The land you are . . . to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11–12)
Today we stand at the threshold of the unknown. Before us lies a new year, and we are going forward to take possession of it. Who knows what we will find? What new experiences or changes will come our way? What new needs will arise? In spite of the uncertainty before us, we have a cheerful and comforting message from our heavenly Father: “The Lord your God cares for [it]; the eyes of the Lord . . . are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.”
The Lord is to be our Source of supply. In Him are springs, fountains, and streams that will never be cut off or run dry. To those who are anxious comes the gracious promise of our heavenly Father: If He is the Source of our mercies, mercy will never fail us. No heat or drought can dry the “river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Ps. 46:4).
Yet the land we are to possess is a land of valleys and hills. It is not all flat or downhill. If life were always smooth and level, the boring sameness would weigh us down. We need the valleys and the hills. The hills collect the rain for hundreds of fruitful valleys. And so it is with us! It is the difficulty encountered on the hills that drives us to the throne of grace and brings the showers of blessing. Yes, it is the hills, the cold and seemingly barren hills of life that we question and complain about, that bring down the showers. How many people have perished in the wilderness valley, buried under its golden sand, who would have thrived in the hills? And how many would have been killed by the cold, destroyed or swept desolate of their fruitfulness by the wind, if not for the hills—stern, hard, rugged, and so steep to climb? God’s hills are a gracious protection for His people against their foes!
We cannot see what loss, sorrow, and trials are accomplishing. We need only to trust. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It will be a good and blessed New Year!
He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.
He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o’er clouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.
Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf
The side rooms all around the temple were wider at each successive level. The structure surrounding the temple was built in ascending stages, so that the rooms widened as one went upward. A stairway went up from the lowest floor to the top floor through the middle floor. (Ezekiel 41:7)
Still upward be your onward course:
For this I pray today;
Still upward as the years go by,
And seasons pass away.
Still upward in this coming year,
Your path is all untried;
Still upward may you journey on,
Close by your Savior’s side.
Still upward although sorrow come,
And trials crush your heart;
Still upward may they draw your soul,
With Christ to walk apart.
Still upward till the day shall break,
And shadows all have flown;
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
And stand before the throne.
We should never be content to rest in the mists of the valley when the summit of Mount Tabor awaits us. How pure is the dew of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the food and drink of those who dwell above, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like people in coal mines, who never see the sun. Tears sadden their faces when they could be anointed with heavenly oil. I am convinced that many believers suffer in a dungeon when they could walk on a palace roof, viewing the lush landscape and Lebanon. Wake up, believers, from your lowly condition! Throw away your laziness, sluggishness, coldness, or whatever is interfering with your pure love for Christ. Make Him the Source, the Center, and the One who encompasses every delight of your soul. Refuse to be satisfied any longer with your meager accomplishments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, and a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God! Charles H. Spurgeon
I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray, till heaven I’ve found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness discourage us, so we stay in the mist of the valleys and never learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what is lost by our self-indulgence, what glory awaits if we only have the courage to climb, or what blessings we will find if we will only ascend the mountains of God! J. R. M.
Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
I [will] move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children. (Genesis 33:14)
What a beautiful picture of Jacob’s thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be driven too hard for even one day. He would not lead them at a pace equal to what a strong man like Esau could keep or expected them to keep, but only one as fast as they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day, and he made that his only consideration in planning their travel. He had taken the same wilderness journey years before and knew from personal experience its roughness, heat, and distance. And so he said, “I [will] move along slowly.” “Since you have never been this way before” (Josh. 3:4).
We “have never been this way before,” but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untraveled and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all through personal experience. He knows the steep places that take our breath away, the rocky paths that make our feet ache, the hot and shadeless stretches that bring us to exhaustion, and the rushing rivers that we have to cross—Jesus has gone through it all before us. As John 4:6 shows, “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down.” He was battered by every possible torrent, but all the floodwaters coming against Him never quenched His love. Jesus was made a perfect leader by the things He suffered. “He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14). Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He remembers all the time and will never make you take even one step beyond what your feet are able to endure. Never mind if you think you are unable to take another step, for either He will strengthen you to make you able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you will not have to take it at all. Frances Ridley Havergal
In “pastures green”? Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hilltops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. (John 4:50)
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe. (Mark 11:24)
When you are confronted with a matter that requires immediate prayer, pray until you believe God—until with whole-hearted sincerity you can thank Him for the answer. If you do not see the external answer immediately, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident you are not definitely believing God for it. This type of prayer will be a hindrance instead of a help to you. And when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has been weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting for His answer, but be sure to do so in a way that shows your faith.
Never pray in a way that diminishes your faith. You may tell Him you are waiting, still believing and therefore praising Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully solidifies faith as being so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that empty us of faith deny both God’s promises from His Word and the “Yes” that He whispered to our hearts. Such prayers are only the expression of the unrest of our hearts, and unrest implies unbelief that our prayers will be answered. “Now we who have believed enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3).
The type of prayer that empties us of faith frequently arises from focusing our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God’s promise. Abraham, “without weakening in his faith, . . . faced the fact that his body was as good as dead. . . . Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God” (Rom. 4:19–20). May we “watch and pray so that [we] will not fall into [the] temptation” (Matt. 26:41) of praying faith-diminishing prayers. C. H. P.
Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but simply taking God at His word. Christmas Evans
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. George Mueller
You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us His promises in a quiet hour, seals our covenants with great and gracious words, and then steps back, waiting to see how much we believe. He then allows the Tempter to come, and the ensuing test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. This is when faith wins its crown. This is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened sailors declare, “I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27:25).
Believe and trust; through stars and suns,
Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of His Providence
Is starlit with Divine intents.
Then Asa . . . said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty.” (2 Chronicles 14:11)
Remind God of His exclusive responsibility: “There is no one like you to help.” The odds against Asa’s men were enormous. “Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with a vast army and three hundred chariots” (v. 9). It seemed impossible for Asa to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his defense. Therefore his only hope was in God.
It may be that your difficulties have come to such an alarming level that you may be compelled to refuse all human help. In lesser trials, you may have had that recourse, but now you must cast yourself on your almighty Friend. Put God between yourself and the enemy.
