Every leader needs to have a theology of testing. If we do not wake up every morning and view our days as God ordained tests that form us and forge for His purposes and for His glory, we will live beneath His intentions for our lives. Every believer needs to understand divine testing; pioneering leaders all the more.
Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. (Psalm 26:2)
For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10)
In school we are tested so that the institution can determine whether we are competent enough to progress. Wise students who have a vision for the future prepare for those tests by studying and making sure they have what is required to face the test and pass it. Far too many leaders don’t approach divine testing the same way.
Too many leaders waste tests, fail tests and keep taking the same tests over and over again because they don’t realize that God intends to forge them.
Right now you have just been tested by God, are being tested by God, or are about to be tested by God. Are you prepared to face them and pass them?
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. (Proverbs 17:3)
Below are four truths about testing and eight tests you will face if you are a leader. I have in my mind’s eye pioneers in particular. If you are going to lead in a pioneering context, you better be prepared for these tests. They are coming! And with force.
TRUTHS ABOUT TESTING
- They are frequent (almost perpetual) – In the early days the mistakes we make as a leader has the least amount of consequences. But as we grow, and our influence with us, the impact of mistakes becomes greater. We always need to be tested and receive critical analysis so that our blindspots are acknowledged and dealt with.
- They must be passed – Tests are not arbitrary. They are given to be passed. They are given for our good. The qualities possessed in a test is what you will need in the future promotion. Without those qualities He will not promote you. There are seasonal tests and tests of a lifetime. These tests define us. Consider Saul’s hasty sacrifice or Peter’s denials. Tests matter.
- They always precede promotion – God tests us for the purpose of promoting us. With that said, we need to know the difference between Self-promotion and God-promotion. They are not the same. Self promotion can come without testing. But when we promote ourselves, we are not safe. When God tests and promotes, we are safe. Divine promotion is the one we want. It is invincible regardless of who opposes us or how. Climbing a ladder isn’t evidence of promotion. We should always ask “Am I passing the test Lord?” and “What do you want to do with my life Lord?”
- They are necessary – In order for us to be greatly used by God we must be greatly tested by Him. Some leaders are tested in private and some are tested in public. One copes with hiddenness and the other with public humiliation. But all are tested. And all are tested necessarily. We need to be tested.
EIGHT KINDS OF TESTS IN THE LIVES OF EVERY LEADER
- The test of small things. What do you do as a leader when you’re asked to fulfill a task that we are overqualified for? What do you do when faced with something that feels beneath you? The test of small things is critical in establishing integrity, meekness and authenticity. Jesus washed feet and bled on a cross. The higher the call to lead, the lower we must go to serve.
- The testing of our motives. The testing of our motives can come in a million different ways. Sometime through the offer of favor and blessing (like Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness) or through opposition and persecution. This text reveals whether we are true to ourselves and through it we gain integrity.
- The test of hiddenness. We need to be true to our calling before we are given a platform and given an opportunity for our calling to be expressed. We develop personal integrity in our calling by investing time and energy into the formation of our gifts before they are publicly seen and acknowledged.
- The test of possible promotion. Will we stay true to ourselves and our calling when a potential promotion or platform is on the horizon? Do the prospects of blessing and prominence deter us from our course? Can we be bought? Will we compromise when we are faced with gain? What if we are offered a promotion in an area that is contrary to the path that we are walking? Do we speak to leaders differently because we perceive they have the ability to promote us? Or do we trust the Lord to promote us and honor our leaders as brothers in the Lord?
- The test of showing up when the stakes are low. Will we be present and punctual when no one is looking? When the stakes are low, will we cultivate integrity and character in the grace of God living before an audience of One? One of the fastest ways to erode the unity and vibrancy of a team is when people on the team show up late or don’t show up at all. It maximizes the opportunities to bear offense towards brothers and sisters.
- The test of stewardship. Will we be wise and generous with what we have? How we use our resources when we have little is how we will use it when we have much. It is a delusion to think that we will be wise and generous when we have wealth. This doesn’t just apply to finances but every kind of resource. Some people are wise and stingy, and some people are generous and stupid. We want to be wise and generous.
- The Test of Injustice. When we are slandered, stolen from, lied to, gossiped about or betrayed, how do we respond? Do we respond in humility and mercy or in pride and anger? Do we believe in divine vindication? Or do we feel the need to defend ourselves? The test of injustice will come in the life of every leader. Most leaders I know would say that the test of injustice is THE test that makes or breaks leaders. Every fruitful leader has stories about injustices done against them. This test accomplishes more than we can possibly imagine.
- The Test of praise. When men speak well of us, we are tested as to whether our identity will be rooted in what they say or what God says. When we are perceived in a good light, will we “read our own press” and feed our spirits on what people say about us or about what God says about us? What people think and what God thinks are rarely every similar.
These are only a few tests. There are many more. But these are essential for every leader to understand and prepare for. We will all face each of these tests; some of them multiple times at several critical junctions in our walk with Jesus as we shepherd His people.