Sometimes in a rainstorm your vision can become blurred. There is too much rain in your face if you are outside or on the windshield of your car. You need to do something to clear away the excess water distorting your vision. You wipe your face with our hand and put up your umbrella. You turn on your wiper blades and clear off the rain as it falls. Once that is done you can see more clearly. You get a better idea of where you are heading. The danger is removed. You won’t drive in to an oncoming car. You won’t trip over a fallen limb or step in to a puddle.
A clear perspective is helpful to us spiritually when in a storm. We are hit by tragedy, hardship, loss and sometimes just everyday life. We become stressed and worn out. We lose a clear focus of our purpose and what life is all about. Our vision becomes blurred. We ask ourselves, “Is this what it is all about?” We ask God, “Are you there Lord?” Sometimes the enemy comes hard against us spiritually, physically, emotionally or mentally. Sometimes the enemy comes at us all 4 ways at once from different directions and sources. We feel as if we can’t take any more. We ask God, “Are your for me or them (the enemy)?”
From the beginning of time God has always been for all of us. He loves all of us equally. He wants all of us to come to know Him and love Him. In that respect, none of us are enemies in His eyes. Joshua was given orders to conquer the promised land and settle the people there. He faced many enemies. When the Israelites were about to face the inhabitants of Jericho, Joshua was met by the Lord:
Joshua 5: 13 – 14
13 When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.” Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, “What does my Lord want to say to His servant?”
Joshua asked the same basic question we ask when facing daunting tasks, the enemy and sometimes the everyday grind of life, “Are You for us or for our enemies?” Knowing they were God’s chosen people and being brought through so much by God, you would have to wonder why Joshua would even ask such a question. Was it because he knew his own personal sins or the people’s sins? Was it because he was feeling overwhelmed or incapable of such a task? Joshua just needed to get some focus. He needed to have his vision cleared. The Lord simply told him, “Neither.” This is a great piece of wisdom for us to remember during our difficult times. God is against no one. He cares about us all. Sometimes He allows things to come in to our lives to increase our faith or test our faith. He allows everything in love to improve us, to teach us, to help us. He allows good and bad in to all people’s lives, even the wicked. No one is beyond his reach. He loves us all.
Matthew 5: 44 – 45
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Wisely Jesus teaches us that we need to love our enemies and pray for them. We must not be jealous or upset if they are receiving what appears to be blessings while we fight the enemy. God gives to each one as He deems best to help them. A wicked person may need to experience God’s love. We may need to experience hardship to sharpen our faith. Whatever the case remember that God is for us and not against us.
The Speedwell and the Mayflower left England in 1620 to come to America to experience freedom of worship. The journey across the ocean would be a long one. The Speedwell sprung leaks and the crew and passengers had to abandon ship and come aboard the Mayflower. This made for a crowded situation on a long voyage. The nights were cold, dark and damp. There was no indoor plumbing or electricity. Large waves and fierce storms pounded the ship. Sometimes the storms were so strong that they could not even raise the sails, causing further delays in the travel. Many became sick. The passengers even had to deal with a large abusive man on the ship who threatened to throw the sick people overboard. As time went along, the man became sick and ended up dying and he was the first one they threw overboard. Two women died in child birth on board. After months of tremendous trials, hardships and sadness they arrived on the shores of America. The long wait to worship in freedom was over.
As we follow the Lord, we may be called upon to endure horrible trials and tribulations. Sometimes they may seem like they are never going to end. We may not even understand why these hardships are hitting us. Reading the book of Job is a great reality check for many of us who are going through hard times in life. Job was a godly man. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Just like the passengers and crew on the Mayflower. They just wanted to worship God in freedom. Satan came along and wanted to prove that Job could fall to temptation and curse God if all of God’s blessings were taken away. He endured loss of family, loss of wealth, loss of health and ridicule of friends. It was painful emotionally and physically. Through it all Job kept his faith in God. He didn’t fall to the pressures of his friends. I can only imagine he, like the Mayflower passengers, thought the hardships would never end. In the end God speaks to everyone and makes it plain who He is and the correct way to think about things. Then Job’s long wait is over, his patience through his pain is blessed. Read Job 42: 10 – 17.
