“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3)
I’ve had the privilege of serving in Joshua Generation Church (JoshGen) as an elder, for the last ten years. As I reflect back over these years, there is a one-liner from William Marais that that has stuck with me perhaps more than any other, because of how true it is has been in my own journey:
Everything in life is a test. EVERYTHING.
I want to briefly share some of the tests I’ve experienced while serving as an elder within JoshGen over the last eight years.
In December of 2018, I had a deeply personal moment in which God tested my heart towards leadership (those I had submitted my heart and life to as a disciple and elder of our Lord Jesus Christ). I overheard something said about the congregation I was leading at that point, and something rose up in me that wanted to defend myself and the congregation. I felt hurt and misunderstood.
Thankfully, I identified the moment and saw it for what it was. God was testing me – again. I had faced this before! I heard the Holy Spirit say at that moment that if I tried to defend myself or justify myself or the congregation, I would be sinning. So, I took what I was feeling and thinking and headed straight to God in prayer. That is where I processed my perceived need to justify and defend myself. I didn’t speak to anyone about it, not even my wife.
What will the condition of our hearts, our minds and our faith be through the tests?
I mention that because in January 2019, as I sat before some of the elders of JoshGen to discuss our future as leaders of one of the congregations in Cape Town, I had a heart that had processed those comments with God. I had a heart that was soft, a heart that was positioned to believe the best, knowing that Jesus had tested me in December so I could pass in January.
At that meeting, our life was re-directed from leading the Wynberg congregation of JoshGen to serving on the team in Green Point. With soft hearts, believing the best, we began a new journey on the eldership team for our King Jesus. We embraced the change with faith and joy, believing the best.
I was able to do this because I had passed the test of not needing to justify and defend. Everything in life is a test. EVERYTHING. And the tests will come. What will the condition of our hearts, our minds and our faith be through the tests?
No Neutral Ground
Honestly, I’ve never been one for tests. I had a suspicion throughout my school years (a long time ago now) that tests were designed to get us to fail, or at least think that we had. I came across my Matric report recently, which just reinforced that suspicion!
Within the Kingdom of God, I have learned (and continue to learn) that the Father places tests in front of us constantly – not to fail us, but to mature us (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).
I had to learn that in every test there is a battle. We are not living in a neutral space.
Our Father is a test-giver. He is the perfect test-giver. There is no darkness in Him. There is no desire in Him to somehow trip us up. His intention in the tests is that we would become more like Him through them. That’s the aim. That’s the purpose.
But the father of lies (satan) is also a test-giver. The imperfect test-giver. He sets tests with the intention of failing us and taking us out. There is no light in him. His whole aim and desire is to trip us up and disqualify us.
I had to learn that in every test there is a battle. We are not living in a neutral space. We are living in the midst of spiritual conflict – between God and satan, light and dark, life and death. The choice will be ours regarding what we do with the tests and who we entrust ourselves to in the process of refining.
Three Tests I’ve Faced
Speaking briefly of the nature of the tests that I have faced related to my journey as an elder, there have been three main areas of testing that I know we can all relate to in some way:
The Test of Calling
Eldering had been a great joy but also a great test. When at times I didn’t see the expected fruit through ‘my’ serving as an elder, the door to the testing of my calling was opened wide. Are you really called? Why are you failing and others succeeding? Are you good enough? Is there something wrong with you? You get the picture.
The questions that I had to deal with in my mind, especially around success (or my perceived lack of it), were tests that were sent to reveal areas of sin and brokenness in my heart. In wrestling through these questions with God, and with brothers speaking truth into my life, I saw that the test had come to purify my heart motivations. They forced me to face up to whether the call of eldership was somehow for me or for God and His church.
The Test of Identity
On the back of the test of calling came the test of identity. Surely if you have not succeeded in your own eyes you have failed your Heavenly Father? And if you have failed Him then you have not pleased Him? And nobody loves a failure … and so the tests of sonship and security in Christ came so that I could learn again that I am loved as a son of God, not because of my perceived success or failure but because His love is perfect. He loves me because He loves me. My heart was tested to know this and to rest in this knowledge.
The Test of Faithfulness
The tests of calling and identity resulted in me asking questions of faithfulness. If I’m not called and I’m not loved, then why keep going? That’s the point that the enemy wants to get us to in the testing process. He wants us to question our identity in Christ and our part in the Body to such an extent that we fail to see the point of staying the course and finishing the race.
These past ten years have taught me that everything in life is a test, but the tests come especially fiercely in times of difficulty and disappointment. And they will come.
It’s so important that we embrace the reality of spiritual battle and recognise that our response to tests is either advancing the Kingdom of Light or the domain of darkness.
It’s also so important that we realise that this battle will ultimately take place in our hearts. If we learn to guard our hearts, then we are going to pass our tests and see the Kingdom of God advancing.
Let’s pass our tests well and keep going for His glory.
This article was reviewed on 9 November 2021. It was originally published on the Four12 Global website on 20 June 2019.