Have you ever heard one of those ominous-sounding announcements on the radio that says something like, “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. At the sound of the tone, you will be given instructions. We repeat, this is only a test.” The idea is that certain radio and television stations have been selected as the units to transmit information to tell the public what to do in case there were an emergency such as a nuclear war or a meltdown in a nuclear plant.
In reality, the message would probably go something along the lines of, “This is not a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. This is the real thing. There is a nuclear meltdown in your area and you are worm food at this time. Have a nice day.” Those broadcasts are to remind us that the real thing could be coming.
God will give tests as well. He will bring tests into our lives to see whether we are learning the material he is seeking to teach us. Often we think that we know more than we really know. We think that we have certain areas down and don’t need any further instruction in them. We think that we have learned to walk by faith, that we have learned to trust God. But sometimes God will retest us, and we will be shocked to find that we don’t know as much as we thought we knew.
God bring tests in our lives so we will learn the lessons that He is trying to teach us and so we will advance spiritually and not remain forever in spiritual kindergarten.
It reminds me of how a mother eagle will teach her eaglets to fly. When it comes time for them to fly, the mother has an unorthodox method of encouraging it. She basically will kick the eaglets out of the nest. That is a long drop, because eagles tend to go to the highest branches and peaks to build their nests. After the mother kicks the eaglet out of the nest, she waits until it has dropped down about 90 feet or more before she swoops down and scoops up the little bird, puts it back into the nest, and then kicks it out again.
Sometimes something like that will happen to us. We are sitting comfortably in our little nest. Everything is going well. And all of the sudden, God will give us a little boot and we are in a free fall. We think it is all going to end. Then he swoops down and picks us up.
Why does God do that? He wants us to grow up spiritually. He wants us to learn how to fly. He wants us to learn that he is who he says he is. He wants us to trust him, even when we don’t understand him. He wants us to be patient with him, even when he doesn’t work on our schedules. He wants us to grow up and be strong spiritually.
The book of James gives us this little insight about tests and trials: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2–4 NTL).
When a trial comes, when hardship comes, when temptation comes, we tend to say, “Not this again!” Don’t we understand that it is an opportunity to grow? It is an opportunity to learn.
God doesn’t want fair-weather followers. He doesn’t want to be thought of as some celestial Big Buddy up in heaven. Nor does he want us to follow him because it makes us feel better about ourselves or because we need “a little religion” in our lives. He wants us to follow him because we love him and want to know him.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, he knew that people were following him for the wrong reasons and with the wrong motives, and he intentionally did things and said things to thin out the ranks. That may come as a surprise to us, but it is true.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 NKJV, emphasis added). Notice that he did not say, “Give us this year our yearly bread,” or “Give us this month our monthly bread,” or even “Give us this week our weekly bread.” Rather, it is “Give us this day our daily bread.”
When Jesus taught us to pray that way, he was showing us that we need to be dependent on God. We need to be looking to the Lord to provide the things we need.
But before the petition for daily bread, Jesus said to first pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (verses 9–10). Before we offer a word of personal petition, we are to contemplate the greatness and awesomeness of God and let it sink in. And I suggest to you that after you do this, you may change what you are about to pray. As you think of God and his greatness, you will see your problem in perspective.
Many times we diminish God in our minds as to how great he is, and we blow our problems out of proportion, making them far worse than they are. What we need to do is get things in their proper perspective and see how great and powerful our God is. It will help us to see our problems for what they are: things that can be resolved by God.
So when God gives a test, when that trial comes your way, don’t treat it as an intruder, but welcome it as a friend. It is an opportunity for God to show his power in your life. It is an opportunity for you to learn things that you need to learn.