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his previous possessions. 11 All his brothers, sisters, and former acquaintances came to his house and dined with him in his house. They sympathized with him and comforted him concerning all the adversity the LORD had brought on him. Each one gave him a qesitah and a gold earring. 12 So the LORD blessed the last part of Job’s life more than the first. He owned 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named his first daughter Jemimah, his second Keziah, and his third Keren-happuch. 15 No women as beautiful as Job’s daughters could be found in all the land, and their father granted them an inheritance with their brothers.16 Job lived 140 years after this and saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 Then Job died, old and full of days.
Job’s life and faith gives us some great instructions to follow. Job has taught us that patience through trials is critical to maintaining a faith that pleases God. As a result, if God desires to do so, He will bless us for our faith and patience. We just need to remember that God is in control, even when everything appears to be going wrong. We also need to remember He is just, righteous and Holy. He can do no wrong. We may feel wronged, but God does only good and does it in love. Be patient the trials will come to an end.
In our everyday life we deal with the cost of living going up almost every day. Sometimes that can be overwhelming. Gas prices go up, so food costs go up. Profits go down, so wages go down. In our spiritual lives there also is a cost of living. It’s the cost of living with Christ as our Lord and Savior. Sometimes we have to give up things to follow Him. Sometimes we sacrifice relationships to walk in His ways. Sometimes we endure more trials due to the spiritual battle. It can be overwhelming when we are in the midst of those battles. Isaiah gave us some encouraging words in his book in 43:2.
2 I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.
The Israelites had passed through the waters of the Red Sea fleeing the Egyptian army with God standing right behind them to shield and protect them. God did not let the sea come down on them nor the Egyptians. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked in through the fire with Jesus at their side. Not a hair on their body was scorched. None of these people caved in to the pressures of what they faced. They made the choice to trust God and go through the trial with Him. They realized they were not alone and they had our Almighty God right there with them fighting the battles for them.
We have that same encouragement. God will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the fire. We will not be overwhelmed or scorched. The cost of living is nothing with Jesus.
Do you remember the story “The Gift of the Magi”? It is the story of a young poor couple. She had long beautiful hair and he had a beautiful gold watch. They each wanted to get the other a gift they would love and use, yet they did not have the money. She decides to sell her hair and then is able to buy him the gold chain to go with his gold pocket watch. He sells his pocket watch to buy her a beautiful set of combs for her hair. When they exchange gifts they realize what each had done and their gifts are useless. In reality their gifts were still valuable. They each realized how far they would go to show love for one another. They were willing to sacrifice to show love. You might say they paid the price to show their love. Jesus did the same thing for us. He paid the ultimate sacrificial price to show us God’s love. He endured much and gave up much. Read Hebrews 12:2-8.
2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him, 6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives. 7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
Sometimes as Christians we feel that we are suffering greatly as we follow Christ. We feel that the trials and tribulations of life are too much too bear. We become weary and begin to lose heart. This passage reminds us that our Saviour endured so much more for us. It tells us that we should think on that so that we won’t grow weary and lose heart. Common sense should tell us that in our spiritual and physical battles here on Earth we have not resisted sin to the point of death like Christ did. All the work was done for us. We are also called on to remember that sometimes our trials in life are discipline from the Lord. Like a loving Father He is disciplining us to get us back on track or keep us on track. I know I only disciplined my children out of love and caring enough to protect them from further harm. So if the trials in life we are enduring are really discipline then we need to even the more thankful and willing to endure them, because it shows God’s love for us.
So remember keep your eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, after all He paid the price for us.
