Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Exam Days and Pop-Quizzes

Throughout the years I was a student in school there was one day I disliked more than any other…exam day. Whether it was the regular Friday weekly exams designed to see if we had been paying attention on the short term, or the larger unit tests or midterms or even final exams meant to determine our comprehension of overall knowledge, I didn’t like exam days. it wasn’t because I was overly anxious about taking tests, I never really had a problem with that, I just didn’t like them, the studying they required got in the way of the fun I wanted to have. As much as I didn’t care for exams…I hated pop-quizzes! You remember, you would go to school thinking it was like any other…and then it would happen. You walk into class having a good time with friends, laughing or catching up. The bell would ring indicating free time was over and it was time to crack the books, and then right out of the clear blue sky, the words that could strike fear into the most stoic of students. “Books under your chairs, today we are having a pop-quiz”. No one liked hearing it, it wasn’t fair, we didn’t know we should have studied. In fact, pop-quizzes aren’t fair, but they are right. A weekly test didn’t prove what you knew, it proved you knew what you had rehearsed. Pop quizzes proved what you knew without rehearsing.

Have you ever wondered why God who loved us so much that He allowed His own Son to be murdered to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him doesn’t clear away all of our problems before we even know they exist? A friend of mine and I were discussing the possible answers to that question this week. After all, if God loves us that much, and we know He does, why does He allow us to experience so much trouble in our lives? When we love someone we try to make sure they don’t experience difficulties? Right? So why does He allow us to go through the daily frustrations, problems, trials?……..Pop-quizzes!

As much as I hated pop quizzes in school, King David from the Old Testament seemingly invited God to surprise him with them. Psalm 139:23,24 in the International Standard Version says: Examine me, God, and know my mind, test me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive tendency in me, and lead me in the eternal way. David was inviting God to test him. David understood that having a relationship with God (and we know that he did because God called David a man after His own heart) didn’t make him perfect in all of his ways as God is. David knew there were still offensive tendencies in him. He knew that he still reacted at times in ways that didn’t reflect God’s righteousness. Genesis had been written by Moses roughly 400 years before David’s reign over Israel so he knew that God had created mankind in His image and His likeness, but David also knew the things he thought, did and said didn’t always look like the thoughts actions and words of his righteous Creator. So, David invited God to give him pop-quizzes.

According to the Bible, David’s son Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. He also understood the value of being tested by God. Proverbs 17:3 records that he wrote: The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests hearts. Solomon understood that just like precious metals have to be subjected to high temperatures to burn off the impurities and leave only the highly valuable product behind, God has to allow our hearts to be tested to eliminate what is unrighteous.

There will be exams and pop-quizzes for us as well. The Apostle Peter and James the brother of Jesus had some things to say about it. They wrote the following to encourage us as we endure tests, exams, and pop-quizzes. In James 1:2-4 we read that he wrote: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James felt we should not only invite the pop-quizzes; we should be find them an opportunity for great joy! I have to admit; I still need some work on my response to the pop-quizzes! He went on to tell us why joy ought to be our response to those occasions. Tested faith he said results in endurance or spiritual stamina. He then pointed out when that spiritual stamina has fully developed, we will be perfect and complete. In other words at that point, no test, trial or pop-quiz will be able to produce a wrong answer. When our spiritual stamina is perfected, we will no longer fail…we will always be able to withstand the test and give the right response! That will be great! We will always be able to…go be awesome then! James was right to encourage us, we may not be there yet, but every pop-quiz taken brings us closer to acing every one! That is a reason for great joy!

The Apostle Peter also had some words to cheer us on in our testing. He wrote in 1 Peter 1:6-9: So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. Peter wanted to make sure that in the tests and pop-quizzes that are sure to come our way, we remained encouraged that those tests and trials would show us that our faith is genuine. That the relationship we say we have with Christ is having a profound effect on us. He wanted us to be aware of just how precious our faith is to God, He finds it more valuable than gold. That faith also gives us an opportunity not only recognize it as the catalyst for the changes in us but to share it with the world around us that also needs it so desperately. When we pass a pop-quiz…Jesus gets the credit! When we give Him all the credit for our ability to pass, we get to spend eternity with Him!

So next time you are enduring some difficulty, frustration or problem that you wish you weren’t, if you are wondering why there have to be tests, exams and pop-quizzes in life, remember James1:12: 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.

So now, learning to invite the exams and pop-quizzes like King David, and to take great joy in them when they come along like James and Peter encouraged you to, sharpen your pencil and sit up straight, take the pop-quiz…and go be awesome!