Bread – Tests

May 6, 2013


Readings for Monday, May 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77,79,80

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The reading from James today begins this way – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time equating “joy” to “tests” and “trials.” It seems to me that tests were always something we had to have in school to advance to the next level or to graduate, but they were never anything I was joyful about (except, of course, when finished). Trials are even worse; who has joy in trials?

And, yet, that is what God calls us to.

Now I thought of a way out of this dilemma – maybe “joy” doesn’t mean a good feeling, just an attitude, an orientation. So I looked it up. The word used by James for “joy” means to rejoice because you have received a gift from God. So it means both an action and an orientation – the act of rejoicing caused by or resulting in an attitude of joy. We get there by recognizing that our tests today, our trials today, are in fact gifts of God.

And, indeed, our reading from Deuteronomy emphasizes this – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart…And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna … that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you…For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…” Deut. 8:2-7

Testing is a time of discipline; discipline is a sign of love. We are tested because the Lord loves us and has in mind for us a “good land,” a place we are going after having gone through the time of testing.

This is all easy to say but very hard to live when we are preparing for or taking the test. When we are in the middle of a trial, we are tired, depressed, worn out, at a loss for what to do, sad, confused, doubting, angry, and a bunch of other things all tied up into one. The Lord says to us – “Have joy in the test and during the test, rejoice because I Am and I care enough about you to discipline you.”

Rejoice because we see God’s blessing, purpose, and love in the trial we face, in the trial we are in. How can we do this?

We can do this only because the same God who tests is the same God who loves who is the same God who saves and who is the same God who, in His sovereignty and according to His purposes, has chosen to reveal Himself and His purposes to us. In our reading today from Luke, Christ ask the disciples who He is and Peter responds “The Christ of God.” Matthew reports something else that Jesus’ said – “Blessed are you, [Peter] for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 16:17 We can have joy in bad circumstances, in times of testing and trial, because we have wisdom about our circumstances when we ask God for such wisdom in faith that He will reveal it to us (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith…” James 1:5-6).

Joy in trial; joy during the test. Rejoicing in our heart arising from Godly wisdom that our trial today, the test we are taking, is a blessing, a gift from God.

This is not natural; it is supernatural. This is not normal; this is supernormal. This is not the natural state of man; this is the new man created by God when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not the work of man; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thus our tests are a double blessing. The first blessing is that the trial exists at all, that God so loves us that He disciplines us as a father would discipline a son. The second blessing is that we are given both the faith in Christ and the faith to ask for wisdom without doubting, so that we may have the wisdom to see the trial and the test for what it is.

Double blessing. Now isn’t that a reason for joy, for rejoicing, if there ever was one?

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© 2013 GBF

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