Blessed is the man

who remains steadfast under trial,

for when he has stood the test

he will receive the crown of life,

which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12

This is a test.

One of God’s purposes in bringing disruptive circumstances into our lives is to test us – to help us see what’s really in us.

If Christ is in us by his Holy Spirit (see 2Cor. 13:5), that means that whatever else is shown to also be there, we need not be afraid to admit it. We are God’s child. And he wants to help us work through the indwelling sin that still remains. Tests are good because they help us see what those things are.

So life was chugging along somewhat predictably for most of us… and then this COVID crisis hit, upending our routines, halting our plans, and restricting our freedoms. Now we’re all sheltering in place – some with nobody to talk to, some with too many people up in our space; some with nothing to do, some with no work-life boundaries. There have been blessings along the way, but I think we’d all say that it has been hard. Times of testing almost always are.

It’s been almost a month now, so there is a large enough sample size to evaluate. What results of this test are we seeing?

· Has this revealed a love for the Bible in you? Are you genuinely going to God’s Word for sustenance and comfort? Or has Bible reading been spotty, perfunctory? To be frank, there are so many other things you would rather do.

· Have you seized this as an opportunity to be emboldened to do evangelism to a dying world headed to eternal quarantine in hell? Or has that been far from your mind? What does that mean?

· What has this shown regarding the state of your prayer life? Have you instinctively turned to the Lord for your needs and the needs of others? Or found yourself with supposedly more free time, but still not praying that much?

· What has this crisis showed you about your heart for the poor? Have you thought about those less fortunate and sought to help somehow?

· How self-disciplined are you, really? Has the removal of many externally imposed structures and schedules made your days mush? Could you fast from media? Have you set and achieved any goals? Read any good books? Or been wasting time on ephemera?

· Do you care about others? Sure, we’re all staying home to save lives, but c’mon. Are you thinking about more than just yourself? Are you calling people, checking in, doing your best to maintain community?

· Before this happened you may have thought that the love of money was not really an issue for you. But how do you honestly feel about the economy/your investments tanking? Are you still giving away the same percentage of your income as before, or even being more generous? Or are you giving in to an impulse to hoard?

· Have you found yourself able to work through anxieties with the Lord and find peace in the storm instead of panic? Or has this shown that your calm and repose is more dependent on easy circumstances than you’d like to admit?

· Is your lifestyle healthy? Have you been eating well, sleeping regularly, exercising, Sabbathing?

· What has living in close quarters with roommates or family shown you about your sanctification levels in patience, communication, thoughtfulness, gentleness…?

· Has this made you miss civic life or are you secretly happy to be insulated in your own, controlled, safe, little, wired world?

· Do you love your church, participate as much as possible in its life during this odd time, and long to be together again? Or has this surfaced in you an independence, individualism, resistance to authority? Maybe you haven’t actually been that deeply committed to the body and this is just making it clear?

· Have you detected any idols of the heart like productivity and control that make it hard for you to just rest and trust?

This is a test. What is it showing you? What are some areas of spiritual unhealth that perhaps you were previously unaware of that these last few weeks have made painfully obvious to you?

Remember the gospel. Don’t let your convicting answers to the above questions drive you away from God in guilt and shame. Thank him for the x-ray and run to him in repentance and faith that Jesus’ blood and righteousness covers all that! This is how you will remain steadfast under trial and stand this test without giving up. Trusting in Christ is the only way to receive the crown that is coming. This test won’t last forever.

And doesn’t remembering his promises of grace in the face of your failures make you love him?

Count it all joy, my brothers,

when you meet trials of various kinds,

for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And let steadfastness have its full effect,

that you may be perfect and complete,

lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

~ Nathan