4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
A map is one of the “ten essentials” for any wilderness experience. Yet even the most perfect map is worthless unless we know how to align it with true north. Getting the map properly aligned is the first step in orienteering.
Life is the ultimate wilderness experience. We are always at risk of losing our way, constantly bombarded with tough decisions, and trying to make righteous choices in the midst of confusing circumstances. Just as we can’t find our way with a disoriented map, so we can’t make right decisions when we are out of alignment with God’s will. Paul admonishes, “Test yourselves!” In other words, “Check your bearings!” “Check your alignment!” “Check your aim!” Our aim will be tested by the tough decisions, and this is one test we do not want to fail.
What's the secret to passing this test? Is it a matter of strength, skill, or intelligence? No. The secret is to trust in Jesus Christ, and to live with him by the power of God. Based in this trust, we make decisions that align with God’s will. Based in living faith, whatever strength or skill or intelligence we have can be put to best use.
Passing the test is a matter of orienting ourselves to the truth. We begin by confessing our weakness, examining our motives and seeking to obey the Lord, not following our own selfish desires. This is why Paul can say, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” [2 Cor. 12:10]. Recognizing our personal weakness unleashes the true source of power: “Christ in you” [2 Cor. 13:5; cf. Col. 1:27].
A Case Study:
Scott, an investment banker, faced a test at the close of a big deal he had negotiated. The acquiring company’s attorneys had inserted a clause in the closing documents that would not have an immediate effect on either party, but would have seriously obstructed the seller’s future business plans. Scott could have sealed the deal, told his client to sign, collected his fee, and shaken hands with all parties in happy celebration of another done deal, but he saw the misalignment and felt it in his gut. To close that deal would have been to wield his own power rather than to trust in God’s power. So he walked. He told the buyers “no,” and explained to the seller why it was not a good deal. He trusted God with the aftermath, eventually found another suitor, and struck a deal in alignment with right and proper aims.
To pass the test of faith is a matter of trusting God to be at work in all things. His power will prevail. Always. His grace is sufficient. Always.
How do you study for this test? By practicing the gift of Christ-in-you: confession and love for God and neighbor until it becomes an irrepressible habit.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014