I believe that today's scripture is a powerful message for our church in the present season that we are in. I have often said, " I'm so glad that God does not jeopardize our development for the sake of our comfort". Growing in Christ and maturing in our faith requires stretching, training, and adversity. If you claim to be a prized fighter and you have never fought anyone and you have never conquered anything, then are you really a prized fighter?
- Romans 8:37 says, " We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
If you have never faced any adversity in life, then what have your conquered? Conquerors are those who have defeated foes, challenges, or adversity. Adversity is a training tool that is used to cause our faith to grow and mature. Similar to what barbells and weights are to an athlete. It is the difficult challenges that the athlete endures in the gym that cause his muscles to grow stronger and faster. Without resistance the athlete's muscles would never gain strength or size. When following God, we can have a peace in our walk, knowing that ALL things are working together for our good. In the good times we rejoice. In the bad times we rejoice. God is directing our steps and we can place complete confidence and trust in Him.
- Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding".
- Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice!"
The scripture doesn't tell us only to rejoice in the wonderful times, it tells us to rejoice in the Lord always. This means to rejoice in the difficult times as well. We demonstrate that trust is in God by rejoicing in every situation. Life is a time of training. God is developing, growing, and strengthening our faith. Our faith in Him is not based on the Lord's blessings or prosperity. Our faith is based on our trust in God. The mistake we make is: We often think that if God is pleased with us then our life will be a bed of roses. Let's look at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Right after Jesus is baptized by John, God decides to make an announcement. Keep in mind, up until this moment the heavens have been closed for 400 years. The heavens open and God speaks to His people once again. "This is my beloved Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Mtt 3:17 How would you like to kick off your ministry with an endorsement like this? I can't imagine a better way to kick things off. But let's take a look at what happens immediately after this shining inaugural moment:
- Matthew 4:1-2 "Then Jesus was led BY THE SPIRIT into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights he was hungry."
So what happened? Did God change His mind concerning how He felt about His son? Did Jesus do something after He was baptized that ticked God off? Of course not. Through the scriptures we learn that the desert is God's place of training. Before Jesus' ministry would become public He would be tested. In those 40 days He trusted in the Lord and at the end of His fasting He conquered the devil's schemes. Not only did Jesus resist the devil's temptations, but He did it at one of His weakest moments. When Jesus came out of the desert, He came out in the power and authority of the Lord. So we see the same desert theme in our reading today with the children of Israel. The day they are liberated and freed from Egypt is a day of excitement and rejoicing, but where does God take them? He takes them into the desert to be trained and developed. And sadly, they do not pass the test. They do not rejoice in the Lord always. They do not keep their trust and confidence in God. Sadly, like we are guilty of doing in many situations, they begin to grumble and complain.
- Numbers 11:20 "because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?"
Israel initially was excited to leave, however in their excitement to leave they never once stopped to question where God might be taking them. I'm sure many would have stayed behind if they knew the Lord was leading them to the desert for testing. I'm certain that they imagined that God was taking them directly to the promised land on a first class ticket. My prayer over us this year, is that we will learn the valuable lessons from today's Bible story. There will be adversity and challenges ahead for us in 2013. But I pray that we will remember to keep our "trust in the Lord" and to rejoice through every situation. God bless.