Do you like to take tests?
Many moons ago when I attended school our teachers would often give us pretests. Their purpose was to embed the knowledge needed for the final exam. When we sat down to take the final, the answers came quickly to our minds because we had been prepared.
I had a friend who was going through intense trials in her life. She was sharing about the difficult events that seem to be taking place in her life, one right after another. While she was speaking a thought penetrated into my mind or maybe it was my heart. Anyway it was so loud that I knew it was something the Lord wanted me to share with her.
These were the words: “THIS IS JUST A PRETEST.”
She half-heartedly laughed and responded with, “You mean it is going to get harder? I thought this was the test — not the pretest!”
I understood her reasoning because what she was going through wasn’t easy. Yet it was conditioning and equipping her with the knowledge and wisdom she would need to pass a test in her future. It was preparing her to be able to take the next step. One day she will be able to fight giants that are bigger than her pretesting days. She will have the tools she needs to live victoriously. But it won’t stop there. She will become strong enough in her faith to help those around her.
This happened with David, as well. While he tended sheep he killed a bear and a lion. This was the pretest for the next stage of his life. He took time during these events to write songs to his Lord in his quiet hours and to grow in his relationship with God. It prepared him to have the faith to defeat the giant, Goliath. That prepared him for his next steps God had opened for him as he became more victorious in battle after battle. Those battles together with those quiet moments kept him humble, yet unafraid, as King Saul sought to kill him. This prepared him to take the next step –eventually being King of a united Israel. He was ready for the tests that followed each pretest. He had learned the answers.
A trial or pretest is not easy. Sometimes it feels like we are suffering unnecessarily. But I have heard it said that we should embrace suffering. When a woman is going through child-birth, she has two choices. Either embrace the pain and flow with it or fight it with all she has. Either way the baby is going to be born. The first way, though still difficult, brings joy in the process of pain. The second way, causes the pain to become unbearable. You see fighting the process of birthing new life is incredibly hard. ( I can say these things from experience. Of course women have more options today.)
But I am talking about fighting life in the spiritual sense. If we learn through suffering, Jesus can birth new life in us. Otherwise our suffering is just that, suffering without a reward.
Paul learned the art of embracing pain and suffering. He writes about his trials in Corinthians Chapter 11. The things he suffered seemed almost impossible to bear –being beaten, flogged, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, deserted and misunderstood among other things. It was incredible what he went through to spread the gospel of Christ. And I am sure there were times he may have felt discouraged.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (NIV)
He went on to say:
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
He learned something that we often do not learn. He learned the art of contentment because he overcame in the pretest. He completed the more difficult tests of life because he knew the answer from his pretesting days. The answer was and is Jesus. He spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout many regions and wrote most of the New Testament. Apparently he did it in spite of strenuous circumstances because he discovered a greater purpose and chose to fulfill it.
If we learn through an open book pretest prior to the test, we will have an advantage. Why? Because we will know the answers. That book is the Word of God. Learning the scriptures and reading them over and over will prepare us when any trial comes our way. I have used the Word of God many times in my life through personal trials as I am sure you each have, as well.
Preparation is the key.
*The winning team of the Super Bowel didn’t win without practice and winning several previous games.
*Many tiresome hours are taken in preparation for any onstage performance, and rehearsal night proceeds opening night.
*First responders do not respond to epic events if they first do not go through hours of training. Then they practice a crisis, learning how to respond in case of a real emergency.
*The military trains in boot camp to become prepared physically and mentally before actually going onto the battle field.
The pretest may seem grueling; but it makes it so much easier for the finals.
How much more should we be prepared as we fight the battles that face our lives. Satan is not sleeping. He is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) He and his forces take any opportunity to conquer and divide, even the best of friends.
The pretests or trials that we face in life, about life — whether it is emotional heartache, anxiety, relationship problems, forgiveness issues, attack on our health, financial woes, or deep loss of any kind can be used for our benefit. I know that sounds odd and but if we learn through these situations they can be the very thing that will catapult us into the ultimate calling in our lives. Perhaps your heartache is what can help someone else overcome.
Think about what Queen Esther had been prepared to do in her lifetime. She was the one person who was able to save her people. Mordecai states, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such as time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV)
Even Jesus had many trials in his life. Being tempted by the enemy of darkness in the desert after a 40 day fast was one such experience. (Mark 4:1-11) But he also learned the answers while taking pretests in life. He would face the greatest final exam known to all mankind when he went to the cross. And he would pass with flying colors, not because he was the son of God, but because he surrendered to his heavenly Father.
“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 (NLT)
If you have not faced a hardship, a trial or a test that seems to have no answer, you will. It is a guarantee! But there is more in store for you than just passing a fiery trial. You can can have peace in the midst of it because you know the answers to the final exam.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)
The answers are in the Word of God.
The answer is the Word of God.
Jesus is the Word of God.
Jesus is the answer.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (NIV)
Amen and God bless.