He said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”—but they would not listen. (Isaiah 28:12)
Why do you worry? What possible use does your worrying serve? You are aboard such a large ship that you would be unable to steer even if your Captain placed you at the helm. You would not even be able to adjust the sails, yet you worry as if you were the captain or the helmsman of the vessel. Be quiet, dear soul— God is the Master!
Do you think all the commotion and the uproar of this life is evidence that God has left His throne? He has not! His mighty steeds rush furiously ahead, and His chariots are the storms themselves. But the horses have bridles, and it is God who holds the reins, guiding the chariots as He wills!
Our God Jehovah is still the Master! Believe this and you will have peace. “Don’t be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). Charles H. Spurgeon
Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
The storms are raging on God’s deep—
God’s deep, not yours; be still and sleep.
Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s hands will still the Tempter’s sweep—
God’s hands, not yours; be still and sleep.
Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s love is strong while night hours creep—
God’s love, not yours; be still and sleep.
Tonight, my soul, be still and sleep;
God’s heaven will comfort those who weep—
God’s heaven, not yours; be still and sleep.
I implore you to not give in to despair. It is a dangerous temptation, because our Adversary has refined it to the point that it is quite subtle. Hopelessness constricts and withers the heart, rendering it unable to sense God’s blessings and grace. It also causes you to exaggerate the adversities of life and makes your burdens seem too heavy for you to bear. Yet God’s plans for you, and His ways of bringing about His plans, are infinitely wise. Madame Guyon
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed... .Without weakening in his faith. (Romans 4:18–19)
I will never forget the statement which that great man of faith George Mueller once made to a gentleman who had asked him the best way to have strong faith: “The only way to know strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm through severe testings.”
How true this is! You must trust when all else fails.
Dear soul, you may scarcely realize the value of your present situation. If you are enduring great afflictions right now, you are at the source of the strongest faith. God will teach you during these dark hours to have the most powerful bond to His throne you could ever know, if you will only submit.
“Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36). But if you ever are afraid, simply look up and say, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). Then you will be able to thank God for His school of sorrow that became for you the school of faith. A. B. Simpson
Great faith must first endure great trials.
God’s greatest gifts come through great pain. Can we find anything of value in the spiritual or the natural realm that has come about without tremendous toil and tears? Has there ever been any great reform, any discovery benefiting humankind, or any soul-awakening revival, without the diligence and the shedding of blood of those whose sufferings were actually the pangs of its birth? For the temple of God to be built, David had to bear intense afflictions. And for the gospel of grace to be extricated from Jewish tradition, Paul’s life had to be one long agony.
Take heart, O weary, burdened one, bowed down
Beneath your cross;
Remember that your greatest gain may come
Through greatest loss.
Your life is nobler for a sacrifice,
And more divine.
Acres of blooms are crushed to make a drop
Of perfume fine.
Because of storms that lash the ocean waves,
The waters there
Keep purer than if the heavens o’erhead
Were always fair.
The brightest banner of the skies floats not
At noonday warm;
The rainbow follows after thunderclouds,
And after storm.
Let us go over to the other side. (Mark 4:35)
Even though we follow Christ’s command, we should not expect to escape the storm. In this passage of Scripture, the disciples were obeying His command, yet they encountered the fiercest of storms and were in great danger of being drowned. In their distress, they cried out for Christ’s assistance.
Christ may delay coming to us during our times of distress, but it is simply so our faith may be tested and strengthened. His purpose is also that our prayers will be more powerful, our desire for deliverance will be greater, and when deliverance finally comes we will appreciate it more fully.
Gently rebuking His disciples, Christ asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). In effect, He was saying, “Why didn’t you face the storm victoriously and shout to the raging winds and rolling waves, ‘You cannot harm us, for Christ, the mighty Savior, is on board’?”
Of course, it is much easier to trust God when the sun is shining than to trust Him when the storm is raging around us. Yet we will never know our level of genuine faith until it is tested in a fierce storm, and that is why our Savior is on board.
If you are ever to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6:10), your strength will be born during a storm. selected
With Christ in my vessel,
I smile at the storm.
