In triumph and testing, we trust

What is a mark of maturity in the Christian faith? The answer lies in the title: whether we’re in periods of triumph or testing, we trust. I’m not sure that there’s a more telling sign of wisdom in a believer than this because whatever each day brings, any trial, tribulation, triumph, or test is attributed to the work of God in every aspect of our lives. Don’t miss the key word in the question above: maturity. While there will be believers who are young in years who hold this dear truth, there can also be those who’ve talked the Christian walk well into old age that have missed this mark. Therefore, maturity here isn’t dependent upon the age of the one who follows Christ, but more so, in the level of development that God chose to nurture in any which one of His children. Some are given quick reprieve and find the beauty and simplicity of trusting God in everything, while some are destined to live decades of their life failing to see His hand in every minute detail. Even if a Christian speaks vehemently of their trust in the Lord’s sovereignty, the raw truth of that supposed trust is easily shown by how they handle the “Ts” listed above, by their actions, spoken words, unspoken angst, and reactions to circumstances that God brings into their life. As much as I avoid adding adjectives before the label of Christian, I must offer up the following: are you a mature Christian or an immature Christian? As already stated, our age in years plays little part in how we can honestly answer this.

The Bible passage that stirred this post is found in Judges 6:11-16. “When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ ‘But sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian'” (vs. 12-13). Gideon’s words are those of confusion, in questioning the presence of God when hard times are at hand, but clearly claiming that He was with them in their triumphs. As if God was only with them when He was performing miracles and wonders for Gideon’s forefathers, railing against Pharoah with His plagues, parting the Red Sea, providing the Israelites manna for food, bringing water out of rock for them to drink, or enabling them to clear out inhabitants of the Promised Land He had given them to possess. Now though, the Israelites were given into the oppressive hands of the Midianites (Judges 6:1-2) and the triumphs were at a halt. To be sure, this oppression was a result of the evil that the Israelites had done, again, in the eyes of the Lord (Judges 6:1). We can see throughout their plight, the reality that God is in the business of cause and effect.

This, my fellow Christians, is a pill that ought to be swallowed, whether we find it rough or smooth going down. When we’re able to live through the “good” times and the “bad,” trusting that God’s providence is a covering in it all, there is where our maturity has root to grow. For us to welcome, with open arms, the blessings we rate as triumphs, we must also be growing in the wisdom to see the blessings in our testings. This is how we can learn to trust. Even if, through the trials that plague us, we have difficulty in seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we must trust that He will shine, regardless of how long we’re made to endure the struggles. And when God grants us a triumph in a fight, we cannot let an arrogance seep in that causes us to embrace it as though we deserved it; because we will fall again, we will fail again, and we will have to relearn how to trust all over again. The pill of His providence is going down, whether we like, or realize, it or not. How we embrace its passage is a profound lesson that’ll guide us through anything. In all things, we are called to glorify God and, by swallowing this pill with trust in Him, we worship righteously, we revere with awe, we give glory to the One that deserves to have our praises, and we rejoice in His handiwork regardless of whether we’re in the midst of testing or triumph.

I’ve always had a bent towards tough love and, by this leaning, He has gifted me with an ability to be aware of His presence at any given moment: ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, refining and defining. There’s not a bone in my body that identifies with the false health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. It is impossible, even at an elementary level, to glean that this is an acceptable understanding when reading the entirety of Scripture. I need to be loved toughly, I need to love toughly, because this is how the Bible portrays God’s love. He gives us boundaries, expectations, forgiveness, grace, justice, and so much more by how He loves. He will cast down calamities upon us, all in the name of His loving discipline. He will shower us at His pleasure in answered prayer requests. He will, succinctly put, do what He wills. And we, perhaps harshly put, will have to deal with it. How we respond and deal with His will is the grey area, that ought to eventually decide whether it’s black or white, of Christian maturity.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Do we trust even when we don’t understand? Do we accept how He answers our requests even when they’re not the answers we’d hoped for? Is the foundation of our faith faulty and confused, as was Gideon’s at the time he responded to God? Deeply consider these questions and, if there’s even a hint of hesitation when answering “yes” to the first two and “no” to the last, ask Him for clarity. Send prayers up and out for added wisdom, a firmer faith, and growing trust. These are in line with God’s will, that those who He loves, will become mature in their ability to love, adore, endure, and trust in all He has designed for us. If this isn’t an attractive desire to strive for, we ought to reconsider whether we’re ready to spend eternity in heaven doing just that.

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