For many this week there has been much anxiety, worry, grumbling and maybe even a little cussing over the annual giving of the STAAR tests. STAAR, short for State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, are a series of state-mandated standardized tests used in Texas public primary and secondary schools to assess a student’s achievements and knowledge learned in the grade level. Any school who receives funds from the state of Texas is required to enforce these tests among students to determine if they have met the performance expectations as outlined by the state of Texas. And that in turn is what brings on most of the anxiety, worry, and grumbling in many homes. Admittedly, the STAAR test is a cuss word in our home as well.
What does God think about testing? Skimming through the Bible, we would have to say that He is all for it! God tested Abraham with the near sacrifice of his own son (Genesis 22:1-2). God tested his people with their trust in His provision as they wandered in the wilderness (Exodus 16:4). God tested His people through the leadership of the judges placed over them (Judges 3:1,4). God tested King Hezekiah to search out what was in his heart (2 Chronicles 32:31). Proverbs 17:3 and Jeremiah 17:10 inform us that God tests everyone’s heart. Jesus tested Philip in the miracle of feeding 5000 people (John 6:5-6) and we are told that we are routinely tested in our obedience to God (2 Corinthians 2:9). And one of the greatest promises that occurs throughout the Bible is that our trials and struggles are often a test of our faith (Isaiah 48:10; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9).
God is certainly not anti-testing and, in fact, tests His people regularly. Yes, God loves tests because each one is an opportunity to grow our faith. As Peter says, “it tests the genuineness of your faith” (1 Peter 1:7), or as James says, “it makes us perfect and complete” (James 1:4). You see, we don’t get faith by just talking about it, or only sitting in a Bible study group, or even attending church regularly. Faith is like a muscle; it develops by being used. The more you use your faith, the more it gets stretched and grows. And testing is the tool that God uses to allow us to use our faith.
Back to the STAAR tests. Are they the perfect tool to measure the attainment of academic achievement? Probably not. There are lots of arguments against them. They are standardized tests and every child learns differently. They are timed tests and not every child performs best in that situation. Teaching to the test zaps creativity away from the teacher and the joy of learning from the student. They are punitive in nature and not encouraging. Perhaps the greatest argument is that it turns the purpose of education into testing and that’s not the purpose of education. The end result is this: the test creates stress. That is why your household experiences anxiety, worry, grumbling and cussing.
Every test creates stress! Stressing the muscle is what allows it to grow. Likewise, stressing your faith is what allows it to grow. Chances are, you are taking a test right now. God is using it to grow your faith and that is causing some stress in your life. How is God using that test in your life right now to stretch your faith? How will you choose to respond to the stress that is testing your faith?