The pudding is in the proof: God proves his people

A few school teachers seem to delight in failing students. They make up trick questions, use questionable methods, and prefer murky objectives and subjective grading. But God wants to give every child of his a passing grade, if we will but respond positively to his testing.

The Lord works for our success. He wants us to grow and be like him. He has our best interest at heart. God is good and desires to bless. “The crucible is for refining silver and the furnace is for gold, likewise the LORD tests hearts” Proverbs 17.3. His testing has a good purpose. He hopes to bring out the best in us.

Satan would like for us to doubt God’s good intentions. He placed such doubts in Eve’s mind, when tempting her in the garden of Eden. He seemed to intimate that God had lied to them because wanted to keep something beneficial from Adam and Eve. “The serpent said to the woman, ‘Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil'” Genesis 3.4-5.

God seeks a postive outcome

God’s testing or proving, however, always seeks a positive outcome. God put Abraham to the test, Genesis 22.1, by ordering him to sacrifice the son of promise. This did not cause Abraham to doubt God’s goodness. Instead, he imagined that the Lord might raise Isaac from the dead.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He had received the promises, yet he was ready to offer up his only son. God had told him, “Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,” and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there. Hebrews 11.17-19

Abraham continued to trust God. He kept on believing the promise. Even though he didn’t understand, at the time, the reason behind the command to sacrifice Isaac, he did not doubt that God intended good for him.

The Difference

The ambiguity of language sometimes masks the difference between testing and temptation. Temptation seeks to draw someone away from God. It seeks to make us fall. So in this sense, God “tempts no one” James 1.13.

Jesus himself tested Phillip, John 6.5-6, evidently, with a view to stretching his faith in the Lord’s ability to provide. It was Andrew who passed that test, by bringing loaves and fish to Jesus.

Just as a coach will push his athletes past limits they think they can endure, so God leads us into places where we must turn to him, cast ourselves upon his strength, and believe that he does all for the greater good.

See the Lord’s purpose

What suffering could be worse than that of Job? Even here, James reminds us that this experience taught Job the goodness of God. “Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and ”you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy”” James 5.11.

Paul has this conviction. “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” Romans 8.28. This conviction is more than a mere wish that everything will work out in the end. It is faith that ”God” will cause all things to contribute to our good.

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