By Patricia Ennis
A new year is rapidly approaching and with it the opportunity to deepen your relationship with your heavenly Father by trusting your future to him. Are you viewing 2015 through the binoculars of the media or the Word of God? The media reports that, among other things, family values are crumbling, lawlessness is rampant, the education system undermines parental authority, the economy is bankrupt, and morality is at an all-time low.
God’s Word states, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, New American Standard Bible). If you believe that your heavenly Father holds the future, then you will optimistically step out into a new year on January 1, anticipating to end the year as a victor. If you listen to the negative reports of the media, you have potentially projected a year of failure and the prospect of hitting December 31, 2015 as a victim. The choice is yours.
May I offer you some suggestions to make 2015 a year of victory?
TRUST GOD THROUGH ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES
As a professor I have two primary responsibilities to my students. The first is to provide them with instruction on the subject matter, and the second is to measure whether or not they have mastered it. Their subject matter mastery is usually measured in the form of a test, and it is always my desire that they will earn a high grade on it. I know, however, for it to be a valid measurement that the test must be difficult enough to align with their academic maturity. I do them no favors if it is too easy, and it is not a reliable measurement if it is too difficult.
Spiritually I must be willing to apply the same testing principle to my life. When my loving heavenly Father deems that I have mastered a biblical truth, it is likely that he will provide an opportunity for me to demonstrate my ability to apply it. This opportunity normally will present itself in the form of a test, and its purpose is to reveal the quality of my integration of the biblical truth into my life.
It is comforting to know that my heavenly Father wants me to pass any test at the top of my class, not simply squeak by. In fact James 1:2-5 teaches me that the testing of my faith should produce deeper communion and greater trust in Christ—qualities that, in turn, produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.
When you discern that your heavenly Father is testing you, do you anticipate being a victim or a victor? A victim is an individual who suffers from a destructive or injurious action and is deceived or cheated, while a victor is a person who has overcome or defeated an adversary.
Biblically we know that Satan is our adversary and “walks about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, 9). That is, he is essentially seeking opportunities to overwhelm us with temptation, persecution, and discouragement. If we succumb to his ploys, we become victims. However if we resist him and continue to live according to God’s Word, we are victors! When we make the choice to submit to God, we are taking a stand against Satan by choosing to trust God rather than circumstances. This intentional action moves us from victim to victor status.
DEVELOP A TRUST FORMULA
Numerous biblical teachings provide us with the formula for becoming a victor in the midst of life’s tests. Let’s examine some biblical truths that form our trust formula:
Truth One: Our gracious heavenly Father tests us, not Satan. Abraham stands as a stark example of having the sincerity of his faith tested as God asked him to sacrifice his long-awaited, promised son (Genesis 22).
Truth Two: We are to make a concentrated effort to rejoice in the midst of tests (James 1:2). Knowing this is impossible with our own strength, we must actively draw strength from the Lord (Philippians 4:13).
Truth Three: The testing of our faith produces endurance (James 1:3). When we trust our heavenly Father to endure the test, our character is refined. Often, once the test is passed, we have a stronger foundation for greater usefulness in our Lord’s kingdom (Romans 5:3).
Truth Four: Endurance is a command for believers, not a suggestion. Again, its intended result is to refine our character and to increase our trust in our heavenly Father (1 Peter 5:10).
Truth Five: Though fast food does exist, there is no such commodity as “fast faith.” Several biblical role models validate this truth:
• Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac (Genesis 17:19; 21:2).
• It took Joseph 13 years to get from the pit to the palace (37, 39–41).
• Moses spent a number of years in leadership candidacy school (Exodus 2, 3).
• David endured much abuse from Saul before he was inaugurated king (1 Samuel 18).
Truth Six: Trust does not come instantly. We must proceed through the entire test to achieve it. The Lord Jesus provided the greatest example of trusting his heavenly Father and remaining under the test through its completion (Hebrews 12:1, 2).
Truth Seven: Though we may desire to be released from the test, our heavenly Father wants to take us through it so that we become mature believers (Colossians 1:28; James 1:4).
Truth Eight: Just as the refiner’s fire assesses the quality of metal, so the genuineness our faith and trust is assessed through tests (1 Peter 1:7).
Truth Nine: If we are more interested in comfort than character, we will waste the test. However if our gracious heavenly Father is adamant that we pass the test, we will have the opportunity to enroll in his remediation course if we fail it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Truth Ten: We must stay firm and fight hard. Remembering that God is using us to build his eternal kingdom, we must run into the conflict rather than shrink back (Hebrews 10:39). Such action reflects that we are trusting God and are seeking his direction regardless of the circumstances.
FOLLOW A BIBLICAL ROLE MODEL
Mary, the mother of Jesus, provides us with a wonderful example of approaching life’s tests with the intention of being a victor rather than a victim. Her life clearly reflects how she placed her young hand in her heavenly Father’s and trusted him. Let’s consider it from three angles: the reasons for concern, her response, and the results.
Reasons for concern (Luke 1:26-31): God sent an angel to comfort Mary, who was greatly troubled because she was betrothed to Joseph and was aware of her fate if she was found to be pregnant (Deuteronomy 22:23, 24). Undoubtedly she must have experienced some emotional turmoil at the thought of being the mother of Jesus!
Mary’s Response (Luke 1:28-46): Mary chose to be a victor in the situation by placing her future into the hands of her heavenly Father and declaring herself a “bondslave of the Lord” (1:38). Her attitude was one of submission to her heavenly Father as she responded to the difficult test by stating, “May it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38). She chose to believe that her heavenly Father would work out the details—her responsibility was to trust. As well, she chose to spend time with Elizabeth, an individual who nurtured her through the testing season (vv. 39-45).
The Results (Luke 1:46-56): Mary’s reaction reflects that her heart and mind were saturated with the Word of God. Her ability to focus on the covenant promises of God provides an incredible role model for us. We must hide God’s Word in our life so that when adversity strikes, we will have the spiritual ammunition to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Though you do not know what 2015 holds, you can be assured that there will be tests. Just as I want my students to conquer academic tests, so our gracious heavenly Father desires that we conquer all of our spiritual tests (Romans 8:31-39). The choice is ours! Through God’s strength I will follow Mary’s role model and choose to be a victor. Will you join me?
Pat Ennis is a freelance writer in Burleson, Texas.
Where Do You Live?
While the Bible is clear that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we often get stuck living in the past, dreaming about the future, or getting caught up in the moment. Take this quick quiz to find out whether you’re most drawn to yesterday, today, or tomorrow—then reflect on how God can give you a more full perspective: “Do You Live in the Past, Present, or Future?”