Asa, realizing his lack of strength, saw Jehovah as standing between the might of Zerah and himself. And he was not mistaken. We are told that the Cushites “were crushed before the Lord and his forces” (v. 13), as though heavenly warriors threw themselves against the enemy on Israel’s behalf. God’s forces so overwhelmed the vast army of the enemy that they fled. Then all Israel had to do was follow up and gather the plunder. Our God is “the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 10:16 KJV), who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to help His people. Believe that He is between you and your difficulty, and what troubles you will flee before Him, as clouds in the wind. F. B. Meyer
When nothing on which to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust;
When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.
It’s better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine;
And the darkest night, when there’s no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine.
“Abraham believed God” (Rom. 4:3), and said to his eyes, “Stand back!” and to the laws of nature, “Hold your peace!” and to an unbelieving heart, “Silence, you lying tempter!” He simply “believed God.” Joseph Parker
When you pass through the waters . . . they will not sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2)
God does not open paths for us before we come to them, or provide help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are at our point of need, God’s hand is outstretched.
Many people forget this truth and continually worry about difficulties they envision in the future. They expect God to open and clear many miles of road before them, but He promises to do it step by step, only as their need arises. You must be in the floodwaters before you can claim God’s promise. Many people dread death and are distressed that they do not have “dying grace.” Of course, they will never have the grace for death when they are in good health. Why should they have it while in the midst of life’s duties, with death still far away? Living grace is what is needed for life’s work and calling, and then dying grace when it is time to die. J. R. M.
“When you pass through the waters”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself has said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
“When you come to the waters
You will not go down, BUT THROUGH.”
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitter anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain—
They will never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely THROUGH.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Will not sink us, will not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise will sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We will not go down, or under,
For He says, “You will pass THROUGH.”
Annie Johnson Flint
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11)
Paul, while being denied every comfort, wrote the above words from a dark prison cell.
A story is told of a king who went to his garden one morning, only to find everything withered and dying. He asked the oak tree that stood near the gate what the trouble was. The oak said it was tired of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine tree. The pine was troubled because it could not bear grapes like the grapevine. The grapevine was determined to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and produce fruit as large as peaches. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac.
And so it went throughout the garden. Yet coming to a violet, the king found its face as bright and happy as ever and said, “Well, violet, I’m glad to find one brave little flower in the midst of this discouragement. You don’t seem to be the least disheartened.” The violet responded, “No, I’m not. I know I’m small, yet I thought if you wanted an oak or a pine or a peach tree or even a lilac, you would have planted one. Since I knew you wanted a violet, I’m determined to be the best little violet I can be.”
Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God’s family
Can do it as well as you.
People who are God’s without reservation “have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” His will becomes their will, and they desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do. They strip themselves of everything, and in their nakedness find everything restored a hundredfold.
I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26)
What is your season today? Are you experiencing a season of drought? If so, then it is the season for showers. Are you going through a season of great heaviness with dark clouds? Then that too is the season for showers. “Your strength will equal your days” (Deut. 33:25). “I will send . . . showers of blessing.” Notice that the word “showers” is plural.
God will send all kinds of blessings. And all His blessings go together like links in a golden chain. If He gives you saving grace, He will also give you comforting grace. God will send “showers of blessings.” Look up today, you who are dried and withered plants. Open your leaves and flowers and receive God’s heavenly watering. Charles H. Spurgeon
Let but your heart become a valley low,
And God will rain on it till it will overflow.
You, O Lord, can transform my thorn into a flower. And I do want my thorn transformed into a flower. Job received sunshine after the rain, but was the rain all wasted? Job wants to know, and I want to know, if the rain is related to the sunshine. Only You can tell me—Your cross can tell me. You have crowned Your sorrow. Let this be my crown, O Lord. I will only triumph in You once I have learned the radiance of the rain. George Matheson
The fruitful life seeks rain as well as sunshine.
The landscape, brown and dry beneath the sun,
Needs but the cloud to lift it into life;
The dews may dampen the tree and flower,
But it requires the cloud-distilled shower
To bring rich greenness to the lifeless life.
Ah, how like this, the landscape of a life:
Dews of trial fall like incense, rich and sweet;
But meaning little in the crystal tray—
Like moths of night, dews lift at break of day
And fleeting impressions leave, like lips that meet.
But clouds of trials, bearing burdens rare,
Leave in the soul, a moisture settled deep:
Life stirs by the powerful law of God;
And where before the thirsty camel trod,
There richest beauties to life’s landscape leap.
Then read you in each cloud that comes to you
The words of Paul, in letters large and clear:
So will those clouds your soul with blessing feed,
And with a constant trust as you do read,
All things together work for good. Fret not, nor fear!
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
I once kept a bottle-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth for nearly one year. The cocoon was very strange in its construction. The neck of the “bottle” had a narrow opening through which the mature insect forces its way. Therefore the abandoned cocoon is as perfect as one still inhabited, with no tearing of the interwoven fibers having taken place. The great disparity between the size of the opening and the size of the imprisoned insect makes a person wonder how the moth ever exits at all. Of course, it is never accomplished without great labor and difficulty. It is believed the pressure to which the moth’s body is subjected when passing through such a narrow opening is nature’s way of forcing fluids into the wings, since they are less developed at the time of emerging from the cocoon than in other insects.
I happened to witness the first efforts of my imprisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. All morning I watched it patiently striving and struggling to be free. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. The confining fibers were probably drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter in its native habitat, as nature meant it to be. In any case, I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, so I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors, I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a little easier. Immediately and with perfect ease, my moth crawled out, dragging a huge swollen body and little shriveled wings! I watched in vain to see the marvelous process of expansion in which these wings would silently and swiftly develop before my eyes. As I examined the delicately beautiful spots and markings of various colors that were all there in miniature, I longed to see them assume their ultimate size. I looked for my moth, one of the loveliest of its kind, to appear in all its perfect beauty. But I looked in vain. My misplaced tenderness had proved to be its ruin. The moth suffered an aborted life, crawling painfully through its brief existence instead of flying through the air on rainbow wings.
