What happens when we are tested?

Sunday 28/2/16

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Every now and then we hear something that is written in God’s Word to us that seems to stand out and provokes a reaction in us and gets us thinking. In today’s reading in 1 Corinthians 10 we find one of these well known verses. Verse 13 says this: 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

I wonder what you hear when this is read aloud. From some you may hear a message of comfort and hope. A knowing that when you are going through very difficult times in your lives that it will end, that God has everything in hand and he will not let you be pushed too far. That there is always an out somehow and God will show you.

On the other hand there are those who find these words very confronting. Rather than find them comforting you may find them hard to believe. When people are going through very difficult times and struggling, often they can’t see God at work, they can’t see a way out of their situations that they find themselves. Maybe this is where you are. When the Word says: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.” you simply can’t see it. And rather than feeling encouraged by these words, you may feel disheartened and discouraged. If this is you, you are not alone for many find this Word is hard to relate to.

One of the issues that we have in our western culture is that we are extremely individualistic, meaning that we think of ourselves first and foremost. So when things don’t go well, when we are faced with challenges that make us uncomfortable we ask questions like: Why aren’t you taking problem away from me God? Or When are you going to give me a break from this pain and suffering? Or Why are you punishing me God? Many Christians ask these questions of God often.

One of the reasons why so many people do not find comfort in these words from verse 13 is because they hear them in an individualistic way. However, there is more going here than many people realise.

This Word of God here is not referring to the occurrence of random and unexpected life events that challenge and test us.  Rather, this Word is referring to challenges that strain one’s loyalty to God and her or his community.

Trails and testing and temptation are a part of life they happen to all of us at times. They are a reality that we live with. This is hard for many of us to take because we believe that when testing comes our way that something is wrong; that we must be doing something wrong; that God is somehow unhappy with us, otherwise our lives should always be happy.

One thing that the apostle Paul is clear about is that such challenges come from a source other than God. Testing and temptation is not something that we as Christian believers seek out or chooses for ourselves. It is also not something that we are happy about or rejoice in and celebrate. Difficult and hard times are not something that we look forward too. Rather, testing is a part of the everyday dealings of life. They come to us because we live in this fallen world. The question then becomes not whether we will face testing times, but how will we as Christians face them together.

Earlier in the book of Corinthians in chapter 7 when addressing the marriage relationship it says in verse 5: “Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” The marriage relationship will have testing times and Paul encourages us to be prepared. The same is true of today’s reading, except the testing is not about just two people, but the entire Church community. As a Church community and as individuals who belong to it, we are to prepare ourselves in advance to respond faithfully when the gauntlet of temptation, testing, and challenge is thrown at us. We do so with confidence and assurance that God is with us and provides a way out.

As we face testing times as believers we are warned not to take God’s grace to us for granted. Behind today’s reading lies the example of the Israelites.  Who also faced many times of testing as they journeyed with the Lord. But as is pointed out they so often failed to remain faithful to the Lord when testing came. In fact in response to the things that happened to them they began to put God to the test, and were often unfaithful to Him, the one who delivered them. They gave up and turned their hearts away from Him and began grumbling at the Lord. They began to look towards other things for relief; specifically they began to worship idols, which involved sexual immorality.  This is one error that Paul is urging the Corinthian church not seek to repeat. He is pleading with them not to be testing our Lord, as the Israelites did (1 Corinthians 10:9). The Israelites were guilty of not trusting in God and therefore they took his grace for granted.

This warning still stands today; we live in a world of sin where we daily confront idolaters, sexual immorality, grumblers, and even those who abuse the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. We are warned that we dare not allow ourselves to be affected by these temptations, when going through testing times.

As Christians who are called by God into this community we are called to respond to life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, expected and unexpected happenings as a unified body. Though we are diverse in settings, backgrounds, and experiences, as I have often said the three Congregations in the Parish are nothing like the others, they are in fact very different and face different challenges, we are to be reminded that God is faithful to all of us as His one body.  As it says in verse 13: “God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” In light of this you and I should be faithful to one another as God is faithful to us.  The encouragement that we have is to be willing to walk with one another through these hard testing periods of life that we face. As God uses each of us here in this community to care for each other, build each other up, support each other and give comfort to each other.

As we all face times of testing and challenges to our faith we need to remember that we have Jesus whose suffering, death, and resurrection have redeemed us from death and destruction. That you and I have been given his Spirit who leads us into all the truth.  That you and I do have one another, the body of Christ into which we have been called, with whom we celebrate God’s love. Where we do meet together around the table where we eat and drink our Savior’s body and blood, where he comes to us and strengthens us in faith.  Yes we do face many trials and testing times, but we are not alone. For this we can be thankful.