Does God test us?

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

Sometimes we’re confused as to the precise source of our troubles. Living in a sin infested and cursed world, effectively guarantees troubles are around the corner. Do you have any problems? If not, just wait a while, they’re coming! Job once said, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Can anyone relate? With God’s grace we can navigate these troubles, enjoying our time, sojourning on earth, honoring Him. But what if some of the circumstantial stress that comes our way is authored by God himself? Is this scriptural?

What is the purpose of testing?

If God is the author of our testing, how do we pass the test? During school, we took tests on a regular basis to gauge, what we’d learned in the course of our studies. A test can feel intrusive and uncomfortable, but it also reveals our capabilities and proficiency. Whenever we see the words ‘trieth’,’ triest’ or ‘prove’ in the authorized version, they’re typically either of two interchangeable Hebrew words; ‘nasah’ or ‘bahan.’

The Hebrew word ‘try’ (nasah), generally carries the idea of testing something or someone through ‘stressful circumstances.’ The word bahan, is used in a spiritual sense as an investigation to determine the essential character of a person, with integrity as the primary focus. Unfortunately, in some modern bible versions, ‘try’ has been translated, ‘tempt’ which causes confusion because God is not the tempter, neither does He tempt any man (Jam 1:13-15).

God desires for us to retain our integrity during His test

If God does test us; integrity is the focus of the test

Joseph is the prime example of this, a man of utmost integrity, never compromising his character, despite relentless, trials and temptations. God’s testing has a moral stance and rewards are offered if we uphold our integrity throughout, i.e., ‘are we going to do the right thing, even when no-one’s watching?’ When Potiphar’s wife came on to Joseph, his response was profound. His frame of reference was God, proclaiming ‘how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ (Gen 39:8-9).

Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, and Satan no doubt inspired it. This may have been a test from Joseph’s standpoint, but God wasn’t the author of it. This was ‘plain old temptation’ and God always makes a way of escape for each and every one of us, when temptation comes our way (1st Cor 10:13). Had Joseph committed adultery that day, he never would’ve reached the pinnacle of leadership that God prepared for him. Many leaders have compromised their destiny for a brief and fleeting, fleshy act, only to deeply regret it later. We’re admonished to lay our bodies down as a living sacrifice, lest we become a castaway and subsequently disqualified for ministerial service (Rom 12:1, 1 Cor 9:27).

God’s tests are fair!

God’s tests are fair, revealing our proficiency or weakness. God desires to promote us and His testing often provides an opportunity for advancement in His kingdom. However, Satan’s temptations aren’t fair, they often come at the worst times, when we’re tired, stressed, discouraged or hurting. After Satan tempted our Lord in the wilderness, the Bible says, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time (Lk 4:13). The devil chooses an opportune time for temptation, in a moment of weakness. He chooses a time when we’re more vulnerable to his advances, offering little resistance.

There are also seasons of temptation, yet despite this, we must stand on 1st Cor 10:13, i.e., God providing a means of escape for all temptation that will come our way.  If Jesus was tempted by Satan, then we should expect the same treatment, as the servant is not above the master (Mt 10:24). Temptation may arise from Satan but also from loving this world (1st Jn 2:16).

Temptation is an enticement from the world, flesh or the devil to worship anything other than our Creator. In sharp contrast, testing is from God and an ordering of circumstances by Him, to reveal our love for Him, fortifying us against sin and for our good.

The Refining process explained

Job said, “But He knows the way that I take: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). The modern reader may not be accustomed to the refining process as our ancestors were. Refining is a process of heating metals to high temperatures in order to burn away impurities. It’s often used in a metaphorical sense to depict God refining His people, ridding them of hindrances to their love walk. The Bible describes us being refined as silver or gold, with increasing ‘heat,’ signifying impurities within our character, which are brought to the surface for removal. This can be a slow and uncomfortable process as we’re refined by the master’s hand.

The Refining process is time consuming and heated but it’s for our good

Once complete, the refining process is repeated until the reflection of the smithy is seen in the metal. The acid test is seeing Christ’s reflection peering back at us. If Christ can be seen in us, the refinement is complete. Refining is a common metaphor for testing, throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised as to how well we perform under stressful circumstances, whilst keeping our peace. This is one indication we’re passing God’s test.

