Testing is a part of life.
Testing is a part of life. It was certainly a part of Jesus’ life. Luke’s reflective narrative on testing brings us to the recognition that testing can take many different forms and take place at many different times in our lives. It does not conveniently come clearly packaged with a label ‘testing by the devil’. Sometimes it will be very obviously so, but often requires the skill of discernment and reflection to identify the nature of the testing and what the right response to it should be. The dangerous kind of testing by its very nature seeks to knock us off course, to make us less the person God wants us to be, and less sure of our ability to be that person. Praying ‘do not bring us into testing’ in the right spirit teaches us an appropriate dread of being tested, a dread that challenges us to acknowledge that sometimes testing will ask of us more than we are able to give. In those times, it is worth remembering the disciples and the transformative power of forgiveness. No matter how hard we pray the Lord’s Prayer, testing will come and there will be times when, despite everything, we find ourselves unable to stand firm—but then so did the very first disciples, and they went on to achieve great things for God.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION
Reflecting on Scripture
• Read Luke 4.1–13, then 23.34–39, and then say the Lord’s Prayer together.
• Spend a minute or two in silence reflecting on what you heard.
• What themes jumped out for you from these readings? What did they make you think about?
• At the heart of all of these passages lies the need to know who we are and what God has called us to do and be. Jesus knew. How do we become more confident in knowing this ourselves?
• Now, as then, people love to tell us what being ‘us’ should mean (what a church should be; how a Christian should behave). Have you had any experiences of this?
• Why do you think it is so tempting to tell other people how to be them? How do we resist such advice when it is offered to us?
• When does steadfastness in the face of challenge tip into being downright obstinate and refusing to listen to other people’s opinions? How do you discern when you need to hold fast and when you need to listen and change? Can we learn anything from Jesus about this?
• Think about the times in your life when you have been most tested—would you in any way agree with Luke and see these as a testing by the devil? What is helpful about seeing them that way and what is unhelpful?
• Why does ‘testing’ stop the seed sown in rocky ground from growing? How is this different for seeds grown in ‘good soil’? How can we ensure that our roots go deep?
• Why do you think Jesus tells us to pray that we are not brought to a time of testing?
• How can we best prepare ourselves to withstand the testing when it comes?