There’s technique to good teaching. Reteaching is a fundamental and important element of good teaching. As a teacher, I often have to go back and reteach my struggling students skills and content they are struggling to be proficient with. It would make things easier, of course, if everyone achieved mastery all at the same time but that’s impossible. No two students are the same. They learn at different rates and bring different experiences to the table that will either help or impede their learning. The more I reteach, the more I have to assess their learning. I dole out quizzes and tests to see whether they are retaining the information. Some achieve mastery quickly. But for others, reteaching and reassessment is a continual process.
I’m learning that God works the same way. A friend in California gave a message once talking about how God always gives us certain quizzes and tests. He is always reteaching and reassessing our faithfulness and maturity even when we think we already achieved mastery in a certain area. True.
Perhaps you might’ve thought that you achieved mastery in the area of compassion because you gave a homeless guy a few bucks and send money far away to support impoverished children. You might think, “That’s an A+! I got this compassion thing down!” God, however, might ask you to extend compassion to the one person in your life who frustrates you to no end. It may be a co-worker, a family member, anyone you might have to see on a regular basis who is impossible to deal with. Or, perhaps you may think that you really do trust God and always will because once you had to walk through a deep valley, a trial, a tribulation; you trusted God and it seemed like he answered every prayer. Everything worked out and you were happy at the end. You may think,”Man, I got this trust thing down! Glad I’ll never have to face anything like that again.”
The past week was a big test filled with little pop quizzes. What do I think God was reteaching me? Trust, ultimately. We can say we trust God but when problems in life arise, our reactions prove what we really believe. First, earlier in the week, the starter in our van died. We were fortunate that my wife just returned from running errands and the van died in the driveway and not at some mall. Then, a few days later, our stove dies. The next day as I am leaving work, I get to my car and I have a flat tire. In all these instances, you would’ve thought my reaction would have been, “No problem. God’s got this little first-world problem all in his hand. I’ll rest in his sovereignty.” Yeah right. You think I remembered all of the verses in scripture dealing with how God provides for his children? Nope. My mind ran like the wind with thoughts about how I don’t make enough money, about how we will pay for all of these repairs, and about how I will get to work. During these quizzes, every once in a while I would remember to say, “Trust God,” but then my thoughts would come like a big eraser, erasing that away like it was a wrong answer. I’m a stupid man sometimes. Okay, many times.
Yet God was faithful to help like a good teacher. Our neighbor’s father is an older gentleman who is a whiz it seems at fixing most everything. He helped us before when our oven died. My wife paid him with two dozen cookies. He loves cookies. He came over, did some tinkering, figured things out the way I do with words, and voila, stove fixed. He deserved more than cookies this time. When I went to bed later, worried that the flat tire I had put air in earlier would not be flat when I woke up, my wife and a dear friend were arranging a ride for me to work in the morning. He picked me up and watched the documentary of my morning routine: making breakfast, eating at the kitchen island, writing a letter for my children before heading off. This same friend had also passed a name of a gentleman who does mobile mechanics to us. The mechanic came over the day before to check the starter. We bought a new starter and he did the work yesterday in about an hour.
Didn’t I know that God is in control of everything?
Don’t I trust the Lord?
But was I trusting Him?
My students often tell me of the brutish teachers they had in their home countries; teachers that would yell at them, hit them. As if harsh treatment is conducive to learning. God is not that type of teacher. We are all struggling students. He knows what we need to conform us into the image of His Son. And if he needs to reteach and reassess continually, so be it.
These first-world problems did not slay me and do not compare to facing a terminal-illness, endemic unemployment, death, or marital turmoil. Worry, a Swedish proverb tells us, gives little things great shadows. And that’s what I did. In instances like these, we cannot look at how we will deal with these issues but expect that God will see us out of them. He’s been faithful before, is now, and will be in the future. We cannot rely on the victories of the past to propel us into today and tomorrow. God saw it fit to test my trust and I failed. But I was reminded of something that I already knew, and perhaps that was the real objective of the whole lesson – He is in control, regardless of how much I worry. The tire on my car might still be flat but who cares.