Small Group Discussion: The Joy of Tests
Questions for Discussion:
In today’s devotion, Vince Amlin suggests that the true test of faith is one that moves us beyond what we know and asks us to do something “difficult and worthwhile.” When have you faced such a test?
Scripture Passage: James 1:2-8
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6 Whoever asks shouldn’t hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. 7 People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. 8 They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.
The Joy of Tests
“Siblings, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4a
My high school physics teacher gave us weekly tests. He tried to soften the blow by creating a festive atmosphere. He made us matching t-shirts and let us play a record of our choosing (which is why difficult math always reminds me of the greatest hits of The Police).
But what was most unusual about his tests was that they were impossible. By design. While other exams were written to demonstrate what I already knew, his were intended to lead me beyond.
That week’s lessons served as the starting point for Thursday’s quiz, but it quickly took off from there. The goal was to see how far we could venture into unknown territory before we were totally lost.
I have often thought of tests of faith like ordinary exams, asking me what I already know, making sure I did the required reading. But I think the test that James writes about is the one that pushes us to go beyond what we have mastered and try something impossible (love our enemies, say, or not judge our friends).
No one ever got an entire problem on our physics tests right. But that wasn’t the point. The point, as in faith, was to go to the edge of one’s knowing and then push out a little further. To grow by trying something difficult and worthwhile. And I am convinced that God, as my teacher did, gives partial credit.
Teacher, meet me in the place beyond my mastery.