Making the grade

When I was still in school, I liked tests. I liked them because I got to show off how much I knew. I used to look forward to the standardized state tests too because it was an opportunity to prove how much I had learned in a year. I was a weird kid.

But when I finished school, I thought that meant the tests were over. I thought that tests were something I would only have to deal with in school, but that’s not true at all. Tests are something we will deal with for our entire life. We just won’t always get a grade.

The Old Schoolhouse

The Old Schoolhouse - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is James 1:12.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

In school, you have to take tests to prove to your teachers that you have learned (or you haven’t learned) the lesson they were teaching. In life, tests may come just because the world is broken. And in life’s tests, there is no grading on the curve, and in many cases there is no A+ grade and sometimes not even an F grade. Sometimes there’s no grade at all. Sometimes the tests will last for years, and it’s all you can do just to get through one.

So what do you do when you encounter a test that lasts for an extended period of time? When you get sick or when someone you love gets sick or when you lose your job or when you lose your house? How is that a test? Is it multiple choice?

I’ve always thought that the tests God gives us are true/false tests. Either that or yes/no questions. We either say yes to Him or no. Yes to the world or no. And that always seems easier to me when I run into a difficult situation I have to endure.

We can either say yes to God and answer the questions that come our way based on what we know from the Bible. Or we can ignore what God says and try to answer the questions life throws at us using our own wisdom or our own experiences to light the way.

There’s nothing wrong with using your own experience to help guide you, but trusting in your own experience will only get you as far as your own experience has reached. So what happens when you encounter a test about something you haven’t experienced? Then you’re just making up answers. I’ve been there and done that (it was called General Biology my sophomore year of college at Wichita State, and I had to make up every answer I put down on those tests because I didn’t understand anything).

But when you use what God says in Scripture to answer the questions that life throws your way, you’ll pass the test. It may not always feel like you passed the test. But you will. Because the Bible deals with situations and circumstances and answers to questions that we have already experienced and have not experienced yet. And it applies to everyone. And it’s relevant to everyone.

I remember taking tests that seemed to last forever. And sometimes life tests are that way too. And sometimes we have to choose to keep going even though we don’t know the answer for sure. Sometimes we have to answer the way Scripture tells us without knowing if it’s going to work or not, and we have to just hold on and pray that it does. (And it will; just saying.) But having patience is the hardest part for me. The waiting is the most difficult aspect of taking a test for me because I want to know if I passed or not. I want to know the results right away. And that’s not realistic, not in a classroom and not in life either.

But if we can endure tests with patience, then the Bible says we’re happy. Because if you can stick with God throughout testing and trials, if you can stay loyal to God, according to the Message paraphrase the same verse says, “the reward is life and more life.”

Everyone will go through times of testing and temptation. Everyone. Because the world is broken, but if we endure and answer life’s challenges the way God has told us in the Bible, it will be worth it because God will bless us. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take blessing over a grade any day.

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