Any great journey has, built into it, various kinds of tests. Any great voyage faces some kind of trial. Some time of choppy water or tempest before we make it safely into the harbour.
We’ve been looking at Exodus, and like any other epic journey, Moses and the people of Israel faced many tests along the way. If you know anything about tests, if you’ve sat any tests before, you would realise that the purpose of these is to examine you, what you know and how you perform. A test is something you can either pass or fail. If you pass, you get another round of tests. If you fail, you get to resit the test.
Moses led the people on a journey that lasted 40 years, and right at the end as they were about to enter the Promised Land, he told the people this…
Deuteronomy 8:2 (ESV Strong’s)
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
Tests in life come that He might know what’s in our hearts.
Lord speak to us now, and if we face tests right now, speak into those very situations, we pray in Jesus’ name.
THE PURPOSE OF TESTS
Unless you test something, you can never be sure it works properly. Imagine what our roads would look like if all we had to do to get a licence as say how good a driver we are? Imagine how confident you would be in a surgeon who studied but never passed a test in medical school, but did drive a Lexis? Imagine if you came to me with a vision problem and without testing your eyes I prescribed a random lens I hoped would help you see? Wouldn’t you look at me and say, “Should’ve gone to the other guys?”
1. TESTS PROVE YOUR COMPETENCY AND CHARACTER
Tests are not bad or evil, they are necessary to prove to your examiners and to yourself that you are competent, able to do the task, and also that you have the character, the ability and integrity perform the task wisely.
Moses was tested many times. He failed when he murdered the Egyptian, or when he struck the rock in anger, but he passed the plagues and the Red Sea showdown with flying colours!
If you are facing a test right now, don’t get discouraged; it’s not an affliction, it is an opportunity to shine! Tests prove competency and character.
James 1:2-3 (ESV Strong’s)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
2. TESTS ALSO DEVELOP YOUR COMPETENCY AND CHARACTER
Testing places you under pressure, and it also causes you to develop in both competency and character. As you pass one test, your confidence and faith to face and pass the next test increases.
Joseph looked back on a life of unbelievable tests with God’s perspective
Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong’s)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
He saw that God had used the tests he had faced to develop his character and abilities for such a time as this. Tests are not bad, they are good.
Hebrews 12:11 (ESV Strong’s)
For the moment all discipline (Greek, tutoring, testing, training) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
TESTS ARE NORMAL
1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV Strong’s)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Some Christians are shocked when God tests their faith, but we should not be. If our faith is tested in a fiery crucible, we should not be surprised, we should rejoice.
Some people teach that if God is in something it all becomes easy, so if it is hard, is can’t be God. That’s not my experience, and I’m pretty sure Moses, Joseph, Abraham, David, Paul and Jesus would disagree. If you’re tested, if you’re challenged, if you’re stretched it’s very often a sign of being in God’s will, not put of it! If you’re sailing through life without problems, chances are the devil has neutralised you and you are no threat to him!
YOU CAN PASS OR FAIL
Even the Blessing of God can be a test, and with any test you can pass or fail.
Exodus 16:4 (ESV Strong’s)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
Moses actually faced the same test twice, with massive consequences and a different result…
Exodus 17:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)
Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Meribah means test, and so it became a test for the people and Moses himself.
Later on in the journey, the people again complained and moaned about the lack of water, at the same place of testing, Meribah, and God said this…
Numbers 20:8 (ESV Strong’s)
“Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.
But then Moses and Aaron got angry, and note the words…
Numbers 20:10-12 (ESV Strong’s)
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”
Huge test, huge failure. God is going to test you, but beware of being too arrogant and confident in yourself that you fail the test!
TESTS IN LIFE COME FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES
God allows testing in our lives, and it comes from many sources. People we love will often test us. Circumstances will test us. Sometimes temptations test us. Let me share some of the categories of testing Moses faced
1. MORAL TESTS
When Moses killed the Egyptian overseer he failed a moral test. He committed murder. When David looked over the fence at Bathsheba he failed a moral test as well. Some tests are tests of our character, and we need to pass them to grow in the things of God.
A moral test might look like it’s about you and another person or persons, but it is really about you and God. David confessed his sin of adultery, but he said to God,
Psalms 51:4 (ESV Strong’s)
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
If you face temptation or some kind of moral test, remember that a moral test is not about them, it’s really about you and the Lord, and if you fail you let God down number one.
2. OBEDIENCE TESTS
Most tests you face in life come down to one simple thing… obedience. The options you face might both be moral, but only one is obedience, and partial obedience is actually disobedience!
When Moses decided to obey God before the burning bush in Exodus 3, he set out for Egypt with his wife and child, and immediately faced an obedience test.
Exodus 4:24-25 (ESV Strong’s)
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”
When you face a test of obedience, it’s best to do it with godly people. That’s why all decisions made in this church I make with my team. Moses had a good helper in his wife, and godly spouses can make all the difference when we face tests of obedience.
Most questions of morality are also tests of obedience. Whether you take that pen at the bank is not about pens or how many the bank has, it’s a test of obedience.
3. TESTS FROM WITHOUT
Many tests come from outside of ourselves and are beyond our control. A tragedy, a death, a fire or flood or drought may be a test, but you didn’t cause it, nor did you seek it, nor is there any moral question. It is just life, and life throws up tests for us.
