Profound

Progress in our journey of faith is made public in the testing.

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Sometimes things stare at us in the face and we are too busy to take notice. Listen to the following quote: “[Jesus is] my rock and my fortress and for Your name’s sake You lead and guide me. … My times are in Your hand.” [Psalm 31:3,15] These are not questions of faith. These are statements considered fact from those who knew firsthand what life-threatening trouble was like. David was not hopeful that what he prayed was true. He knew from first-hand experience the truth. Jesus prayed this prayer often not because he was hopeful but because he demonstrated trust that God was his only rock and fortress during the times of profound duress.

Resolute trust. That is what it takes to turn head knowledge into experiential faith. It is the essence of wisdom. It is a process revealing progress as we learn through each new trial that Jesus has in fact redeemed and restored us and therefore we can commit ourselves into His hands. Progress in our journey of faith is made public in the testing. When trouble comes do we first blame God? Do we question ‘why’ and turn away from God? Christ followers the world over will testify to the fact that when ‘life goes south’ it is here that they have the opportunity to discover with each new faith-challenging circumstance that God has not delivered them into the hand of their enemies. But we have to be willing to look at the rock and not at the waves. We have to be willing to step out of the boat and follow Jesus wherever He leads.

Most of the time profound truth lies in the areas where we do not want to relinquish control. We see life from an finite, not an infinite position. Knowing this we still resist wanting to surrender control of our lives. We have trouble seeing the “image of God” in others. Just listen to the rhetoric being slung around from leaders who claim to be Christian this year.

“My times are in Your hand.” [David]

“What God does in time, He planned from eternity. All that He planned from eternity, Jesus carried out in time.” [J.I.Packer]

When God rejoices…

Are there angels around us watching us work out our salvation?  When we get it right and follow the Lord in faith do they rejoice with singing?  Consider:  Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

I am finding that God has made life quite simple.  When Jesus said that even a little child can understand salvation, it is true.  Life is made up of a series of choices.  The choices come to us in pairs.  The follower of Christ is not faced with multiple choice but a choice of ‘either’ ‘or.’  That is what makes it so simple.  When I find myself in a situation I have the opportunity to put feet to my claims of trusting in the Lord.  I will do one of two things.  Either I can choose my prideful way or I will live by faith.

Choosing to live by faith means that I am going to choose to trust in, rely on and adhere to the Lord Jesus Christ.  By faith I am going to rejoice in the fact that God has plans for me because He takes great delight in me.  Choosing to go my own prideful way will cause me to view the circumstance from my perspective.  I immediately start the process of trying to sort out how to maybe avoid this altogether; or how to escape; or start trying to find the resources I can use; or trying to find any resources that might work; or just try to blame someone and become the ‘victim.’

Making the choice to live in faith or to live outside faith is difficult at first.  Choosing to trust God works like this.  I find myself in a circumstance that seems to be unbearable.  I make the choice to trust God.  I choose to believe God that He is not planning to harm me.  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” In the face of all that is surrounding me, I choose to acknowledge that God is going to do what He says and give me hope by building my faith.  This could be through the loss of someone or the loss of my dreams or the loss of a job or the loss of my health or intense marital issues.  It matter not what the situation turns out to be each of us.  What matters is that I fix my eyes on Jesus.  He promises me a future.  He promises me He will quiet my troubled heart with His love…but I have to let go of my hearts’ desires.

The problem is as old as the human race.  Even though God created us we still think that we know better.  We think that God is not listening.  We think that God does not care about me…that I am too insignificant or not good enough.  These are all lies from the Accuser.  We fail to see things from God’s perspective.  We fail to lift our eyes and by faith hear God rejoicing with the angels when we grasp His ways.

Think about this quote from George MacDonald:  “Those who think their affairs too insignificant for God’s regard, will justify themselves in lying crushed under their seeming ruin.  Either we live in the heart of an eternal thought, or we are the product and sport of that which is lower than we.” Read that quote again.  Are you being the product and sport of that which is lower than you are?  Do you know who is lower than you are?

What do we do when tempted?

Here is the narrative about what Jesus did when He was tempted:

Matthew 4:1-11  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Mat 4:5  Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”  Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Mat 4:8  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.   And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

The beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was marked by His baptism by John the Baptist.  But before He could be allowed to start, there was one more test from God His Father.  The Holy Spirit led [some translations will read “drove”] Jesus into the wilderness.  This was not a friendly place to be.  He was alone and there were wild animals that lived in the area.  Once the Holy Spirit had taken Jesus to the location picked by God, Jesus started a fast that lasted 40-days.  But the fasting was not the primary trial.  After 40-days, a malevolent angel approaches Him.

We are not given much data from the Scriptures as to the physical appearance of the devil after his fall.  But the words used in the Bible give some clues.  Devil means slanderer in the Greek.  In the language of Hebrew, it means “adversary.”  He is an arch-enemy of God and is determined to undermine man’s spiritual interest.  Matthew’s narrative is focused on what Jesus experienced and not on the evil one providing the temptations.  It is clear from the narrative that the devil wants Jesus to act on His own outside the will of His Father.  Jesus makes it clear by His responses that anyone can keep themselves from temptation if they focus on God and the Word that He has given us.  Every quote used by Jesus was well known by the Jewish people.  There is a clear lesson here for us today…but on with the narrative.

The devil thinks that Jesus will surely fail during one of three temptations.  First the accuser tries to get Jesus to take matters into His own hands by creating bread…40-days without food would make for a famished man [v.3].  Jesus responds with a God-principle and does not take the bait.

Next the accuser tries to tempt Jesus into manipulating God to respond to Jesus doing an act of suicide.  Again Jesus quotes another God-principle…reminding the devil that he was on dangerous ground.

Having failed twice, the devil now tries the temptation of power because he knows that power corrupts men because of their pride.  One can almost sense from the narrative that the devil feels sure that this is the temptation that means success for him.  But Jesus gives a command for Satan to immediately leave followed by a reminder of the 1st commandment…a command from God Himself.  Satan leaves on Jesus’ command but his pride causes him to wait for another opportunity.

There would be other opportunities.  Jesus walked and talked a life before God that was based on choice.  He did not let hunger which put Him into a weakened state to and dominate His thinking.  He kept His eyes on His Father.  We face choices all the time.  Do we think about where they might be coming from?  Satan wants to accuse us.  He wants to divide us.  He wants us to take our eyes off of Jesus and look elsewhere for help.  Everything about our life is a matter of choice.  Follow Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.