Monday, March 3, 2008

Tests & Trials

One night I was on a long drive home from Peoria, Illinois when my wife called. She told me of the wonderful church service that night and how things went. She said that a good friend was having some complications from his surgery to correct complications from another surgery several weeks ago and that his wife was requesting prayer for him.

After Jackie hung up and I was again alone in the quiet of the car with the long miles stretching ahead of me, I began to pray for my friend, but then I stopped and I wasn't sure of just what to pray. . . . I have great great respect for my friend. He and I came to Life Tabernacle at roughly the same time. He is much younger than I, just starting his family, but still we've grown together in our faith in many ways. I know that he is capable of huge things in the kingdom of God and while I want God to spare him an attack, a trial from the evil one, but then again I don't want him to miss a blessing by not enduring a test from God. . . I started pondering. . .

How do you tell the difference. What is the difference between a test and a trial. These two words you often hear associated with these difficult events we face. . .

Trials have several basic components: You must have an accused and an accuser. At the minimum, you also must also have a judge, a prosecutor. In my experience, if you are the accused nothing good ever comes out of a trial. All you can ever hope for in a trial is a 'not guilty' verdict and you had that before the trial, but the trial consumes many many things. You always end up losing something in a trial. There are men and women in jail who are absolutely innocent of the charge they are being held upon. If they have no money for the bond, they will wait many months for their trial. They will lose everything they own. Their car will be gone. Their house will be foreclosed upon. Often they will lose their children to foster homes. Friends will abandon them. Family, spouses, coworkers, people they don't even know will often consider them guilty just because they are accused. A trial doesn't even have to take place for you to lose. Only to be accused is to suffer a loss. A private lawyer will cost you thousands of dollars and all you can hope for is to be found not guilty. None of the things you lost will be automatically restored to you if you are found innocent. As I said before, I don't know of anything good for the accused that can ever come of a trial.

A test is another matter. At it's minimum, a test has three components: The person taking the test, the giver of the test and the substance of the test. A test is really in many ways the opposite of a trial. Good things always come out of a test. A well constructed test is a learning experience. I remember only one thing about my college zoology class and that is a question that I missed on a test. I cannot remember a single thing about that entire course, but I remember perfectly that one question that I answered wrong on an exam. The answer to that question has stuck with me for more than 25 years, while everything else has faded away. Tests are to be looked forward to. They are milestones in life. Do you remember your first driving test? How about your physical exam for entrance into the military? How about the exam where you found out you were pregnant? Big events, promotions, advancements are very often preceded by tests. Tests surely aren't always fun, but failing a test isn't the end of the world. . . study hard, prepare better, take it again and go on. A test can take any form. I have taken tests where I had to weld two pieces of metal together, accurately copy very fast Morse code coming through my headsets, story problems, true/false questions, essay questions, find your way from point 'a' to point 'b'. A test can take any form the test giver wants it to. It is a learning experience.

I watch men and women go through the jail. I see men and women charged with the same crime, facing the same possible sentences, react in very very different ways. Relatively minor charges, say a DUI, and two people will react totally differently. One young man will be suicidal, the other will use his time in jail learning how not to end up in jail again. It comes to me that the difference between the two, is all in their perception of their difficulty. Is it a trial or a test?

The suicidal one, views it only a trial. As I said before, no gain is possible in a trial. You can only lose and that is the focus of the person who goes into despair at what has happened to him. All he can see is what he has lost and what he stands to lose. All he can see are the costs.
The other man looks upon the time in jail as a test, a learning experience. He is focused on what positives he can receive from this time in jail. As I said before, a test can take any form. A test can even take the form of a trial. The whole difference is in knowing and having a relationship with the test giver. . . .

Dear Lord,
Please heal my friend and if for reasons only You know, that is not possible please give him the strength and wisdom and courage to ace this test. . . . .


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