On this Tuesday night that seems a little darker than usual, a Sunday School teacher's words during a lesson 3 years ago suddenly come to mind: "Times of spiritual highs are also times when we are in the greatest danger — of falling." The message on Deuteronomy 9:1-17 delivered at the close of our prayer meeting tonight was short, simple and sharp, and it essentially conveyed the same message: great spiritual adventures are followed by great spiritual tests.
In Deuteronomy 9, Moses reminds the Israelites about His encounter with God up on Mount Sinai, which was a mountaintop experience in all senses – Can you imagine being up on a grand mountain in the holy presence of the great God of heaven for forty days and nights? Can you imagine having that sort of experience with a God whom no man has seen before, and having that experience alone; all for and by yourself? God even promised Him that Israel would have victory in their impending battle with the Anakites. How much more awesome, how much more real, and how much more powerful God must've been to Moses on that mountain!
At the end of the forty days and nights, God gave Moses "two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God"; tablets of the covenant that included God's commandments for His people. I can relate so much to this: my greatest spiritual lessons have always come together with the Word of God. Sometimes He wraps up the lesson with a phrase or a verse. Sometimes it is even an entire chapter. However, as the story goes, God immediately followed up the giving of the Word with a reality check for Moses; a test. "Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves. I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they."
What was Moses supposed to do? He who had just freshly experienced a "spiritual high" was immediately confronted with the contrasting, dismal waywardness of the people under his leadership. A spiritual high over forty days and nights, crashing down to the darkest valleys of disappointment at his people in a mere matter of seconds. One could wonder if Moses' throwing and breaking of the stone tablets were acute reflections of a somewhat crushed spirit. 😢
Tonight's message was for me. The past three months have been a wonderful time of experiencing the goodness, mercy, and power of the Lord personally. How awesome, how real, how powerful! Never have I been closer. I, however, did often wonder and worry whether all these lessons and experiences would have to be put to good use someday. Would I be tested, like Moses?
Something is coming, and I am afraid.
Tonight's message seemed to be a validation of sorts that I will be tested in the future near or far, and that shook me to the core. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a chill went down my spine when Kenneth's slides flashed the words "We have to realise that the test will definitely come and in all forms and sizes." For the Israelites, You sent the giant Anakites; what will You test me with, Lord?😕
In that moment, I suddenly became afraid of walking too close to the Lord. It just seemed a bit too dangerous.
But isn't this the biggest irony? When one is walking so close to the Lord, it should be as Dr. Warren Wiersbe writes, "…the future is your friend, and you don't have to be afraid."
We ought to be less afraid of everything and anything that is to come, and more secure in the Lord who knows it all. So I took a good, hard look at my own fear, and here's what the Lord helped me to see:
It was a fear of the magnitude of the test, rather than a concern with the quality of my response.
Would it be a broken leg? Would He take away someone I love dearly? Would it be a debilitating sickness? I was sick with worry about what the test would be, and I was strangely and pessimistically certain that it would be HUGE. Too much for me to bear. I didn't seem to be worried about tests that I thought to be smaller – losing some cash, doing badly on an examination, getting ridiculed by others… Was I confident that I would emerge from these more faithful and strong? I am suddenly reminded of how I almost lost my student card earlier this year, and how that incident thoroughly exposed the lack of faith in my response.
The truth is, the enormity of our trials does not really matter when we have an infinitely great God who says, "Is anything too hard for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) and means it more as a statement than a question. What does matter, however, is our response. Do we blame or resent Him? How about our responses as overcomers? When we overcome a small trial by the grace and help of our God, do we respond with the same kind of praise and thanksgiving, as we would with the overcoming of a large one? It is often the smaller victories that I find myself struggling to give Him the due praise for. If I can focus and resolve to respond with great praise regardless of the test, perhaps I would have less energy and cause for worry. Fear would be transformed to focus!🤗
But at the heart of it all, I think my fear really exposes my faithlessness in God's promises and in His very nature. Did I not believe His words through the Apostle Paul, that "no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man", that "God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13)? How about David, who testified to the compassionate nature of our God, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13-14)?
He knows. He knows. He knows.
Whereas I find that I don't know: my fear shows that I don't actually know the all-wise, all-loving nature of our God for myself. I know it only in theory ("because the Bible tells me so"), but I haven't made it my reality. Sure, He promises some tests for us, but the Christian who has no doubt about the loving wisdom the Lord would worry a whole lot less. He would rejoice! He would think of the words in 1 Peter 1:6-7, "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Less of grief, more of praise and glory and honour to Jesus. ✨
Our tests reveal our faith and what we believe about God. Genuity is at stake. Perhaps God gives us mountaintop experiences so that we may cling onto them for hope when the tests prove difficult. And more than just hope – He uses the lessons up on the mountains to sharpen our responses to the tests. So how did Moses fare on his test? As I read on, Moses wrote that "once again [he] fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights" (v.18) and "prayed to the Lord" (v.26). "Once again"! In the forty days and nights of spiritual highs before the test, Moses had probably fallen prostrate before the Lord too, a natural reaction to His holiness. It was natural for Moses to do it again when He went back up the mountain after seeing the Israelites' idolatrous ways. We see here, how the Lord was grieved and angered by the Israelites' idolatry far more than Moses was, but how He also used it to train Moses' response and to make the lesson He had for the Israelites stick: that victory would not be on account of their righteousness, but on account of the faithfulness of the Lord to keep His promises to their forefathers. It was a test for Moses, and he responded in the manner that his previous mountaintop experience had taught him well to do. 👍🏻
A test is coming for sure, Jud - instead of being fearful, do you think you could remember that it isn't out to break you, but that it is intended to build you? Do you think you could think of it as the best time to be a testimony for Christ; do you believe that it could result in the "praise and glory and honour" that He has already promised?
Remember the glory He has shown you at your mountaintops, and you can! 😊✨