No sooner had the people of Israel escaped the Egyptians through the Red Sea but they faced an attack from the Amalekites. Amalek was a descendant of Esau, so this attack came from people they were distantly related to.
God allows tests from outside of ourselves to give us a chance to shine
1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
4. TESTS FROM WITHIN
Perhaps even more difficult are tests from within. People around us, close to us, can often be a test for us. Moses found this when the very people he rescued, and some he trusted, grumbled and complained about his leadership.
Exodus 16:8 (ESV Strong’s)
the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”
Grumbling, complaining, criticising… These are tests from within, and this kind of test often pushed Moses and God to the brink! Those closest to you can provide incredible support, or diabolical testing, so be careful what you say.
HOW TO FACE YOUR TEST
Let me wrap it up with a brief discussion on how you can pass the tests of life. Moses did a phenomenal job serving God and leading he people. He faced and passed test after test, and saved his people time and again.
Deuteronomy 9:14 (ESV Strong’s)
Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’
Deuteronomy 9:18 (ESV Strong’s)
Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger.
So how should you face the tests life throws at you?
1. FOCUS ON THE LORD, NOT THE PROBLEM
Whatever test you face seems big, it seems like a giant, but I’m telling you now that your God is bigger! Whenever you face a problem, however big it seems, fix your eyes on Jesus!
Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong’s)
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
1 Samuel 17:45 (ESV Strong’s)
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
When you face a test, don’t focus on the challenge, focus on God, and let Him fight for you, let Him lead you to victory in the test! How do you do that? The best way to start to focus on the Lord in a test is to have a thankful heart.
God spoke to me from my quiet time just a week or two ago about a test faced. I wanted to answer the allegations, I wanted to fire up and fight for what I thought was right, to correct the lies, but God told me otherwise…
Exodus 14:13-14 (ESV Strong’s)
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
In any test, if you focus on the problem you see only problems. If you focus on Jesus, you see only Jesus, and He sorts your problems and He passes every test!
2. FOCUS ON THE REWARD, NOT THE LOSS
Fear is one of the strongest emotions you can experience. It can occupy every space in your mind, causing sickness, sleeplessness and failure. Fear of loss paralyses people and stops them from moving ahead.
Moses faced the test at the Red Sea. More than a million people, backs to the sea, facing the oncoming army of Egypt and facing certain annihilation.
Exodus 14:21 (ESV Strong’s)
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
Exodus 14:27 (ESV Strong’s)
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threw the Egyptians into the midst of the sea.
Yet no sooner had they seen this great miracle but they started looking back with rose coloured lenses and the so called good things in Egypt.
Later on, after experiencing this great miracle and many more like it, the people faced the prospect of the dream coming true. God told them the Promised Land was awesome, but rather than take Him at His word by faith, they decided to check it out, and Moses sent 12 spies into the land. 10 focussed on the problems, the enemy, the giants, and 2 focussed on the Blessing…
Numbers 13:30-31 (ESV Strong’s)
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”
When you walk by faith, the future is your friend, and every enemy is defeated. It’s your choice as to what you focus on, but the consequences are dire!
Don’t let fear rob you of passing the test. I’m speaking directly to someone here, don’t let your fear stop you stepping out in faith!
3. FOCUS ON ONE PROBLEM AT A TIME
I find tests come in groups, and that’s part of the devil’s tactics. He loves to overwhelm you, so face each problem, each test one by one if you can.
Matthew 6:34 (ESV Strong’s)
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Step by step. Test by test. Stop worrying about what may or may not result, take every test to the Lord and let Him worry about that. You have enough. 99% of what we worry about never happens, so why waste energy on them?
4. FOCUS PERIPHERALLY ON THE BIG PICTURE
This sounds paradoxical, but as you focus on the test you currently face, keep in mind the overall picture. As I faced many tests and exams at Uni, I focussed on the test, but my peripheral vision, what kept me going in the toughest times, was on the prize of qualifying in my profession.
That what makes footballers great, they see the ball and the player coming at them but they are aware of every player around them. Peripheral vision makes a good player great, and so it is with us.
As you face your tests, take them one by one, focus on Jesus not the test, but never lose sight of the big picture. God has a plan and destiny for you. He has plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Even though you face a severe test right now, He has you in the palm of His hand, and you can trust Him and you will pass this test!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV Strong’s)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
You can’t see the whole picture, but you know the guy who sees the whole picture!
TESTS ARE YOUR MOMENT TO SHINE!
Tests are not to be feared, they are your chance to shine, to show the Lord your faithfulness and trust in Him.
Right now some of you are being tested. As Moses was so often. Some are tested by circumstances, some by health, by finances, by people close to you. Whatever the source of the test, the aim is to pass it, and to move further into what God has for you.
Proverbs 17:3 (ESV Strong’s)
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
Silver is put in the crucible, it’s heated and the dross, the impurity rises to the top. The silversmith scoops it away, then heats it again, even more intensely. In this test, more dross rises and it removed, then he heats it again, and again.
Up to 7 times. Someone asks, how do you know when the silver is pure, when it is refined. The silversmith replies, when I look into it and see my own image.
God is testing, He is refining, and if you are faithful, if you pass the test, He will see His own image reflected in you.