Put your books away….clear your desk….take out a clean sheet of paper! My palms are already sweaty and my heart is beginning to beat quicker! Those words always indicate a “Pop Quiz”. I hate pop quizzes! I have a pretty decent memory (correction – used to have). So given proper notice I can study something in a fairly short amount of time and have very good recall. But to be put on the spot, on the spur of the moment, without the benefit of cramming – I don’t do so hot! The purpose of the “Pop Quiz” is to discover what you really know about the subject, not what you can memorize. (now you can begin to see my dilemma) Anyone can memorize facts – but the “Pop Quiz” is designed to measure your understanding of the facts.
God has his own version of “Pop Quizzes” – they are called trials of life. These trials in James 1:2-4 are not designed to tempt us to sin – but rather to discover what we know and understand about being a follower of Jesus. The word temptation is used in this passage – but the word means a test to discover the nature of an object. Trials reveal our strong and weak areas. It’s a reality check to prevent us from assuming that we are further along than we think or from thinking we’re something that we’re not.
Out of the Blue
The trials that come our way come unexpectedly in life. Their arrival is described by the word “fall”. The word itself sends a clear message that these “Pop quizzes” cannot be prepared for in advance. Think about it, have you ever studied and prepared for falling down. We usually fall unexpectedly and suddenly. If we could prepare in advance for a fall – we would never fall down. God designed it this way so that when the trial occurs we will not regurgitate a bunch of “Bible facts” – but rather we will have to apply what we have learned about walking with Jesus up to this point.
I recently heard a man who surfs 30 to 50 foot waves in Hawaii say, when you think you’re going to fall – you must control your emotions and not panic – but rather relax. We might respond to that, “Yeah right!” But God gives us the same instruction concerning His “Pop Quizzes”. When trials occur in our lives, most of the time, we allow our feelings to dominate us and direct us through the trial. James tells us, in order, to make a good grade – we need to control our attitude. “Count it all joy” literally means control your emotions and go through your trials with cheerfulness. “It’s not what happens to me, but what happens in me that makes the difference.” That’s the kind of attitude we need in order to face the trials of life. We will short circuit everything God is trying to accomplish in our lives if we allow a bad attitude or feeling to dominate us during a trial.
What’s the Point?
When faced with a “Pop Quiz” we need to remember the objective of the quiz. James 1:3 states it well, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” God’s not out to get you when trials come along in life. God is attempting to strengthen your faith for the journey ahead. There are several things we must remember when taking the quiz. 1) God doesn’t want you to fail he wants you to succeed. 2) A bad attitude in the trial means we have to repeat the test.
What kind of trials are you facing this week in your life? Instead of working yourself up over it – why not take a deep breath and simply pray, “Lord, I know this trial is designed to reveal what is in me – help me not to lose sight of you through this trial. When this trial is over – help me to be a little bit more like you!” That kind of prayer will put a smile on the teacher’s face – guaranteed!