“Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them…” (Judges 3:1-6)
As we journey each day of our New Life in Christ, it is only fitting that we expect a victorious life. And so it is that we are often brought to this place where we feel the experience of a great victory. We have labored and toiled through a tremendous flight of afflictions, and finally emerged, by the grace of God, into a wonderful rise where the sun is bright, the air is clear, and hope is in sight.
But then we must continue in our walk with Christ. As we plunge back into our Journey of Faith, we find that each new day has enough evil of its own (Matthew 6:34). We see that, despite past victories and clear demonstrations of God’s goodness toward us, we still have to face enough problems and trials that we can easily become weakened, frustrated, and even discouraged.
The Children of Israel often felt this way in their journey with the Lord. The Israelites had been delivered from Egyptian bondage by the Power of God. They had been clothed and fed during their 40 years of Wilderness-wandering by the Provision of God. They had been sheltered in battle by the Protection of God. Brought into the Promised Land at long last, they experienced great and sweeping victories, as the Lord Himself went before them to drive out the inhabitants and give the Land of Canaan to the Israelites as a possession.
Imagine the level of frustration and discouragement that must have been felt by the Israelites then as they began to settle in the Land of Promise and were confronted with those inhabitants that were not removed. These remaining groups posed a serious and persistent threat to the ease of life in the Promised Land, and point us to the Sovereign Purpose of God in trials and testings.
Our text for this devotional message illustrates a very important truth about our own walk with the Lord. We see that the Lord had in fact given the Land of Canaan to the Israelites as a possession, but that He did not immediately drive out all of the land’s native inhabitants. God’s purpose in this is two-fold: (1) to teach the Israelites to fight in battle, and (2) to test the Israelites’ obedience to His Commandments.
Just like the Israelites, we too have received an inheritance, a land of Promise. We have been delivered from the bondage of sin and the fear of death, raised with Christ to experience New Life; Abundant Life; Victorious Life. Just like the Israelites, we too face daily battles, struggles, and tests of faith. We therefore can draw courage and strength from the knowledge that our testings are all in accord and relation to God’s Providential care.
The Bible tells us that God does not tempt us with evil (James 1:13). He knows exactly what our weaknesses are, as well as our strengths; and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our individual capacity (1 Corinthians 10:13). We can understand then that God’s testing of His children is not an effort to break us – He could do that without effort. Be sure then that God does not want to see us fail our test.
On the contrary, God’s testing may properly be likened to an exercise where we are pushed to our limits (but not over them) in order to build strength and endurance. The purpose of the test is to remove any impurities and to make us stronger. God ordains that we undergo this intense training, much like the Israelites, in order to teach us to fight the good fight of faith. We must learn to fight; to war; to wrestle – in order to make us overcomers and “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).
The second aspect of God’s purpose in testing us has to do with the matter of our obedience. God is all-wise and all-knowing; and so He is not ‘trying to find out’ anything about us. Neither does He wring His hands and ‘wonder’ if we will obey Him or not. Nor does He sit by and ‘allow’ us to be tested, waiting to ‘show up and show out’ – ‘just in time’ – to keep us from failing.
Rather, God’s testing of our obedience may be likened to a student’s examination after a course of study. The purpose of the test is not to teach the student a lesson, but to prove that he has mastered a particular course of study and that he can pass the test. God wants our obedience to be explicitly manifested. In order to make this known to us, God leads us into areas where we will face various struggles and tests of faith to manifest our reliance upon Him.
In our New Life in Christ, we will have daily tests of Faith. We cannot experience the thrill of victory without the heat of the battle. But we need not despair at the size or strength of the enemy. When we are facing trying circumstances, we can be encouraged by the knowledge of God’s purpose. By His grace, we can prevail, because He is the One in control, and His purpose is for our good (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11).