Character is revealed under pressure

To use a more modern analogy for testing under pressure, during my time as an Engineer, I encountered air tanks that would need to be tested periodically. These tanks were filled with air at a pressure that far exceeded their normal capacity. Only under intense pressure can hidden flaws in the infrastructure be identified. God will apply some pressure to us, in order to reveal what’s in our hearts.

Testing can come in the forms of success, prosperity, pride or selfishness. God will continue to test us in various spheres of life for further refinement. His goal? For us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). If we make a wrong turn, He will use that happenstance for further refinement. Just as carbon becomes diamond under intense pressure, we are forged into God’s mold with pressures that may cause stress but won’t damage.

Just as tanks are tested under pressure, so God will test us

An example of the this is Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. The purpose of their forty-year wandering was to kill off the generation of unbelief before they could enter the promised land. Numbers chapter 13 describes their test at Kadesh Barnea, one which the Israelite’s failed miserably because they placed the onus on what they ‘saw,’ ‘felt,’ ‘tasted’ and ‘heard,’ instead of what God said. Whenever we place the soulish realm above God’s word, we too will fail the test. Only Joshua and Caleb survived the generation of unbelief and entered into the promised land. However, for the younger generation, God used this time to mature His people, developing spiritual growth, by having to rely on Him, for their everyday needs. Let’s turn our attention to the scripture.

God’s testing process (7 scriptures)

  1. The Lord tries the righteous.” (Ps 11:5)
  2. I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17:10)
  3. Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.” (Ps 7:9)
  4. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my reins and my heart.” (Ps 26:2)
  5.  “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: But the Lord trieth the hearts.” (Prov 17:3)
  6. And I will bring the third part through the fire, And will refine them as silver is refined, And will try them as gold is tried: They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: And they shall say, The Lord is my God.” (Zech 13:9)
  7. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.“ (Heb 11:17)

Evidently, God is in the testing business. He examines us and refines our character to bear fruit. The word, ‘reins’ in the OT denotes the ‘kidneys’ or ‘lower back.’ This speaks of the inward parts of our being, i.e., the heart, or seat of affections and passions. We make decisions from our gut. We often rationalize from our soul in the decision-making process but ultimately, the inward parts of our being (spirit-man) is the governor for all decision making. Zechariah reveals God refines us ‘as silver.’ Interestingly, silver is softer and more pliable to the master’s touch, than iron or clay in its raw state. Silver is precious, just as we are in God’s sight.

Notice, we are to, ‘call on His name and fall at His feet,’ during the test (Zech 13:9). God has many tools of testing. He used the wilderness wanderings (Deut 8:2, Ps 81:7), false prophets (Deut 13:3), and pagan nations (Jgs 2:22, 3:1-4) to test Israel. He still has His ways of testing us today. Scripture is replete with examples of God testing His people and we are no exception. There’s no surer way to pass the test, than to worship Jesus during our most difficult times. Let’s now review specific instances of God testing His people.

God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and later tested him on many occasions

10 Examples of God testing His people

  1. God tested Abraham by offering up Isaac. Abraham passed the test with flying colors! (Gen 22:1, Heb. 11:17).
  2. God tested Israel by the waters of Meribah, to see if they would hearken to His voice and do that which was right (Ps. 81:7; Exod. 15:25).
  3. God tested the Israelites to see whether they would walk in His law (Exod. 16:4).
  4. Moses reveals God came to test His people, that they may fear Him, more than their desire to sin (Exod. 20:20).
  5. God fed Israel manna to test their humility for their benefit, at the latter end (Deut. 8:16).
  6. God tested Gideon’s soldiers. Those that drank like dogs failed the test. Those that kept aware of their surroundings were chosen for battle (Jdgs 7:4).
  7. The word of the Lord tested Joseph until it was time for God’s big promotion to governorship (Ps. 105:19).
  8. The Lord left nations in the land to test Israel. He allowed them to remain, teaching warfare to the younger generation of Israelites who had no experience in battle (Judg. 3:1).
  9. God left Hezekiah alone to test him. Hezekiah would later prove to be a poor steward of the extension God gave to his life (2 Chr. 32:31).
  10. Jesus tested Phillip, by asking him where they could buy bread for the multitude to locate his faith level (John 6:6). Jesus went on to miraculously feed the multitude.

