A Math Test or a Character Test?
by Steve Lyon
The alarm broke the silence in Chester’s room. He opened his eyes and wondered where the sound was coming from. Chester had been sleeping hard and was having a bad dream. As he rubbed his sleepy eyes he remembered what he was dreaming. In his dream he was taking a math test. It was bad because the test he was taking in the dream was VERY hard, he couldn’t answer ANY of the questions. So as he shook the cobwebs from his head he was relieved it was just a dream. As he sat on the edge of his bed and his bare feet settled on the carpet on the floor he suddenly remembered that he actually did have a math test today. He had been studying for it all week, and it was a big one. He was worried about the test because his teacher, Mrs. Matthews, said it was going to be hard and it counted for much of his grade. Just then his mom peeked into his room to make sure he was awake.
“Good morning Chester,” his mom said. “Did you sleep well?” she said with a big smile. Chester liked the way his mom came into his room every morning with a big smile -- it always brightened his day.
“Yeah, except I had a bad dream about my math test,” he added as his heart began to race again.
“You’ll do just fine. You just have to take your time and check your work. Anyways, Dad made you some breakfast and wants to eat with you before he goes to work,” she said as she left his room.
After he cleaned up and put on his favorite red t-shirt and jeans, he went downstairs to eat. He always looked forward to the days when he got to eat with dad in the morning. They talked about lots of things together, but today Chester’s mind was on one thing – the dreaded math test. His dad also encouraged him and told him he knew he would do just fine.
“Boy, my parents have more confidence than I do,” he said under his breath as he grabbed his lunch. He kissed his mom and turned to leave.
“Chester,” his mom called to him, “Don’t forget who you are, and don’t forget I love you,” she said with a smile.
Chester’s parent’s always told him the same thing whenever he left the house. They explained to him that when they say, “Don’t forget who you are,” it means don’t let people or situations change what you believe.
On the way to school he met up with James, his best friend. As they walked to school they skipped rocks across Mr. Roman’s pond and talked about how nervous they were about the test.
“Hey wimp!” Chester felt a shove in the back, he knew it was Matt, the school bully. He always had a group of other boys around him. Today he was followed by Brian and Allen.
Chester turned with a frown and said, “What’s up Matt?”
“You guys worried about the test today?” Matt asked.
Both Chester and James nervously said, “Yeah.”
Matt laughed at both of them, and the other boys joined him. “All ya have to do is look at Shannah’s paper and you’ll ace it.” Matt said as he continued to laugh, “Plus, I got the answers. You want ‘em? I found them on Mrs. Matthews’s desk when I had to stay after school the other day. So I swiped them and copied them.” Chester’s eyes initially brightened-up as he thought about having the answers. Then he remembered his mom and dad telling him not to forget who he was. He knew it was wrong and standing up for what was right was more important than acing the test.
“No thanks Matt,” Chester said as he and James walked away from Matt and his friends.
“Can you believe that guy?” James said as they walked into school, “He’s gonna get caught one of these days. Maybe then he’ll change.”
“I doubt it,” Chester replied with a smirk.
All the kids were in their seats as the tardy bell rang out and interrupted all the talking among the kids. They knew the two bells meant they were to quiet down. The desks were lined-up facing the front of the classroom where Mrs. Matthews was in her seat waiting for the kids to settle down. Chester sat in front of James. To his left was Shannah. She was the smartest kid in the class. She really knew her stuff, especially when it came to math. He could feel his palms getting sweaty as Mrs. Matthews started to speak.
“Class,” she said, “I want you to put everything under your chairs except for a pencil and a blank piece of paper. We’re going to take our math test now to get it out of the way.” Chester could feel his heart starting to beat faster as she passed out the test. She always passed out the tests so they were upside-down. As usual, when all the tests were handed out, she walked to the front of the class and asked, “Do you have any questions?” No one had any questions. She hesitated and said, “One more thing Matt, Brian, and Allen! I want you all to move to the front of the room right here in front of me.” The boys all looked at each other and started to turn red as if they knew something wasn’t right. They did as Mrs. Matthews asked and moved to the front. Then Mrs. Matthews said, “Okay, now we’re ready. You may begin.” Chester turned the paper over and looked at all the problems. As he started the test he found it wasn’t like his dream at all. He actually knew how to work most of the problems, although, there were several he was having trouble with. After some time, as he thought about one of the problems, he looked around the class. Everyone was hard at work, everyone except Shannah. She was on the last page and had all the answers finished.
