As a schoolboy, I learned to water ski from my dad. He gave me a few dry land lessons on the basics of balancing myself over the skis, staying crouched until the speed of the boat was sufficient to allow me to stand up on the skis, then rising to a standing posture, leaning back slightly. Once I was actually in the water, he distracted me from the fear of sinking, the roar of the boat’s motor, and the pain of falling, by standing in the back of the boat, demonstrating how my posture should change as the boat accelerated. My fears were partially alleviated by keeping my eyes on him and trying to imitate his visual cues.
Facing temptation, we can feel like an easy breakfast for Satan, the Prowling Lion, who constantly looks for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) With our eyes on the fierceness of the test or temptation, we feel defeated and hopeless before we even get into the fight.
It can change our whole perspective to turn our gaze from our enemy to our Companion who walks beside us. When God was about to disclose Himself in a special way to Moses and give him his life mission, He revealed himself in a burning bush, commanding him to remove his sandals, “for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.“ In the midst of testing or temptation, our fear can be allayed and our courage bolstered by the realization that we are on holy ground, that God is up to something wonderful and intentional that will mature us and glorify Him. And we are part of it.
Poor Job had no idea that he was part of a heavenly contest between God and Satan. God asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? For there is no one else like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8) God “threw down the gauntlet” to Satan, in “showing off” one of His finest followers. Job’s trusting performance would glorify God, to the shame and anger of his Accuser.
We can be sure that our performance in the midst of trials and temptations is at the heart of why God allows them to come into our lives. We can welcome them as opportunities to grow spiritually stronger, as we learn to depend more fully on Him through difficulties. This brings us into more intimate relationship with our Father who holds our hand as we pass through the fire. He is like our loving Coach who wants us to succeed, never allowing testing greater than we can bear (with His help) (1 Corinthians 10:13), but seeing to it that the challenge is difficult enough that it will strengthen our “spiritual muscles” for future battles. Maturing us, until we look more and more like Him.
On the proving grounds of God, our Coach, we can have joy in the midst of trouble (James 1:2-4), knowing that the outcome will show Him off to the world and to Satan. “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
As we see this behind-the-scenes reality, we are more likely to have a cheerful spirit, optimistic of success than if we enter it fearfully, in the dread of certain defeat.