Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 8:12 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Am Willing, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 60 (Select vv. NIV).
Restore Us! (vv. 1-4)
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
In this life we will have trials. When we go through these times of difficulty, we may feel as though God has forgotten us, or even that he has turned against us in anger. Maybe things had been going for us pretty well, at least on a surface level, and then, all of a sudden, it seems like the bottom dropped out. What is happening to us may have been completely unexpected, too, so it caught us off guard. Our lives, perhaps, were being lived in relative comfort and ease, and now our world seems to have been turned upside down. Nothing is like it was, and it will probably never be the same again. In some ways, that can be a good thing, because the Lord does allow trials in our lives oftentimes to shake us out of our comfort zone, to move us to change, and to make us more effective for his kingdom work.
Trials are not intended to be comfortable, though. They are to stretch us. They are to test us, to see what we are made out of, not that God doesn’t know, but so we will know, so that we can allow God to change us and to strengthen us where we are weak, so we can be who he made us to be.
Particularly here in America, although it may be so in other nations, as well, we do live in relative comfort and ease, though not everyone does. Much of the church has gotten so comfortable, though, that they have forgotten who God is, that he is to be feared, and that Jesus saved us so we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So many Christians in America take God and his grace for granted. They have become so much like the world that they barely blink an eye at the garbage that is fed to them regularly on TV and on the internet. They feel they are doing well if they spend 5-10 minutes a day in the Word and in prayer, while the rest of the day is lived how they want.
So, it should not surprise us when God brings some troubled times into our lives in order to shake us out of our complacency and into getting serious (or more serious) about our walks of faith with God/Jesus Christ. We may have seriously wandered from our pure devotion to our Lord, and need a big shaking to bring us back, or we may have relatively minor adjustments that need to be made to our character and attitudes and actions. Still, God promises us that he will discipline (rebuke, chastise) those he loves. Yet, “God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:10-11). Amen!
So, when these trials come upon us, which they will, we should pray, and we should ask the Lord the purpose of the trials, and what he would have us to learn through them. We must accept whatever he has for us, that it is for our good, and we must submit to his sovereignty over our lives, rest in him, and trust him with our circumstances. Then, we should allow him to change us through them, and to make the necessary adjustments in our lifestyles, actions, words, thoughts, and attitudes, etc., according to his standard, and according to his plan and purposes for our lives. When that is done, I believe, we can pray for deliverance, for restoration, and for healing. Yet, God may choose to extend the trial, for his purposes, so we must trust him in that, as well, and let him deliver us through the trial(s), instead.
God has given us a banner (standard) which he has raised (lifted up), and that standard is his Word (his righteousness and holiness), which we are to follow, and which we are to spread to the world around us. We are also to use his Word as part of our spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us, so that we don’t give up in defeat, and so we don’t surrender to the enemy. So, when God takes us through these difficult days, and Satan and his evil attacks threaten to undo us, we need to raise that banner (standard) against those attacks, stand strong on the Word of Truth, and not fold out of fear of what might happen to us. God will see us through these troubled times. He will accomplish his purposes in our lives. And, one day soon, he is going to take us home to be with him. Amen!
With God (vv. 11-12)
Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.
When God brings or allows troubled times to come into our lives, in our natural selves we may be tempted to try to escape them, and/or to try to fix the problem ourselves. Yet, if God is in this, and he has allowed this in our lives for his purposes, because he has things we need to learn, and because we have areas in our lives where we need to repent of sin and/or where we need to grow in his grace, we will just be spinning our wheels, for we will be fighting against God and what he is wanting to do in our lives through our trials. For, no matter how much human effort we may put into trying to alleviate our difficulties, it will not bring relief, unless God is ready for us to be relieved of our trials, and then it is him who does it, not us.
Another thing to consider here, too, is that our true enemy is Satan, not our circumstances, and not other people. Sin is also our enemy. We may fight against what we think is our enemy, and then truly be defeated by our real foe. In other words, if I consider the bed bugs and the fleas in our apartment as the foe I must defeat, but I don’t learn what the Lord wants me to learn through this process of being tested, then what have I really gained if we are “bug” free, but if I continued on as I was before the trial? What I mean is that the real victory is over our real foe, so even if the bugs remain for a time, until God is ready to deliver us from them, but I learn what I was to learn, and I grow and mature in my walk of faith, then I have been victorious! Yet, I also pray for deliverance from the bugs, too.
One of the many songs the Lord has had playing over and over again in my mind, since this trial began 2 weeks ago, is this song, “I Am Willing, Lord,” by Joni E. Tada. Joni was in an accident when she was a teenager, and it rendered her a quadriplegic. At first she was very depressed, but the Lord lifted her up and gave her a new purpose in life. He taught her how to draw using a paint brush or a pencil in her mouth. And, she began writing, too, and she also learned how to sing, and she recorded some songs. She does public speaking, too, and she has a ministry to handicapped people. But, God never healed her body. Instead, he healed her soul, and he used her for his glory to impact many lives for Jesus Christ.
Sometimes God delivers us out of our trials, and sometimes he delivers us through them. The true victory is not whether or not our trials go away, but it is in what we learn through them, and how we are changed, and then how God is able to use us for his purposes and for his glory in other people’s lives.
The Lord denied Paul’s request for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh.” He told him, instead, that his grace was sufficient to meet him in his trial, and that God’s strength would be perfected in his weakness. So, Paul had to accept that thorn, and to trust God, and to even to be thankful for his thorn, because when he was weak, then he was strong in the strength of the Lord.
Are we willing to accept trials in our lives as from God, and to learn from them what he wants us to learn? Are we willing to yield control of our lives over to God, and to rest in our Lord, even in the midst of difficulties? Will we trust him with our circumstances, even though they may linger, for a time? And, are we willing to let God do in our lives what needs to be done, so that we can be who God wants us to be, even if it means our trials are extended, or even if they are never relieved until we go to heaven?
I am willing, Lord, to be what you want me to be, and I trust you with my circumstances, and I pray for deliverance, but I accept what you have for me, knowing that you are working all things together for my good. Amen!
I AM WILLING, LORD / Joni Eareckson Tada
Sometimes when I am down,
And I don’t feel like You’re around, Oh Lord,
Feeling so sorry for me,
Not knowing that all the while You’re working to see,
If when I’m put through the fire,
I’ll come out shining like gold…