Passing the Big Test
It made international headlines in 1995 when David Guest got his driver's license. It made news because David Guest was 33 years old, and because David Guest had been trying to get his driver’s license for 17 years. It made the news because during those 17 years, David took 632 driving lessons with eight instructors, crashing five cars in the process. But finally, it all paid off. “When I was told I'd passed, I bent down on my knees and thanked God,” he said. “I feel like I have died and gone to heaven.”[i]
Have you ever had trouble passing a big test?
Maybe it was that really challenging course in high school or college—Algebra, or Literature, or World History. Maybe it was one of the tests you take before you get into college—the SAT or the ACT. Maybe it was your driving test, though I imagine nobody failed the test as many times as David Guest did.
Life is full of tests, even after you graduate and get your license. Every day you and I face tests which you either pass or fail, tests which ultimately make us either winners in life, or losers. The tests I’m talking about are tests of character, and they come to us in the form of the choices we make, either to do right, or to do wrong.
Dr. Madison Sarratt taught mathematics at Vanderbilt University for many years. Before giving a test, the professor would say something like this: “Today I am giving two examinations—one in trigonometry and the other in honesty. I hope you will pass them both. If you must fail one, fail trigonometry. There are many good people in the world who can’t pass trig, but there are no good people in the world who cannot pass the examination of honesty.” [ii]
Dr. Sarratt was stressing the difference between the little tests of life and the big tests—the test of character.
I want to talk to you today about passing these Big Tests—tests that come to you no matter how young or old you are, no matter how rich or poor you are, no matter how smart or not-so-smart you may be. I want to do this by reading the story of the testing of the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 4:1-13,. Let’s begin with vs. 1-2.
We step into this story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, just after He is baptized by John in the Jordan river, just after a Voice from heaven announces to everybody This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. Luke tells us Jesus walks away from the river full of the Holy Spirit=completely surrendered and obedient to the will of God. There was never any controversy between Jesus Christ and God’s will—they are always in perfect tune.
But where does the Spirit lead Him? Into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
That seems kind of a strange place for God to send His Son, doesn’t it?
Why send Jesus out in the wild, far from home and family, to go without food for 40 days, to face the temptation [lit, the testing] of the devil? That doesn’t sound like something God would do for the Son He loves so much. But there are some very specific purposes behind the testing of Christ.
First of all, Jesus’ testing reveals He is the sinless Savior. Jesus goes toe-to-toe with Satan on his own turf, never once giving in to the devil’s temptations. Why?
The purpose of the temptation was not to see if He would sin but to prove that He could not sin. [iii]
Only a sinless human being could die for your sins. He could never pay for your sins, or anybody else’s, if He had to pay for His own. But because He was tested and never once did wrong, He is qualified to die for you and I who have sinned. The Bible puts it this way in
2 Co 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus’ testing proves His sinlessness. Jesus’ testing also gives Him a special empathy for us when we are tempted.
Heb 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Some people say it was easy for Jesus to resist temptation because He is the Son of God. In one sense, that’s true, but in another, the Bible says He knows what it feels like to sweat under the heat of testing—and because He knows, He is eager to help us when we are tempted. Whenever you are tempted, you can never say to the Lord You don’t know how hard it is. He does know, because He was tempted just as we are.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
In a recent poll of church-going Americans they discovered 42% of church going people believe Jesus Christ sinned.
If you’re one of those who believe that, then I challenge you to read the record for yourself. God sent Jesus to face the devil’s worst temptations—but He never failed the test, and because He never did, He alone is qualified to be your Savior from sin. More than this His testing fills Him with compassion for you and I when we are tested, moving His great heart to help us pass our big tests.
A bachelor was asked why he had never married.
“Well, I guess I just never met the right lady.”
“But you must have met at least one girl you wanted to marry.”
“Yes, there was a girl once. She was pretty close to perfect. In fact, she had everything.”
“Well, why didn’t you marry her?”
“Well … she was looking for the perfect man.”
There is only one Perfect Person—Jesus Christ, Who proved He could pass the Big Test at His temptation.
If you and I want to pass the Big Tests of our lives, we need to learn from the Only Person Who got a perfect score on His Big Test—which brings me to the last reason Jesus was tested: to give us a pattern for how to pass our own Big Tests. This pattern shows up in 3 choices we must make when we face our Big Test. They are found in vs. 3-13:
You must choose God’s Word over your own desires. (v. 3-4) Most of us here this morning are pretty used to getting what we need, and most of what we want. I thought about that the other day when I was in the grocery store, standing in line behind a lady and her husband who was checking out 3 buggies full of groceries. There’s nothing wrong with buying groceries—even 3 buggy loads, especially for a large family. I had my own buggy. But I wondered how I would feel if suddenly the shelves all went bare, and food became scarce. What if God allowed us to live like most of the rest of the world---going to bed every night hungry, wondering where or when our next meal would come from? Could we pass a Big Test like that?
Jesus’ test involved extreme hunger—40 days of fasting. He had to have been weak and certainly hungry when Satan came to Him and suggested a simple solution. Since You are the Son of God, why go hungry? Use your power to turn these rocks into bread! Just say the word, and You won’t be hungry anymore!
But hunger hasn’t dimmed Jesus’ commitment to God’s Word. He knew He had been led into the wilderness to fast by His Father in heaven. He was determined to be led by God’s Word, not by His own desires. So He replies to the Enemy My life is not controlled by hunger for bread, but by hunger for God’s Word and God’s will to be done in my life!