Christ said, “Let us go over to the other side”—not “to the middle of the lake to be drowned.” Daniel Crawford
All that night the Lord drove the sea back. (Exodus 14:21)
In this verse, there is a comforting message showing how God works during darkness. The real work of God for the children of Israel did not happen when they awoke that morning to find they could cross the Red Sea, but it occurred “all that night.”
There may be a great work occurring in your life when things seems their darkest. You may see no evidence yet, but God is at work. God was just as much at work “all that night” as He was the next day, when the Israelites finally saw the evidence. The next day simply revealed what God had done during the night.
Are you reading this from a place in your life where everything seems dark? Do you have faith to see but are still not seeing? Are you lacking continual victory in your spiritual growth? Is your daily, quiet communion gone, and there is nothing but darkness all around?
“All that night the Lord drove the sea back.” Don’t forget— it was “all that night.” God works through the night until the morning light dawns. You may not see it yet, but through the night of your life, as you trust Him, He works. C. H. P.
“All that night” the Lord was working,
Working in the tempest blast,,
Working with the swelling current,
Flooding, flowing, free and fast.
“All that night” God’s children waited—
Hearts, perhaps in agony—
With the enemy behind them,
And, in front, the cruel sea.
“All that night” seemed blacker darkness
Than they ever saw before,
Though the light of God’s own presence
Near them was, and sheltered o’er.
“All that night” that weary vigil
Passed; the day at last did break,
And they saw that God was working
“All that night” a path to make.
“All that night,” O child of sorrow,
Can you not your heartbreak stay?
Know your God in darkest midnight
Works, as well as in the day.
Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. (Isaiah 7:11)
Make your petition deep, O heart of mine,
Your God can do much more
Than you can ask;
Launch out on the Divine,
Draw from His love-filled store.
Trust Him with everything;
And find the joy that comes
When Jesus has His way!
We must continue to pray and “wait for the Lord” (Isa. 8:17), until we hear the sound of His mighty rain. There is no reason why we should not ask for great things. Without a doubt, we will receive them if we ask in faith, having the courage to wait with patient perseverance for Him and meanwhile doing those things that are within our power to do.
It is not within our power to create the wind or to change its direction, but we can raise our sails to catch it when it comes. We do not create electricity, yet we can tap into it with a wire that will conduct it, allowing it to work. We do not control God’s Spirit, but we can place ourselves before the Lord out of obedience to what He has called us to do, and we will come under the influence and power of His mighty breath. selected
Can’t the same great wonders be done today that were done many years ago? Where is the God of Elijah? He is waiting for today’s Elijah to call on Him.
The greatest Old or New Testament saints who ever lived were on a level that is quite within our reach. The same spiritual force that was available to them, and the energy that enabled them to become our spiritual heroes, are also available to us. If we exhibit the same faith, hope, and love they exhibited, we will achieve miracles as great as theirs. A simple prayer from our mouths will be powerful enough to call down from heaven God’s gracious dew or the melting fire of His Spirit, just as the words from Elijah's mouth called down literal rain and fire. All that is required is to speak the words with the same complete assurance of faith with which he spoke. Dr. Goulburn, Dean of Norwich
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. (Matthew 26:41)
Dear friend, never go out into the danger of the world without praying first. There is always a temptation to shorten your time in prayer. After a difficult day of work, when you kneel at night to pray with tired eyes, do not use your drowsiness as an excuse to resign yourself to early rest. Then when the morning breaks and you realize you have overslept, resist the temptation to skip your early devotion or to hurry through it.
Once again, you have not taken the time to “watch and pray.” Your alertness has been sacrificed, and I firmly believe there will be irreparable damage. You have failed to pray, and you will suffer as a result.
Temptations are waiting to confront you, and you are not prepared to withstand them. Within your soul you have a sense of guilt, and you seem to be lingering some distance from God. It certainly is no coincidence that you tend to fall short of your responsibilities on those days when you have allowed your weariness to interfere with your prayer life.
When we give in to laziness, moments of prayer that are missed can never be redeemed. We may learn from the experience, but we will miss the rich freshness and strength that would have been imparted during those moments. Frederick William Robertson
Jesus, the omnipotent Son of God, felt it necessary to rise each morning before dawn to pour out His heart to His Father in prayer. Should we not feel even more compelled to pray to Him who is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) and who has promised to provide whatever we need?
