While Jesus passed his God-given exams with flying colours within only forthy days; the children of Israel failed their God-given exams woefully within forty years.
When I was a new believer, the Lord told me a parable. He said a father came home from work one day to discover that his little daughter ran away and hid from him instead of running towards him and embracing him as she used to do. What was the matter with the girl? Someone had convinced her that her Father was a murderer. As a result, she was afraid for her life. Maybe her Father might want to kill her too.
This situation is quite unusual. If you abuse a little girl’s father in her presence, she will fight you no matter how big you are. If she cannot hit you, she will bite you. But when the devil disparaged God to Eve, she believed. He told her God is a liar. He told her God was not interested in her progress, and she believed the lie. Thereby, Eve failed the first exam set for her. She also tutored her husband, Adam, to be a failure just like her.
The wilderness experience
A similar exam was set for Jesus: “(Jesus) was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him for forty days.” (Luke 4:1-2). Note that this test was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
Similarly, God prompted the devil to subject Job to intensive testing. He said to him: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’” (Job 1:8). As a result, Job faced an ordeal that tried the extremities of his trust in God. He lost his children, his wealth and his health. However, Job refused to lose his faith.
God also tested the children of Israel in the wilderness. While Jesus passed his God-given exams with flying colours within only forty days; the children of Israel failed their God-given exams woefully within forty years. As a result, none of the Israelites redeemed from Egypt entered God’s Promised Land.
Why does God lead his children into the wilderness? Why is the wilderness experience fundamental to spiritual growth and maturity? It is in the wilderness that we learn to trust God, to rest in him and to live by his word and not by sight. If we fail our exams in the wilderness of life, we cannot enter into the promises of God.
Thus, Moses explained to his failed classmates: “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years; to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
Building blocks of faith
Look at some of the building blocks of faith that God provided for the Israelites. There were nine plagues that came on the Egyptians, and yet Goshen, where the Israelites lived, was unaffected. That was more than enough to convince them the Lord is their God. The Red Sea parted and they crossed over on dry ground, while the Egyptian army with their chariots and horses drowned. They were fed with manna from heaven. And yet, they still rebelled against God.
God gives to every believer similar assurances of his fidelity so that we too can say like Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25). Don’t fall below the last revelation. Go higher and higher in your level of trust in God. Don’t remain in Primary One indefinitely. Establish a habit of faith. Trust God in all things. “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” (Proverbs 3:6).
God does not set exams that he does not first empower us to pass. Moreover, he helps us to pass every exam. If God tells you to carry a boulder, don’t tell him you are not strong enough to do so. He has empowered you to carry it by his very command that you should do so. “Your people will offer themselves willingly in the day of your power.” (Psalm 110:3). Moreover, never do anything God asks you to do by yourself. If he asks you to carry a boulder, insist that he must carry it with you.
A drawer in my son’s bedroom was stuck and could not be opened. My wife and Femi-Kevin struggled with it for awhile; but to no avail. So they came to get me to help them out. Before I got up to go with them, I said a quiet prayer to God admitting that I had no power of my own and asking him for help.
When I got to Femi’s bedroom, my wife turned the whole thing into one big macho joke. She said: “Daddy, Daddy; strong Daddy. Come on, open the drawer.” At this point the Holy Spirit gave me a strange instruction. He told me to pull out the drawer they were struggling with using only one finger. When I tried this, the drawer came out as if grease had been applied to it. It came out so easily, they were both flabbergasted.
God gives us the tools to pass every exam he sets. He himself is our resource. However, he does not guarantee that we will pass his exams. Neither does he always make a way of escape for us. Indeed, sometimes he sets the exam for us in order to show us that, although we think we are graduates, we are actually still in kindergarten.
Don’t set your own exams; if you do, you will fail. If you do, you will have to do the exam all by yourself. Remember the word of God: “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty- ‘you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak.’ Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him!” (Zechariah 4:6-7).
Peter set his own exam and he failed woefully. He boasted to Jesus: “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:33). Therefore, a special exam was set especially for him. Jesus said to him: “The truth is, this very n ight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” (Matthew 26:34). Peter did just that: he denied the Lord three times on the trot. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).
Don’t be in a hurry to try out a scripture simply because you have just read it. The fact that you have read it does not mean it has been made flesh in you. In any case, we cannot fulfil the scriptures by ourselves. Jesus says: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5).