Test Anxiety

 “Test anxiety” is not an excuse for failure, it is a legitimate challenge to the ability of some persons to achieve a result commensurate with their ability and preparation. As we learn from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Test anxiety is a physiological condition in which people experience extreme stress, anxiety, and discomfort during and/or before taking a test. These responses can drastically hinder an individual’s ability to perform well and negatively affects their social emotional and behavioral development and feelings about themselves and school. Some anxiety is normal and often helpful to stay mentally and physically alert. When one experiences too much anxiety, however, it can result in emotional or physical distress, difficulty concentrating, and emotional worry. Test anxiety has been shown to have a consistently negative relationship with test performance, and test-anxious students are found to perform about 12 percent below their non-anxious peers.

“Inferior performance arises not because of intellectual problems or poor academic preparation, but because testing situations create a sense of threat for those experiencing test anxiety; anxiety resulting from the sense of threat then disrupts attention and memory function. Researchers suggest that between 25 to 40 percent of students experience test anxiety.”

(Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_anxiety on 8/14/13.)

Scientists have been studying this phenomena since 1950, so where was this information when I was going to school? Perhaps this explains why I wasn’t exactly a straight-A student!

But seriously, Test Anxiety can be debilitating for some people. Most of us don’t like tests and that attitude can carry over to school in general and even more broadly, into one’s life. Too many of us live what’s called an “unexamined life.” We don’t know ourselves, we don’t ask the important questions or seek deeper answers, content to shuffle from one life experience to the next. An unexamined life is marked by indecision, poor impulse control, and impulsiveness.

A solution, then, is to test ourselves. To understand why we’re prone to do the things we do and take steps to avoid repeating our mistakes.

As we’ll see, an examined life is a biblical virtue. It is a life where we are students of God, His creation, and ourselves. A life with one’s head in the sand is not our best life and it is not the life to which we are called. We’ll look briefly at three Bible passages that speak directly to this matter of testing ourselves.

God tests us. (Read 1 Peter 1:6-9; I use the ESV.)

Context: Peter wrote specifically to encourage believers who were discouraged by the persecutions and suffering they faced. At the beginning of his letter, he sets before them our hope of salvation and the reason God allows His people to suffer trials.

Comment:

Verses three through five detail the ultimate security of our hope salvation. That is reassuring to know, and that’s why verse six begins “In this you rejoice.” Knowing we have an eternal home in heaven is surely the best reason to rejoice.

But first, we may have to face temporary trials; “for a little while,” (note that even life-long troubles are still just temporary; they will cease at death). These trying experiences will cause us grief. They may also cause us to doubt God’s love or His power or even His existence. BUT, they are not the last word and they are not without a redeeming value. As verse seven makes plain, the value of trials is the testing they give our faith. This has three results.

The most immediate result is the improvement of our faith. “The tested genuineness of your faith” shows God’s purpose in allowing trials to come to us. His purpose is to test and improve our faith. The example Peter offers is that of gold, the most precious metal of his day. It is refined by fire. When melted, the impurities float to the top and are skimmed away. It is a familiar but reliable saying, “trials will either make you bitter or better.” The outcome is truly a matter of our own choosing. According to verse eight, the improvement of our faith is manifest in our sense of God’s presence, a new level of intimacy in our relationship with Him. Take note, on mental and emotional levels, of the depth of love Peter describes; “love, inexpressible joy, and glory” are all potent words and they’re all here.

The most important goal is to direct human attention to God (as always); “to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The long-term goal is in verse nine, “obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

 

We test God, but only in one way. (Read Malachi 3:6-12.)

Context: The last of the prophets, Malachi ministered at time when the love of Israel had grown cold. He confronted several problems and one of them was tithing, the expected offering of the first ten percent of one’s income to God.

Comment:

Normally, we do not test God. It is not necessary because He does not change and is therefore perfectly reliable. “I the LORD do not change” the nature and character of God are eternal. This means He is faithful even when we are not – He will not suddenly change His mind and leave us hanging.

Human beings, on the other hand, are typically capricious and even the best of us need to change in order to become more like Jesus. That’s why God commands us to change – to repent of our sins – “Return to me and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.”

This passage offers one example of a sin for which Israel needed to repent; failure to pay their tithe. In fact, God charged them with robbery; “you are robbing me…in your tithes and contributions.” This was not an isolated incident; it had become part of their national character. Their thievery has brought a curse upon their heads (verse nine) because God is behaving with perfect consistency. He told them from the beginning that if they would keep their end of the covenant, He would bless them. If they broke the covenant, He would curse them.

