1 Thessalonians 5:21
“Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
The clear imagery that stuck with me when quieting myself for the new year was that of 5 stones. As many would, I reached for my Bible and instinctively began reading from 1 Samuel 17. I soon reached v40, which is usually the subject of many teachings; the anatomy of David's victory being laid out as the blueprint for spiritual victory.
Yet my eyes fell back on the preceding verse, "David girded his sword over his armour and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them." And David took them off" 1 Sam 17:39
It was the word "tested" that caught my eye- which was repeated in the span of this verse. In Sunday school, the picture we are painted is oft that of Saul's armour was too big that David chose not to wear it, and many times in Church the emphasis has been on us not taking up "man's" armour but rather the spiritual armour of God. Indeed, these are valid and important points but they were not the reasons that David gave.
Instead, David's wisdom lay in choosing that which was "tested". He knew walking into battle with something that was unproven (the other translation of the Hebrew word nasah)- no matter how sturdy or precious it may seem-would be the most foolish decision he could make. The word "nasah" is the word used in Genesis 22:1 when God tested Abraham, the word Moses used in Exodus 20:20 after he delivered the 10 commandments to the Israelites. It is also the word used when the Bible describes the Israelites "testing God". Let it be that when God tests our lives we are found worthy, and that we will not be guilty of testing the Lord our God in our walk.
Still this prompts the first question- what does it mean to "test"? A particularly holistic definition is "to establish the presence, quality or genuineness (of something)". We are all no strangers to being tested at different stages and in aspects of life- and theses tests are important for the testing of our faith will yield much fruit (James 1). Yet this year, we are also to be doing this "testing".
1 Thessalonians 5:21 admonishes us to test all things. What then are we to test?
Amongst other things, we are to test the spiritual truths in our lives. This is not about being a skeptic of the Word of God, nor is it about "dipping our toes" into every new message we hear. Quite the contrary, given the context of 1 Sam 17:39, we are to find a truth or a select few truths that we have tested and proven in our lives that can undergird our walk to steady us through the times ahead. Once we have found these "good" truths, we are to "hold fast" to it.
Now how are we to test these truths? Undoubtedly, it has to be done in the context in our daily lives. By continually placing truths like faith, love, healing, prosperity, prayer into action, that is how we test and perfect the Word of God in our lives. Thus, when the time arises that we need to slay our Goliath, these truths will be our slingshot and five smooth stones- our weapons of choice to overcome the opposition of the enemy. This is the message God has brought to remembrance so that we will be ready for the times ahead.
Testing all things also speaks of discernment in our lives. Interestingly, "nasah" is also used in Ecclesiastes 2:1, where the poet writes of himself "I will test you with pleasure… And behold, that too was futility". This is not to say that we are not to find happiness in life. Rather, there must be discernment in our lives to discover aspects of futility, and to unmask areas that we seek fulfilment in that will eventually amount to little spiritual gain. Having tested those areas, we are then to "take them off" just as David did.
As we go into 2018, let us ponder over these questions: What things have we tested- and what have we not? Which spiritual truths have we held fast to and proven in our spiritual walks? In the year ahead may God give us the discernment and wisdom to test all things, so that we form a firm foundation for the future seasons in our lives.
Prophet Samuel Tham