I don't know about you, but I have never liked the word "test." When I was in school, I was the guy who didn't study for the test. I somehow thought I suddenly would know the material. I think I failed my driving test three times. I certainly failed many a test in school. I didn't like tests.
Did you know that God gives tests too? He wants to see if we have learned what He has been teaching us. He rarely, if ever, announces them ahead of time. They just come. It might be a set of circumstances or a situation you will face to see if you are really learning the material. God will test us to see if we are actually learning, growing, and advancing. He wants us to grow up.
During their time with Jesus, the disciples had reached a point in their spiritual lives when it was time to grow up. They had been following the Lord for awhile. They had seen the miracles He performed. They had heard His teachings. Now it was time to see if their faith had grown.
By now, the crowds that followed Jesus were getting big. They were being dazzled by miracles. One day, as they listened to Him and watched His miracles, their stomachs began to growl. Although Jesus knew these people were basically fickle and were following Him for the wrong reasons, He felt compassion for them (Matthew 14:14). If I knew what Jesus had known about this crowd, I probably wouldn't have fed them. This same group would turn away from Him in a short period of time. But the Lord cared. He loved them.
So He took five barley loaves and two fish, multiplied them, and fed the people. They were stuffed. They decided to follow Jesus wherever He went. After all, He was the walking bread truck. But when Jesus saw that the people wanted to take Him by force and make Him their king, He wanted nothing to do with it. He slipped away by Himself to a mountain to pray.
Meanwhile, the disciples waited for Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. It was getting dark, and there was still no sign of Him. So they got into a boat and headed toward Capernaum. While they may have lost sight of Jesus, He never lost sight of them. It simply was test time for the disciples.
The wind started blowing. The sea was getting rough. As they rowed against the storm, they spotted Jesus. He came walking on the water, headed toward them. They freaked out. They didn't know what to make of it.
Matthew's Gospel gives us a very important detail. It says that Jesus came to them in the fourth watch of the night, which is the last part of the evening, just before dawn (Matthew 14:25). This means they probably had been rowing for nine long hours. Maybe they thought Jesus had forgotten about them. But He had not forgotten. He was going to come in His time.
It is a reminder to us that God's delays are not necessarily His denials. Just because God doesn't answer our prayers as quickly as we want Him to does not mean that He will never answer them. As surely as God has His will, He has His timing. The Bible says, "He makes all things beautiful in His time" (Ecclesiastes 4:11). And He does. As soon as Jesus stepped into the disciples' boat, they found themselves at their destination. He saw them through the storm.
Sometimes we go through storms in life. Sometimes God will allow certain situations in our lives to test our faith. It is really easy to say that you trust God, until you get a call from your doctor with some bad news, or until that person you are in love with breaks up with you, or until your job comes to an end. These are tests.
When you are going through hardship or difficulty, sometimes it seems as though God has forgotten about you, that He is too busy. But God always has time for you. He loves you. God is fully aware of what you are experiencing. Will you still trust Him even when things don't go your way — even when life doesn't unfold the way that you hoped it would? Will you trust God to see you through the storm? Will you pass the test?
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.