by Mark Hamby
I don't know about you, but I always hated taking tests, especially when they revealed how unprepared I was.
But I realize now that I will be tested for the rest of my life.
Jeremiah 12:3-5 is one of my favorite portions of Scripture: "But you, O LORD, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do when the Jordan overflows?"
I pray that the Lord will lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil, almost every day. But if I must walk through tumultuous waters, I need to prepare for the test that lies ahead. "Blessed is the man that endures temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him." (James 1:12) I don't do well with tests, but I know that God's tests reveal the state of my heart.
Jeremiah understood this, as is evident when he says, "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you " In other words, if the people we know and love are getting under our skin, how will we be able to handle the difficult tests when they come? If we are coasting during the relatively smooth times in life, what will we do when the waters of life begin to swallow us?
The good news is, we can be prepared to face the day's testing. We can be prepared to compete. Psalm 119:9 gives ample guidance: "How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word." How shall we compete? By taking up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! It is God's Word that will keep us from sin, as we read: "Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11)
During the days of Nehemiah, God's people read the Word of God for six hours-then they confessed their sin for another six hours! They were prepared to take the test; they were prepared to run the race; they were prepared to compete. But in today's fast-paced culture, our lives are pulled in many directions, and we yield to endless diversions. We are consumers of information-from the newspaper to magazines to the TV to the internet to email to the iPod. As a result, we fail to prepare for the test before us. The myriad of distractions keep us from focusing on that which will make us ready for the overflowing of the Jordan-God's Word.
Preparing to run with horses, to survive when the waters of life overflow, requires serious devotion to God and His Word. God will test us, for whom He loves, He disciplines. David, who was prepared by God through the harshest of tests, says in Psalm 119:92, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." He continues, "Unless your law had been my delight, I should have then perished in my affliction."
When I consider that God has my best interest in mind-that God really does forgive me when I repent of my all-too-frequent sins-that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ask or think-these motivations renew my resolve to serve Christ and not myself. David sees this process clearly when he writes in Psalm 66: "For you, O God, have tested us: you have tried us, as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction upon our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but you brought us out into a place of abundance."
So be prepared. Awaiting us is a place of abundance; awaiting us is a crown of life.
Mark Hamby is founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries and Publishing.