We do not know all that Jesus gained from His time in prayer, but we do know this—a life without prayer is a powerless life. It may be a life filled with a great deal of activity and noise, but it will be far removed from Him who day and night prayed to God. selected
Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night? (Job 35:10)
Do you ever experience sleepless nights, tossing and turning and simply waiting for the first glimmer of dawn? When that happens, why not ask the Holy Spirit to fix your thoughts on God, your Maker, and believe He can fill those lonely, dreary nights with song?
Is your night one of bereavement? Focusing on God often causes Him to draw near to your grieving heart, bringing you the assurance that He needs the one who has died. The Lord will assure you He has called the eager, enthusiastic spirit of your departed loved one to stand with the invisible yet liberated, living, and radiant multitude. And as this thought enters your mind, along with the knowledge that your loved one is engaged in a great heavenly mission, a song begins in your heart.
Is your night one of discouragement or failure, whether real or imagined? Do you feel as if no one understands you, and your friends have pushed you aside? Take heart: your Maker “will come near to you” (James 4:8) and give you a song—a song of hope, which will be harmonious with the strong, resonant music of His providence. Be ready to sing the song your Maker imparts to you. selected
What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
The night has come; it is no longer day?
Yet as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible to day.
The strength of a ship is only fully demonstrated when it faces a hurricane, and the power of the gospel can only be fully exhibited when a Christian is subjected to some fiery trial. We must understand that for God to give “songs in the night,” He must first make it night. Nathaniel William Taylor
Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)
If a person allows it, he can find something at every turn of the road that will rob him of his victory and his peace of mind. Satan is far from retiring from his work of attempting to deceive and destroy God’s children. At each milestone in your life, it is wise to check the temperature of your experience in order to be keenly aware of the surrounding conditions.
If you will do this and firmly exhibit your faith at the precise moment, you can sometimes actually snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat.
Faith can change any situation, no matter how dark or difficult. Lifting your heart to God in a moment of genuine faith in Him can quickly alter your circumstances.
God is still on His throne, and He can turn defeat into victory in a split second, if we will only trust Him.
God is mighty! He is able to deliver;
Faith can victor be in every trying hour;
Fear and care and sin and sorrow be defeated
By our faith in God’s almighty, conquering power.
Have faith in God, the sun will shine,
Though dark the clouds may be today;
His heart has planned your path and mine,
Have faith in God, have faith alway.
When you have faith, you need never retreat. You can stop the Enemy wherever you encounter him. Marshal Ferdinand Foch
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalm 37:3)
I once met a poor woman who earned a meager living through hard domestic labor but was a joyful, triumphant Christian. Another Christian lady, who was quite sullen, said to her one day, “Nancy, I understand your happiness today, but I would think your future prospects would sober you. Suppose, for instance, you experience a time of illness and are unable to work. Or suppose your present employers move away, and you cannot find work elsewhere. Or suppose—”
“Stop!” cried Nancy. “I never ‘suppose.’ ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want’ [Ps. 23:1]. And besides,” she added to her gloomy friend, “it’s all that ‘supposing’ that’s making you so miserable. You’d better give that up and simply trust the Lord.”
The following Scripture is one that will remove all the “supposing” from a believer’s life if received and acted on in childlike faith: “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5–6). Hannah Whitall Smith
There’s a stream of trouble across my path;
It is dark and deep and wide.
Bitter the hour the future hath
When I cross its swelling tide.
But I smile and sing and say:
“I will hope and trust alway;
I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,
But I’ll borrow none today.”
Tomorrow’s bridge is a dangerous thing;
I dare not cross it now.
I can see its timbers sway and swing,
And its arches reel and bow.
O heart, you must hope alway;
You must sing and trust and say:
“I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,
But I’ll borrow none today.”
The eagle that soars at great altitudes does not worry about how it will cross a river. selected
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What a tremendous claim Paul makes in this verse! He does not say, “We know that in some things,” “most things,” or even “joyful things” but “ALL things.” This promise spans from the very smallest detail of life to the most important, and from the most humbling of daily tasks to God’s greatest works of grace performed during a crisis.
