Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
— Psalm 20:7
Goliath was indeed an intimidating figure. If his nine-and-a-half-foot frame didn’t cause a man to tremble at the idea of a face-off with such an opponent, the bulging muscles and thunderous voice would. Although conflicts were sometimes decided in such manner, the prospect of a one-on-one contest with this Incredible Hulk-like man caused the king, a huge man himself (see 1 Samuel 9:2), and the entire army of Israel to cower in fear at Goliath’s daily taunt:
“Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”
— 1 Samuel 17:8–10
According to the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, contests such as these were based on the belief that battles were decided by God or the gods, so the warrior who had the more powerful deity in his corner would triumph.
Every battle a believer will ever face has already been decided, and the superior deity, God, has won. The only question to ask yourself each day as you wake is this: In whom will you trust? Upon whose word will you stake your claim? Like Israel, who spent 38 years adrift in the wilderness because they believed their obstacle to be greater than the size of their God, the armies of Israel were paralyzed with fear of Goliath for the same reason. Where might you be at the moment? Has God brought you to a place of decision? Do you feel paralysis setting in as you survey the size of the obstacle or a calm assurance in the Lord who has promised?
Well deep within you there’s a spiritual battle
There’s a voice of the darkness and a voice of the light
And just by listening you’ve made a decision
‘Cause the voice you hear is gonna win the fight
— Amy Grant, Old Man’s Rubble (1977)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
— Proverbs 3:5–8 NLT
This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I wish I could tell you that I love these verses because they paint a clear picture of where I am in my spiritual maturity, but that would be a big fat lie. I’ve embraced these verses because I need to remind myself of them daily.
I am a do-it-yourselfer, and by it, I mean everything. I tend to be kind of a loner. The great thing about keeping to yourself is that you’re often the smartest person in the room. The flip side of that, however, is you’re also the dumbest.
Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others.
— Proverbs 12:15 NLT
I often jump into things without consulting others, and without consulting God. Ask me how that usually works out for me. (Spoiler alert: not super- great.) A lot of times, I don’t even consult myself. By that, I mean that I don’t think critically about what I’m doing — I just take my first idea and barrel ahead. As a result, I make things much harder than they need to be. Sometimes it feels like I’ve exiled myself to the wilderness.
This tendency shows up in my work, in my personal relationships, in how I spend my time and, unfortunately, in my obedience to God. I sometimes go through seasons where I seem to forget that, as a redeemed follower of Christ, I’m no longer a slave to sin. Instead, I follow my flesh. True to form, I follow my first impulse and barrel ahead. This makes my sanctification harder than it needs to be, landing me in the wilderness when my Promised Land — the abundant life God has planned for me — is just out of reach.
Fortunately for me, and for the Israelites, God is still with us, even when we’re in the wilderness. As believers, even though we may feel lost at times, we have true freedom in Christ, including the freedom to run back into the loving arms of our heavenly Father.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:11–13
The apostle Paul had some amazing revelations during the course of his ministry. The book of Galatians actually tells us that the Holy Spirit was his tutor. Can you imagine that? All of a sudden, you look up and you mysteriously know something that you previously didn’t know.
Despite this reality, there is at least one thing that was not revealed, that had to be learned: contentment. Contentment was not granted to him as part of a divine mystery, it was learned and developed as part of his sanctification process. There were seasons that Paul had plenty and seasons where Paul had little. However, during both of these he was learning a very important lesson: Christ is enough.
If you don’t have enough provision, that’s OK. It’s far more important to know the Provider. When you know the Provider, you can face all things, do all things, get through all things, because you know that the sovereign God of the universe is in control of your life.
I too have begun to learn this secret. It has taken a lot of years, but I am now content with who God has made me and who he has called me to be. The tutorial has not always been enjoyable but the lesson is incredibly valuable. Christ is the source of my strength. He is my life. And even in seasons of lack, that is enough.
They say “seeing is believing,” but sometimes seeing is doubting.
