Sometimes our very extravagant God (see blog 279) needs to provoke us with fresh challenges in order that we will pull on Him for all the blessings and resources that He has for us. As we mentioned before, He loves to fill the hungry with good things, and there is nothing like a new situation to provoke that hunger for more in us.
We can probably all recognise that we grow most when we are faced with a fresh challenge, in those times when we feel that our own resources are not enough. At those times we can go one of two ways. We either call on the Lord for more grace, or call on Him to remove the challenge, and remove us from the situation. So often we would prefer the latter, but our very loving and extravagant heavenly Father often prefers the first. Very often He would rather ‘grow us’ than ‘rescue us’.
In the world of sport and athletics. A good coach will train a sports person with an eye to building up stamina and skill, and very often the best way to improve in an area of sport is by playing against a better player. The challenge of that experience often draws out the very best in the one being trained. A good coach will keep the challenge to a level where the trainee is not overwhelmed but is stretched and developed.
Our God is like a good coach, and in His care for us He is not going to give us more than we can manage. His purposes and plans are to grow us, not to sink us, but very often we have less confidence in ourselves, or in ‘Christ in us’, than God does Himself. For example Paul writing about the challenge of resisting temptation says that, not only is it common to all men, but that ‘He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’ 1 Corinthians 10:13. And the same principle applies I believe to other kinds of challenge too.
In whatever form the challenge comes, let us thank the Lord for it. This will increase our faith that the Lord believes in us, and believes in all the resources that we have in Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is our friend, our helper, our coach and our champion, and I believe the Lord would love for us to get excited about fresh challenges, because we know that He is with us to grow and succeed. He wants us to get to that place where we can say with Paul, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13.
The second reason why we need to give thanks in the face of difficulty and challenge is that our wonderful heavenly Father will catch us if we fail, and need to ‘re-group’ in order to grow some more. Our Heavenly Father always has plans to mature us and increase our spiritual stature, and sometimes like the mother eagle, He has to destroy the nest – our safe place – in order to get us to fly.
The good news is that like the mother eagle, He will be ready to catch us if our ‘flapping around’ doesn’t result in a smooth flight. This is the back story to the wonderful scripture Deuteronomy 32:10,11, where, referring to the people of God and their relationship with Him, the writer says ‘He (God) shielded him ( His people Israel ) and cared for him: He guarded him as the apple of His eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.’ The mother eagle will carry the young bird that has failed to fly, on her wings back to whatever is left of the nest, until those wing muscles are strong enough to carry the young bird itself.
And so for us, as life throws up fresh challenges for us we can be sure that the Lord is shielding us, caring for us, and ready to catch us if we fall or are struggling to meet the challenge before us. And so we have two good reasons here to give thanks to God when we are facing difficult or challenging circumstances. Thank Him that He thinks we are ready to grow in a particular area of our life, and thank Him that ‘if at first we don’t succeed’, He will be there, hovering over us, ready to catch us and restore us until we are ready to ‘go again’!