I have thought of my mouth often, especially when watching with tearful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress. My tendency would be to quickly alleviate the discipline and bring deliverance. O shortsighted person that I am! How do I know that one of these pains or groans should be relieved? The farsighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink away from present, momentary suffering. Our Father’s love is too steadfast to be weak. Because He loves His children, He “disciplines us . . . that we may share in his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). With this glorious purpose in sight, He does not relieve our crying. Made perfect through suffering, as our Elder Brother was, we children of God are disciplined to make us obedient, and brought to glory through much tribulation. from a tract
Paul and his companions . . . [were] kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. (Acts 16:6)
It is interesting to study the way God extended His guidance to these early messengers of the Cross. It consisted mainly in prohibiting their movement when they attempted to take a course other than the right one. When they wanted to turn to the left, toward Asia, He stopped them. When they sought to turn to the right, toward Bithynia in Asia Minor, He stopped them again. In his later years, Paul would do some of his greatest work in that very region, yet now the door was closed before him by the Holy Spirit. The time was not yet ripe for the attack on these apparently impregnable bastions of the kingdom of Satan. Apollos needed to go there first to lay the groundwork. Paul and Barnabas were needed more urgently elsewhere and required further training before undertaking this responsible task.
Beloved, whenever you are in doubt as to which way to turn, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, asking Him to shut every door but the right one. Say to Him, “Blessed Spirit, I give to You the entire responsibility of closing every road and stopping every step that is not of God. Let me hear Your voice behind me whenever I ‘turn aside to the right or to the left’ [Deut. 5:32].”
In the meantime, continue along the path you have already been traveling. Persist in your calling until you are clearly told to do something else. O traveler, the Spirit of Jesus is waiting to be to you what He was to Paul. Just be careful to obey even His smallest nudging or warning. Then after you have prayed the prayer of faith and there are no apparent hindrances, go forward with a confident heart. Do not be surprised if your answer comes in doors closing before you. But when doors are shut to the right and left, an open road is sure to lead to Troas. Luke waits for you there, and visions will point the way to where vast opportunities remain open, and faithful friends are waiting. from Paul, by F. B. Meyer
Is there some problem in your life to solve,
Some passage seeming full of mystery?
God knows, who brings the hidden things to light.
He keeps the key.
Is there some door closed by the Father’s hand
Which widely opened you had hoped to see?
Trust God and wait—for when He shuts the door
He keeps the key.
Is there some earnest prayer unanswered yet,
Or answered NOT as you had thought ’twould be?
God will make clear His purpose by and by.
He keeps the key.
Have patience with your God, your patient God,
All wise, all knowing, no long lingerer He,
And of the door of all your future life
He keeps the key.
Unfailing comfort, sweet and blessed rest,
To know of EVERY door He keeps the key.
That He at last when just HE sees is best,
Will give it THEE.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
Store up comfort. This was the prophet Isaiah’s mission. The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts. But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained. And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. Consequently, your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort. You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow? Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and were comforted. As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them. Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted. And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness. selected
God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters. John Henry Jowett
They tell me I must bruise
The rose’s leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
Its fragrance brief.
They tell me I must break
The skylark’s heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.
They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.
Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?
Ah, yes! by crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!
Reckon it nothing but joy . . . whenever you find yourself hedged in by the various trials, be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. (James 1:2–3 WEYMOUTH)
God hedges in His own in order to protect them. Yet often they only see the wrong side of the hedge and therefore misunderstand His actions. And so it was with Job when he asked, “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (Job 3:23). Ah, but Satan knew the value of that hedge! He challenged the Lord by saying, “Have you not put a hedge around [Job] and his household and everything he has?” (Job 1:10).
Onto the pages of every trial there are narrow shafts of light that shine. Thorns will not prick you until you lean against them, and not one will touch you without God knowing. The words that hurt you, the letter that caused you pain, the cruelty of your closest friend, your financial need — they are all known to Him. He sympathizes as no one else can and watches to see if through it all, you will dare to trust Him completely.
The hawthorn hedge that keeps us from intruding,
Looks very fierce and bare
When stripped by winter, every branch protruding
Its thorns that would wound and tear.
But springtime comes; and like the rod that budded,
Each twig breaks out in green;
And cushions soft of tender leaves are studded,
Where spines alone were seen.
The sorrows, that to us seem so perplexing,
Are mercies kindly sent
To guard our wayward souls from sadder vexing,
And greater ills prevent.
To save us from the pit, no screen of roses
Would serve for our defense,
The hindrance that completely interposes
Stings back like thorny fence.
At first when smarting from the shock, complaining
Of wounds that freely bleed,
God’s hedges of severity us paining,
May seem severe indeed.
But afterwards, God’s blessed springtime cometh,
And bitter murmurs cease;
The sharp severity that pierced us bloometh,
And yields the fruits of peace.
Then let us sing, our guarded way thus wending
Life’s hidden snares among,
Of mercy and of judgment sweetly blending;
Earth’s sad, but lovely song.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
This is more than victory. This is a triumph so complete that we not only have escaped defeat and destruction but also have destroyed our enemies and won plunder so rich and valuable that we can actually thank God for the battle. How can we be “more than conquerors”? We can receive from the conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to establish and ground us in our spiritual life. It is like the fierce winds that cause the mighty cedars on the mountainside to sink their roots more deeply into the soil. Our spiritual conflicts are among our most wonderful blessings, and the Adversary is used to train us for his own ultimate defeat. The ancient Phrygians of Asia Minor had a legend that every time they conquered an enemy, they absorbed the physical strength of their victims and added to their own strength and bravery. And in truth, meeting temptation victoriously doubles our spiritual strength and weaponry. Therefore it is possible not only to defeat our enemy but also to capture him and make him fight in our ranks.
