Summary: God uses hardships to refine us and to make us more like Jesus. Will we let Him?
Very soon, on Tuesday in fact, millions of students are heading back to school. It’s a new start, a new year of learning and growing. What did you enjoy the most about school, either junior or high school, or even college or university? If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I’d bet that tests were not necessarily at the top of your list of things you enjoyed about school.
I always thought of tests as annoying evils, designed to take the steam out of my self-esteem, designed to show me how much I hadn’t been paying attention, or hadn’t absorbed what I’d learned. Even after high school, I would often choose courses based on their not being a final exam. Usually meant a lot of writing papers and such, but at least I didn’t have too many final exams to dread.
So tests are not what I live for. Tests are not something most of us are excited about. The real point of tests, though, when you think about it, is not to make us feel bad. In school settings, it’s actually to help us, and those responsible for teaching us, figure out how well we’re doing with the things we’re learning. Are we learning?
I remember after I finished high school I learned that school was not about learning stuff, like history and math etc. It’s about learning how to think. How to evaluate. How to remember important things. So school is really about learning how to think. Learning how to live.
Actually, I think we all know the fewer students per teacher, the better the overall learning. When you have a ratio of 1:6, or 1:8 or even 1:12, the teacher is pretty close to the student and knows how the student is doing, knows how the student is understanding and applying what he or she is learning. A test, in that instance, is not for the teacher to find out how much the student knows, for the teacher already knows what he knows. The test or exam is for the students, so they can gauge their own growth toward a goal...be it understanding math or science or literature or art or shop.
Now that I’m not in school anymore, I appreciate having been there a lot more. I spent 26 years of my life in school. Now, like all of us, I’m in the school of life, majoring, I hope, in being a student of Jesus. Learning His ways, His attitudes, His approach to life. Amen? Amen.I’m not in school, but you know, the tests don’t end when school ends. Actually, they come more often and the stakes are much higher than any school. The fact is that you and I face tests all the time.
Life is full of challenges. Being a Christian is full of challenges. If anyone ever told you that following Jesus was easy, or that serving the living God was a piece of cake, they had no idea what they were talking about.
You know, if the goal of following Jesus was learning things about Him, having our head filled with knowledge of the Bible and becoming an expert in “what the Bible says”, that would be relatively easy. But that’s not the goal..
The purpose of following Jesus is to become like Jesus. The goal for the Christian is to be what the word actually means - ‘little Christs’ or people who faithfully reflect the character and identity of Jesus.
THAT’S why it’s such a challenge, an awesome challenge to be a follower of Christ.
Now, one of the biggest challenges you and I face in the day-to-day is following Jesus in a broken world and as broken people. You and I face hardship. It is a very real part of living.
Even as we allow the Holy Spirit to move in us and change us to be like Jesus, so that we care about what He cares about, so that we seek His Kingdom, we know that hardship presses in on us.
I want to suggest that how we deal with hardship, our attitude toward it means everything. In fact, I want to suggest that far from being pointless or meaningless distractions, hardship is a key way that God refines us.
It is not an evil to ignore on the way to a higher goal. They are what God uses to make us more like Jesus, to refine us, to test us - yes - not so that God can evaluate how we’re doing.
Remember God is closer than our breath and way closer than any other teacher - He knows how we’re doing), but so that we can know how we’re doing, and so that we can be challenged and encouraged as we grow to be more like Jesus.