In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Psalm 81:7
Psalm 81 contains a review of God’s actions toward Israel, whom he redeemed from slavery in Egypt. In the verse above, look at the different verbs used to describe God’s dealings: delivered… answered… tested.
“Answered”: thank you.
“Tested”: wonderf—wait, what?
The testing of faith is indeed a part of our spiritual journey, as any patriarch would tell you. Even those God delivers, he tests. Even those God answers, he tests. In fact, Jesus himself was tested. The gospels record that step one of Jesus’ journey was that “The Holy Spirit drove him into the wilderness” where he experienced severe testing and temptation. The Garden of Gethsemane was another place where we see that Jesus’ life was marked by painful tests.
Tim Keller raised an important question on this subject. Concerning the fact that Jesus himself experienced such trials, he asked, If you could live up to your highest standards of morality, what do you think your life would be like? If you could actually live the way you believe you should live (but don’t), do you think your life would be easier?
Our tendency is to answer, “Why, yes! Of course my life would be easier if I lived right.” Yet if Jesus’ perfect life was marked by struggle against Satan and a sinful world, why wouldn’t ours?
Lest you feel blogged down by all of this, let me also add this from Tim Keller:
If we don’t expect life to include tests and trials, it will be twice as difficult. We will not only experience the difficulty, but the shock: why did this happen? what did I do wrong? who's to blame?
Life is tough enough without having to be shocked and dismayed by the trouble. But the greatest hope is to realize that Jesus promises to be with us through all life’s war zones. In fact, God’s promise is that such times will produce in those who love him depth of character, an experience of God’s sustaining grace, and the assurance of faith.
And, if obedience is at all important to us, we should also note that “Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).
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NOTE: To obtain the above referenced sermon by Tim Keller, one of my personal favorites, visit www.redeemer3.com/store and search the individual sermon section for “The First Temptation of Christ” (12/22/02).