What do most great athletes do when they are faced with defeat? What does a baseball player do when they are in the middle of a slump? What does a weightlifter do when they are faced with lack of progress? The best don’t get consumed by it, the best remember past successes and trust that it’s only a season. This is a pretty simple idea actually. When high-level athletes meet adversity it can be extremely tempting to believe they just aren’t as good as they used to be, or that their current defeat is indicative of the rest of their career. It is so easy to get caught up in a downward spiral that we forget all of the success that has led us to where we are today. One of the most important disciplines of my own training is to look back at where I was a year ago or two years ago or ten years ago and compare where I am now, even in a slump, to those days. What you’ll see most of the time is a pattern of growth and consistent gain. This is especially true of lifelong athletes who have been working from a very young age.
In Deuteronomy chapter 8, we see this exact truth in Moses’ proclamation to the Israelites. They have been in the desert for forty years. There’s probably disbelief that they will ever leave the desert, and they certainly would be tempted to believe God has left them in the desert to die. It is extremely easy for me to understand the sentiment of the Israelites. The day-to-day belief in God’s faithfulness had to be hard as every day they woke up and faced more sand and more of the same. Yet Moses, right in the middle of this chapter, commends them to do something very simple: remember. Remember God’s faithfulness to them in Egypt. Remember God’s faithfulness to deliver them through the Red Sea. Remember God’s faithfulness to provide manna in the middle of a barren land. Remember how they were without water and God provided water from a flint rock. Simply put, he asked them to remember how God has been consistently caring for and watching over them from the second they left Egypt (and even before then). Moses is quick to remind them of all that God has done for them. He knows that in times of prosperity and times of plenty the Israelites look to themselves as the source. And yet in times of want, they blame God. Moses begs them to remember the Lord and remember that it is He who gives them all that they have. It is He who has been the provider and protector for their nation for forty years.
The idea of remembrance is one we don’t practice often enough. In our training, in our desire for intimacy with the Lord, and especially when we are faced with hard things. Deuteronomy 7:9 reminds us that God has always been faithful. It is in his very nature to be faithful. He does not break his covenants, and he can’t start today. This is fact. If we look back over the history of our life we can see where he has been strategically working from the beginning of our lives until now to work for our greater good and his glory. It is beneficial for us to look back and see the sovereignty and providence of God working to draw us closer to Him, make us more into his image, and ultimately provide us with joy that can only come through Him.
Just as it is largely beneficial for us to look back and see how we’ve grown physically in our goals for fitness, it is hugely sanctifying for us to look back and see how God has matured us, sanctified us, and refined us into the men and women that we are now. He is at work and always has been in our lives. We sometimes forget. The best thing we can do, as Moses recommends here, is remember.