I work for a financial services company whose core business provides life insurance, annuities, retirement plan services, and group protection. (Do I sound like a commercial?) There are associate, professional, and fellow designations the company both praises and promotes by offering the study materials and exams required for such designations. There is no cost as long as the exams are completed with a passing score of 70. To sweeten the deal, there is a bonus payout for each designation obtained.
I’ve been working towards a particular designation called the Associate, Reinsurance Administration (ARA). Six courses were required to achieve the ARA. I had sailed through the first four quite smoothly. Two weeks ago I sat for the fifth exam needed. I had prepared for this one like all of the others. I covered one chapter per day including practice questions for each given chapter. Unfortunately, this material was over my head, and I scored a 62 on the practice exam. I prayed and continued to look over the questions I had missed. The following day I passed the real exam with a 78. It’s not a great score but it was enough. I was ecstatic.
Days leading up to the sixth and final exam, I felt more comfortable with the material; so I was shocked when I took the practice exam and scored a 62 again. I try to pray daily, but last night during my prayer time I felt awkward and embarrassed. I had just prayed about this issue of needing help and guidance to pass a test two short weeks ago, and here I was again making the same request. I wanted to come before Him with praise and thanks, not asking for another favor. I don’t like repeating myself and was almost ashamed to ask Him to repeat a miracle. I know God is not “hard of hearing” and I didn’t want to duplicate the same request. If He knows what I need, do I still have to ask? Yes.
Today I passed the last test with a 94! To God be the glory. Despite my trepidation the night before, He answered my prayer again. When I saw my score, I heard the Lord through his Word reminding me of so many wonderful truths. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5). God responds to persistence (Luke 11:8). God is a spirit (John 4:24) and Psalm 145:18 says the Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth. People will discount, disqualify, and discredit you without a thought because of your flaws, imperfections, and mistakes. I’m so grateful that God does not behave like people. He searches our heart and accepts us when we come to him in truth. The truth was I couldn’t do it on my own, but I knew He could.
Another thing I felt the Holy Spirit say to me is that it’s okay to want and to strive for more. It is good to be content with what you have and where you are in this journey called life, but there’s nothing wrong with progress either. It’s as if He were asking me rhetorically, “that’s it? That’s all you want, is to pass a test? I am the God who created the heavens and the Earth. I am the God who heals the sick, raises the dead, and causes the blind to see. Is this all you want?”
I’m happy with where I am because it’s better than where I used to be, but this isn’t it for me. There’s more to see, more to do, and more to be. The trouble with going higher is that falling is more fatal. The problem with going deeper is that drowning is more probable. Fear can be paralyzing, but I trust that my steps are ordered (Psalm 37:23) and I’m learning to want what He wants. I’m not talking about possessions or money. I came into this world without those and will leave without them. Instead, I must set my focus on things above (Colossians 3:2).