King Saul: A warning to us all

There are wonderful examples of people in scripture who passed God’s tests, including Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, etc. albeit there are also glaring examples of failure, with King Saul as perhaps the prime example. Saul repeatedly chose the path of pride and self-sufficiency by not obeying God’s prophet, performing tasks outside of his jurisdiction and God’s timing.

Let this be a warning to you, if you’re incessantly striving outside your calling or God’s timing, you will run into great difficulty, or even become disqualified to complete your calling. Testing continues into our dispensation of Grace, as the trying of our faith ‘works patience’ (Jam 1:3). Patience is a fruit, cultivated by Holy Spirit. Patience and comfort also come from scripture which we should especially lean upon during a time of testing (Rom 15:4).

Use your time wisely

Let it never be said that God isn’t merciful. Let’s use Hezekiah as a case in point. Scripture says God ‘left him, that he might know all that was in his heart’ (2 Chron 32:31). Despite this, God extended Hezekiah’s life by fifteen years (2nd Kings 20:1-6). However, Hezekiah made some serious mistakes following God’s gift of life extension. He showed his treasures to Babylon, which caused great trouble for future generations. He bore a son, Manasseh, without question the longest reigning and most nefarious king of the southern kingdom.

Manasseh went on to rebuild shrines to Baal, previously destroyed by his father. He was a soothsayer, practiced open witchcraft and even burnt his son as a sacrificial offering. Hezekiah also became arrogant in his later years; his heart becoming filled with pride (2 Chron 32:35). In this case we might question God’s purpose for allowing Hezekiah to live a further fifteen years, but choice always wins, we choose to do what we want with the time granted to us. Hezekiah did not choose well, despite God offering him more time. His mercy endures forever (Ps 118:29).

God won’t test you beyond your load limit

The large tractor-trailer trucks that travel the highways of the nation are subjected to a load limit, meaning there’s a limit as to how much weight each truck is safely capable of hauling. There’s a good reason for establishing such limits. If trucks were allowed to exceed their weight limit, the roads would eventually degrade, because each road is designed to support vehicles only up to a certain weight. Likewise, God knows how much we can bear when He allows us to be tested. He has assigned a definite “load limit” to each of us and never exceeds it. God is fair and His tests are fair. Though uncomfortable, we may advance in his kingdom as we pass His tests.

In sharp contrast, Satan tempts, for no other purpose than to destroy us. Temptation and testing are polar opposites of the spectrum. God never tempts anyone (Jam 1:13-15). He always makes a way of escape for any temptation that may come across our path (1 Cor 10:13). I repeat, God tempts no man, but Satan is the author of temptation, and we can also be enticed away by our own desires (Jam 1:13-15). So, what is the purpose of God’s testing?

The threefold purpose of God’s testing:

  1. To see if we will follow His commands (Deut. 8:2; Judg. 3:4).
  2. To see if we will keep the way of the Lord (Judg. 2:22).
  3. To see If we love the Lord (Deut. 13:3).
Ecc 4:12, “A threefold chord is not quickly broken” – marine rope

We should also bear in mind the dangers of testing or tempting God ourselves. Israel tempted the Lord in the wilderness, and we are warned against doing so (1 Cor 10:8-11). They did so via lust, idolatry, fornication, and murmuring. Their end was destruction, so let this be a warning to you.

Are you going through a tough time right now? I urge you to seek the Lord in prayer and ask Him the reason for your difficulties. Sometimes God tests us to refine our character or prove our ability to take on more responsibility. We’re naturally cautious of testing, yet the surest way to pass with flying colors is to start worshiping the Lord and thanking Him for His plan for your life! There’s a wonderful victory and reward on the other side of this difficult time in your life. Press into Him, don’t hold back.

Author – Carl G.M. Joseph

PS. If you liked this article, you might want to check out ‘Suffering vs Persecution-You need to know the difference.’

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A. Colin Day, Collins Thesaurus of the Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989).

The KJV Dictionary – Uncommon, Doctrinal and Thematic terms Defined by Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (Published by followers of Jesus Christ for the promotion of the knowledge of God).

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Volume IV- Fully Revised (Eerdman’s Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988, P796).

Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Volume II) (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).

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