Paul states this in the present tense: “God works.” He does not say, “worked” or “will work.” It is a continuing operation.
We also know from Scripture that God’s “justice [is] like the great deep” (Ps. 36:6); at this very moment the angels in heaven, as they watch with folded wings the development of God’s great plan, are undoubtedly proclaiming, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made” (Ps. 145:17).
Then when God orchestrates “all things . . . for the good,” it is a beautiful blending. He requires many different colors, which individually may be quite drab, to weave into the harmonious pattern.
Separate tones, notes, and even discords are required to compose melodious musical anthems; a piece of machinery requires many separate wheels, parts, and connections. One part from a machine may be useless, or one note from an anthem may never be considered beautiful, but taken together, combined, and completed, they lead to perfect balance and harmony.
We can learn a lesson of faith from this: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7). J. R. Macduff
In a thousand trials, it is not just five hundred of them that work “for the good” of the believer, but nine hundred and ninety-nine, plus one. George Mueller
God Meant It unto Good (Gen. 50:20 KJV)
“God meant it unto good”—O blest assurance,
Falling like sunshine all across life’s way,
Touching with Heaven’s gold, earth’s darkest storm clouds,
Bringing fresh peace and comfort day by day.
’Twas not by chance the hands of faithless brothers
Sold Joseph captive to a foreign land;
Nor was it chance that, after years of suffering,
Brought him before the pharaoh’s throne to stand.
One Eye all-seeing saw the need of thousands,
And planned to meet it through that one lone soul;
And through the weary days of prison bondage
Was working toward the great and glorious goal.
As yet the end was hidden from the captive,
The iron entered even to his soul;
His eye could scan the present path of sorrow,
Not yet his gaze might rest upon the whole.
Faith failed not through those long, dark days of waiting,
His trust in God was reimbursed at last,
The moment came when God led forth his servant
To comfort many, all his sufferings past.
“It was not you but God, that led me to here,”
Witnessed triumphant faith in later days;
“God meant it unto good,” no other reason
Mingled their discord with his song of praise.
“God means it unto good” for you, beloved,
The God of Joseph is the same today;
His love permits afflictions strange and bitter,
His hand is guiding through the unknown way.
Your Lord, who sees the end from the beginning,
Has purposes for you of love untold.
Then place your hand in His and follow fearless,
Till you the riches of His grace behold.
There, when you stand firm in the Home of Glory,
And all life’s path lies open to your gaze,
Your eyes will SEE the hand that you’re now trusting,
And magnify His love through endless days.
Freda Hanbury Allen
The servant of the Lord must . . . be gentle. (2 Timothy 2:24 KJV)
When God finally conquers us and changes our unyielding nature, we receive deep insights into the Spirit of Jesus. Then, as never before, we see His extraordinary gentleness of spirit at work in this dark and unheavenly world. Yet the gifts of “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) do not automatically become evident in our lives. If we are not discerning enough to recognize their availability to us, to desire them, and then to nourish them in our thoughts, they will never become embedded in our nature or behavior. Every further step of spiritual growth in God’s grace must be preceded by acknowledging our lack of a godly attribute and then by exhibiting a prayerful determination to obtain it.
However, very few Christians are willing to endure the suffering through which complete gentleness is obtained. We must die to ourselves before we are turned into gentleness, and our crucifixion involves suffering. It will mean experiencing genuine brokenness and a crushing of self, which will be used to afflict the heart and conquer the mind.
Today many people are attempting to use their mental capacity and logical thinking to obtain sanctification, yet this is nothing but a religious fabrication. They believe that if they just mentally put themselves on the altar and believe the altar provides the gift of sanctification, they can then logically conclude they are fully sanctified. Then they go happily on their way, expressing their flippant, theological babble about the “deep” things of God.
Yet the heartstrings of their old nature have not been broken, and their unyielding character, which they inherited from Adam, has not been ground to powder. Their soul has not throbbed with the lonely, gushing groans of Gethsemane. Having no scars from their death on Calvary, they will exhibit nothing of the soft, sweet, gentle, restful, victorious, overflowing, and triumphant life that flows like a spring morning from an empty tomb. G. D.W.