The craft of the illusionist is based on this idea. The illusionist tells us he is about to do something amazing (“Watch as I cut my assistant in half!”), and our mind immediately jumps to all the reasons why this is not possible. (“Didn’t he do this show last night? I’m pretty sure that’s the same girl.”) But then we watch in amazement as he takes a “real” saw, places it in the box, cuts her in half, and then separates her lower half (legs kicking) from her upper half (smiling and waving) to a cheering audience. We wonder, “How did he do that?” Our amazement has less to do with the bisected anomaly and more to do with how he made an obviously fake trick look so real.
In a similar way, even though God doesn’t play tricks on us the way illusionists do, he does put us in the midst of circumstances that can be just as confusing (and not nearly as entertaining).
Take the Israelites, for instance. In Exodus 16, they find themselves smack dab in the middle of a desolate, sun-baked landscape where all they can see is starvation, dehydration and imminent death.
But looks can be deceiving. What the Israelites thought was a death sentence was actually a training camp.
And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
— Deuteronomy 8:3
Did you catch that? God let them hunger. He did so in order to turn their attention to the only one who could truly satisfy them — something mere bread could never do.
But, in the moment, the Israelites couldn’t see this. They were thirsty. And their thirst caused them to doubt God, even after all they had experienced, simply because of the reality of their present situation.
Seeing really can be doubting. But it doesn’t have to be.
Perspective plays a big role in our perception, especially in times of crisis like the one the Israelites were facing. In those times, we can allow ourselves to get overwhelmed and put all our focus on what is happening and how we are feeling or we can center our thoughts and attention on the one who has promised to carry us through it (see Romans 8:31–39).
It’s more than just a mind game, more than an exercise in positive thinking. It’s faith in action.
Faith is so strong that Paul in the New Testament compares it to a shield (Ephesians 6:16). Just as a good shield can make all the difference when heading into battle, so our faith can be the determining factor of how we experience our wilderness.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves, “What is the illusion? Does our wilderness journey suggest that the idea of a loving, caring God is itself just an illusion? Or is there something happening behind the scenes, as it were, that points to a reality far beyond our current circumstances?” It is a question worth answering.
God may be the Master Illusionist, but he isn’t into pulling rabbits out of hats. Instead, his signature performance — the one he’s most famous for — is when he takes someone through a wilderness and brings them into a promised land, and leads them to himself in the process.
Now, that’s worth the price of admission.
Ever have one of those days where it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong did? What about when those days turn into weeks, or even months? Everything around you feels like it’s crumbling right before your eyes, and you can’t help but to wonder where God is in the midst of the chaos.
Whenever I feel like I am in the midst of circumstances that I am having a hard time understanding, I almost have to force myself to stay grounded in what I know to be true. Keeping my mind saturated with truth prevents the enemy from being able to whisper false accusations and faith-eroding perspectives.
So, what is the truth? Scripture tells us that once we place our lives in the hands of the Lord, he will provide for our every need.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:19
We know that God will always provide for his children. The only hang up we tend to have is that it isn’t always in the way that we expect him to: a lost job, financial struggles, a failing marriage, an unexpected illness. The real challenge is for us to walk through the valley, trusting in his plans and knowing that they are greater than we could ever imagine, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
— Isaiah 55:9
God is always at work. He is always protecting us and providing for us, even when we cannot see it. Even his disciples missed what God was doing right in front of them. That’s because he did it in different ways than they had expected him to. He didn’t follow conventional norms, yet he was still at work, then and now. Sometimes closed doors, missed opportunities, broken relationships, trials and struggles are all a part of his protection and his greater plan.
We are usually so wrapped up in the things that we want from him that we tend to forget that he has already given us the greatest gift, the one thing we need the most: his Son. What God gave us is exponentially more than we could ever imagine or ask for here on earth.
Perspective is everything, and ours is so limited. We can only see what is right in front of us, not what he is doing all around us. All we have to do is trust in him with all things. Why is this truth so hard for us to accept? If we believe that God can create us, redeem us and bring us out of death to spend eternity with him, why can’t we take him at his word when he says he’ll provide for all of our needs?