By: Nancy Baumgartner, White Pine Church-Cogan House Township
As the school year begins, the specter of tests looms large for many students. However, tests are not confined to the halls of education. I don’t know about others, but my natural reaction to being tested is, “no thanks, not today, too busy, not prepared. Catch me later.” Given the choice, none of us would opt to undergo testing. But life seldom gives us a choice. Tests come whether we are ready or not and, often, at the worst possible time. It may be as complex as having to undergo a variety of procedures to determine what is ailing us or as simple as putting on a joyful attitude when a relative drops in with no warning, a full suitcase, and plans to “spend a few days with you.”
Trying to pretend that being tested will somehow pass us by, or wait for an opportune time to come our way, is not only faulty thinking but sets us up for failure. Accepting that tests are part of life can be the first step toward passing them with victory and grace.
But, how to prepare is the question. James 1:2-4 is a good place to start. James is direct and specific in advising us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (NKJV). Ah, patience! That elusive ability which often takes a lifetime to perfect. But then Paul comes along and assures us in Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And Paul knew a thing or two about being tested.
These two scriptures give us tools to begin preparing for life’s testing: acceptance and assurance. James and Paul were able to give such advice because they knew the testing Jesus endured on his mission to do his heavenly Father’s bidding.
In Matthew 4, Jesus is being led by the Holy Spirit into the desert, there to wrestle with the most diabolical of all testers, the Devil. For forty days, the son of God fought to pass his test.
From this example, we can learn that determination to hold firm to what we were created to be and to accomplish God’s plans for us is crucial. Taking the easy path may be just sin wrapped up as a win.
Jesus’ life was full of tests, all of a difficulty none of us will see or would be able to endure. His strength to pass his tests was anchored in his knowledge that his Father in Heaven would not leave him.
So, in our own lives perhaps the first thing to do when testing comes our way is to check our anchor. Is it secured to the blessed assurance God gives us in Isaiah 41:10? “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Jesus knew he would be provided all he needed for the job. We can know that as well.
When testing comes, and it surely will, remember the last lines of this beautiful hymn written by Rev. William Clark Martin (1864-1914) titled, “My Anchor Holds.” “Tempters seek to lure astray; Storms obscure the light of day; But in Christ I can be bold, I’ve an anchor that shall hold.”