“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”
My oldest son and I have both gotten into a reality show called “Stars Earn Stripes”. The premise of the show is that male and female celebrities, through feats of dare and do, make money for charities which benefit those who serve or have served in the military.
Each star is paired with a real soldier who mentors them. These men are the real deal. They are decorated snipers and members of special forces.
As part of the show, the authentic servicemen put their celebs through tough training. They teach them how to fire a weapon, stay afloat with a huge amount of gear on, and safely perform acrobatic-type deeds.
After this period of training, the teachers and their celeb students go off on a difficult mission. The whole scenario is definitely meant for the testosterone set, as there is plenty of shooting and a lot of explosions.
When the stars achieve a favorable outcome, they are awarded “stripes”. This earns them money for their designated charity.
Failure in the main mission means relegation to a “shootoff” between another competitor. If the star loses, he is eliminated from the show.
In one episode, a male star is troubled by the prospect of having to jump out of a helicopter high in the air. He is to only be secured by a tether. His destination is a rooftop, where he is to land. After touching down, he is to rappel down a sheer wall.
This man is not the macho type, and in fact it is not clear why he is even a celebrity. He is one of those people who is “famous for being famous”. When he is shown, the subtitle on the TV screen notes that he is an “entertainer.”
However, he has proved his mettle to date. In a previous show his female celeb partner, a wrestling diva, tells an interviewer that this man is a weak link. Yet, he comes through with flying colors.
Now, as he looks at this week’s task, he is scared to death. He walks with his trainer, telling him his doubts. He is torn because not only is what he is being asked to do is unsafe, but because he does not want to let down his comrades and the charity he is seeking to benefit.
Finally, his team jumps on the helicopter. At the moment of truth, this star jumps into the air, lands on the building, and rappels down it. He successfully completes the entire treacherous mission and stays in the competition.
Afterwards, his mentor and the Army general in charge of the show commend him. In their lauds, they tell the star that his ability to face down his fears and still accomplish the task he was given is the definition of true courage.
I could relate well to this celebrity’s predicament. These days I too am facing the prospect of taking on a job I am not temperamentally suited for.
Furthermore, I know it will be a test every single day. One of my close friends, when I told him of this job, said to me,”If you take it, bring a gun.”
When I think of myself in the day-to-day situations involved in carrying it out, I think of all the things that could go wrong. I become fearful.
Yet, I don’t have much choice at the moment. Like this star, I have people depending on me to overcome my fears and move on to success.
The longer I live the Christian life, the more I understand that it is made up of one trial after another similar to those portrayed on “Stars Earn Stripes”. However, I am learning that as I encounter these difficulties, I gain insight into the thoughts of the Scriptures, which tell us to rejoice in our trials.
The Bible tells us that to successfully negotiate our tests, we need to exercise single-minded trust in God. As the celebrities put their safety into the hands of their expert soldier mentors on “Stars Earn Stripes”, we are to put our faith in the God of all wisdom who is capable of bringing us through (James 1:2-6).
In the past I have seen trials as something just to endure so I can move on to greener pastures. My mental image of them is like that conjured up by William Shakespeare in “MacBeth”.
“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!”
However, I no longer view them as annoyances (or worse) which get in the way of what I want in life. I now see them as the essence of life itself. I have learned that life in God is indeed to be a daily trial of faith.
The reason I can hold this perspective now is not because I am deluded or insane. Nor is my view due to some special talents in my possession.
My slant on trials is based on my growth in comprehending the nature of the God I serve. I believe now that He puts these potentially vexing circumstances in my path so He can show Himself faithful in delivering me through them.
God has a plan for my life that concerns me doing good and glorifying Him. This course doesn’t involve me sitting on my duff and sipping Dr. Peppers as I watch others participate in combat. The path God has set for me includes meaningful tasks that accomplish His purposes and give light to others as to who He really is.
Unfortunately, somebody else has a plan for me, too. This person is known as Satan.
AKA the devil, he intends to have me wallow in my fears to the point where I choose not to participate in God’s purposes for me. Minimally, Satan works so that I procrastinate in carrying out God’s plan and hide in my foxhole.
L.B. Cowman’s devotional “Streams in the Desert” notes how God used Paul’s life as an example of a person who endured great suffering, but who refused to be defeated. In fact, Cowman reveals that such incidents as the apostle’s shipwreck were used by God to glorify Himself and shed light on His nature.
Cowman writes of God’s process in trials:
It is a common misconception that the Christian’s walk of faith is strewn with flowers and when God intervenes in lives of His people He does so in such a wonderful way as to always lift us out of our difficult surroundings. In actual fact, however, the real experience is quite the opposite. And the message of the Bible is one of alternating trials and triumphs in the lives of a “a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), everyone from Abel to the last martyr.
Indeed, in God’s scheme of things He uses trials to give us the big time rush of exulting in victory with Him. He involves us in these difficulties out of his love for us! Amazing.
Having this knowledge in my service manual I know will help me to overcome my fears as I move into my daily missions (i.e., trials).
When I am fearful, I must remember the words of the greatest English bard, Mr. Shakespeare:
“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
Further, I must definitely keep in mind his words as he attests to God’s heart in giving me my trials: