(June 6, 1990)
Exams are over for university and college students, just coming up for school children. Young people anxiously wonder, “Will I pass?” And then there are those tests where passing is secondary; the poor student just wants to get through the exam!
We don’t need to be in school to experience tough tests: a child is sick for weeks and weeks, unemployment hits and keeps on hitting, the car doesn’t nickle and dime any more, now it’s into fifties and hundreds. At those times, we just want to get through the trial and go on to more enjoyable things.
Most of us do not look forward to those kind of exams. In fact, we do whatever we can to avoid “writing” them. However, God offers His children a certain character trait that makes it possible to not only get through the test, but do so with a passing grade! What we need, aside from good study habits, is PERSEVERANCE.
The word means “to remain under”; that is, “don’t bail out, do what can be done, and even if the nothing seems to work out, hang in there. Continue to obey God and trust Him, no matter what happens.”
“Remaining under” is not a normal response. Most of us, if we don’t run from a problem, quickly take it to God, begging Him to “fix” it. In fact, in the beginning of my Christian life, I thought if my faith was right, God would bring every trial swiftly to a happy ending and I would not have to endure difficult situations. I thought comfort would surely come, or peace, or a person would be saved or a life would change. I was so sure of God. He would never do me harm, nothing would ever hurt.
Then life dealt some blows. My assurance of being comfortable fell apart. I thought I was losing my “faith”... and I was... and it was a good thing! That kind of “faith” is not faith at all but a kind of mental manipulation putting God in the middle of my desires and trusting He would do what I wanted. I had to learn that while God can “kiss it and make it all better,” He doesn’t always.
Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job didn’t demand happy endings. Neither his faith nor his patient PERSEVERANCE pulled God’s strings. God knew all about his trials and more, and would do the right thing, but not necessarily the most comfortable thing. It takes a long time to learn this.
When tests come, James says to rejoice... each trial will actually produce PERSEVERANCE, the very thing needed to endure that test and whatever other trials may follow. Trials produce PERSEVERANCE by first exposing our genuine desires along with any attitudes and attempts to manipulate God to do what we want. They also show us where our wants conflict with His will. Excessive tests enable us to stop demanding and begin realizing we do not control God by our “faith.” Instead, we learn that God is God. He always does what is right, and He is merely adjusting our concept of right. As that happens, we discover that instead of wanting to run away, we find ourselves ready to hang in there, if for no other reason but to see what He is up to.
Faith that trusts God (no matter what) and endures a situation (no matter what) is a mature faith based on knowing that the pressures of life are important to our spiritual growth. Actually, our pressure-free situation comes later, in heaven. Right now, PERSEVERANCE is far more valuable (and realistic) than our demands for a life without trials.
So as those tests come, we can look beyond the pain to passing the test by a mature, persevering confidence in God. That kind of focus may not always work as a pain killer but it will give us an A+ on the exam.