“All the answers,” Chester thought, “It wouldn’t hurt if I just checked my answers with hers.” He quickly looked up to the front of the room where Mrs. Matthews sat at her desk. She had her head down, grading papers or something. All he wanted to do was check his answers. “That isn’t bad—is it?” Chester’s mind raced. He thought about what Matt had said about looking at Shannah’s paper. Chester started to justify looking over at Shannah’s paper. “It’s not going to hurt anyone,” he thought. He also remembered that his dad had told him that whenever he was tempted he should take a timeout and pray.
His dad told him to ask, “What would Jesus do?” God would always make the right choice clear – then it would be his decision to do the right thing or the wrong thing.
Chester raised his hand and asked Mrs. Matthews if he could use the restroom. She looked at him and smiled, “Sure Chester, but don’t be too long. There’s not much more time to finish the test.”
“O.K., Mrs. Matthews”, Chester said with hesitation. Chester grabbed the bathroom pass off Mrs.
Matthew’s desk and left the classroom. On his walk to the bathroom he prayed that God would help him resist cheating. He knew it was wrong, but it was so tempting to look at Shannah’s answers. As he reached the bathroom he pushed on the door. The door was warm to his touch. As it opened a blast of hot air hit him and it was extremely bright. He stumbled into what was once the bathroom. His fall to the floor seemed to last forever. He finally landed with a “thud.” As he started to regain his bearings, he found himself lying in a pile of sand. The air was dry and small bits of sand hit his face as he sat up. He knew he was NOT in the school bathroom. But where was he? Was this a character construction hole? He had been in a character construction hole before. In the past, God used the character construction holes to teach him lessons. “I guess this is a great time to learn a lesson,” Chester thought as he remembered the math test.
As the wind howled in his ears he heard a deep voice say, “Tell this stone to become bread.” Then, through the blowing sand a man appeared to be walking towards him. The man came to him and held out his hand.
“Are you alright?” the man asked.
“Yes, thank you,” answered Chester. As Chester’s eyes focused on the man’s face, he knew right away who it was.
A weary face looked into Chester’s eyes and said, “Hi Chester, I’ve been expecting you.”
“JESUS!!” Chester said with a smile. Chester couldn’t help but jump up into Jesus’ arms and hug Him. “I knew it, I knew it. I knew it was you. I knew God was gonna give me a lesson,” Chester said with anticipation in his voice. “What’s going on here? Aren’t you supposed to be performing miracles or something?” Chester asked.
Jesus chuckled, “That’s for later Chester.” Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days to get ready for his ministry on earth.
As Jesus started telling Chester why He was out in the middle of the desert, Chester said, “This is sort of a goofy place to start saving the world – don’t you think?”
Again, Jesus laughed and said, “Chester, the way to solve a problem or resist a temptation is to ask for help. And we have the best help around. We’ve got God.” Chester’s face lit up as Jesus said that, because that’s what his mom and dad always said. Jesus explained that He was being tempted by Satan to test His obedience to God.
“So what if you turn the stone into bread, you deserve it. You haven’t eaten in 40 days. Nobody would care. Nobody would even know,” Chester replied.
“I would know, and more importantly, God would know. Then I wouldn’t be able to save the world,” Jesus said with a half grin. Chester realized Jesus was grinning because it felt good to resist Satan. It felt good to do the right thing even though it was hard.
“Wow, and I was worried about a little math test,” Chester said.
Jesus calmly stopped Chester and said, “You’re facing the same temptation with your math test. Satan is always tempting you. You’ve faced him before. He never stops.” Jesus continued, “Let me ask you a question. Do you feel good when you do the right thing?”
“Yes,” answered Chester.
“That’s God patting you on the back and telling you He’s proud of you.”
“I like that feeling,” Chester said.
“Yes and how do you feel when you do the wrong thing?” Jesus asked.
“A little nervous,” Chester said with some sadness in his voice.
Jesus explained that doing the wrong thing makes us nervous because we know we can do better. Jesus reminded him, “Never forget who you are – God’s creation.” Chester smiled as he remembered his parents saying the same thing.
