I am far too quick to pat myself on the back. I look back over my life and see countless situations where I act in faith towards a goal, sinfully boast to myself or others about that faith, but then at the first sign of opposition resign myself to the belief that God had a different goal in mind. It has rarely, if ever occurred to me that perhaps God had the exact goal in mind as when I initially took that step of faith. Even in the last 24-hours in the face of opposition to a major life change I have found myself considering giving up and doing something else despite the "faith" with which we've come this far.
Don't we take a certain degree of comfort knowing that the medication we buy has been tested? I find myself abroad now and then with a headache and hesitant to buy the foreign equivalent of Tylenol because I know in the U.S. that Tylenol has certain quality controls and tests to make sure it is safe. The same goes for a lot of products - good manufacturers have some degree of quality control testing to ensure their product will remain worthwhile under various pressures and stress. So what good is our faith unless it has been tested? How do we know it is genuine trust in God's sovereignty and not just some cheap knock off that we conjure up ourselves and then boast about as genuine? Are we sometimes like the guy that sells knock off Rolex watches when we share our faith?
Scripture says "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2-3. Far too often, we wrongly equate the testing of faith with only the decision to act in faith. From a very basic level, the equation is true - the decision to act or not act in any situation can be a test of whether faith exists. But I want to know that Tylenol manufacturers do much more than test their product to see if it exists. I would like to know something about the quality of the product. God wants the same thing.
The testing of faith produces steadfastness. How steadfast is faith if at the first sign of opposition it bails? Do not be fooled into thinking that when we act in faith to follow God, passing the test to determine whether faith exists, we may not later become the beneficiary of opposition. James does not tell us to consider it joy if we face trials - he says when we face trials (1:2). Opposition will come. When it does, if we stay the course through the test, it produces steadfastness or perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope (Rom. 5:3-4). Opposition should not change our course it should strengthen our faith. (James 1:4). When our faith is tested as genuine it should "result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 1:6-7).
The faith with which we've come this far has not been tested until now. It exists, but of what is it made? God, let us rejoice now more than ever, knowing that this trial is designed to produce steadfastness, completeness, character, and hope for Your praise and glory and honor. "In Your everlasting arms are all the pieces of my life; God whatever comes my way, I can trust You." (Chris Tomlin, Sovereign).
My Mom and Dad are coming in tonight for a visit. It's been over a week since my wife has seen our son (and almost a week for me), who has been with them since last Thursday. We've been finding lots of other stuff to fill our time today: lesson preparation for Sunday School, paper for seminary, yard work, shopping, and so forth. Needless to say, we CAN'T WAIT to see our son (and Mom and Dad)!
Only God's irony would make tomorrow's lesson on Isaiah 40-66 (we're going through the Bible chronologically). Ironic because my Dad's favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31: "But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Waiting on God always seemed simple enough to understand (although much more difficult to accomplish): simply wait for Him to do whatever it is He is going to do. Easy, right?
Reading through Scripture chronologically has given me a much greater appreciation for the context of individual verses like Isaiah 40:31. Isaiah preached these words to a people who could not get away from the idols that had slowly penetrated society in Judah. These idols led the northern Kingdom (Israel) into Assyrian exile and captivity. Throughout much of the rest of Isaiah, he preaches against these idols as futile (41:21-29), foolish (44:9-20), and impotent (46:5-7). Is there a connection between waiting on God and idolatry?
The Israelites did not make a golden calf until they "saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain." (Exodus 32:1-6). When God would not save Judah from Syria, Ahaz "sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said 'Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.'" (2 Chronicles 28:23). When Assyria had finished with Israel, they began their assault on Judah, many of the inhabitants of which sought refuge and safety not from God, but from Egypt. (Isaiah 30).
The Israelites worshiped a calf instead of waiting on God. Ahaz worshiped the idols of his conquerors instead of waiting on God. Those in Judah who fled to Egypt trusted military strength in numbers instead of trusting God. They moved for salvation before God was ready to provide it. In each instance there was an idol - something which was worshiped or trusted in other than God - and in each instance God was preempted. These are but a few examples.
So are these things meant to occupy our time and assuage that "can't wait" feeling of anxiety and loneliness without our own idols? Are we trusting in them instead of waiting on God? What else do we trust in for salvation and strength instead of waiting on God? Money is just paper and it cannot save us, but do we trust in it for happiness, strength, and the fellowship that 'status' can bring?
Here's a thought (from Isaiah nonetheless): since we broke the Old Covenant with our idols that replaced God, Jesus became the basis of a New Covenant (Isaiah 42:1-9, 48:3-8). Jesus came to pay the penalty for our treachery under the Old Covenant (Isaiah 53:4-12). Shouldn't we trust in that for happiness? God is powerful, rewarding, caring, immeasurable, wise, just, incomparable, creator, all knowing, all powerful, all present, gracious, and merciful (among other things) (Isaiah 40:9-29). Shouldn't we trust in Him for strength? Jesus is Immanuel - God with us (Isaiah 7:10-17). Shouldn't we trust in that for true fellowship?
Our efforts to get to God, find happiness, get through the day accomplishing everything that must be done, and find lasting friendship will wear us out. That's life - it's exhausting. "Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:30-31. Only Jesus can satisfy; only Jesus can strengthen; only Jesus can save.
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.