And much grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33
In him you have been enriched in every way. (1 Corinthians 1:5)
Have you ever seen people who through some disaster were driven to great times of prayer? And have you noticed that once the disaster was long forgotten, a spiritual sweetness remained that warmed their souls?
It reminds me of a severe storm I once saw in late spring— one in which darkness covered the sky, except where the lightning violently split the clouds with its thundering power. The wind blew and the rain fell, as though heaven had opened its windows.
What devastation there was! The storm uprooted even the strongest of oaks, and not one spiderweb escaped the wind, despite being hidden from view. But soon, after the lightning was gone, the thunder ceased and was silent, and the rain was over; a western wind arose with a sweet and gentle breath, chasing the dark clouds away. I saw the retreating storm throw a scarf of rainbows over her fair shoulders and her glowing neck. She looked back at me, smiled, and then passed from my sight.
For many weeks after the storm, the fields raised their hands, full of heavenly, fragrant flowers, toward the sky. And all summer long the grass was greener, the streams were filled, and the trees, because of their lush foliage, cast a more restful shade.
All this—because the storm had come. All this—even though the rest of the earth had long forgotten the storm, its rainbows, and its rain. Theodore Parker
God may not give us an easy journey to the Promised Land, but He will give us a safe one. Horatius Bonar
It was a storm that led to the discovery of the gold mines in India. Have we not seen storms drive people to the discovery of the priceless mines of the love of God in Christ?
Is it raining, little flower?
Be glad of rain;
Too much sun would wither one;
It will shine again.
The clouds are very dark, it’s true;
But just behind them shines the blue.
Are you weary, tender heart?
Be glad of pain:
In sorrow, sweetest virtues grow,
As flowers in rain,
God watches, and you will have sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done.
My peace I give you. (John 14:27)
Two painters were once asked to paint a picture illustrating his own idea of rest. The first chose for his scene a quiet, lonely lake, nestled among mountains far away. The second, using swift, broad strokes on his canvas, painted a thundering waterfall. Beneath the falls grew a fragile birch tree, bending over the foam. On its branches, nearly wet with the spray from the falls, sat a robin on its nest.
The first painting was simply a picture of stagnation and inactivity. The second, however, depicted rest.
Outwardly, Christ endured one of the most troubled lives ever lived. Storms and turmoil, turmoil and storms—wave after wave broke over Him until His worn body was laid in the tomb. Yet His inner life was as smooth as a sea of glass, and a great calm was always there.
Anyone could have gone to Him at any time and found rest. Even as the human bloodhounds were dogging Him in the streets of Jerusalem, He turned to His disciples, offering them a final legacy: “My peace.”
Rest is not some holy feeling that comes upon us in church. It is a state of calm rising from a heart deeply and firmly established in God. Henry Drummond
My peace I give in times of deepest grief,
Imparting calm and trust and My relief.
My peace I give when prayer seems lost, unheard;
Know that My promises are ever in My Word.
My peace I give when you are left alone—
The nightingale at night has sweetest tone.
My peace I give in times of utter loss,
The way of glory leads right to the cross.
My peace I give when enemies will blame,
Your fellowship is sweet through cruel shame.
My peace I give in agony and sweat,
For My own brow with bloody drops was wet.
My peace I give when nearest friend betrays—
Peace that is merged in love, and for them prays.
My peace I give when there’s but death for thee—
The gateway is the cross to get to Me.
I have prayed for you . . . that your faith may not fail. (Luke 22:32)
Dear Christian, remember to take good care of your faith, for faith is the only way to obtain God’s blessings. Prayer alone cannot bring answers down from His throne, because it is the earnest prayer of one who believes that leads to answers.
Faith is the communication link between heaven and earth. It is on this link of faith that God’s messages of love travel so quickly that even before we ask, He answers. And while we are still speaking, “he hears us” (1 John 5:14). So when the connection of faith is broken, how will we obtain His promises?
Am I in trouble? I can receive help by expressing faith. Am I being battered by the Enemy? My soul will find refuge by leaning in faith upon God. But without faith, I call to Him in vain, for faith is the only road between my soul and heaven. If the road is blocked, how can I communicate with the great King?
