These words of Paul’s can seem harsh on first reading. But Paul made an important point – that we can see evidence of the power of God when we test ourselves concerning living in faith. This is not to say that we should test God by behaving in ways that are dangerous or contrary to God’s word. No, but we can test ourselves to find out where our faith lives produce power and where they are weak.
So how do we test ourselves in faith? Do we jump off tall bridges and expect the angels to catch us? Of course not, for that would be testing God, not ourselves. Do we take foolish risks with our money and hope that God makes us rich? No, again we are testing God. We can test ourselves in a number of ways. We can pray about a situation that needs reconciliation, and then we can boldly approach the one involved in the broken relationship in humility and repentance. Such a test can highlight the strength, humility, and courage we gain from the power of Christ. We can make a budget and a plan for our financial future, including giving as a critical component of the budget. Such a test need not be a test of God – God has already promised abundance to those who show generosity in faith – but it is a test of the faith we have in God to deliver and in ourselves to make generosity a priority. There are many ways we can test ourselves. We can then gain an awareness of the areas of faith in which we excel and those areas where a little learning could do us good.
2 Corinthians 13:1-10
This is the third time I am coming to you. “Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient— since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed.
But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.