Passing the Test

This morning I traveled to the Capitol for a Pastors and Legislators Prayer event. It was good to see some of my former legislative colleagues and some pastor friends as well. I kept my trip to Denver short and returned home as soon as possible to continue some work at home. Before an evening commitment, I had my fitness center workout. I’m not sure if it was my walking around the Capitol earlier in the day, but my trainer “put me through the ringer.”

This afternoon I visited with Daniel Petruska who leads Teen Challenge 180 Ministries in Denver. This is the TC program for men. He put together a “Jesus Culture” concert that had just under 3,000 in attendance. The event was last Friday and there were 350 commitments to Christ and the event proved to be a financial blessing to 180 Ministries as well. I recall several years ago when Daniel wanted to put together his first concert event. With some anxiety, I gave him the go ahead and he since then he has shown an incredible amount of  vision, dedication and leadership to makes these types of events possible.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… Look closely at yourselves. Test yourselves to see if you are living in the faith. You know that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you fail the test.  But I hope you will see that we ourselves have not failed the test.  We pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. It is not important to see that we have passed the test, but it is important that you do what is right, even if it seems we have failed.”  2 Corinthians 13:5-7 NCV

As Paul writes in this final chapter of 2 Corinthians, we find that he puts out an interesting challenge. The believers in Corinth were facing their challenges in their walk with the Lord. We find that Paul’s first letter was a list of areas that they needed to correct or where they needed more teaching and understanding.

Yet we find Paul also saying how he bragged about the Corinthians to others. In he second letter to this church we see Paul in a more softer, encouraging tone. Yet at the same time he addressed how easy they were to listen to smooth talking “preachers” and to get pulled away from true devotion to Christ.

So, as he brings his letter to a close, his last challenge is “look closely at yourselves” or “examine yourselves.” Self examination is healthy and a sign of maturity. It is one thing to be open to what others have to speak into our lives, but taking a hard look in the mirror at our own life is different. Often that is something we just don’t take time to do.

My life had always been full of a lot of activity and stress and a variety of commitments. I often didn’t stop and ask myself, “why are you doing what you are doing?” I didn’t take time to ask myself the hard questions. But when I was flat on my back in a hospital room, uncertain about what my life might bring, it was a good opportunity to look closely at myself, my life and my relationship with the Lord.

Our faith must be examined. Are we living in a manner that is pleasing and honoring to the Lord? Is our “faith” being reflect in our actions and not just in what we believe? Are we living with divided affections, are we allowing other interests or priorities to soften our devotion to the Lord? These and other questions are good for us to consider.

What we see is that Paul was including himself in this challenge. He says, “I hope you will see that we ourselves have not failed the test.” Paul was not just “talking down” those who were “less mature” in the faith. I believe he realized that “self examination” applied to him and those with him as much as the Corinthians. We also see in his words the understanding the “others are watching.” As he looked at the lives of the Corinthian believers, he knew they were looking at his as well.

What matters most is that we as individuals, “pass the test.” Look at again at Paul’s words, “…It is not important to see that we have passed the test, but it is important that you do what is right, even if it seems we have failed.” The failures of others is not an excuse for the failures in our own lives. That is what Paul wants the Corinthians to understand. They had a responsibility before the Lord regardless of whether Paul remained faithful or not.

It is easy, or at least tempting to allow the actions and direction of our life is influenced by others. I’m reminded of Jesus’ post resurrection breakfast with the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been questioning Peter and talking about his future. Peter turns to Jesus and speaks of John and asks, “Lord, and what about this man?”Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:21,22 NIV)

There is an old song that relates to this. The words say, “I have decided to follow Jesus, I won’t turn back, I won’t turn back.” The song continues with the words, “though none go with me still I will follow…”

It is a sad day when we find that we or others have “failed the test.” It does have an impact. But we can be confident that when Christ is in us, He will give us the strengthen to continue on, to make corrections, to pick ourselves up when we fall and to continue to move forward in the faith….passing the test.