Not a headline anyone wants to read these days. As this is written, the Covid-19 pandemic is sweeping the world with cases numbering in the millions and the death toll mounting daily. No one wants to test positive for the virus. We are not making light of that disease and certainly sympathize with the many families and churches and businesses affected by it. We will pull through, but we will be different on the other side. We will be tested. Will we be positive?
TESTED AND PURIFIED
Watchmen long to be tested. They know that testing purifies, strengthens, and refines. We become stronger and more useful once we’ve been through the fire. Gold melts at 1948 degrees. It is full of impurities and worthless particles until it is heated. When the temperature rises, the gold melts, the contaminants are released, and the molten metal is refined – free from impurities. Now it’s valuable.
Until it’s melted, gold is merely ore trapped in a rock, no good to anyone. Once it’s heated, and melted, and purified, the gold can be used for industry, jewelry, currency, artwork. It’s useable, valuable, and beautiful, because it’s been through the fire.
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but people are tested by the praise accorded to them.” (Proverbs 27:21)
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
When we are tested and purified, we become stronger, more beautiful, and more valuable to the Kingdom.
TESTED AND FAITHFUL
In Romans 16:10, Paul commends a friend of his ministry by saying that his commitment to Christ has stood the test. “Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.” It was a high compliment, not that Apelles was a friend, or even that he was strong and faithful to God in a time when being a Christian could mean persecution or murder.
Apelles was faithful, but so much more. Paul trusted this man, Apelles, because Apelles had been tested. He had been through the fight and stood strong for the Lord when some failed (2 Timothy 4:10).
Paul was an experienced warrior for the Lord. He had an impressive resume as a servant, teacher, writer, and church-planter, but he was also experienced at suffering. Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake and lived (Acts 28:5), and he wrote several of his letters while chained in dark, smelly, rat-infested Roman dungeons. When tested, Paul was positive.
“Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day adrift in the sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from floods, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, and danger in the wilderness… in sleepless nights, in toil and hardship, in hunger and thirst, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
Paul was a qualified soldier, and he recognized those same characteristics in Apelles. At the end of his ministry, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul commanded Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12). Paul was battle-tested and had the scars to prove it.
We may never be battle-tested in beatings and prison and shipwreck, but we are called to battle the devil and evil and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). When we face those battles, we better have some armor and some experience.
TESTED AND TRUSTWORTHY
If you must fight, you want to fight next to someone who has a few scars and maybe walks with a limp. Why? Because that guy’s been to battle. Pastor Jack Hayford says, “Never follow a leader who doesn’t walk with a limp.” You want to follow someone who’s seen combat and been wounded, but they’re still fighting. That’s someone worthy to lead – someone who’s been tested.
Would you rather go to battle with a veteran or with a rookie in polished armor and a brand new gun that’s never been fired? Give me the guy with a few scars, some screws holding his bones together, and maybe an eye patch! I want to serve next to someone who’s been there, who’s proven they can get shot and bleed and rejoin the battle. They’re tested. Stand me next to that guy!
Let me walk the wall next to a Watchwoman who’s raised and homeschooled six kids, who knows how to kill a chicken, milk a goat, or drive an 18-wheeler. I want to serve with the Watchman who will work a part-time 3rd shift job and then preach Sunday morning. Do those qualities make you a Watchman or Watchwoman? No, but they test the Watchman or Watchwoman you already are.
Our enemy is battle-tested and hardened. We dare not face a seasoned enemy with no plan, no skills, and no experience. He has thousands of years of experience, but there is good news – neither the battle or the victory is ours. The last words Goliath ever heard were young David yelling,
“All those assembled here will know that it is not by sword or by spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s!” (1 Samuel 17:47)
TESTED AND POSITIVE
Testing proves who we really are when it really matters. A product, or scientific idea, or human character trait that’s never been tested is not reliable; it’s only a boast.
We cannot claim we are patient until we wait for God to move in our world when timing seems critical. Waiting tests patience. Tested patience is more than patience; it’s resolve.
We cannot say we are loving Christians unless we love those who do not love us in return, or hate us outright because we’re Christians. Has your love been tested? Try loving a Muslim, or an atheist. Tested love grows.
We may presume we are kind, but if we never help those in need, we may have a tender heart, but kindness is more than tenderness. Kindness requires action. Has your kindness been tested? Volunteer at a homeless shelter or center for battered women. Tested kindness acts.
Think you’re fearless? Test it – volunteer as a counselor at youth camp.
Think you’re unselfish? Test it – give away your entire paycheck.
Think you’re honest? Test it – run for city council or mayor.
Right now, scientists are scrambling to find treatments and vaccines for fighting SARS-Cov-2, the coronavirus causing the Covid-19 outbreak. In several of President Trump’s news conferences, he has mentioned that we need to find a cure, but we need to proceed carefully, so the treatment is not worse than the illness. It often takes months or even years to develop a vaccine. The clinical trials on animals alone take six months; add another six months for testing humans – it takes time. Why?
Some drugs seem promising, but under testing, they fail to kill the disease in all patients, in some cases, even making patients worse. Tests are for proving both what does and does not work. We would not administer a drug that has not been tested.
Much like medical testing, when we are tested, it proves our spiritual maturity, grows us in faith, or compassion, and builds the spiritual muscles that make us warriors on the wall and leaders on the mission field.
The same is true with testing in our lives. Our grace is proved when we face injustice, or we are falsely accused. To claim we have God’s grace, but to never exercise it is speculation. We might show that person grace who mistreats us or embarrasses us in a business meeting, or we might lose our temper and insult them back.
Grace must be tested by injustice, disappointment, abandonment, or pain. If we respond in grace when tested, then we can claim to be “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Most of us are great at the truth part. “I told her the truth, and made sure she will never cross me again!” If that was a grace test, she failed. Grace is only grace when it’s under pressure.
TESTED AND READY
When David volunteered to fight Goliath, King Saul offered his royal armor to the young shepherd. David declined, saying, “I cannot go into battle with these, for I have not tested them.” (1 Samuel 17:39) David would not go into battle with untested armor. Our armor has been tested, tempered, and hardened for the battle. We have a shield, a sword, a breastplate, a helmet, and running gear specially made for fighting (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:14-17).
We can trust this armor because it is battle-ready. It’s been tested and proved trustworthy. That’s because this is not just any armor – this is God’s armor. Isaiah 59:17 states, “He [God] put on righteousness like a breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on His head; He put on garments of vengeance and wrapped Himself in a cloak of zeal.”
Jesus was tested by God the Father, not to prove what He would do or if He knew enough or was strong enough; God knew that. Jesus knew that. Jesus was tested not to prove anything to Him or the Father, but to prove to us what He was willing to do to secure our salvation.
His resolve was tested in Gethsemane when He prayed, “Father, take this cup from Me, nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) His compassion was tested when He wept over Jerusalem and pleaded, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.” (Luke 13:34) Jesus’ love was tested on the cross to demonstrate the eternal value of His sacrifice when He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 11:25) Jesus tested positive because He was tested before the foundation of the world was formed.
“So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16)
Watchmen have tested faith—faith that has been proven. They deliberately place themselves in situations where they know they don’t have the skills, the money, the experience, or the courage to do the job, but they know God has called them to do it. When God steps into the situation and does what only He can do, faith is strengthened and tempered because it’s been tested.
Faith that is never tested is merely hope. Hope is good, but it’s insufficient. Testing refines. It makes us faithful, trustworthy, ready, and positive.
Testing makes a Watchman put on the armor, face the fire, step out in faith, and take a rock to a sword fight.
Test positive! Finish well.
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