Life is one big learning experience, and for those who know and love Jesus, He is our Teacher. More than anything else, He wants to teach each of us all we need to know about Him, His love and salvation, and how we can be of greatest service to Him and others.
God knows that none of us can accomplish any real good if we depend on our own supposed strength and wisdom. In fact, Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But the Bible also says that we “can do all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13). That’s the key right there! We need to learn to yield to the Lord so He can do those good things through us!
Of course, learning to be more dependent on the Lord is not something that we can learn overnight. It takes time and experience, and often that involves some difficulties and seeming defeats. The list is almost endless of people in the Bible whom God had to humble and bring down to the depths before He could use them. They needed to learn that it wasn’t in them, and to give God the credit for anything good they accomplished.
Look at Joseph: Of Jacob’s 12 sons, he was his father’s favorite. His older brothers finally became so jealous of him that they nearly killed him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery. But that’s what the Lord used to humble him. Joseph had to be made a slave and later be condemned as a criminal before God could exalt him to the second most powerful man in Egypt and use him to save His people from famine (Genesis chapters 37, 39-41).
And look at Moses: For 40 years he was groomed as a prince in the very courts of Pharaoh. The Bible says he was “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22, NIV), but God couldn’t yet use him to lead His people to freedom, for he was too full of the ways of the world. Moses had to be humbled first, so God allowed him to become a fugitive from Pharaoh and spend 40 years in the wilderness doing nothing but tending sheep, before he was finally ready for God to use him for the task He had designed him for (Exodus chapters 2-3).
And consider King David, the greatest king that Israel ever had: When he fell in love with Bathsheba, purposely had her husband killed in battle, and then tried to lie and cover up the entire crime, God had to completely expose him, humble him, and severely judge him. And later his own traitorous son, Absalom, drove David from the throne for a time (2 Samuel chapters 11-12, 15). Was David’s fall really a fall downward? Or was it a fall upward? God’s way up is sometimes down—usually, in fact. It’s just the opposite of what we think! David was humbled, and the whole kingdom was humbled, and they were all reminded that it was only the Lord who made them great. From that squeezing and twisting of David’s life came forth the sweet honey of the Psalms, and the fragrance of his praises to the Lord for His mercy.
Or consider the great apostle Paul: He was an up-and-coming Jewish activist, then named Saul, who had taken it upon himself to put an end to the fast-growing sect of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. As he journeyed by horseback to Damascus, where he intended to capture, imprison, and execute as many Christians as he could find, God had to knock him off of his horse and blind him with the brilliant light of His presence. Trembling, helpless, and blind, Saul had to be led by the hand into the city, and was so astonished by what had happened to him that he was unable to eat or drink for three days. A disciple of the Lord then came and prayed for Saul, and Saul regained his sight, was converted, and became the apostle Paul. God had to break him and make him a new man before He was able to use him to help many (Acts chapter 9).
So even if you don’t always understand why you’re going through tests, trials, hardships, and breakings, remember that God has a purpose and He knows what He’s doing! God gets some of His greatest victories out of seeming defeats—victories of yieldedness, brokenness, humility, and utter dependence on Him. So take heart from these examples from the Bible, and don’t be discouraged when everything seems to go wrong and your hopes are disappointed.
All who have ever been of any real use to the Lord had to first be broken, humbled, and brought virtually to the end of themselves. Otherwise, they would have been too proud and self-confident in their own fleshly talents and natural abilities, and would have taken the glory to themselves. This is why God chooses to use weak and foolish things: so no one can boast in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:25-29).
God does not always see things as we see them, for His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He doesn’t judge or reward us according to our success or failure, but according to our motives and faithfulness. In Heaven one day, He’ll say to those who are true to Him, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). He won’t say “My successful servant,” but “My faithful servant.”
So above all, stay faithful to Jesus! And remember, your seeming defeats can become great victories for the Lord if you will humble yourself and learn the lessons He is trying to teach you through them, like these men in the Bible did. “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11).