Tuesday, June 8, 2010
“Stagger Desks!” Two words that can produce chills down the spine of anyone who has spent time in a classroom at the United States Military Academy at West Point! With that command, cadets begin to arrange their desks in preparation for rigorous intellectual testing that will expose their brilliance or ignorance regarding a particular area of academic focus. I remember the warm and welcoming feeling of confidence I felt in the humanities and language art classes that came rather easily for me, knowing that my testing would produce satisfying results and provide me with a maximum opportunity to excel! Unfortunately, I also remember the icy terror that gripped me in the torrential current of the Math and Science classes, as tests in those areas manifested my need for much improvement!
I am now grateful for all of those testing experiences, as they provided valuable life lessons for me in success and failure that continue to bear fruit in ways I could never have imagined during those cold, wintry days on the banks of the Hudson. Since that time, I have learned that every one faces tests all throughout life. We are all confronted with a lifetime series of trials, tribulations, dilemmas, difficulties and inconveniences that continually examine our character and indicate our level of faith, maturity and decency at various stages of our personal journeys. In my life as a minister, husband, father and adult son, I have faced and continue to face “real life” tests that have brought me to sometimes excruciating life junctions that either build up or tear down, depending on my reaction to the situation. Even as I share my thoughts this very moment, Luz and I are in the midst of a challenge involving the selling of our home that is testing the source of our confidence and the true foundation of our trust. This season of testing is reminding us in a new and wonderful way that our confidence and strength will never find adequacy within ourselves, but only in the Lord Who has made us and sustains us. The Early Church Leader James lays out the process and purpose of life testing and God’s desired response for us like this:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
I certainly would never have chosen most of the tests I have faced or the ones I now face for myself, but I am beginning to learn that I can positively choose my reaction to and negotiation of those tests as they come my way, knowing that I cannot mature and be all that God intends without them. Are you facing a critical test today? Remember testing is common to the human experience, and largely out of individual control. Your reaction to your test IS in your control. Remember that even the most withering trial can be an opportunity for the most glorious response if we choose to trust God’s working in our lives through it. With godly perspective in our times of trial, we can encourage, teach, model and lead through perseverance by faith in the Lord who is not only looking out for our interests as individuals, but desires for us as maturing individuals to minister to others who are hurting too! Be encouraged in your trial! Lift your eyes to the Lord in your time of testing! Let the Lord lead you through the School of Hard Knocks with honors! See the power of God at work in you and through you as you allow Him to use the tests in your life for your growth and the blessing and benefit of others. Until next time…