Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Have you been tested in life?
What gave you the confidence to overcome in victory?
"Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4). "
The number 40 signifies a testing of some sort in Scripture. Noah was in the Ark 40 days and 40 nights, the people of Israel wondered around in the wilderness for 40 years. They waited on Moses at the foot of Sinai for 40 days, Jesus went into the wilderness to be tested by the devil 40 days, and in the account of David and Goliath, the Philistine warrior Goliath taunted Israel 40 days.
Two armies line a field on either side dressed for battle. Crows circle above. At the center of the field a boy stands over the large body of a giant missing its head. The boy lifts the heavy head with both hands into the air. The stunned silence is broken by screams of battle and rage as the army of Israel breaks across the field chasing the fleeing philistines.
David hoisted the Goliath’s giant head over his shoulder and trudged back to camp to claim his prize.
This historical account was not written to us today, it was written to the people of Israel during a violent time. To Israel, God is pointing out His faithful nature to His people when called upon. He keeps his promises and the Covenant Contract He made with Abraham. Israel’s faith was being tested and David had the courage to answer by putting his faith in God’s strength, not his own. When the people depend on God’s strength and commit to his precepts, they are victorious.
The same was true of Jesus when he was tested. He relied on God’s strength, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” It was also a direct reference to the Deuteronomy 8:3 account when Israel relied on God for food (mana) in the wilderness, another testing moment. Jesus did not depend on his own understanding of right and wrong, but on the words of God who is pure, just, and upright to know good and bad.
So, what are we to take away from this violent story today? Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Israel and made new ones to us today. The New Testament writers make references back to the Old Testament histories and prophecies as examples of the “New” God is doing.
The “New” is the fulfillment of the “Old” and the next step into eternity.
God is consistent, so what are His “New” promises made to us, through Jesus? A spiritual maturity that leads to life. According to James one, it is a work being done in us individually and corporately. Tests or trials produce perseverance that ultimately lead to maturity. Corporately, we must develop maturity in our faith. James goes on in verse eighteen to call us (corporately) “Firstfruits”. That word “Firstfruits” is a reference back to Jeremiah 2:3, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the “firstfruits” of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them, declares the Lord.” The same word used to describe Israel is used to describe us today by the writer James. We, the believing, are the firstfruits of the Kingdom of God.
When life doesn’t seem fair, and it appears the wicked prosper, it’s not our concern. God has a plan larger than us or beyond what we see, we must have faith God is fulfilling His promise. As, according to Jerimiah, those who attacked Israel were “held guilty, and disaster overtook them.” Vengeance is not ours to take but God’s alone to understand in His Justice. Our responsibilities are our choices, our faith, our perseverance, and our maturity. According to James, those who persevere receive a reward, he calls it a crown, but it’s meant to be a reward. The reward is life.
Life is what this is all for. Life is what Jesus died and rose for. He conquered death. There was no life or after-life described in the Old Covenant. It was Jesus’ conquering of death that promises an after-life. “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus says. Jesus goes further and promises us life today, and more abundantly. The way we receive this life is by understanding His teaching on forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
We have confidence in God’s faithfulness. He is not like shifting shadows, but consistent and faithful. We follow the teachings of Jesus and forgive when we don’t want to, or love when it’s our enemy because we are confident in the work God is doing. Our confidence is in His work, not our own. We have faith God has a plan and is moving in ways we cannot see. We have faith God knows how life is meant to be lived. We stop trying to decide what is good and bad. Instead, we put our faith in God allowing Him to direct our paths in good and bad. This includes humility, putting others first, finding value in everyone and loving our worst enemy. Our part of the contract is to love as Christ loved and fulfill our responsibilities producing fruit, leading to spiritual maturity.
This allows us to persevere through the test or trial because we know, even though we can’t always see it, God fulfills His promises. David walked onto that battlefield confident God would fulfill His promise. God had protected David from the lion and the bear. David relied on the power of God, not his own. That was the difference between Saul and David. When David volunteered to take the giant on, Saul gave David his armor, as though that would make the difference. Saul relied on himself and failed to trust God. David knew the armor wouldn’t help him. He relied on what he knew and that was God’s faithfulness in the past. How was this going to be any different?
David was confident in his salvation. He was confident in his decision. When we hit trials or tests, everyone will have an opinion what we should do. They will all try to set their armor on us. They will give us advice weighed down with all their baggage and influenced by their experiences. They wear armor, heavy gold-plated emotional armor they have carried around for years. The summation of what they have determined is good or bad, failures and deep emotional scars nursed with hate. At the end of the day, the decision is yours, no matter what anyone else tells you.
Allow God to fight your battles. Worry only about loving as Christ loved and fulfill your responsibilities producing fruit, leading to spiritual maturity. David put five smooth stones in his sling, I challenge you to fill your sling with nine pieces of fruit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, and Self-control. No matter the outcome you will have the reward of life.