The prophet Isaiah tells of “fly[ing] upon the shoulders of the Philistines” (Isa. 11:14 KJV). These Philistines were their deadly foes, but this passage suggests that they would be able not only to conquer the Philistines but also to ride on their backs to further triumphs. Just as a skilled sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward, by using its impelling power to follow a zigzag course, it is possible for us in our spiritual life, through the victorious grace of God, to turn completely around the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable. Then we will be able to say continually, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). from Life More Abundantly
A noted scientist, observing that the early sailors believed the coral-building animals instinctively built up the great reefs of the Atoll Islands in order to protect themselves in the inner waterway, has disproved this belief. He has shown these organisms can only live and thrive facing the open ocean in the highly oxygenated foam of the combative waves. It is commonly thought that a protected and easy life is the best way to live. Yet the lives of all the noblest and strongest people prove exactly the opposite and that the endurance of hardship is the making of the person. It is the factor that distinguishes between merely existing and living a vigorous life. Hardship builds character. selected
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Corinthians 2:14
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them. (John 10:4)
This is intensely difficult work for Him and us—it is difficult for us to go, but equally difficult for Him to cause us pain. Yet it must be done. It would not be in our best interest to always remain in one happy and comfortable location. Therefore He moves us forward. The shepherd leaves the fold so the sheep will move on to the vitalizing mountain slopes. In the same way, laborers must be driven out into the harvest, or else the golden grain would spoil.
But take heart! It could never be better to stay once He determines otherwise; if the loving hand of our Lord moves us forward, it must be best. Forward, in His name, to green pastures, quiet waters, and mountain heights! (See Ps. 23:2.) “He goes on ahead of [us].” So whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him, and the eye of faith can always discern His majestic presence out in front. When His presence cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move ahead. Comfort your heart with the fact that the Savior has Himself experienced all the trials He asks you to endure; He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that the paths were not too difficult or strenuous for you.
This is the blessed life—not anxious to see far down the road nor overly concerned about the next step, not eager to choose the path nor weighted down with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following the Shepherd, one step at a time.
Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrow!
Dark is life’s way, for night is not yet o’er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know and trust, HE GOES BEFORE.
Dangers are near! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His—He knows the way I’m taking,
More blessed even still—HE GOES BEFORE.
Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o’er me,
Doubts that life’s best—life’s choicest things are o’er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.
HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well.
The oriental shepherd always walked ahead of his sheep. He was always out in front. Any attack upon the sheep had to take him into account first. Now God is out in front. He is in our tomorrows, and it is tomorrow that fills people with fear. Yet God is already there. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass through Him before they can get to us. F. B. Meyer
God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for my way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.
That night the Lord appeared to [Isaac]. (Genesis 26:24)
It was the same night Isaac went to Beersheba. Do you think this revelation from God was an accident? Do you think the time of it was an accident? Do you believe it could have happened any other night as well as this one? If so, you are grievously mistaken. Why did it come to Isaac the night he reached Beersheba? Because that was the night he reached rest. In his old land he had been tormented. There had been a whole series of petty quarrels over the ownership of insignificant wells. There is nothing like little worries, particularly when there are many of them. Because of these little worries, even after the strife was over, the place held bad memories for Isaac. Therefore he was determined to leave and seek a change of scenery. He pitched his tent far away from the place of his former strife. That very night the revelation came. God spoke to him when there was no inner storm. He could not speak to Isaac when his mind was troubled. God’s voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the quiet of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God brush by him. His still night became his shining night.
My soul, have you pondered these words: “Be still, and know” (Ps. 46:10)? In the hour of distress, you cannot hear the answer to your prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come much later! The heart heard no reply during the moment of its crying, its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But once the crying stopped, once the stillness came, once your hand refrained from knocking on the iron gate, and once concern for other lives broke through the tragedy of your own life, the long-awaited reply appeared. You must rest, O soul, to receive your heart’s desire. Slow the beating of your heart over concerns for your personal care. Place the storm of your individual troubles on God’s altar of everyday trials, and the same night, the Lord will appear to you. His rainbow will extend across the subsiding flood, and in your stillness you will hear the everlasting music. George Matheson
Tread in solitude your pathway,
Quiet heart and undismayed.
You will know things strange, mysterious,
Which to you no voice has said.
While the crowd of petty hustlers
Grasps at vain and meager things,
You will see a great world rising
Where soft sacred music rings.
Leave the dusty road to others,
Spotless keep your soul and bright,
As the radiant ocean’s surface
When the sun is taking flight.
from the German of V. Schoffel
A furious squall came up. (Mark 4:37)
Some of life’s storms—a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat—suddenly come upon us. Others may come slowly, appearing on the uneven edge of the horizon no larger than a person’s hand. But trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.
Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. When God wants an oak tree, He plants it where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it. It is in the midnight battle with the elements that the oak develops its rugged fiber and becomes the king of the forest.
When God wants to make a person, He puts him into some storm. The history of humankind has always been rough and rugged. No one is complete until he has been out into the surge of the storm and has found the glorious fulfillment of the prayer “O God, take me, break me, make me.”
A Frenchman painted a picture of universal genius. In his painting stand famous orators, philosophers, and martyrs, all of whom have achieved preeminence in various aspects of life. The remarkable fact about the picture is this: every person who is preeminent for his ability was first preeminent for suffering. In the foreground stands the figure of the man who was denied the Promised Land: Moses. Beside him, feeling his way, is blind Homer. Milton is there, blind and heartbroken. Then there is the form of One who towers above them all. What is His characteristic? His face is marred more than any other. The artist might have titled that great picture The Storm.
The beauties of nature come after the storm. The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and battle-scarred.
You have been in the storms and swept by the raging winds. Have they left you broken, weary, and beaten in the valley, or have they lifted you to the sunlit summits of a richer, deeper, more abiding manhood or womanhood? Have they left you with more sympathy for the storm-swept and the battle-scarred? selected
The wind that blows can never kill
The tree God plants;
It blows toward east, and then toward west,
The tender leaves have little rest,
But any wind that blows is best.
The tree that God plants
Strikes deeper root, grows higher still,
Spreads greater limbs, for God’s good will
Meets all its wants.
There is no storm has power to blast
The tree God knows;
No thunderbolt, nor beating rain,
Nor lightning flash, nor hurricane;
When they are spent, it does remain,
The tree God knows,
Through every storm it still stands fast,
And from its first day to its last
Still fairer grows.
Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you? (Daniel 6:20)
We find the expression “the living God” many times in the Scriptures, and yet it is the very thing we are so prone to forget. We know it is written “the living God,” but in our daily life there is almost nothing we lose sight of as often as the fact that God is the living God. We forget that He is now exactly what He was three or four thousand years ago, that He has the same sovereign power, and that He extends the same gracious love toward those who love and serve Him. We overlook the fact that He will do for us now what He did thousands of years ago for others, simply because He is the unchanging, living God. What a great reason to confide in Him, and in our darkest moments to never lose sight of the fact that He is still, and ever will be, the living God!
