The books were right there, laying on top of the piano where I had left them the afternoon before when I arrived home from school. I distinctly remembered having every intention of studying, but then I pulled out the piano bench to learn “The Peer Gynt Suite” by Edvard Grieg! Where had my mind been?? SAT’s would start today! Of all evenings to have gotten a little extra cramming in, last night was the one! Trig was killing me, and physics was right behind it! Sigh. Why do some people have it so easy, while others have to work so hard for a C? Not fair! Picking the books by up, I headed out the door, already feeling the noose around my neck.
The classroom wasn’t crowded, so the teacher separated us in order to cut down on the ability to cheat. There were no cell phones in those days, and calculators or open books were not allowed in the room. Also, this teacher was a hawk: he didn’t miss an eyeball drifting sideways. I looked down at the paper, and the first problem might have been in Greek. Against the rules of the test (do each one in order), I went to the next–wow! Easy! So I zipped through the pages answering the ones I could, then going back to the ones that needed more brain time. Meanwhile, the brainy students were going one by one.
A month later the trigonometry teacher stepped into the English class and asked for attention. He gave the results of those who had scored highest in all areas. Then he stopped. “In Math, although I have no idea how she did it, considering she is failing trig, Sandy Day scored the highest.” Thank you, Mr. Whatever (his name is erased from my memory bank.) (Intentionally, probably). I knew right then I had figured out how to take tests: go quickly through the ones you know, then go back to the harder questions. Granted, there are probably rules that prohibit doing this now in the technological age, but at that time it worked well.
No one has to be a Rocket Scientist to know that life is full of tests. Only the naive think that when they get out of school, tests will be over! The test for your driver’s license, college classes, balancing checkbooks, having quarterly reviews at work, making the outgo and the income equal out–at least in some respects,–all of those and millions more are tests. It’s definitely not exaggerating to say that each day we have tests in some form or the other. If you have kids, you have testing. If you are married, you have testing.
Recently, I found a different test–one laid out in Scripture put there by the hand of God. I wasn’t looking for it, but this, still able to be called the being the beginning of a new year, is a good time to do a self-examination, or test. I was reading Psalm 15, and was immediately impacted by the question the psalmist asked in prayer: “God, who may dwell with You in Your holy place?” (My paraphrase). And then he gets his answer: anyone who lives a blameless life (wow, can anyone do that?); who walks in righteousness; who refuses to engage in conversation that is slandering to another person; who does not listen to gossip; who does not harm his neighbor; who speaks out against sin; who criticizes those who are committing the sin (that doesn’t go down well in this age of “tolerance,” does it?); who commends (and encourages) those who are faithfully following the Lord; who keeps a promise even if it ruins him; who does not extract the highest interest rate he can get by with, thereby putting a burden too heavy to bear on those he lends money to; who refuses to testify against an innocent person even if he is bribed heavily to do so—this man will stand firm forever. Whoa!! Those are the goals of someone who wants to serve God with his entire life. This obviously was not a test where one could say, “That one is easy, that one I’ll come back to, that one I’ll never figure out,” etc.!
It is easy to see that those are the standards of someone who must have a close and wonderful relationship with the Creator God! It is, as Paul writes in the book of Romans, the reason that the commandments point us to Jesus. Just looking at that list, and then seeing where you “test” out against each one of those attributes, tempts us to throw up our hands and quit trying. That’s why we need a Savior. If there were a chain with thick heavy links holding you to God, and each link was one of the commandments, or one of those characteristics in Psalm 15, how many would it take to break chain holding you to God? Only one. Someone had to pay the price for us, or no-one would be dwelling with God in that holy place!
Hallelujah, there was Someone who was able to pay that price, live up to the standard God had set, and then paid the debt that we could never pay. Yes, He lets us sin, and no, He doesn’t like it when we do. But if your child disobeys, and then is truly repentant, you are ready to forgive. So is God. Let’s try for a “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we stand before Him, having passed His test!
O God, how we can relate to the psalmist as he cried out, “Who can abide with You?!” We see our failings–and I confess, Lord, that I am not always sorry the moment I fail You–and feel we can never be good enough. Then I realize how badly I need Your grace, and Your forgiveness. Help me–and others–draw near to You, so that You will draw near to us. Thank You for Your grace, Lord God, and for Jesus Christ. Amen