Friday, February 18, 2011

The Testing of Spirits By the Spirit

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

~Matthew 4:1 (NRSV).

So, the Spirit of God sends Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted—or tested. Much the same happened to Job if we’ll recall in chapter 1 of that book.

Now, does it really occur that God tests us this way?

Reading further through Matthew 4 we’re shown that Jesus receives three potentially earth-rending tests and responds obediently in each circumstance, utilising the Word of God as powerful defence.

Jesus’ testing was an important prelude to commencing his ministry—without it would he have been qualified?

Jesus’ Testing and Ours

The fact that the devil fled after the third encounter suggests to us what we already know; survive our testing (by simple obedience) and the devil does flee.

Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of God testing us. Whether or not the Lord allows it via the circumstances of life or not is beside the point; it happens, and if God’s in control of all things, our testing is perfectly within the Spirit’s realm.

Besides, from all this, how do we know if people are ready for higher duties—per Jesus’ way, they’re tested to see if they’re ready. Testing hence is seen as a vital check in the process of development—not a thing to catch people out.

We would not view our children’s school examinations as the institution trying to trick them—to fail them unnecessarily. No, examinations are set for the purpose of verifying learning as a platform for more advanced learning.

So it is for us.

Our Purposes Beyond the Tests of Life

If God tests us, or allows the testing to occur, it is for our good. The temptations are set at a level that is not beyond us—they’re ‘stage-appropriate’ tests.

If we can keep coming back to Jesus’ temptations—understanding that there was a purpose in them—we can understand better the basis of our own testing.

I recall a period of perhaps three years in my life where I felt tested on a constant, daily basis. The strange thing was, with each ‘passed’ test, my confidence, and hence my faith, grew. I became a believer that God allows his disciples to be tested. And the more I believed this, the more I noticed individual tests and was therefore ready for them, and the more I praised God when I was found obedient to the ones I passed. (Humility for failure, of course, is the golden ticket to the Spirit’s abundant grace.)

My belief seemed to be reconciled to the circumstances in how the Lord was working in my life. A very consistent pattern was set. The purpose of the testing was gradually revealed.

The Spirit has more in holy mind for us than we can see; perhaps it’s beyond what we even dream of. But we can’t get there without being placed into temptations which reveal our true mettle.

Always beyond a test is a task of the Lord that’s for us alone to do.

Now, all of a sudden, it is high privilege to be tested, for these are our tests (nobody else’s) and they’re qualifying us for the opportunity at higher service.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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