Be assured, if you walk with Him, look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older believer who has known the Lord for forty-four years wrote the following as an encouragement to you: “God has never failed me. Even in my greatest difficulties, heaviest trials, and deepest poverty and need, He has never failed me. Because I was enabled by God’s grace to trust Him, He has always come to my aid. I delight in speaking well of His name.” George Mueller
Martin Luther, deep in thought and needing to grasp hidden strength during a time of danger and fear in his life, was seen tracing on the table with his finger the words, “He lives! He lives!” This is our hope for ourselves, His truth, and humankind. People come and go. Leaders, teachers, and philosophers speak and work for a season and then fall silent and powerless. He abides. They die but He lives. They are lights that glow yet are ultimately extinguished. But He is the true Light from which they draw their brightness, and He shines forevermore. Alexander Maclaren
“One day I came to know Dr. John Douglas Adam,” wrote Charles Gallaudet Trumbull.“ I learned he considered his greatest spiritual asset to be his unwavering awareness of the actual presence of Jesus. Nothing sustained him as much, he said, as the realization that Jesus was always actually present with him. This realization was totally independent of his own feelings, his worthiness, and his perceptions as to how Jesus would demonstrate His presence.
“Furthermore, he said Christ was the center of his thoughts. Whenever his mind was free from other matters, it would turn to Christ. Whenever he was alone, and no matter where he was, he would talk aloud to Christ as easily and as naturally as to any human friend. That is how very real Jesus’ actual presence was to him.”
Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
God wins His greatest victories through apparent defeats. Very often the enemy seems to triumph for a season, and God allows it. But then He comes in and upsets the work of the enemy, overthrows the apparent victory, and as the Bible says, “frustrates the ways of the wicked” (Ps. 146:9). Consequently, He gives us a much greater victory than we would have known had He not allowed the enemy seemingly to triumph in the first place.
The story of the three Hebrew young men who were thrown into the fiery furnace is a familiar one. There was an apparent victory for the enemy. It looked as if the servants of the living God were going to suffer a terrible defeat. We have all been in situations where it seemed as though we were defeated, and the enemy rejoiced. We can only imagine what a complete defeat this appeared to be for Daniel’s friends. They were thrown into the terrible flames while their enemies watched to see them burn. Yet the enemy was greatly astonished to see them walking around in the fire, enjoying themselves. Then King Nebuchadnezzar told them to come out of the fire. The enemy “crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them ... for no other god can save in this way” (Dan. 3:27, 29).
This apparent defeat resulted in a miraculous victory.
Suppose these three men had lost their faith and courage and had complained, saying, “Why didn’t God keep us out of the furnace!” They would have been burned, and God would not have been glorified. If there is a great trial in your life today, do not acknowledge it as a defeat. Instead, continue by faith to claim the victory through Him who is able to make you “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37), and a glorious victory will soon be apparent. May we learn that in all the difficult places God takes us, He is giving us opportunities to exercise our faith in Him that will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify His name. from Life of Praise
Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind,
The limbs drink in new beauty, and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.
Then Jesus told his disciples . . . that they should always pray and not give up. (Luke 18:1)
Observe the ant,” the great Oriental conqueror Tamerlane told his friends. In relating a story from his early life, he said, “I once was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a dilapidated building, where I sat alone for many hours. Wishing to divert my mind from my hopeless situation, I fixed my eyes on an ant carrying a kernel of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I counted its attempts to accomplish this feat. The corn fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the insect persevered. The seventieth time it reached the top. The ant’s accomplishment gave me courage for the moment, and I never forgot the lesson.” from The King’s Business
Prayer that uses previously unanswered prayers as an excuse for laziness has already ceased to be a prayer of faith. To someone who prays in faith, unanswered prayers are simply the evidence that the answer is much closer. From beginning to end, our Lord’s lessons and examples teach us that prayer that is not steadfast and persistent, nor revived and refreshed, and does not gather strength from previous prayers is not the prayer that will triumph. William Arthur
Arthur Rubinstein, the great pianist, once said, “If I neglect practicing one day, I notice; two days, my friends notice; three days, the public notices.” It is the old principle “Practice makes perfect.” We must continue believing, praying, and doing His will. In any of the arts, when the artist ceases to practice, we know the result. If we would only use the same level of common sense in our faith that we use in our everyday life, we would be moving on toward perfection.
David Livingstone’s motto was, “I resolved never to stop until I had come to the goal and achieved my purpose.” He was victorious through unwavering persistence and faith in God.
Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:3)
Sorrow, under the power of divine grace, performs various ministries in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths of the soul, and unknown capacities for suffering and service. Lighthearted, frivolous people are always shallow and are never aware of their own meagerness or lack of depth. Sorrow is God’s tool to plow the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If humankind were still in a glorified state, having never fallen, then the strong floods of divine joy would be the force God would use to reveal our souls’ capacities. But in a fallen world, sorrow, yet with despair removed, is the power chosen to reveal us to ourselves. Accordingly, it is sorrow that causes us to take the time to think deeply and seriously.
Sorrow makes us move more slowly and considerately and examine our motives and attitudes. It opens within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it makes us willing to set our capacities afloat on a limitless sea of service for God and for others.
Imagine a village of lazy people living at the foot of a great mountain range, yet who have never ventured out to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains. One day a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, turning the hidden valleys into echoing trumpets and revealing their inner recesses, like the twisted shapes of a giant seashell. The villagers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and the unexplored recesses of a region so nearby and yet so unknown. And so it is with many people who casually live on the outer edge of their own souls until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within, which were never before known or suspected.
God never uses anyone to a great degree until He breaks the person completely. Joseph experienced more sorrow than the other sons of Jacob, and it led him into a ministry of food for all the nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful vine . . . near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to expand and deepen the soul. from The Heavenly Life
The dark brown soil is turned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I’ve a lesson learned.
My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God’s sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.
Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain.
