Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. 2 Corinthians 13:5-10
Why test your faith?
How do you know the strength of your faith? You test your faith. The King James Version says to “prove” yourself. When you test or prove something you are evaluating its quality and durability. Is it good and will it last? Car manufacturers test cars to see how they resist failing in harsh conditions or through extended use and the ability to protect the passengers in an accident.
In ancient times, armorers would test the weapons they made in order to verify their strength and durability before the soldier took it into battle. The sword would be tested under stress during peacetime so the soldier would have confidence in the strength of the sword during battle. They tested the sword so they would know it would be strong enough, not guess or hope that it will be strong.
Schools perform fire and hazardous weather drills when there is no danger so that everyone knows what to do when disaster strikes. It reminds me of a football players shirt that read, “Championships are won when the stands are empty.” On the practice field players discover how strong or weak they are, what they need to fix before the game, and run plays until they are executed by habit. The legendary Alabama football coach, Bear Bryant, organized some very strong practices for his teams because, as he said, “If a man is a quitter, I’d rather find out in practice than in a game. I ask for all a player has so I’ll know later what I can expect.” He tested his players to see what they were made of and to make them stronger.
Far more important for our life is the strength of our faith. It needs to strengthen us daily throughout our life, help us keep focused on what is important during times of prosperity and trial, and preserve us to the end of our life. As with the sword, we need to test our faith when things are peaceful and strengthen it as necessary so it will be strong in adversity and endure until the end.
Test 1: Are you obedient to the faith?
The first question is simple: are you obeying God? Have you come to the Father through Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and submitted your life to the rule of the King of Kings by believing the message of the gospel, turning from unholy living and thinking, acknowledging Jesus as Lord, and being adopted as His child and enjoying the cleansing of sin through baptism (Romans 10:6-15; Galatians 3:26-27)? If you are not God’s child, that is the first step.
Once you are a child of God, are you daily obeying God’s word? Are you living a changed life? Does your life conform to the standard of teaching to which you committed yourself so that you are a slave to righteousness, Romans 6:17-19? Have you set your mind on what is above and put to death what is “earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”, Colossians 3:1-5? Have you clothed yourself with holiness and are you demonstrating love and compassion towards others, being filled with the word of God so that it comes out in your words, life, and worship, Colossians 3:12-17?
Test 2: Are you living in faith?
When my children learned to swim, I would have the stand on the end of a dock or on the side of a pool and jump into the water near me. I gave them the assurance that I would be there when they entered the water and could pull them to me. I know they loved me and obeyed me but I needed them to trust me. They had to trust that I would take care of them and protect them and that I had their best interests at heart. We can love God and obey Him, but we must also trust Him with our lives.
We have to live courageous lives knowing that if we step from life into death that He will be there to receive us, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10. Every day we must live with complete trust in God, casting all of our cares into His hands or accept a weak existence where we do not trust God completely with our life. Consider Paul’s promise in Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Notice the extremes in the trust we must have. If we want to be able to rejoice in dark times as Paul did and enjoy the peace that surpasses all understanding we must, give everything to God and trust that He hears and will act according to His will and wisdom. I see Christians with weak faith because they will not turn everything over to God. They pray then continue to worry if things will turn out alright. They pray and have no peace because, down deep, they either do not trust that God is there or that He will do anything about their request. Are you trusting God with everything in your life? If you do not have joy or peace, you are still holding on.
Test 3: Is your faith growing?
With anything that once excites us there is the threat that it will become routine. Our new birth should result in continual growth but if we do not tend to our spiritual life, it can stagnate. The Hebrew writer warned of those who over time should have been teachers needing to be taught the basic principles of the faith again. Later he warns those who endured great hardship for their faith to endure and not shrink back towards destruction. In graphic terms, Jesus told the lukewarm church of Laodicea that He would spit them out of His mouth because they became stagnant. One reason the faith of many grows cold is that they quit growing in knowledge and living their faith. They found a comfortable place and quit growing. When it comes to faith, if you are not growing you are dying.
Paul told the Corinthians to be transformed so that they looked more like Jesus each day:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)
This lifelong transformation being in the mind (Romans 12:1-2) and should grow day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God’s children should be able to notice their stronger faith, deeper love for God and man, and zeal for His work improving every year. How is your prayer life and Bible study compared to this time last year? How is your service for God improved? Do you still struggle with the same challenges or have you experienced many victories and improved self-control? How does your faith compare over longer periods of time?
Test 4: Is your faith evident to others?
Your faith should not be the best kept secret in your life. It should be obvious to others that you are a disciple of Christ. Paul told the young preacher Timothy that his faith should be evident to everyone, 1 Timothy 4:11-16. By practicing and “immersing himself” in what Paul taught him, he would be a good example in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity so that his discipleship would be obvious to all. The Thessalonians imitated the Lord such that their faith and example was known in regions beyond their city. Peter urged Christians to live like Jesus so that even their enemies would notice and glorify God.
Do you live as a Christian with boldness and joy? Would your neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and others be able to say, without hesitation, that you are a child of God? Even your enemies should grudgingly admit that you live consistent with your profession of faith even if they hate your faith and think you are fool for following Jesus. Could you be found guilty if put on trial for being a Christian?
Test 5: Do you share your faith with others?
If you know that the gospel is true and that your faith is transforming, you should not hesitate to share it with others. Paul told Timothy to teach others what he learned. They gospel is meant to be taught to others to bring them to Christ. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and that should be the Christian’s mission. The Lord does not wish anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) and neither should we. If you do not share your faith it may indicate that your faith is not as valuable as you claim. Perhaps being a Christian is a lifestyle choice and not discipleship. If you fear persecution, remember that you become a companion of our Lord, the apostles, and prophets who also suffered for proclaiming God’s word, Matthew 5:11-12. If you believe the gospel is the only way to salvation and that others will be lost eternally if they do not obey it, it should urge you to teach others about Jesus.
There are many other tests one might use to see where they stand in the faith but these five tests will give you a good indication of where you are and where you need to grow.