Will You Make 2016 a Year of Victory?
A new year will soon arrive and with it the opportunity to deepen your relationship with your heavenly Father by trusting your future to Him! Are you viewing 2016 through the binoculars of the media or the Word of God? The media reports that, among other things, national security is questionable, family values are crumbling, lawless is rampant, the education system undermines parental authority, the economy is literally bankrupt, and morality is at an all-time low.
God’s Word states, “for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11 NAS) Your response to my question could set the tone for your year. If you believe that your heavenly Father holds both the future and your hand than you will optimistically step out into a new year on January 1 anticipating to end the year as a Victor. If you listen to the negative report of the media you have potentially projected a year of failure and the prospect of hitting December 31, 2016 as a Victim. The choice is yours. May I offer you some suggestions to make 2016 a year of Victory?
Victory is the Result of Trusting God through Adverse Circumstances
As a professor I have two primary responsibilities to my students. The first is to provide them with instruction in the subject matter content, and the second is to measure whether or not they have mastered it. Their subject matter mastery is usually measured in the form of a test and it is always my desire that they will earn a high grade on it. I know, however, for it to be a valid measurement that the test must be difficult enough to align with their academic maturity. I do them no favors if it is too easy, and it is not a reliable measurement if it is too difficult.
Spiritually, I must be willing to apply the same testing principle to my life. When my loving heavenly Father deems that I have mastered a biblical truth, it is likely that He will provide an opportunity for me to demonstrate my ability to apply it. This opportunity normally will present itself in the form of a test, and its purpose is 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—in fact James 1:2-5 teaches me that the testing of my faith should produce deeper communion and greater trust in Christ—qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.
When you discern that your heavenly Father is testing you, do anticipate being a victim or a victor? A victim is an individual who suffers from a destructive or injurious action and is deceived or cheated while a victor is a person who has overcome or defeated an adversary. 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, persecution, and discouragement. If we succumb to his ploys we become victims. However, if we resist him and continue to 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 the circumstances. An intentional action to develop a personal “Trust Formula” moves us from victim to victor status (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Developing a Trust Formula
Numerous biblical teachings provide us with the formula for becoming a victor in the midst of life’s tests. Let’s examine some biblical truths that form our trust formula:
Our gracious heavenly Father tests us, not Satan. 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 (Gen 21:1-19).
We are to make concentrated effort to rejoice in the midst of the tests (Jms 1:2). Knowing this is impossible in our own strength, we must actively draw our strength from the Lord (Phil 4:13).
The testing of our faith produces endurance or perseverance. When we trust our heavenly Father to endure the test our character is refined. Often, once the test is passed we have a stronger foundation for greater usefulness to our Lord’s kingdom (Rom 5:3; Jms 1:3).
Endurance is a command for believers, not a suggestion. Again, its intended result is to refine our character and to increase our trust in our trust in our heavenly Father (Jms 1:4; 1 Pet 5:10).
Though “fast food” does exist there is no such commodity as “fast faith.” Let’s review several biblical role models who validate this truth:
- Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac (Gen 17:19, 21:2).
- It took Joseph 13 years to get from the pit to the palace (Gen 37-41).
- Moses spent a number of years in leadership candidacy school (Exod 2:11-3:22)
- David endured much abuse from Saul before he was inaugurated king (1 Sam 18-31- 2Samuel 2; Psalm 11).
Trust does not come instantly. 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 (Heb 12:1-2).
Though we may desire to be released from the test, our heavenly Father wants to take us through it so that we become mature believers (Col 1:28, 4:12; Jms 1:4).
Just as the refiner’s fire assesses the quality of metal, so our level of the genuineness our faith and trust is assessed through tests (1 Pet 1:7).
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 (1Cor 10:13).
We must stay firm and fight hard (Eph 6:18-20). Remembering that God is using us to build His eternal kingdom we must run into the conflict rather than shrinking back (Heb 10:39). Such action reflects that we are trusting God and are seeking His direction regardless of the circumstances (Matt 6:33).
Though you do not know what 2016 holds you can be assured that 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?
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word: 1997), note at James 1:5.
 Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “victim,” “victor.”