Maltbie D. Babcock
Every person and every nation must endure lessons in God’s school of adversity. In the same way we say, “Blessed is the night, for it reveals the stars to us,” we can say, “Blessed is sorrow, for it reveals God’s comfort.” A flood once washed away a poor man’s home and mill, taking with it everything he owned in the world. He stood at the scene of his great loss, brokenhearted and discouraged. Yet after the waters had subsided, he saw something shining in the riverbanks that the flood had washed bare. “It looks like gold,” he said. And it was gold. The storm that had impoverished him made him rich. So it is oftentimes in life. Henry Clay Trumbull
I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. (Acts 20:24)
We read in 2 Samuel 5:17, “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him.” The moment we receive anything from the Lord worth fighting for, the Devil comes seeking to destroy us.
When the Enemy confronts us at the threshold of any great work for God, we should accept it as evidence of our salvation, and claim double the blessing, victory, and power. Power is developed through resistance. The force and the amount of damage created by an exploding artillery shell appears to be greater because of the resistance at the point of impact. A power plant produces additional electricity by using the friction of the rotating turbines. And one day, we too will understand that even Satan has been used as one of God’s instruments of blessing. from Days of Heaven upon Earth
A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Tribulation is the door to triumph. The valley leads to the open highway, and tribulations imprint is on every great accomplishment. Crowns are cast in crucibles, and the chains of character found at the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No one wins the greatest victory until he has walked the winepress of woe. With deep furrows of anguish on His brow, the “man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3) said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). But immediately comes the psalm of promise, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The footprints are visible everywhere. The steps that lead to thrones are stained with spattered blood, and scars are the price for scepters. We will wrestle our crowns from the giants we conquer. It is no secret that grief has always fallen to people of greatness.
The mark of rank in nature
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain.
Tribulation has always marked the trail of the true reformer. It was true in the story of Paul, Luther, Savonarola, Knox, Wesley, and the rest of God’s mighty army. They came through great tribulation to their point of power.
Every great book has been written with the author’s blood. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14). In spite of his blindness, wasn’t Homer the unparalleled poet of the Greeks? And who wrote the timeless dream of Pilgrim’s Progress? Was it a prince in royal robes seated on a couch of comfort and ease? No! The lingering splendor of John Bunyan’s
vision gilded the dingy walls of an old English jail in Bedford, while he, a princely prisoner and a glorious genius, made a faithful transcript of the scene.
Great is the easy conqueror;
Yet the one who is wounded sore,
Breathless, all covered o’er with blood and sweat,
Sinks fainting, but fighting evermore—
Is greater yet.
He withdrew . . . to a solitary place. (Matthew 14:13)
There is no music during a musical rest, but the rest is part of the making of the music. In the melody of our life, the music is separated here and there by rests. During those rests, we foolishly believe we have come to the end of the song. God sends us times of forced leisure by allowing sickness, disappointed plans, and frustrated efforts. He brings a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that our voices must be silent. We grieve that our part is missing in the music that continually rises to the ear of our Creator. Yet how does a musician read the rest? He counts the break with unwavering precision and plays his next note with confidence, as if no pause were ever there.
God does not write the music of our lives without a plan. Our part is to learn the tune and not be discouraged during the rests. They are not to be slurred over or omitted, nor used to destroy the melody or to change the key. If we will only look up, God Himself will count the time for us. With our eyes on Him, our next note will be full and clear. If we sorrowfully say to ourselves, “There is no music in a rest,” let us not forget that the rest is part of the making of the music. The process is often slow and painful in this life, yet how patiently God works to teach us! And how long He waits for us to learn the lesson! John Ruskin
From the glad working of your busy life,
From the world’s ceaseless stir of care and strife,
Into the shade and stillness by your Heavenly Guide
For a brief time you have been called aside.
Perhaps into a desert garden dim;
And yet not alone, when you have been with Him,
And heard His voice in sweetest accents say:
“Child, will you not with Me this still hour stay?”
In hidden paths with Christ your Lord to tread,
Deeper to drink at the sweet Fountainhead,
Closer in fellowship with Him to roam,
Nearer, perhaps, to feel your Heavenly Home.
Oh, knowledge deeper grows with Him alone;
In secret of His deeper love is shown,
And learned in many an hour of dark distress
Some rare, sweet lesson of His tenderness.
We thank You for the stillness and the shade;
We thank You for the hidden paths Your love has made,
And, so that we have wept and watched with Thee,
We thank You for our dark Gethsemane.
O restful thought—He doeth all things well;
O blessed sense, with Christ alone to dwell;
So in the shadow of Your cross to hide,
We thank You, Lord, to have been called aside.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? (Psalm 10:1)
God is . . . an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). But He allows trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, so we may be brought to the end of ourselves. Through the trial, we are led to discover the treasure of darkness and the immeasurable wealth of tribulation.
We may be sure that He who allows the suffering is with us throughout it. It may be that we will only see Him once the ordeal is nearly passed, but we must dare to believe that He never leaves our trial. Our eyes are blinded so we cannot see the One our soul loves. The darkness and our bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest. Yet He is there and is deeply touched. Let us not rely on our feelings but trust in His unswerving faithfulness. And though we cannot see Him, let us talk to Him. Although His presence is veiled, once we begin to speak to Jesus as if He were literally present, an answering voice comes to show us He is in the shadow, keeping watch over His own. Your Father is as close to you when you journey through the darkest tunnel as He is when you are under the open heaven! from Daily Devotional Commentary
Although the path be all unknown?
Although the way be drear?
Its shades I travel not alone
When steps of Yours are near.
But the dove could find no place to set its feet . . . so it returned to Noah in the ark.... He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! (Genesis 8:9–11)
God knows exactly when to withhold or to grant us any visible sign of encouragement. How wonderful it is when we will trust Him in either case! Yet it is better when all visible evidence that He is remembering us is withheld. He wants us to realize that His Word—His promise of remembering us—is more real and dependable than any evidence our senses may reveal. It is good when He sends the visible evidence, but we appreciate it even more after we have trusted Him without it. And those who are the most inclined to trust God without any evidence except His Word always receive the greatest amount of visible evidence of His love. Charles Gallaudet Trumbull
Believing Him; if storm clouds gather darkly ’round,
And even if the heavens seem hushed, without a sound?
He hears each prayer and even notes the sparrow’s fall.