Then Jesus gave Chester a hug and said, “Now you’d better get going because Satan’s coming back to tempt me again, and you have to finish that math test. Believe me it will turn out just fine without looking at Shannah’s paper.”
“Oh man, I forgot about the test. I gotta get going, Jesus. Bye!! Thanks!!” With that, Jesus started to walk away and the wind picked up. Again, Chester felt the sting of the sand against his face. As he opened his eyes he saw a door. It was the bathroom door. He ran toward it. As Chester got closer to it the wind died down, the sand started to disappear, and it got cooler. The door swung open and James stumbled in.
“Did you see that?” Chester said with excitement in his voice.
“See what? Did the skunk get loose in the bathroom again?” James asked.
“No, Jesus and the desert…. Oh, forget it,” Chester said with some disappointment. As James came into the bathroom the sand and wind had disappeared. It was just the school bathroom now.
James asked, “did you fall into a character construction hole again?! No fair I wanna go.”
“I’ll explain it later,” Chester said as he rushed by James on his way back to the classroom. Chester was thinking that he had been gone a long time and he just knew he missed his chance to turn in the test. As he opened the door to the class, everyone looked up to see him come in. Mrs. Matthews looked up at Chester. He thought he was in trouble for being gone so long and not finishing the test.
“Well that was quick,” Mrs. Matthews said as she took the bathroom pass from Chester. He couldn’t believe it; he thought he was gone for a long time.
“Oh well, I’ve got a test to finish,” Chester remembered. As he sat down he realized that Jesus had just taught him a valuable lesson on self-control. He knew it was because he was tempted to look at Shannah’s paper to get the answers to the test. As he finished the rest of the test, on his own, his mind poured over what he had just been through. He kept wondering if it was real. After he had finished the last question, he got up from his seat and started to take his paper up to Mrs. Matthews, but when he stood up he lost his balance and his feet seemed to slide right out from under him. As he fell, the whole class turned to see what happened. He hit the floor with a “thud.” He heard laughter ring out in the class as Mrs. Matthews came up to him with concern in her eyes.
“Are you alright Chester?” she asked with anxiety.
As Chester looked around, he noticed a pile of sand on the floor where his feet had slipped. He began to laugh and said, “Yeah, I’m alright. I just forgot who I was for a second there.”
Mrs. Matthews wondered what Chester was talking about as she helped him up. Chester turned in his paper and returned to his desk, avoiding the small pile of sand.
Two days later, as Mrs. Matthews handed out the graded tests, Chester was again nervous. He really wanted a good grade and knew he had done his best – without cheating. He looked around and noticed something odd, Matt and his friends weren’t there today.
Again, the tests were placed upside-down as Mrs. Matthews gave them to the students. She walked to the front of the class as she told the students the fate of Matt and his two buddies. It seems they were caught stealing the answers off of Mrs. Matthews desk and were suspended from school for two days. She continued, “I pray this is a lesson for us all on the importance of honesty. You not only hurt yourself by not learning, but you also damage your character by not being trustworthy. You’re a much better person when you can be trusted. Anyway,” she said, “you can now turn over your test and see what your grade is. You all did very well.” Chester turned his paper over and to his amazement and relief he saw an “A+” at the top of his test with a big smiley face. Under the smiley face Mrs. Matthew’s had written, “Thank you for not forgetting who you are!” Chester put his test down and looked at his teacher. She looked over at him and winked. Just then he realized that doing the right thing is the way to go.
He looked up and said to the ceiling, “Thank you Jesus.”
Q: What was Chester worried about? Why?
A: He was worried about the math test. It was a big test and his teacher said it would be hard.
Q: What did Chester’s parents always tell him when he left the house? What does it mean?
A: Don’t forget who you are. This means he should never let people or situations change what you believe and never forget that God loves him and he should think about that in everything he does.
Q: What was Chester tempted to do?
A: He was tempted to look at Shannah’s test to check his answers.
Q: What Bible story did the character construction hole take Chester to?
A: Jesus being tempted in the desert.
Q: What color shirt did Chester put on when he was getting ready for school?
A: His favorite red T-shirt.
Q: Who was Chester’s best friend?
Q: Who was the smart girl in Chester’s class?
Q: What happened to Matt and his friends?
A: They were suspended for two days for cheating.
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