When I was in college, one of the most difficult exams I ever faced was for a graduate-level course in statistics.
The class itself, taught by a slight, balding man with thick glasses, was on the syllabus as "Statistics and Methodology 541." We quickly renamed it "Sadistics and Methodology" ... or S&M for short.
The course focused on using differential and integral calculus to plot probabilities of various events and apply those probabilities to experimental outcomes.
Anyone still with me?
It was an open-book test. I don't just mean you could use the textbook. You could bring in any book you chose, plus calculators. The only thing you couldn't do was consult with other students during the exam.
The average grade on that exam was 68%.
I started to muse on how nice it is to have my exam days behind me, but was brought up short by the realization that we, as Christians, are a long way from "graduation." In fact, you could say were are in the exam room right now, cramming for the Lord's imminent judgment.
Our instructions are, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."
OK. I've got the fear and trembling part down. I'm sinful and I know I don't deserve an 'A' in this course.
But, thank God, it's an open-book test and I've got the Bible open on my lap. I should be good to go, right?
There is no Blue Book. So I'm chiseling madly at the granite of my own heart, trying to make some legible scratches. Nothing.
Then I flip to Galatians 3:3: "Are you so foolish, after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"
And I realize I've got another advantage I never had in "S&M 541." God (the all-powerful Dean) has decreed that I may share notes with someone who aced this class -- Jesus Christ -- and I may have the very essence of His knowledge poured into me by the Holy Spirit.
So I sheepishly put away my chisel and let the Holy Spirit lovingly etch God's word on my heart (now miraculously turned to flesh).
It takes a long time. This is no three-hour exam. I'm tempted at times to wrest control back into my own hands and speed things up. But then I ask myself, "When you walk down the aisle to get your diploma, do you want to be wearing a graduation gown you sewed yourself?"
No. I think I would prefer a gown sewn by the Master, without seam.