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FIRST-PERSON: Victim or victor?

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — The media reports that national security is questionable, lawlessness is rampant and the economy is literally bankrupt. And, we deduce, morality is at an all-time low, with the education system undermining family values.

God’s Word, meanwhile, 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 NAS).

If you listen to the media’s reports, you will embrace the prospect of being a victim.

If you believe that your heavenly Father holds the future, you can move toward being a victor, trusting God through adverse circumstances.

The choice is yours.

As a professor I have two primary responsibilities to students. The first is to provide instruction in the subject matter; the second is to measure whether they have mastered it, usually in the form of a test. It is always my desire that students earn a high grade. But I do students no favor if the test is too easy, and it is not a reliable measurement if it is too difficult.

Spiritually, I must be willing to apply the same principle to my life.

When my loving heavenly Father deems that I have mastered a biblical truth, He likely will provide an opportunity for me to demonstrate an ability to apply it. This opportunity normally presents itself in the form of a test 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. James 1:2-5, in fact, teaches me that the testing of my faith should produce deeper communion and greater trust in Christ that, in turn, nurture a stable, godly character.[1]

When you discern that your heavenly Father is testing you, do you anticipate being a victim or a victor?

Biblically, we know that Satan is our adversary and “walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NAS). That is, he is essentially seeking opportunities to overwhelm us with temptation, discouragement and persecution. If we succumb to his ploys, we become victims.

However, if we resist him and live according to God’s Word, we are victors! James 4:7 instructs us to “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (NAS). When we make the choice to submit to God, we are taking a stand against Satan by choosing to trust God rather than circumstances.

Developing trust

Numerous biblical truths can be a formula for us to become victors amid life’s tests:

Truth One — Our gracious heavenly Father, not Satan, is the one who tests us. 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 21:1-19).

Truth Two — We are to make concentrated effort to rejoice amid the tests (James 1:2). Knowing this is impossible in our own strength, we must actively draw our strength from the Lord (Philippians 4:13).

Truth Three — The testing of our faith produces endurance or perseverance. When we trust our heavenly Father to endure the test, our character is refined. Once the test is passed, we have a stronger foundation for usefulness in our Lord’s Kingdom (Romans 5:3; Colossians 1:28, 4:12; James 1:3-4).

Truth Four — Endurance is a command for believers, not a suggestion, to deepen our relationship with our heavenly Father (1 Peter 5:10).

Truth Five — Though “fast food” does exist, there is no such commodity as “fast faith.” Among biblical role models who 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 (Genesis 37-41).

— Moses spent a number of years in leadership candidacy school (Exodus 2:11-3:22)

— David endured much abuse from Saul before he was inaugurated king (1 Samuel 18-31; 2 Samuel 2; Psalm 11).

Truth Six — We must proceed through the entire test to achieve it. The Lord Jesus provides the greatest example of trusting His heavenly Father and remaining under the test through its completion (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Truth Seven — Consistently saturating our minds with God’s Word builds a “spiritual bank account” so that when adversity strikes we have the spiritual ammunition to “extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Psalm 1, 119:11; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Ephesians 6:10-20). Mary, the mother of Jesus provides an incredible role model for us (Luke 1:46-56).

Truth Eight — Just as the refiner’s fire assesses the quality of metal, so the genuineness of 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 (Ephesians 6:18-20). 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 (Matthew 6:33).

You can be assured there will be tests. Just as I want my students to conquer academic tests, so our gracious heavenly Father desires that we to conquer all of our spiritual tests (Romans 8:31-39). The choice is ours. Through God’s strength I will choose to be a victor (Philippians 4:13; 1 Peter 5:6-9). Will you join me?

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word: 1997), note at James 1:5.
[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “victim,” “victor.”

    About the Author

  • Pat Ennis

    Pat Ennis, on the Web at http://theeverydayhomemaker.com, is a distinguished professor of homemaking and director of homemaking programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her most recent release is “God is my Strength: Fifty Biblical Responses to Issues Facing Women Today” (Christian Focus, 2015). This column is reprinted from the Biblical Woman website, www.biblicalwoman.com, of Southwestern Seminary.

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