As a college professor I have two primary responsibilities to my students; the first is to provide them with instruction in the subject matter content, 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 gracious 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 the 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 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 and makes a conscious effort to follow the apostle Paul’s consuel to choose contentment, regardless of the circumstances. (Phil. 4:11-13).
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—let’s examine her life in terms of 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 is found to be pregnant (Deut. 22:23-24). Additionally she undoubtedly experienced some emotional turmoil at the thought of being the mother of Jesus.
- 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 “maidservant of the Lord” (1:36a). Her attitude was one of submission to her heavenly Father as she responded to the difficult test by stating, “Let it be according to your word” (1:36b); she chose to believe that her heavenly Father would work out the details—her responsibility was to trust (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 8:28). As well, she chose to spend time with Elizabeth, an individual who would nurture her through the testing season (1:39-45).
- Results (Luke 1:46-56)—Mary’s response 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—that of hiding God’s Word in our life so that when adversity strikes we have the spiritual ammunition to “extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Ps. 1, 119:11; Jer. 17:7-8; Eph. 6:10-20).
As you enter 2018 perhaps you are already experiencing tests. If not, before it concludes one or more will undoubtedly be a part of your life. Just as I want my students to conquer academic tests, so your gracious heavenly Father desires you to experience contentment in the midst of your spiritual challenges (Ro. 8:31-39)! The choice is yours—will you follow Mary’s role model and choose to be a victor or consent to becoming a victim (1 Peter 5:6-9)? Kelsey’s Korner provides you with some great strategies to assist you in finishing the year as a victor.
Well, 2017 is almost over, and most of the world is ready for a new year; preferably one with much less political and personal anarchy. As you reflect on all of the tests, trials, and tribulations that marked your 2017 calendar, you may have a dull, aching feeling of disappointment and discontentment. Maybe you are frustrated by the political climate of our country. Perhaps you faced trials this year like illness, job loss or the death of a loved one.
Many of us hold out hope that 2018 will be different, as though the New Year presses a “reset” button on our lives. However, if we are realistic we know this is not true. We recognize that there are periods in our lives where our trials seem to fade, but they never disappear completely.
The apostle Paul’s life was also marked by trials. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was shipwrecked…on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea…”(2 Cor. 11:24-26). Yet he told the church of Philippi: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
Admittedly, I’ve read these verses before and thought, “Well thanks, Paul. I’m so glad you’ve learned the secret, but would you mind sharing it with me?” During the many trials in my life I have often focused my time and prayers on “waiting it out,” asking God to teach me quickly whatever He is trying to teach and then bring me out of the trial so I can get back to normal life. But is this contentment? Is this the mindset of Paul? We know the answer. True contentment is not based on circumstances. True contentment is recognizing that we are not promised peace, comfort, or an end to our trials here on earth. It is recognizing that we deserve Hell, but for those who are redeemed, wrath is not what we will receive. True contentment grows from an overwhelming gratitude to the Lord for bringing us out of condemnation and into the family of God! As well, contentment is submitting to God’s will for us, whatever that may be.
So how do we face trials with contentment and joy? What is the secret mindset that Paul assumed when he stated that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him? I believe this mindset comes from two main frameworks:
- an honest and humble understanding of our stance before a holy God (Is. 64:6; Rom. 3:10-12, 23) and
- an overwhelming urge to serve the God who gave us unmerited life (Acts 5:41; Heb. 11:25; 1 Pet. 4:16).
With these understandings and desires, when trials come and snatch what is most precious to us here on earth, we then are able more and more to say, “Lord, if it pleases you to take away my peace, my comforts, my blessings—they are yours. Let them be an offering to you!” With joy and contentment, we then assume our called position. Such a focus allows our heavenly Father to graciously bestow on us the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7).
Don’t get me wrong, however. It is not sinful or displeasing to God for us to ask Him to take away a trial, but if His answer is “no”, or “not yet,” then we praise Him even in the storm. So this year, let’s look to Paul’s example and not just pray for an end to our tests or trials. Instead, with humility and a love for God, let’s practice contentment, pray that God would be glorified in our trials, and believe His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “Now may my peace sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful who will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).
Therefore, I may boldly say, “Paul’s prayer makes me more aware of the big picture behind what is happening in my life.”
Blessings on your new year as you focus on making your house a home!