Properly preparing for a life-threatening event is crucial. Your preparation will determine your ability to respond, and quite likely the odds for or against your survival. But sometimes survival isn’t the measure of success.
So let’s talk about survival, success and tests.
We all face tests. In the academic or training realm they’re simply designed to assess levels of skill and expose areas of weakness. They could be written, verbal or even have a practical component. Someone getting licensed to fly an airplane needs to demonstrate both what they know AND an ability to fly. Just one of those two isn’t sufficient.
A battery of medical tests can measure the status of bodily functions and systems, identifying issues that need to be addressed before they become life-threatening. Life itself can be like a battery of tests. Sometimes more like assault and battery.
Today’s verse says KNOWING THAT THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH PRODUCES ENDURANCE
The interesting twist that comes with tests from God is that they not only REVEAL things to us and others about our skills, knowledge or capacity to perform; they can actually DEVELOP things within us as we walk through them.
It is true that THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH PRODUCES ENDURANCE, but that’s just a process description. It doesn’t describe the means. There’s another verse in the bible that says we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. So suffering is one means that God can use to develop our endurance. Like physical training or long ruck marches in the military, suffering can actually develop deep strength and extend and expand our capacity.
Overcoming the inner voice that wants to quit when things get tough builds character and develops strength. So how do you keep your eye on the goal?
Paul the apostle prayed that the Lord would direct the hearts of his friends into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. Those two things lift us above the battle, giving us inner peace and direction as our faith is tested.
This is only a test, and trusting in God’s love while we are being tested keeps our minds and hearts focused where they need to be. Never forgetting in the darkness of the tests what we learned in the light of His presence. Rejoicing – even in our sufferings – because we know that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. It PRODUCES, it’s not wasted time. The heat of the oven bakes the cake. The fire of the furnace purifies the metal. Pressure turns coal into diamonds. Our sufferings are not wasted in the hands of God; He uses them to PRODUCE in us things He knows we need.
This is only a test, and recalling Christ’s example of perseverance in His suffering while we are being tested gives us the strength to continue. Friends, you and I have need of endurance, so that when we have done the will of God we’ll receive what is promised. These light momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Trials demonstrate – to you and to others – that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. When your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise, glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
This is only a test, and focusing on God’s love and Christ’s perseverance gives us strength.
I would teach karate students kicks, blocks and strikes, then use line drills to develop skills. An attacker punching to the face, for example, the defender block and counter-attack. It seemed easy during the line drill. It was repetitive and sometimes even boring. But it developed the skill needed for sparring, when any attack could come your way and you needed to be able to respond quickly and properly to defend and counter. But sparring well was never the goal. The goal was surviving an encounter on the street that threatened you “for real.” That was the situation we hoped to avoid but trained for. Because passing that test could mean the difference between life and death.
The greatest test is being willing to lay down our lives. No time for stories with specifics here, only time for an observation that sometimes survival is not the measure of success.
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance, because THAT is where you’ll find all you need to pass every test.