My grandmother was a Portuguese immigrant. The daughter of textile mill workers, she was much older than the English speaking students in her class, and they mocked her. She quit school after the fourth grade when she learned to read, write, and do simple math.
At 14, she lied about her age so she could join her parents and eldest brother in the mill.
When mill work became too strenuous, she hired herself out to babysit other mill workers’ children.
She once told me a story about the first man for whom she worked.
“Money was always tight,” she said. “They had five children. But every now and then Mr. P. would leave money lying around on a table or a dresser. I wondered why he would be so careless. . .”
Peering at me over the top of her over-sized reading glasses, she raised an eyebrow and shook her finger. “THEN I figured it out. He was testing me. He wanted to see if I was honest.” Her eyes looked beyond mine and into the past. “I never took anything,” she said softly. “Not even a coin I found in his pocket when I was doing the laundry.”
The concept of testing is biblical.
God tested Abraham when he told him to sacrifice Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22:1). God tested Hezekiah, too: “But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart” (2 Chr. 32:31).
Because God is omniscient (all knowing), he knew Abraham would trust his promises and be willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, so why did he test him? He knew what was in Hezekiah’s heart and how he would respond to the test set before him, so why did he test him?
And why does he test us?
Maybe because Abraham needed to know whether he loved God more than anyone and anything else. And maybe because Hezekiah needed to know whether his heart was wholly committed to the Lord.
Times of testing, when circumstances are overwhelming and God seems far away force us to make a choice: will we believe God’s promises, or will we allow our circumstances to steal our faith?
Joshua summed up the choice in one sentence: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,” (Josh. 24:15).
Mr. P. didn't leave money around because he hoped my grandmother would steal. He left money around so she could prove she was honest. God doesn't test our faith because he hopes we will fail. He tests us so we can stake our faith firmly on him.
If you’re going through a faith crisis, I challenge you to keep your eyes on Jesus. Trust him with your past, your present, and your future. Throw in your whole lot with the one who loved you enough to die for you.
I can say with confidence, God will not disappoint you.
When you weather a crisis and come out on the other side with your faith not only intact, but stronger than ever, God will use your testimony to strengthen and encourage others. He’ll give you authentic and indisputable faith stories. He’ll use your tears to water others’ fledgling faith, and he’ll use your obedience to accomplish spiritual deeds on his behalf—all because you passed the faith test.
So how do we pass? By mustering up our own courage, strength, or trust?
We pass God's test by clinging tightly to his hand, asking him to strengthen us, and trusting his will for our lives. We say with Joshua, “as for me and my household, (no matter what) we will serve the LORD.”
I hope one day I'll hear God say the same words he said to Abraham:
“Now I know that you fear God.”
What about you? Are you experiencing a trial? Could it be a test from the Lord to strengthen your faith? God's given you the power to pass the test, and he's rooting for you. How are you going to respond?