And praising Him; when sorrow, grief, and pain are near,
And even when we lose the thing that seems most dear?
Our loss is gain. Praise Him; in Him we have our All.
Our hand in His; e’en though the path seems long and drear
We scarcely see a step ahead, and almost fear?
He guides us right—this way and that, to keep us near.
And satisfied; when every path is blocked and bare,
And worldly things are gone and dead which were so fair?
Believe and rest and trust in Him, He comes to stay.
Delayed answers to prayers are not refusals. Many prayers are received and recorded, yet underneath are the words, “My time has not yet come.” God has a fixed time and an ordained purpose, and He who controls the limits of our lives also determines the time of our deliverance. selected
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
At my father’s house in the country, there is a little closet near the chimney, where we keep the canes, or walking sticks, of several generations of our family. During my visits to the old house, as my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet and pick out our sticks to suit the occasion. As we have done this, I have frequently been reminded that the Word of God is a staff.
During the war, when we were experiencing a time of discouragement and impending danger, the verse “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Ps. 112:7) was a staff to walk with on many dark days.
When our child died and we were left nearly broken hearted, I found another staff in the promise “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).
When I was forced to be away from home for a year due to poor health, not knowing if God would ever allow me to return to my home and work again, I chose this staff, which has never failed: “For I know the plans I have for you, . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11).
In times of impending danger or doubt, when human judgment seems to be of no value, I have found it easy to go forward with this staff: “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isa. 30:15). And in emergencies, when there has been no time for deliberation or for action, this staff has never failed me: “He that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16 KJV). Abbott Benjamin Vaughan, in The Outlook
Martin Luther’s wife said, “I would never have known the meaning of various psalms, come to appreciate certain difficulties, or known the inner workings of the soul; I would never have understood the practice of the Christian life and work, if God had never brought afflictions to my life.” It is quite true that God’s rod is like a schoolteacher’s pointer to a child, pointing out a letter so the child will notice it. In this same way, God points out many valuable lessons to us that we otherwise would never have learned. selected
God always sends His staff with His rod.
Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25 KJV
Each of us may be sure that if God sends us over rocky paths, He will provide us with sturdy shoes. He will never send us on any journey without equipping us well. Alexander Maclaren
I have begun to deliver.... Now begin to conquer and possess.
The Bible has a great deal to say about waiting for God, and the teaching cannot be too strongly emphasized. We so easily become impatient with God’s delays. Yet much of our trouble in life is the result of our restless, and sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on picking it while it is still green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although it may take many years for the things we pray for to be prepared for us. We are encouraged to walk with God, but often God walks very slowly. Yet there is also another side to this teaching: God often waits for us.
Quite often we fail to receive the blessing He has ready for us because we are not moving forward with Him. While it is true we miss many blessings by not waiting for God, we also lose numerous blessings by overwaiting. There are times when it takes strength simply to sit still, but there are also times when we are to move forward with a confident step.
Many of God’s promises are conditional, requiring some initial action on our part. Once we begin to obey, He will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained had he waited in Chaldea. He had to leave his home, friends, and country, travel unfamiliar paths, and press on in unwavering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers Jesus healed were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14). If they had waited to see the cleansing come to their bodies before leaving, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to heal them, and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
When the Israelites were entrapped by Pharaoh’s pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “go forward” (Ex. 14:15 KJV). No longer was it their duty to wait, but to rise up from bended knees and “go forward” with heroic faith. Years later the Israelites were commanded to show their faith again by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river was at its highest point. They held the key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise in their own hands, and the gate would not begin to turn on its hinges until they had approached and unlocked it. The key was faith.
We are destined to fight certain battles, and we think we can never be victorious and conquer our enemies. Yet as we enter the conflict, One comes who fights by our side. Through Him we are “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). If we had waited in fear and trembling for our Helper to come before we would enter the battle, we would have waited in vain. This would have been the over waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour out His richest blessings on you. “Go forward” with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to deliver.... Now begin to conquer and possess.” J. R. Miller
Make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)
Before we can establish a new and deeper relationship with Christ, we must first acquire enough intellectual light to satisfy our mind that we have been given the right to stand in this new relationship. Even the shadow of a doubt here will destroy our confidence. Then, having seen the light, we must advance. We must make our choice, commit to it, and take our rightful place as confidently as a tree is planted in the ground. As a bride entrusts herself to the groom at the marriage altar, our commitment to Christ must be once and for all, without reservation or reversal.
Then there follows a time of establishing and testing, during which we must stand still until the new relationship becomes so ingrained in us that it becomes a permanent habit. It is comparable to a surgeon setting a broken arm by splinting it to keep it from moving. God too has His spiritual splints He wants to put on His children to keep them quiet and still until they pass the first stage of faith. Sometimes the trial will be difficult, but “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). A. B. Simpson
There is a natural law at work in sin and in sickness, and if we just drift along following the flow of our circumstances, we will sink under the power of the Tempter. But there is another law of spiritual and physical life in Christ Jesus to which we can rise, and through which we can counterbalance and overcome the natural law that weighs us down.
Doing this, however, requires real spiritual energy, a determined purpose, a sure stance, and the habit of faith. It is the same principle as a factory that uses electricity to run its machinery. The switch must be turned on and left in that position. The power is always available, but the proper connection must be made. And as long as that connection is intact, the power will enable all the machinery to stay in operation.
There is a spiritual law of choosing, believing, abiding, and remaining steadfast in our walk with God. This law is essential to the working of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification and in our healing. from Days of Heaven upon Earth
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Oh, how the old harpist loves his harp! He cuddles and caresses it, as if it were a child resting on his lap. His life is consumed with it. But watch how he tunes it. He grasps it firmly, striking a chord with a sharp, quick blow. While it quivers as if in pain, he leans forward, intently listening to catch the first note rising from it. Just as he feared, the note is distorted and shrill. He strains the string, turning the torturing thumbscrew, and though it seems ready to snap with the tension, he strikes it again. Then he leans forward again, carefully listening, until at last a smile appears on his face as the first melodic sound arises.
