A Battery of Tests

”I got an A, Dad!” Few things bring a broader smile to a parent than this announcement following late nights and cram sessions at the close of a semester.

For our kids who have been through the Singapore school system, it seems you’ve hardly taken a bow for one job well done and the pressure is already building for the next jarring series of exams.

Maybe God helped to write the curriculum! If your walk with Him has been anything like mine, you’ve noticed you’re either just breathing a sigh over one completed test or you’re staring down the barrel of the next.

You also might think you’ve been sitting for your present exam much too long. You look around: the room cleared out long ago, the air-conditioning has been shut off, and you’re left sitting alone in the dark! We all feel like this at times.

Truth is, without tests, growth and results suffer. We fall prey to complacency. Without regular KPI’s, we settle for mediocrity. You’re not likely to keep your job long as a salesman if you only intend to sell your product. And that means even if you’ve dozens of Instagram posts highlighting bright ideas how to do it!

One lesson we learn from David’s life is that God loves to test the ones He loves. Nearly any chapter from his life could serve to illustrate this, but I was particularly struck this week by all the hits David took during the period when his own son, Prince Absalom, rebelled.

Talk about rapid fire! As Absalom schemed, the conspiracy grew bigger by the minute – David’s Secretary-of-State, Chief-of-Staff, and Head of a the Department of Defence all joined the opposition.

David abdicates and, as he does, each person he meets during his flight was a huge test. Would Ittai the Gittite and his 600 men risk all for this weakened king-turned-fugitive? Would Zadok and Abiathar the priests follow David, precariously bearing the Ark of God into the wilderness? What should be done with Ziba of the house of Saul, or rock-throwing, curse-hurling Shimei? Would Mephibosheth and Hushai remain loyal? Would people like Barzillai step up and provide sustenance for the growing number in David’s shelterless and hungry horde?

While it’s tempting to become hardened and defensive in times like this, David chose to humble himself and seek opportunities to grow through it. As we see from 2 Samuel 15:25, “If I find favour in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back.”, David’s focus was on the Lord, fully trusting God to guide him through extremely confusing and dangerous predicaments.

I wonder if my first impulse would have been to cast blame – to grow bitter and retaliate. Would I have become obsessed with Absalom or the injustice of it all. Would I have thrown a pity party or fallen into a quagmire of ‘Why’s?’

Not David. He made a beeline for a mountain summit – the first stop on his escape route – where ‘he worshipped God’ (2 Samuel 15:32). This choice, the decision to look at and for God amid the excruciating loss and threats on his life, kept David from instinctively drawing his sword against a lowlife like Shimei.

David realised God was watching, yes, testing him: “It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” 2 Samuel 16:12

We think about repaying our enemies; David thought about being repaid by God. A carnal David would have used his authority to punish Shimei for his insolence. But the spiritual man knows that God is always looking for His likeness to be reflected in the hearts of those who love Him. The ill-prepared reacts in the flesh when trials come but the wise man responds by the Spirit.

David wasn’t perfect. He got snookered by Ziba. But I’m quite confident he earned a broad smile from his Father for passing his Absalom test with flying colours.


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