In everyday life, we would know if we are being formally tested, that is, if we enter into an examination room we know that we have to give the right answer to get reward of marks. Let me give an example. In an Ethics exam, you are given the following test:
You are approaching a door. As you prepare to reach out to open it, the door roughly flew open. It is so abrupt that you are hit and bruised on the face. You are standing face to face with your classmate who carelessly and roughly opened the door. He is not even sorry. What will you do? a) Pay him back physically or tell him something nasty
b) Report him to the teacher in order to be punished
c) Force him to apologise
d) Ask him to be careful with the door next time so that he doesn’t hurt others.
Because it is not difficult for the candidate to know where the reward would be placed, he may settle for alternative (d). This may not necessarily be the kind of response the candidate may give in an actual situation. He may impulsively hit back verbally or physically.
The exams we usually go through in everyday life are not formal. We face them without knowing that we are in an examination. Because of this, the reward is neither promised nor thought about. Most often we fail these exams, yet, unfortunately, our ‘unconditioned’ response is what we really are.
In Luke 15:11-32, the Lord Jesus told the story about the lost son (the prodigal son). Usually our attention is arrested by the Father’s compassion and the son’s repentance. Equally important in this story is the brother of the pro-digal son failing exams. Let me call him anti-digal son.
Antidigal son was doing well until he entered into an examination room without knowing it. Apart from being loyal and hard working, he ought to have sought the heart of the father so he could pursue the pleasure of the father. If he did this, his father’s joy following the return of his lost son would have been equally his (antidigal son’s) pleasure.
This brings me back to the challenge I posed in “The Day of Exam 1”. If only I would be conscious to the fact that I am undergoing exams in my everyday life in order to reflect on my faith and commitment to my Lord, I would deal with the challenges I gave yesterday as follows: If Christ asked me: What do you want Me to be for you. Choose one. a) I am your great Rewarder
b) I am your great reward.
I would choose alternative (b). Reason. God’s greatest gift to me was/is Christ.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11-12).
If I pick Christ as my Rewarder, it may make me misplace my attention. I may focus on the rewards He gives more than I focus on Him. Again, making Christ my reward doesn’t neutralise Him being my Rewarder. If I choose Him as my reward I may as well get along with Him all things (Romans 8:32). But getting my attention on Him basically as a Rewarder can lead to straying from Him after getting the rewards.
About the following challenge: I am giving you a tool. Its name is called faith. With it you…: a) can get everything you want instantly;
b) may lack anything but will retain your peace, joy and cultivate unassailable patience.
I would also choose alternative (b). Reason: “Everything” I need is spiritual security and integrity. I need things that fortify the attitude of Christ in me (Philipp. 2:5-11). The Bible tells me that I have been blessed with “every spiritual” blessings in Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 1:3).
It is natural (and normal too) that we may not get “every” material thing we may want. But even if we get them, our nature in regards to the material things is such that it is insatiable. If I use my faith to build the virtue of patience, I will not be robbed of the joy of the Lord and the peace that surpasses all understanding. These are the things that would count on the day of reckoning.
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I like the way the article highlights the other son entering and failing an exam. Why? Because this is where many of us as believers fail. On the day of worship we are 'holy' yet the true test is in our daily activities and how we relate to others. Great article. May it be a wake-up call for all who reads.