Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, – Heb 12:1
Now chastening for the present does not seem to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.
Because of this, straighten up the hands which hang down and the enfeebled knees.
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. – Heb 12:11-13
I love stories of overcomers. They tell me that I too can overcome the challenges of my own life.
I once was installing deer fencing on an estate. The path of the fence took us to a small swampy area hidden in a woods. It turns out that trees are like us – if things are hand-fed to them, they take the easy way out. With all the water around, the trees in the swamp didn’t bother to put down deep roots. But roots do more than just draw water, they anchor trees to the ground. Thus, a great windstorm had come and had been able to fell one of the shallow-rooted trees. It lay there just above the water, its dead root system exposed to the air, seemingly a monument to the imprudence that caused its demise.
But on further observation, I was amazed to see that the fallen tree actually had responded creatively to the crisis that should have been its death-blow. The downed trunk had sent out innumerable suckers into the water, forming a new root system. One limb had adjusted itself to point heavenward, and had taken on the role of being the tree’s new trunk. And whereas the fallen tree had been only some nine inches in diameter, this new trunk already dwarfed it at 12 inches in width, and it showed no inclination of stopping its growth.
The tree’s new sucker-roots extended in all directions and now formed a strong matrix over forty feet long and fifteen feet wide, going down into the water and then the earth. It is doubtful that the tree would ever again be defeated by the wind’s destructive power. It had overcome its bad fortune and previous flaw, and out of disaster had secured for itself a future and a hope. Read more…
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! – Ps 40:1-4
I’m posting this passage because it has become so meaningful to me. Just recently I was feeling anxiety about the Lord working out my circumstances. We need to get used to the biblical dynamic whereby things usually get worse before they get better. Whether it’s the history of Israel or the healings and deliverances of Jesus in the Gospels, the protagonists usually must pass through a crisis stage before they see God’s mighty power come through for them. Read more…
I’ve been in the midst of moving, and not under the best of circumstances. I’ve had to downsize, and there is a huge question mark where I’d like my future plans to be filled in. Because of the changes, the last year and a half have been very challenging indeed.
There have been plenty of good times, and the Lord has progressively strengthened me as He brought me through. I’ve seen His faithfulness proven time and again.
But I’m not out of the woods yet, and some days are more difficult than others. Yesterday everything seemed to go wrong, and today I was exhausted from dealing with it all.
So I was in the garage today straightening up, when I discovered that a garbage bag had leaked fluid onto the floor, over to where some tools were lying. As I bent over, picking up the tools, I saw a small poster I had kept for years in my office back home, soaking wet in the mess. It read
God always gives His best
To those who leave the choice to Him
Being in a rather negative frame of mind, I cynically thought how symbolic it was that this promise was mired in garbage effluent. It seemed that that was where God’s promises to me were as well. Might as well throw the poster out with the garbage at this point, and come down to earth and begin to face reality in my own strength. Read more…
I have a confession to make. The past year or so has been one of the most difficult periods of my life. Like Job, I went from being very comfortable, to being very uncomfortable indeed. I was somewhat directionless back then, but it didn’t matter much because directionless was a luxury I thought I could afford. I had accoutrements and diversions to occupy my time, so lack of direction wasn’t a terribly big issue to me.
But when God takes away our toys and yanks us out of our comfort zone, leaving us painfully aware that we are naked, blind and poor, we quickly realize that lack of direction is not a luxury we can by any means afford.
Look at Lot. When Abraham gave Lot the choice of where to live, he pitched his tent toward the green fields of Sodom (Gen 13.10,12). Lot must have known of the godlessness of the Sodomites, but he was naturally attracted to the prosperity of their land. Their wealth brought them ease and idle time (Ezek 16.49), and that in turn fueled their unbridled imaginations (Jude 6-8). Before long the culture was careening downhill at breakneck speed. Read more…
Two coexisting rival kingdoms
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Mat 13:44
Jesus came and instituted his Kingdom “ahead of time”, as it were, while satan’s dominion on earth was still functionally intact. We know that God’s Kingdom is unshakable, and that it will continue to increase until all earthly counterfeits are done away with. But until that final day the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man under satan’s domain coexist on earth. It is hardly a peaceful coexistence, as the enemy of God continually persecutes God’s saints, trying to wear them down through trials or trip them up with temptations.
Jesus left us in the world to bear witness to Him so that His Kingdom would increase. He could have taken each of us to Him the moment we possessed saving faith. But had He done that, who would have witnessed to the remaining lost of this world? In mercy, we were left here for the purpose of serving others.
Or we may think that at least God could have protected each of His children so that the sorrows of this world could not reach us as we went about our tasks. But if He had given his children a life of ease, then others would rush to join the side of Light not out of love of God, but out of selfish interest. So death has been permitted to reign during the present age, even over believers, to try our hearts and make us holy. Read more…
What if the glory was only in the next life? What if we were to serve God here and never reap any reward until then? Would we still cling to Him? Would we still believe in His goodness and power?
The Bible is full of promises even for this life, yet some people are taken early and some have very difficult lives. When life doesn’t make sense, will we still love and serve?
I used to be haunted by the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyric, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
I’m no longer haunted by it – God’s love goes nowhere. God still loves us when we’re going through trials, and we should still love Him back. What we are subject to in this fallen life changes neither God’s objective worthiness nor His loving nature.
It’s important to get this right. Because if we’re serving for earthly rewards only, our relationship with God is selfish and we are going to fall when the tests come. And come they will, and indeed their purpose is to purge us of wrong motives.
All that can be shaken will be shaken, we are warned. The one motivation that cannot be shaken is to seek the manifest glory and love of God.
The three young Hebrews knew that.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Da 3:16-18
That’s an excellent attitude.
- While they were respectful, their faith was subject to no man. No authority can rival God’s authority.
- They believed that God was able to deliver them.
- They believed that God would deliver them!
- But even if, according to God’s unassailable wisdom He declined to deliver them, they were still going to remain faithful.
The three Hebrews were in a tough position, but all saints should count on trials that test their motivations. If we want to pass the tests and receive the promotions that last, those which come not from man, but from God, it is essential that our motivation is true.