I enjoyed school. I loved the organization, the schedule, and especially the knowledge. I Didn’t enjoy tests in particular, but I enjoyed the satisfaction and accomplishments from a good grade on a hard test.
I had a lot of good teachers. The best teachers I ever had were tough and had high expectations of me. They also cared about me and my classmates.
Perhaps the Christian is a student, with the local church and Christian homes and our personal devotions forming the classroom with our Most Excellent Teacher guiding us. We have tools and books and time and inspiration to learn and grow. From time to time we need some practice tests. That is like good preaching that convicts us about certain sins we harbor. Our devotional time can give us a deeper understanding of His Word, and that also is a practice test. Perhaps a friend comes alongside you to encourage and challenge you before we can proceed to a real test.
The Bible uses this analogy often, so let’s explore our Teacher and the tests He gives us.
God is our Teacher. And God is a perfect Teacher. It could be that sometimes God is easy on us, and sometimes He’s tough. Or is it just that the material is a tough subject that requires more concentration and hard work?
God likes to teach, and He loves to hear that his students have learned of Him.
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me (John 6:45).
Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29).
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful, nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. (Psalm 25:8-9).
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another ( 1 Thess. 4:9).
It is a sad thing when a student enters a classroom and regards the Teacher with contempt and refuses to learn. This student will not pass the test, and perhaps had never really started the course in his heart. He will have squandered the opportunity that had been laid before him.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge
But fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7)…
Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer;
They shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:
For that they hated knowledge,
And did not choose the fear of the LORD (Prov. 1:28-29)
The tests will reveal the true nature of the student. In Psalm 25, there are some characteristics of a good student. He is humble, willing to learn. He has a godly fear of the teacher, follows the rules, and turns his eyes to the Teacher. A good student understand his own ignorance, and he knows that whatever is before him is most often something he hasn’t learned before. It is the teacher’s path; not the student’s. In life, the reality is that God chooses the way. He sets the “lesson plan”. But God doesn’t force you to learn. He expects you to learn, but He doesn’t force you. Here are a few verses from that chapter.
4 Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
For thou art the God of my salvation;
On thee do I wait all the day.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions:
According to thy mercy remember thou me
For thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.
8 Good and upright is the LORD:
Therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9 The meek will he guide in judgment:
And the meek will he teach his way.
12 What man is he that feareth the LORD?
Him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
And who will get the glory? The Teacher, of course. A student cannot achieve it without a teacher. A student is reliant on his Teacher. A student is not greater than his Master (Matt. 10:24). A student cannot pass the course if he thinks he knows more than the Teacher.
1 LORD, My heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty:
Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.
2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself,
As a child that is weaned of his mother:
My soul is even as a weaned child.
3 Let Israel hope in the LORD
From henceforth and for ever (Psalm 131)
A teacher has a course laid out for his students. It is a series of progressive and upward steps that move the student toward the full knowledge of the material at hand. Scripture also uses this term, “course”, as in a race that is run.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:6-7).
The coursework is a path that may not make sense at all times to the student, but if we know that the Teacher is good, then we will have patience and trust that He would never lead us astray. In fact, the students will all praise the class and how much they look forward to the next chapter. They may have a bittersweet nostalgia at the end to look back on the journey that has consumed so much of their energy and time.
There will be assignments and projects. There may be collaboration, but mostly the Christian’s assignments are done by simply working alone. A good student will not shirk any of it. He will be diligent and attentive, eagerly soaking in all of the material laid out by the Teacher. A student doesn’t have the option to choose his assignments or projects. He must do what the Teacher has assigned.
I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32).
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will guide you with My eye (Psalm 32:8).
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).
Teach me Your way, O Lord, I will walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, apply your heart to my knowledge, for it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you…so that your trust may be in the Lord; I have instructed you today, even you. (Prov. 22:17-19).
Testing is a part of teaching. My kids do a “practice test” before taking “the real test” in our homeschool classroom. Really it’s a form of making a study guide. What things do I know pretty well, and what things do I need to study more? It’s a time of purging the superfluous information and focusing on what’s truly important.
Do I perform a “self-test” from time to time on my spiritual life? We do at the Lord’s Table when we examine ourselves to see whether we are partaking worthily (1 Cor. 11:28-31). We ought to every time an invitation is given. We ought to examine ourselves every time we read His Word. Perhaps these times are like a practice test of our Christian fortitude. Our Teacher has given us everything we need, not the least of which is the Holy Spirit within us, to learn and be victorious in the tests.
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him (1 John 2:26-27).
We speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:13).
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties and see if there is any wicked way in me (Psalm 149:23-24).
For You, O God, have tested us, You have refined us as silver is refined (Psalm 66:10).
A real test is when the outcome has consequences for good or for bad. Major events in life test our faith. Did you really learn in class what you needed to learn? A test has a way of making us buckle down and really internalize the knowledge and wisdom that has been available to us all along.
The final exam is at the Bema seat for the believer (2 Cor 5:10). There will be no chance for extra credit after that to bring up the grade anymore. That grade will be on our permanent record. It will determine how well we can reflect God’s glory through eternity.1
Cramming doesn’t really work. It may get you by in a practice test. It might barely give you a passing grade in a real test. But the final grade is an accumulation of all your tests, assignments, learning, and projects. There’s not a good way to cram for that if you want to please the Teacher and earn those words “We’ll done, good and faithful student.”
Be a good student of the Lord. Don’t despise His teaching and wisdom. Learn from Him and graduate with high honors.
1. The Judgement seat of Christ for the believer will not determine eternal condemnation or salvation, because that has already been decided on the basis of faith in Christ’s saving work on the cross. The Bema seat judgement will determine loss or gain of rewards, what kind and how many crowns to cast at His feet. (1 Cor. 3:11-15; see “The Bema Seat of Christ”).