Perhaps this is how God is dealing with you. Loving you more than any harpist loves his harp, He finds you nothing but harsh, discordant sounds. He plucks your heartstrings with torturing anguish. Tenderly leaning over you, he strikes the strings and listens. Hearing only a harsh murmur, He strikes you again. His heart bleeds for you while He anxiously waits to hear the strain “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)—a melody as sweet to His ears as angels’ songs. And He will never cease from striking the strings of your heart until your humbled and disciplined soul blends with all the pure and eternal harmonies of His own being. selected
Oh, the sweetness that dwells in a harp of many strings,
While each, all vocal with love in a tuneful harmony rings!
But, oh, the wail and the discord, when one and another is rent,
Tensionless, broken and lost, from the cherished instrument.
For rapture of love is linked with the pain or fear of loss,
And the hand that takes the crown, must ache
with many a cross;
Yet he who has never a conflict, wins never a victor’s palm,
And only the toilers know the sweetness of rest and calm.
Only between the storms can the Alpine traveler know
Transcendent glory of clearness, marvels of gleam and glow;
Had he the brightness unbroken of cloudless summer days,
This had been dimmed by the dust and the veil
of a brooding haze.
Who would dare the choice, neither or both to know,
The finest quiver of joy or the agony thrill of woe!
Never the exquisite pain, then never the exquisite bliss,
For the heart that is dull to that can never be strung to this.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (Psalm 46:5 NASB)
“Will not be moved”—what an inspiring declaration! Is it possible for us who are so easily moved by earthly things to come to a point where nothing can upset us or disturb our peace? The answer is yes, and the apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit warned him that “prison and hardships” (Acts 20:23) awaited him. Yet he could triumphantly say, “But none of these things move me” (Acts 20:24 KJV).
Everything in Paul’s life and experience that could be disturbed had already been shaken, and he no longer considered his life or any of his possessions as having any earthly value. And if we will only let God have His way with us, we can come to the same point. Then, like Paul, neither the stress and strain of little things nor the great and heavy trials of life will have enough power to move us from “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). God declares this peace to be the inheritance of those who have learned to rest only on Him.
“Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it” (Rev. 3:12). Becoming as immovable as a pillar in the house of God is such a worthy objective that we would gladly endure all the necessary trials that take us there! Hannah Whitall Smith
When God is the center of a kingdom or a city, He makes it strong “like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken” (Ps. 125:1). And when God is the center of a soul, although disasters may crowd in on all sides and roar like the waves of the sea, there is a constant calm within. The world can neither give nor take away this kind of peace. What is it that causes people to shake like leaves today at the first hint of danger? It is simply the lack of God living in their soul, and having the world in their hearts instead. R. Leighton
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever” (Ps. 125:1). There is an old Scottish version of this psalm that strengthens our blood like iron:
Who clings to God in constant trust
As Zion’s mount he stands full just,
And who moves not, nor yet does reel,
But stands forever strong as steel!
I will be like the dew to Israel. (Hosea 14:5)
The dew is a source of freshness. It is nature’s provision for renewing the face of the earth. It falls at night, and without it vegetation would die. It is this great renewal value of the dew that is so often recognized in the Scriptures and used as a symbol of spiritual refreshment. Just as nature is bathed in dew, the Lord renews His people. In Titus 3:5 the same thought of spiritual refreshment is connected with the ministry of the Holy Spirit and referred to as “renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Many Christian workers do not recognize the importance of the heavenly dew in their lives, and as a result lack freshness and energy. Their spirits are withered and droopy for lack of dew.
Beloved fellow worker, you recognize the folly of a laborer attempting to work all day without eating, but do you recognize the folly of a servant of God attempting to minister without eating of the heavenly manna? Neither is it sufficient to have spiritual nourishment only occasionally. Every day you must receive the “renewal by the Holy Spirit. ”You know the difference between your whole being pulsating with the energy and freshness of God’s divine life or feeling worn-out and weary. Quietness and stillness bring the dew. At night when the leaves and grass are still, the plants’ pores are open to receive the refreshing and invigorating bath. And spiritual dew comes from quietly lingering in the Master’s presence. Get still before Him, for haste will prevent you from receiving the dew. Wait before God until you feel saturated with His presence. Then move on to your next duty with the awareness of the freshness and energy of Christ. Dr. Pardington
Dew will never appear while there is either heat or wind. The temperature must fall, the wind cease, and the air come to a point of coolness and rest—absolute rest—before the invisible particles of moisture will become dew to dampen any plant or flower. And the grace of God does not come forth to bring rest and renewal to our soul until we completely reach the point of stillness before Him.
Drop Your still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease:
Take from our souls the strain and stress;
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Your peace.
Breathe through the pulses of desire
Your coolness and Your balm;
Let sense be mum, its beats expire:
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!
He giveth quietness. (Job 34:29 KJV)
He gives quietness in the midst of the raging storm. As we sail the lake with Him, reaching deep water and far from land, suddenly, under the midnight sky, a mighty storm sweeps down. Earth and hell seem mobilized against us, and each wave threatens to overwhelm our boat. Then He rises from His sleep and rebukes the wind and the waves. He waves His hand, signaling the end of the raging tempest and the beginning of the restful calm. His voice is heard above the screaming of the wind through the ropes and rigging, and over the thrashing of the waves. “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39). Can you not hear it? And instantly there is a great calm. “He giveth quietness”—quietness even in the midst of losing our inner strength and comforts. Sometimes He removes these because we make too much of them. We are tempted to look at our joys, pleasures, passions, or our dreams, with too much self-satisfaction. Then through His gracious love He withdraws them, leading us to distinguish between them and Himself. He draws near and whispers the assurance of His presence, bringing an infinite calm to keep our hearts and minds. “He giveth quietness.”
“He giveth quietness.” O Elder Brother,
Whose homeless feet have pressed our path of pain,
Whose hands have borne the burden of our sorrow,
That in our losses we might find our gain.
Of all Your gifts and infinite consolings,
I ask but this: in every troubled hour
To hear Your voice through all the tumults stealing,
And rest serene beneath its tranquil power.
Cares cannot fret me if my soul be dwelling
In the still air of faith’s untroubled day;
Grief cannot shake me if I walk beside you,
My hand in Yours along the darkening way.
Content to know there comes a radiant morning
When from all shadows I will find release;
Serene to wait the rapture of its dawning—
Who can make trouble when You send me peace?