Test day

What’s your visceral response to a test? Does it fill you with anxiety or anticipation? Do you see a test as an opportunity or a burden?

I’ve been a university professor for 16 years so exams are an integral part of my career. I provide lectures, projects, and assignments to teach mechanical engineering. [Incidentally, I can’t believe this is my job. Most days I feel equal parts inadequate and surprised that I get to do this.] It doesn’t end with these preparations, though. The test is always looming!

Did you know there are tests in the Bible, too? The pattern is similar to school. Prepare, test. Prepare, test. Let’s take a look at John 6.

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:1-6)

The chapter begins “Some time after this…” After what? Jesus had been teaching his disciples. Preparing them. Lesson after patient lesson. Let’s recap briefly.

John 2

  • Jesus changes water into wine at the Cana wedding.
  • Jesus chases the merchants from the temple courts.

John 3

  • Jesus instructs Nicodemus on being born again.

John 4

  • Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at the well.
  • Jesus heals the royal official’s son with just a word.

John 5

  • Jesus heals the invalid at the Bethesda pool with the command to “pick up your mat and walk”.
  • Jesus confronts the Jewish leaders about healing on the Sabbath.

Preparation complete. Time for an exam. “Philip, where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Listen: Jesus did not put Philip on the spot to embarrass him. This was an opportunity to demonstrate what he had learned.

Would it upset you to know that Jesus will test you, too? The simple truth is that there’s no other way to assess what you’ve learned. We need to determine our gaps in order to know where to focus our studies. No problems with generosity? Great, focus on your weakness in seeking retribution when wronged. Solid on compassion? Super, eliminate envy.

Here’s the really good news. When I write an exam, I also write the key. I already know what I’m going to test and I have the answers in advance. The exam is based on the preparation.

God works the same way. Don’t miss the end of verse 6: “for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Don’t be anxious. You are in good hands. Your God loves you dearly and is preparing you for victory! Peace, friend.


About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
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