God’s goal for our lives isn’t for us to be happy. It’s for us to grow in spiritual maturity.
Happiness comes from holiness. You’ll be happy for trillions and trillions of years when you get to heaven. But right now, you’re in the growing stage. And God is much more interested in your character than your comfort.
How does God grow you? Through tests. It’s like when you work out in a gym, where you test your muscles by lifting weights. The more you test your muscles, the more your muscles grow.
God builds your character in a similar way. But the tests that God gives you examine many areas in your life, such as your character and patience.
James describes it like this: “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4 NLT).
The Bible tells us that when our faith is tested, our character will grow. Throughout Scripture, we see God test and grow the faith of some of the greatest biblical heroes. He uses these same six tests to grow our faith too.
Test #1 – A difficult new task
You’ll face this test many times in your life and in your ministry. God will tell you to do something that seems impossible.
It’s like when God called Noah to build the ark when no one on earth had even seen rain.
God may not ask you to build an ark, but he will ask you to reach for an impossible dream or complete an impossible task.
Faith is facing the future without knowing “what” that task may be.
Test #2 – A major change
I call this the “where” test. It’s a test that happens when a major change comes into your life and you don’t know where God is taking you.
God tells us to go—and changes everything in our lives in the process—but he doesn’t tell us where. God told Abraham to go from Ur to somewhere new without telling him where. And Abraham obeyed.
Maybe God wants you to serve in a different area than where you’re currently serving. Or maybe he is telling you to sell your house, and you’re wondering, “But where am I going?”
Faith is following God’s leading without knowing “where.”
Test #3 – A delayed promise
This time you’re asking, “When?” God, when will you answer my prayer? When will our church grow? When will my marriage change?
You’re not the first to ask the question, “When?”
The Bible tells us Abraham had a similar experience: “Even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11:9-10 NLT).
Abraham based his life on God’s promises—not explanations. And his faith grew because of it.
Faith is waiting for God’s timing without knowing “when.”
Test #4 – An unsolvable problem
This is the “how” test. You have a problem and do not know how to solve it. Remember when God told Abraham that he would be a father? At 99 years old, it was physically impossible for him and his wife to have a child.
But God did the impossible—through the faith of Sarah (and Abraham). The Bible tells us, “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise” (Hebrews 11:11 NLT).
Faith is expecting a miracle without knowing “how.”
You might be experiencing a problem in your family or your church that seems unsolvable. But as you trust God, even with the unsolvable, your faith will grow.
Test #5 – A senseless loss
Sometimes we face a loss in life that makes no sense. Often, we look for an explanation even when there is none. You can spend your whole life looking to explain the unexplainable.
Our response to this senseless loss is usually, “Why?”
- Why did the person I love die?
- Why did my dream end?
- Why did I lose my job?
Imagine putting yourself in Abraham’s shoes. God asked him to sacrifice his son—his only son upon which all of his dreams of fathering a nation rested. Abraham couldn’t explain why God asked him to do this, but in faith, he obeyed. And then God provided another way.
Faith is trusting God’s purpose without knowing “why.”
Test #6 – A prolonged pain
This is the “how long” test. It’s about the chronic pain in your life. Whether it’s relational, spiritual, or physical, it is suffering that won’t go away. You simply must live with it.
In Hebrews 11:24-26, the Bible tells us that Moses endured all kinds of suffering—including conflict, criticism, and pain—to pursue what God wanted to do through his life.
At times, he must have asked God, “How long, Lord?” Moses didn’t choose what felt right. God’s Word tells us this about Moses: “He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward” (Hebrews 11:26 NLT).
This test helps you develop faithful persistence. You don’t always feel like preaching every Sunday morning. You don’t always feel like turning the other cheek when you face criticism. You don’t always feel like staying in a troubled marriage.
But like Moses, we keep going. That’s faith.
Faith is persisting through pain without knowing “how long.”
If you’re not facing one of these tests right now, it’s coming—and likely soon. God gives you these tests because he loves you and wants you to grow.
Will you respond in faith the next time you face one?