Bible Reveals God's Pattern for Testing His Children

by T.W. Hunt & Melina Monroe

Editor's note: To the biblical examples given below of the way God tests His children could be added the authors' own stories-for they credit their family's triple experience with cancer as the means God used to open the eyes of their understanding to a deeper knowledge and love of their Creator and Savior. This extract is taken from From Heaven's View, Chapter 10: "Heaven's View of Suffering."

In the Bible, Testing or Proving Has Several Distinguishing Marks.

First, the person being tested has an established relationship with the One doing the testing. They have a history together, and they know each other well. Their strong prior relationship provides the source of the faithfulness or loyalty of the one being tried (tested).

Second, during the trial, the One giving the test appears (from earthly circumstances) to be acting contrary to what the tested person knows Him to be. If God never appeared to act contrary to our human expectations (what we think He ought to do or be), He could not test our loyalty to our understanding of His true nature, as Scripture and prayer have revealed Him. Testing removes limitations to our understanding of Him.

This is how testing worked in Scripture and how it works with us today. When God appears to be silent or distant while we suffer, or seems to require something out of His character, He appears to be acting contrary to what We would expect. But if His wisdom so deals with us that we have to think or ponder His purposes, He can lead us into a deeper understanding of Himself.

Unless His dealings prompt us to question and investigate His purposes, he cannot test us to see if we will remain true to what we already know. From heaven's perspective, He has not changed at all; and after the test that becomes clear to us as well. We can safely say, then, that testing makes us probe further into God's nature and that probing usually establishes the validity of His revelation of Himself. Sometimes the probing also adds to our knowledge of God.

Third, the person who passes the test emerges with greater spiritual stature, purified, and knows God more intimately-and therefore has more trust in His veracity and more love for Him personally. These distinguishing marks characterize the trials recorded in Scripture. Once they are recognized, they enable us to walk through our own fiery trials with unwavering faith.

Examples Show God's Pattern of Testing

Job: Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and turned away from evil. He had ten children, for whom he continually offered sacrifices. It takes several years to amass the family and the wealth Job had, and from this we can infer that his relationship with God had developed over time (process). God called Job "My servant," and said there was no one like him on earth. God knew Job, and Job knew God.

[God] allowed Satan access to all that Job had. From earth's perspective, Job lost everything and suffered intense pain and humiliation. Although God appeared to be acting contrary to what Job expected, Job clung to what he knew of his God. He did not doubt God's love or sovereignty. He affirmed, "though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15; cf. also 23:10). Job's trial also demonstrates the third mark of testing: the trial purified him radically. Early in his test, Job had presumed to answer for God to his friends. Yet at the end he grievously confessed, "I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me.I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees thee; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes" (42:3-6).

Abraham: Abraham had walked with God for many years. He had watched God's ways, heard God's promises, been given God's covenant, and seen God's miracles. God knew Abraham, and Abraham knew God well enough to be called "the friend of God." His lifetime was a process of learning God's ways in ever-increasing measure.

Then God tested Abraham. He appeared to command a thing that seemed totally out of His character-a human sacrifice of the promised heir, Isaac. From earth's perspective, it was untypical and cruel. "A good God would not let this happen," or "If God requires this, then He is neither just nor good." Here was the test: would Abraham cling to what he knew of his God in the face of seemingly opposite circumstances? Abraham passed his test: "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). His test led him into a deeper understanding of his Friend[and] God bestowed on Abraham one of the most magnificent promises and heritages in the Bible: the Messiah would come from his seed, and the entire world would be blessed because of his obedience.

The Syrophoenician Woman: From earth's view, this story is one of the most difficult to understand in the New Testament. From heaven's view, it is a beautiful portrayal of pure gold passing out a fierce crucible (see Matt. 15:21-27). This woman understood well who Jesus was: she called Him "Lord" and "Son of David." She clung to her understanding of Him, even though it was not as deep as Abraham's intimacy.

Jesus acted toward her in a way that seems opposite to all we know about Him. He first ignored her, then equated her to a dog (diminutive form of the word kunrion). How not like Jesus! [But] Jesus knew her, and He knew what her faith would bear. As [with] Job and Abraham, this woman came away with a deeper relationship with Jesus. This Canaanite woman was given one of only five compliments from Jesus recorded in the Gospels (John 1:47; Matt. 8:10; Matt. 15:28; Luke 7:28; and Mark 14:9).

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From From Heaven's View-God Bringing His Children to Glory, by T. W. Hunt and Melana Hunt Monroe, Broadman & Holman Publishers. C. 2002 by T. W. Hunt and Melana Hunt Monroe. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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