Sometimes I feel like a punching bag with a prize fighter striking fist and after fist in to me. I’m tough and I know I can withstand a lot of blows, but just how much can I really stand. First I am hit in the area of my finances. Then I am hit in the area of a problem with a kid. Then I am hit in the area of strife at church. Then I am hit in the area of an issue at work. Then I am hit, then I am hit, then I am hit…The blows just keep coming before I have even had a chance to recover from the first one. Will my bag rip the seams or the leather wear out? Will the chain that holds me up break and I fall to the ground?
The stresses and trials in life seem to be letting all the air out of my joy and peace. My bag is deflating. The devil has accomplished his goal. He wants us to feel beat up. He wants us to feel defeated. He wants us to give up and fall to the ground. Then we are ineffective as God’s soldiers. We do not have the strength to go out and fight in the spiritual battles for lost souls. We are sad and it shows. Those who are lost that are watching us can’t see the difference between us and them. They do not see the benefit of living for Christ. The truth is we are deflated and defeated, because of how we view the trials. We lose our joy and strength, because we were depending on ourselves and not God. We were not refilling our spirit with Him. We were busy draining ourselves to get through the trials. We need to focus on what the trials bring to our lives for God’s good. Read James 1:2-4.
2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James gives us some great instructions for life in these words. The trials we are going through can hurt and are not easy, but in the end if we let God take care of us through them we will make progress in becoming Christ-like and gaining those godly character traits. Best of all, we will lack nothing. We view trials as taking away things from us. They take away a friend, a loved one, some money, some time, etc. What we don’t seem to see is what wonderful things they will bring us. This thought should make us see trials as a joy. God is about to work out something in us or through us, because of the trial. What an opportunity for God to use us. What a joy! That joy is a free gift from God. We just have to accept it. We need to start really trusting in the God we believe in. We need to remember He is all-powerful and all-knowing and loves us. These facts alone should bring us joy as we go through the trials of our lives.
In light of the recent skepticism and mockery created by the recent false prophecies of a certain religious group, we need to address as Christians how to handle being mocked or respond to the mocker and skeptic. As Christians our witness is put on the line by all those around us proclaiming to be Christians, as well. So when groups like this do things that put Christians in a bad light, we are going face more pressure from the world for our faith. We need to know how to respond. Jesus gave us the best demonstration of wisdom when it came to those who deliberately mocked and scoffed at Him. All throughout the four gospels you will find accounts of Jesus being ridiculed, laughed at, and asked skeptical questions. Many of the questions He was asked were just to make Him look bad and place Him in jeopardy of the law. When it came to His last days on Earth we see Him deal with mockers and scoffers even more frequently. During His various trials before the Jews and conversations with Pilate we see Him being continually accused. In Mark 15: 3-5 we read:
“3 The chief priests were accusing Jesus of many things, 4 so Pilate questioned him again,
Aren’t you going to answer? Listen to all their accusations! 5 Again Jesus refused to say a word, and Pilate was amazed.”
In our own human nature, we want to defend ourselves. Jesus was the only truly innocent man there ever was. Of all people, He had a right to defend Himself. He also had all the power and wisdom to defend Himself that He needed. Yet, in His wisdom He chose not to respond to the mocking and accusations. His actions really did speak loudly for Him in the end. By the time Pilate was done with Him, he felt Jesus was innocent and should be released. Think about how you would feel about Jesus if you knew that He didn’t go innocently to the cross for us. If Jesus lashed out at His accusers, and punished them for what they were doing, what would you be thinking about Him? By the way He responded we see Him more as that true gentle, peaceable, loving Lamb of God. We see Him as the true sacrifice for sin. If He had gotten revenge on those who blatantly did wrong against Him, we would probably have a whole different view of Him. He did more for the faith by staying strong and silent, then by coming back at those who mocked. Even on the cross Jesus asked that the Father forgive them and in wisdom stated, “For they know not what they do.”
Mockers, scoffers and skeptics truly don’t know what they are doing. They react out of worldly conditioning and sinful natures. We need to learn to respond to those who come against us for our faith in wisdom like Jesus did. We need to remember where they are at spiritually and if it were not for Jesus, we would be there too.