How Does God Test Us?

[This article was taken from our book “Don’t Blame God! A Biblical Answer to the Problem of Evil, Sin, and Suffering.”]


Because of sin, we are constantly tested in this life. Many people say that God tests us with suffering to see if we will stay faithful to Him, but, as we have seen, such is not the case. Let us consider what a “test” is. We believe one valid definition is that a test is a challenge to measure your learning, growth, and development. Some people say that experience is the best teacher. Why is this not true? Because experience gives the test question first and the answer later, if at all.

Think back to your favorite teacher in school. Would you say that he or she was teaching for the benefit of the students? Most likely. Does such a good teacher give tests? Absolutely. But a good teacher only gives a test after adequate instruction. Would a good teacher give a test that a student could not pass, or even get a perfect score on if had he mastered the material taught? No. What is the motive behind a good teacher’s tests? Most assuredly it is the growth, maturing, and learning of his students.

But what about a bad teacher, one jaded by countless muggings in the halls? Does he give tests? Oh yes, but they are unannounced tests covering material he has never taught, and they must be taken while having wisdom teeth removed without an anesthetic. What is his motive? Obviously it is to do damage to the students. You might even say it is to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10a).

So it is in the spiritual battle: both the one true God, the Father of Jesus Christ, and the false god of this age, Satan, test us. [1] The difference is in their motives and in the types of tests they give. Satan tests us by tempting us to disobey God’s Word— to our detriment. One place we can see this is in his temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1ff; Matt. 4:1ff). But Jesus Christ overcame these temptations as well as all the others Satan threw at him, and that is why he can now help us do likewise. How do we do so? By willingly taking the tests that God gives us. How does God test us? Simply by asking us to trust Him and “wholeheartedly obey the form of teaching to which we were entrusted” (Rom. 6:17).

Only God’s Word enables us to understand these things, and in it we will see that it is only by taking the tests God gives that we can successfully handle Satan’s tests. That is, it is by trusting and obeying God that you can minimize the effects of the sin of Lucifer and Adam in your own life. Even in the Old Testament it was clear that God’s instructions were for the benefit of His people, as the following verses attest.

Deuteronomy 10:12 and 13
(12) And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
(13) And to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Some other simple biblical examples come to mind, such as the dietary and sanitary instructions in the Old Testament (cp. Lev. 11 and 17; Deut. 14), and the record where God told people to build a fence around the perimeter of their flat roofs so they wouldn’t fall off (Deut. 22:8).

As we stated earlier, God tests us by asking us to trust Him and do what He says. One of His goals is to build character in us. As a good “teacher,” neither God nor the Lord Jesus will ever ask you to do something you cannot do, right? If you answered affirmatively, a great truth should dawn on you: whenever God tells you to do anything, you immediately know one thing: you can!!! Therefore, you do, especially since you know it is in your own best interest to be obedient to your heavenly Father.

Once upon a time, after we had innocently looked into resolving some apparent biblical contradictions, we suddenly found ourselves hanging on the face of a cliff as sheer as any logic we had ever heard of. Actually it wasn’t that suddenly. We had volunteered for a rock-climbing school, been given adequate instruction and taken out to meet our granite fate.

“Climb this?” Well, maybe if we follow the instructions we were given, we can. Anyway, we eventually stood on top of the cliff, and guess what? Instead of lamenting how hard it had been to get there, we rejoiced in our accomplishment, looked over at an even higher rock and said, “We can climb that one.” What is the principle? Obstacles are opportunities for growth! Let us now cite one of many Old Testament records of God’s people facing an apparently insurmountable obstacle and God testing them to help them overcome it and grow in faith. You can read the biblical account in Joshua 3:1-17 and see if it matches our version, which follows.

Moses had died, and Joshua was leading Israel to the Promised Land. Closer and closer they got, and then— there it was! Just across the flooded Jordan River! Oh, no! In the face of this apparently insurmountable obstacle, what were God’s instructions? He told Joshua to tell the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to go first, and for the people to follow at a distance. God said that the priests were to walk right into the flooded river and that when the soles of their feet touched the water, the river would divide so that all the people could cross into the Promised Land.

Does that sound like a test to you? Suppose you had been one of those priests? Do you think your heart would have been pounding as you neared the edge of the Jordan? Of course, they could have just put down the ark and said, “Hey, this is ridiculous, let’s just live on this side of the river and enjoy the view of the Promised Land across the water.”

Had they done so, two things would not have occurred. First, they would not have received from God what He wanted to give them to bless them— the Promised Land. Second, they would not have experienced what we believe was a substantial increase in their faith.

What do you think happened in their hearts when their feet touched that water and the river backed up fifteen miles?! Verse ten of Joshua Chapter Three tells us that it was this incident that would later give them courage to overcome greater obstacles in the future, i.e., the obstreperous “ites.” [2]

Obstacles are opportunities for growth, but only when we look to God for the solution, and act accordingly.


[1] It should be noted that in Scripture the same Greek word peirazo is translated “tempt,” as well as “test,” “try,” “examine,” or “prove.” It is the context that determines how peirazo should be translated. A “temptation” is generally associated with an evil motive, while “prove” or “examine” are generally associated with a good motive, i.e., the success of the one being examined. Thus it is easy to tell that when the Bible says that Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for forty days and Satan came to “tempt” (peirazo) him, “tempt” is a good translation, because Satan wanted Christ to fail. This helps us understand why Scripture can say that God never tempts anyone (James 1:13). When Paul penned “Examine [peirazo] yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), he did not mean to “tempt” yourself, but rather to prove yourself, to try yourself. R.C.H. Lenski writes of this in his commentary: “The Corinthians are to apply the right tests to themselves as to ‘whether they are in the faith.’ To try and test oneself is simple enough. A few honest questions honestly answered soon reveal where one stands.” (The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, by R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Pub. House, Minneapolis MN, 1963, p. 1332.).
[2] Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Perrizites (and Termites).

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  1. Very inspiring and educative article. God richly bless you.

  2. I was in need of a good teaching tool to work with my new Christian friend in teaching her about being tested of God. I found this article immediately. It is rich and powerful and helped not only me but my friend as well. Thank you for the truth in this teaching.

  3. This article has helped me immensely , God bless

  4. So inspiring. I will share this with our discipleship class. God bless!

  5. This greatly helped me prepare a Sunday School lesson more in depth than the materials that were given to me. Thank you.

  6. I am so discouraged in life that sometime I feel like committing suicide. Things do not seem to turn right for me. I get always struck with difficult situations in life making it painful. But I try to find some solace in prayers to keep my life going. I was ponding if god really exist. After reading this article I feel more inspired and lightened.

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