God’s solution to the problem was to invite them to do something He had forbidden elsewhere; to test Him. “Put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts.” The test would consist of obedience in this one area; this aspect of their failure to obey; “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” God is saying, “Try it, and see what happens.”

If they were faithful to do this, here are the blessings God promised.

Abundant provision = “[See] if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” This is not just a promise of material provision, but it certainly includes that. But notice the degree of blessing; pouring out of an open window – too much to be contained, overflowing the amount of their need.

Removal of the curse = “I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.” They had been suffering the loss of crops, probably from locusts, as the material outcome of their cursed status.

Receiving special status = “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.” When the Lord blesses it brings Him glory to lift His people up. We then become an example to the world of what God can do. It’s never an egotistical thing, it’s always about directing our attention to God.

 

We test ourselves. (Read 2 Corinthians 13:5-8.)

Context: 1 Corinthians is a letter that is all about correcting the errors of a local church, Paul warns them in chapter five that when he gets back to Corinth, it will be to bring discipline on the members who refuse to repent and change. In these verses, he gives them and opportunity to get their house in order before he comes and escape that rebuke.

Comment:

Logically, they need to recognize their sin as a first step toward repentance. Truthful self-understanding is essential. And so it is written, “Examine yourselves…test yourselves.”

Ask yourself; “What kind of a person am I? How close is that to the kind of person God wants me to be?” “What do my attitudes and actions reveal about my loyalty to Jesus? What am I saying without using words?”

Most importantly, the purpose of the test is to see if you are truly a disciple; “To see whether you are in the faith….that Jesus Christ is in you.”

Of secondary importance is the beneficial effect self-examination has on our conduct. “That you may do what is right” means that godly living will be manifest among God’s people. Being a disciple in words only is not enough; it must fundamentally change who we are and be revealed in how we behave.

The phrase “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth,” excludes all pretense, all hypocrisy. The truth is what God has revealed as such. Genuine disciples will do everything they can to promote the truth in themselves and others.

Because not everyone who claims to be a disciple is, it is possible to fail this test: “Unless indeed you fail to meet the test.” A disciple follows Jesus. A disciple, according to the ancient expression, walks so closely to his rabbi (teacher) that the dust from his feet falls on them. Whose dust has accumulated on your feet?

Paul was also concerned about the outcome of their self-examination as it reflected on his ministry to them. “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test” means that Paul hopes they will not fail the test because He and his associates somehow failed to introduce them to Jesus or encourage them to true faith.

“Not that we may appear to have met the test….though we may seem to have failed.” One thing that makes church leadership difficult is that the results are out of the leader’s hands. If the preacher/teacher faithfully represents the Lord and the Word, the responsibility for conversion and discipleship falls on the hearers. Remember, Paul founded the church in Corinth and he has every right to expect and hope that his ministry there has not been in vain.

One kind of testing that the Bible does not allow is testing one another. We DO NOT test each other. I can find no biblical support for the notion that we have any right or responsibility to try one another’s patience or inflict intentional harm to see how faithful the other person will be. The other person is God’s problem – not yours. We are responsible to love one another and build each other up and occasionally confront sin, but never to test each other.

Love is to guide all our relationships. I read recently about one way people all over the world are demonstrating their love. The practice is called “locks of love,” and I’m not talking about the donation of cut hair.

According to a Google Groups web page, “Locks of love are the padlocks fixed by loving couples, on to a fence or a pole or metallic chain/string alongside some wall, etc., at a public place, to symbolize their eternal love. A couple would hang a padlock after inscribing their name or initials on it and throw the key away so that their love is locked forever. Some couple use two inter-twined locks, each lock bearing their name/initials. Besides lovers, often family members and close friends also put such locks at these places, to lock their relationship forever.
“The tradition probably originated from China where the love locks can be seen at several locations alongside the Great Wall of China and also in many temples and on the steps/paths leading to sacred peaks. The tradition has spread around the World and is now quite prevalent.
“In the USA, lovelocks came to the city of Lovelock, Pershing County, Nevada, USA as tourism business promotion. On Valentine’s Day, 2006, a dedication ceremony was held to start the tradition of at the new Lover’s Lock Plaza near the courthouse in downtown.”
(Retrieved from http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/gec-people-cultures-moderated/2hHtssF43rU/H4-9buhAspUJ on August 14, 2013.)

The Holy Spirit is God’s “love lock,” His promise to you that His love for you will never cease. When you suffer trials of any kind, when you have reason to be discouraged, or when you are afraid, do not doubt God’s love. Instead, hold on to that lock, knowing the key has been thrown away. Troubles will come, but they are signs of His love, not His rejection.

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