What would you do? You’re starving, and you know you can turn stone into bread, but God says He wants you to stay hungry---what will you do? Would you pass this Big Test?
Many of us don’t. In fact, people sell out all the time to Satan in order to satisfy their own desires. The cheating spouse leaves their mate because somebody else fulfills their needs. The cash strapped family goes into more debt to buy what they say they need. Satan plays on our desires—even our legitimate desires—to trip us up so we fail the Big Tests of life. There is nothing wrong with eating, nothing wrong with bread. The real test comes when you must choose between giving in to your desires, and doing what God commands. Will you be led by your own desires, or by God’s Word?
Jas 1:14-15 14But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
If you are going to pass the Big Test, you must choose God’s Word over your own desires.
The second principle Jesus teaches us here is
You must choose God’s kingdom over the kingdoms of this world. (v. 5-8)
This is like some perverse game you could call The Price is Wrong. Satan takes Jesus high up on a mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and says all this can be Yours, because it’s been given to me, and I can give it to whomever I want—if You’re willing to pay the price. Bow down and worship me, and it’s Yours!
First of all, let’s get one thing straight—the devil is a liar. This world doesn’t belong to Satan, but to God. Yes, Satan has been given a measure of authority here, but He is most certainly not the Owner of it all, and He cannot give it to anybody he chooses.
Da 4:32 … the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.
This world already belongs to Jesus, and the Bible clearly says that one day He will return to claim His rightful throne in
Re 11:15 The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!
Jesus sees past the devil’s empty promise and recognizes the true King. Get lost, Satan! The Scripture says only God is worthy of worship and service! He is the One True King!
How many of us have fallen for this line from the devil---you can be king of your own life! You don’t need anybody else to run your life—least of all God! If only you will do things my way, this world can be yours---if you’re willing to pay the price!
There are countless people in hell today because they failed this big test. They wanted life on their own terms, thought they could shake their fist at God, and in the process end bowing to the devil, following in his footsteps.
But you can pass this big test if you are willing to choose to live in the kingdom of God, not on the throne, but at the feet of Christ, putting Him first. He is the King, and our greatest joy and fulfillment in life comes when we recognize Him and surrender our lives to Him. With Him as your King, life is beautiful; without Him, life is just dog-eat-dog mess that’s not really worth possessing.
You have to basically make the choice of either dog theology or cat theology.
Dog theology sees this kind of relationship with human beings: "You pet me, You feed me, You shelter me, and You love me. You must be God." Whereas the cat’s intrinsic belief is described as, "You pet Me, you feed Me, you shelter Me, and you love Me. I must be God."
The devil wants you to adopt cat theology; if you want to pass the Big test, you need to adopt dog theology. Another key is making another important choice:
You must choose to trust God, not test Him. (v. 9-13)
One of the trickiest tests you will ever face in life is when the devil starts talking religious.
You’ve probably known people who know a lot about what the Bible says, but they’re a little confused about what the Bible means. They have a lot of knowledge, but very little real understanding. They can be very dangerous people.
But the devil is not like this. The devil purposefully twists Scripture to confuse us, trying to put words into God’s mouth that he knows God has never said. He does this with Jesus here as he quotes Psalm 91:11-12.
He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple—estimated to be about 450 feet high—and he says jump! After all, doesn’t the Scripture say God’s angels will keep you safe, no matter what the danger? Jump!
The big problem with Satan’s interpretation of these verses is that he tries to turn the tables, making it not a test of Christ, but a test of God’s faithfulness and love. Let me illustrate how wrong this is.
Suppose a father tells his son Son, I love you with all my heart. I will never let any harm come to you. The son decides to test that out. Next morning when dad heads out the door, he hears his son’s voice calling from the rooftop. OK, dad, I’m ready to test you out! And he leaps from the roof into his father’s arms. Assuming this dad is strong enough to catch his son, there is something wrong with this relationship. The father wants his son to trust him, not test him. A son who deliberately keeps putting himself in danger just to test the father’s love really doesn’t trust his father very much, does he?
This is why Jesus replies to Satan it is written: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
So it is with our Lord. He wants us to trust Him, not test Him. When you trust God, He will never let you down; when you test Him, He may let you fall until you learn to trust Him again.
You don’t ever need to test God’s love for you. He proved it once and for all when He gave His Son to die on the Cross, to rise again, and to promise to prepare a place for you if you believe in Him.
Satan wants you to doubt God’s love, to constantly be testing God, but that’s putting the shoe on the wrong foot. God tests us, because testing helps us to grow. We can never test God, because He already loves us with a perfect love.
If He really loved me….those are words you should never say about God. He loves you, and He cares about you. He will never let you down when you trust Him. Do you trust Him---really trust Him? If you want to pass the Big test, don’t test God—trust Him.
As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?” “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.”[iv]
This was the purpose of Jesus’ temptation—to prove He is the sinless Savior who is able to help us when we face our times of testing.
But it’s also the reason why God allows you to be tested and tempted. Your tests are not given to break you, but to help you grow stronger.
When you face your next big test, don’t forget to call out to your Savior for help.
1 Co 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Don’t forget to follow His pattern in battling temptation:
· choose God’s Word over your own desires.
· choose God’s Kingdom over the kingdoms of this world.
· choose to trust God, not test Him.
You can trust the Lord to help you pass your next big test.
[ii]George Sweeting 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).
[iii]William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad, Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Nashville:
[iv] Today in the Word, March 14, 1991