isn't saying that he chooses some to be sick, or handicapped. He is the soveriegn, but people are born with handicaps and disabilities, sicknesses, etc because of the sin tainted brokenness of the world that we live in. Could God change that? Sure ! And he did in Jesus! Making a way for everyone who enters the kingdom out of this sick and broken world to find immediate wholeness.
Third, the tests that the Lord gives are not temptations to sin. James makes this clear enough saying that God does not tempt man. So these cricumstances of life come along and reveal the impurities and the weaknesses of character that are hidden in the recesses of the heart of men. The goal of a test, as any good teacher will tell you, is to continue the education and not to torpedo the student! God knows my heart. But the issue is that I do not know my own deceitful heart. The test reveals what I am made of on the inside.... not to God but to me.
So why are we afraid of the simple truth of Scripture? Could it be that we are trying to insulate ourselves from the test itself? Could it be that we are afraid that our faith would fail if we thought for a moment that God would allow a discomfort or hardship? The author of Hebrews tells us that we are to "endure hardship as discipline" and reminds us that the Lord disciplines those he loves. If the goal of my heart is complete surrender to the Lord then certainly I am to embrace the Lord who tests my heart. And there is no reason to be scared of testing.