Does God Test People?

I’ll give you a hint. This is a trick question. Just like the word “love” the word “test” has multiple dimensions of meaning. Many ministries want to answer this question “yes” or “no” but because of these multiple dimensions of meaning, you can’t just give a simple answer. You have to separate out the meanings to get a true Biblical teaching out.

First, right out of the gate we know that God does not test anyone in the sense of “tempting” them with evil. The Bible is explicit in saying this in James 1:13 “Let no one say ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt” Nobody thinks that God is really “tempting” them but many people think this indirectly – God is putting you in a really difficult situation where you are likely to sin in order to see if you will. God does not tempt you in the sense of trying to get you to sin. The Bible teaches this explicitly.

When people “God is testing me” what they usually mean is that “I am going through a hard time and it’s because of God.” This is the opposite of what is almost always true in these situations which is: “I don’t have enough of God in my life, therefore my life is difficult” People sin. Sin causes problems. Problem cause pain. We call that pain “testing” This is a kind of testing God also does not do. He doesn’t put you in hard situations just to see if you can hold up.

These facts lead some people to conclude that God does not at any time in any sense “test.” The problem with this is that we know that God did in fact “test” Abraham in Genesis 22:1, in the matter concerning sacrificing of Isaac. Some people will seize on this and say “ah ha!” God does test, but, when they say it they mean it to include the two senses of testing above. It’s a bait and switch. Abraham was not tested in either of those senses that we commonly use the word. God was not leading Abraham into sin, or into a place of suffering.

What kind of “test” was Abraham undergoing? This was a test or trial in the sense of an Olympic trial. In order to qualify for the gold medal round, each athlete or team has to go through many heats which prepare them and also demonstrate their fitness for the greater level of competition. This is the sense that God does test you in. God tests in the sense of leading you into situations which will help you qualify for more authority in Him. By being willing to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham qualified himself to be the father of faith, and the archetype of all who would have faith. Had Abraham not been willing, he still would have been loved by God, but he would not have been the father of faith.

There is another sense of “test” which really should be called “discipline” We know from Also, as a loving Father, I think God also sometimes brings situations in our life which will address areas of sin. Now, we know from Hebrews 12:6 that the Lord does discipline those He loves, but what does this mean? Well first and foremost it means he speaks to our hearts to correct us. However, I think there is another dimension of this. If we don’t listen, I believe that God may arrange or heighten a situation which will force us to confront our sin. Now, this is not really “testing” but we may label it that way. Say you are rude with other Christians and not responding to His voice or others. God might bring you into a situation where a conflict arises from your rudeness which would force you to see it. That might be really negative for you. You could label that as “testing” but you would be wrong. Really what happened was that God (reluctantly) used circumstances to correct you.

Most of the time, though, God does not need to be directly involved like that. Your behavior creates your life. You blame your spouse for your divorce, but who picked your spouse? You blame your kids for your frustration, but who trained your kids? You blame your parents for your anger, but you have the choice to forgive them. Your own behavior and attitudes create you situations, and those situations, if you are honest before God will lead you to a place of repentance. It’s called reaping and sowing. Don’t blame God by saying he is “testing” or “judging” you when in reality your sin created the problem.

What about the devil? Can he do anything? That depends on what you mean. He always has the power to accuse you. They accused Jesus all the time. But beyond that? To the one who is perfectly in the will of the Father at all times, the answer is not really. He couldn’t touch Jesus at all apart from Jesus willingly putting his life down. John 10:18. Now we know that in fact, none of us are completely perfect abiding in relationship with Him at all times, and therefore we can be vulnerable to attack from Satan. But keep in mind, we had to be in at least the sin of unbelief in order to be attacked at all. So even that you have to take some responsibility for. Now, I don’t want to confuse the situation, because when an attack happens, it is not really your “fault” that’s why it’s an attack. It’s coming from outside. Someone is doing it to you. But your vulnerability to it, is a different matter.

So see, it’s a complex set of puzzle pieces we have to consider when we think about whether God “tests.” Most of what we consider to be “testing” is just us blaming God for our problems. And the tests that are from God we should embrace because they lead us out of sin, and into greater realms of intimacy and faith, not realms of prolonged suffering.

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