Tests make me nervous. In fact, I remember lying in fourth grade to skip writing a math test. I’d been sick at home for several days prior, and on the day of my return to school, the teacher plunked a math test on my desk. I took one look at it, felt the fear of failure sweep over me, and knew escape was my only option if I hoped to survive elementary school.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” I told the teacher. “You’d better run to the bathroom, then,” she said. I dashed down the hall, locked myself in a bathroom stall, and then wondered what to do next.
A minute or two later, I heard the door open and my teacher’s voice say, “Grace, are you okay? I’ve asked the principal to take you home because you’re probably not over the flu yet.” Sure enough, the principal drove me home and handed me over to my mother. Somehow I managed to fool her, too. Maybe I should have pursued an acting career, or at least purchased shares in a ginger ale company.
Tests are not fun, but they’re necessary to see how well we’re learning the lessons we need to know. The Israelites experienced this in their day, too. Exodus 16:4 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.’” And thus the manna menu began.
Every morning, the flaky substance appeared on the ground. And every morning, the people gathered as much as their households needed for that day. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over. And those who gathered a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed (vv. 17, 18).
What was the lesson God wanted them to learn? To trust His care and ability to provide for their needs. It looked as though they understood and were headed for a passing grade. But then came the test. “Do not keep any of it until morning,” said Moses.
Some students passed. Others failed – they didn’t listen to Moses but kept some of it until morning. When they woke up and went to retrieve their breakfast, they discovered a big, fat “F” on their test paper. The stored-up manna was full of maggots and had a terrible smell (v. 19,20). The test results revealed that, in the deepest part of their hearts, they didn’t fully trust God to provide for their needs.
Thankfully they took the failing grade to heart and changed their ways: “After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need” (v. 21). They’d seen God provide faithfully in the past, and they knew they could trust Him for the future.
As a missionary living on faith support, God tests me regularly in this regard. Do I trust Him to meet our financial needs? Just when I feel as though I’ve mastered this lesson, a major financial need arises: the car needs new tires, or a molar breaks and needs a crown, or the house needs repairs. Usually a speaking engagement or two cancels at the same time. I panic and wonder whether I should find a job with a guaranteed income to pay the bills. But then I remember that God promises to provide for our needs. Either I trust Him or I don’t. I can choose to rely on my own efforts, or I can do things God’s way and trust Him to keep His word. My response determines my grade. Will I pass or fail and have to relearn the lesson?
Tests are not easy, but they’re vital to reveal how well we’re learning what God wants us to know. How about you? Has God tested you recently? If so, we’d love to hear your story.