This Is Only a Test

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times it’s happened to me. I attend a spiritual retreat, or a weekend of immersion in Scriptures, and come away on a spiritual mountaintop. God is so good; God is so real; my spirit is rejoicing. And then, within a few days something happens that completely destroys that euphoria. Far too often I can see a clear link between the difficulty and the spiritual lessons I “learned” during my retreat.

Has that happened to you? If I asked for a show of hands I would guess yours would go up. What’s up with that!

For me, there are two important things I have more than likely forgotten to do. The first is I have not set in place a plan to walk forward in whatever new truth God has given me. I have not memorized verses, set up an accountability partner, or set goals for myself that reflect a desire to make this a permanent change in my life.

The second is that I have forgotten that I cannot and will not make any meaningful change in my own power. As God reminded Zechariah, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6). No, any “spiritual” task undertaken in my own power is doomed to failure.

So what is happening? Tony Evans explains in his book The Power of God’s Names,

“tests (or trials) are designed to do two things: They demonstrate whether we’ve been paying attention to the lessons we’ve learned, and they give God opportunities to reveal something new about Himself, which develops our character and strengthens our faith.”[1]

That makes sense. I may have “crammed” for the test, but then I immediately forgot everything I had just learned, and was off to the next experience, riding my rapidly deflating magic carpet. I have not truly internalized the lesson, and therefore there is no real change in me, no determination to submit to whatever it takes to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).

So God sends a test. His tests are not designed to try to fail me, but rather to remind me that I need to change. Through the test He reminds me that He has what it takes to change me—He is what it takes to change me. And He longs to work with me to bring that change in me.

Job learned this lesson well. He says, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). I pray I never have to experience the level of testing Job endured. But whatever God sends my way, I can be assured that first, God has a purpose for whatever pain, heartache, losses He allows into my life, and second, that if I walk through those difficulties holding on to the hand of the Almighty God, I will not fail. Instead, I will graduate summa cum laude, and hear His words, “Well done.”

[1] Tony Evans, The Power of God’s Names (Harvest House Publishers, Kindle Edition), p. 156.

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