"Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture...Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."--Luke 8:6, 13 When I was in school, I don't think I was a good test taker. With all the studying I did (or maybe I didn't do enough!) for the SAT, I actually did rather poorly. I'm still a little skeptical of the value of testing as an indicator of how well you know a subject because I know that I've often just studied enough to pass the test and then promptly forgotten everything by the next hour!
But in the Bible, testing has a very different purpose. It shows what's in the heart and the quality of it (1 Thess. 2:4). Proverbs 17:3 tells us that God tests, but He does not tempt (James 1:13). They are not the same thing. Our ultimate test will come in the end, when God will use fire to test the quality of the work we have done here on earth (1 Cor. 3:13).
As believers, we are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) to evaluate whether they are from God or not. By allowing the Lord to transform us instead of being conformed to the world, we are then able to test what God's will is, that is reveal its true nature. However, we are repeatedly told not to test God Himself, trying Him and testing His patience (Matt. 4:7, 1 Cor. 10:9). When we do so, we reveal something else in our hearts: our arrogance.
Testing is also a tool that God employs to strengthen and build our faith. James 1:3 tells us that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. Testing is designed to teach us as much as it is to reveal what is in our hearts. We can either learn to persevere in Christ through the trial or we can short-circuit the opportunity and escape.
With this in mind, this helps us to understand what Jesus is talking about when it comes to testing. Sometimes His Word falls on rocky soil. Rocks are not generally known for being a nurturing, welcoming place to take root. Water does not absorb readily into rock. Rocky soil tends to drain water and moisture away. It makes sense that seed that falls onto rocky soil does not have what it needs to anchor deeply.
Testing, then reveals this condition. In the parable, testing, difficulties and trials show us the depth of our faith. I'm sure you have seen this in people who are going through suffering. I have witnessed friends whose faith was severely tested by cancer or death or financial struggle come out with a stronger faith. Sadly, I have also seen testing result in people leaving the faith.
The fact of life is that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). There is no getting around it. The storms of life blow indiscriminately. Even if I should pray that the Lord would shield my children from hardship, I know they will still come. Perhaps what is important is not that they be protected from trouble but that they will not only survive the storm, but root even deeper because of it.
One way that I help them do this is checking how I respond to trials when they come in my life. Do I have rocky soil in my heart? When testing comes, do I fall away? Or am I allowing Him to strengthen and build my faith in the hard times of my life? Trials also reveal what is in our hearts as well.
While I do not wish for trials on myself or on my children, I also know that they can be opportunities for God to strengthen our faith. If you are going through a difficulty today, I pray that when tested, your faith, "of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:7)
Part 3 of a series: How Does Your Garden Grow?