Faith links me to Holy God and clothes me with the power of Jehovah. Faith insures me that each of His attributes will be used in my defense, helping me to defy the hosts of hell. It causes me to march triumphantly over the necks of my enemies. So without faith, how can I receive anything from the Lord?
Therefore, O Christian, carefully watch your faith. “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Charles H. Spurgeon
We as a people take such pride in being so practical that we want something more sure than faith. Yet Paul said, “The promise comes by FAITH, so that it may . . . be GUARANTEED” (Rom. 4:16). Daniel Crawford
Faith honors God, and God honors faith.
God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. (Genesis 41:52)
A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.
Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”
Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.
You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.
No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could never produce in your innermost being. J. M. M.
Songs across the Storm
A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;
A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;
The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;
And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes
While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.
My hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)
So often we simply neglect to look for the answers to what we have asked, which shows the lack of earnestness in our petitions. A farmer is never content until he reaps a harvest; a marks-man observes whether or not his bullet has hit the target; and a physician examines the effect of the medicine he prescribes. Should a Christian be any less careful regarding the effect of his labor in prayer?
Every prayer of the Christian, whether for temporal or spiritual blessings, will be fully answered if it meets certain biblical requirements. It must be prayed in faith and in accordance with God’s will. It must rely on God’s promise, be offered up in the name of Jesus Christ, and be prayed under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
God always answers the general intent of His people’s prayers. He does so not only to reveal His own glory but also to provide for the Christian’s spiritual and eternal welfare. Since we see in Scripture that Jesus Christ never rejected even a single petitioner who came to Him, we can believe that no prayer made in His name will be in vain.
The answer to our prayer may be coming, although we may not discern its approach. A seed that is underground during winter, although hidden and seemingly dead and lost, is nevertheless taking root for a later spring and harvest. Bickersteth
Delayed answers to prayer are not only trials of faith; they also give us opportunities to honor God through our steadfast confidence in Him even when facing the apparent denial of our request. Charles H. Spurgeon
Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. (Ezekiel 1:25)
What is the significance of these words: “They stood with lowered wings”? People often ask, “How can I hear the voice of the Lord?” This is the secret: these “living creatures” (v. 5) heard the voice when “they stood with lowered wings.”
We have all seen a bird flutter its wings while standing in place. But in this verse, we are told that “there came a voice . . . as they stood with lowered wings.”
Do you ever sit, or even kneel, before the Lord and yet are conscious of a fluttering in your spirit? If so, you are not exhibiting a sense of genuine stillness while in His presence.
A dear person told me of this very thing a few days ago. “I prayed about a certain thing,” she said, “but I did not wait for the answer to come.” She did not get still enough to hear God speak but instead went away and followed her own thinking in the matter. The result proved disastrous, and she was forced to retrace her steps.
Oh, how much energy we waste! How much time we lose by refusing to lower the wings of our spirit and become totally quiet before Him! Imagine the calm, the rest, and the peace that will come as we wait in His presence until we hear from Him!
Then, and only then, we too may speed “back and forth like flashes of lightning” (v.14), going directly to “wherever the spirit would go” (v. 20).
Be still! Just now be still!
Something your soul has never heard,
Something unknown to any song of bird,
Something unknown to any wind, or wave, or star,
A message from the Father’s land afar,
That with sweet joy the homesick soul will thrill,
And comes to you only when you’re still.
Be still! Just now be still!
There comes a presence very mild and sweet;
White are the sandals of His noiseless feet.
It is the Comforter whom Jesus sent
To teach you what the words He uttered meant.
The willing, waiting spirit, He does fill.
If you would hear His message,
Dear soul, be still!
Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12–13 KJV)
This verse is God’s word of encouragement to us to lift the hands of faith and to fortify the knees of prayer. All too often our faith becomes tired, weak, and listless, and our prayers lose their power and effectiveness.
The Lord’s illustration here is quite compelling. He is pointing out to us that when we become so discouraged and fearful that even one little obstacle depresses and frightens us, we are tempted to walk around it. We would rather take the easy way than face it. Perhaps there is some physical ailment that God is ready to heal, but it requires exertion on our part. The temptation is to find help from someone else or to walk around the obstacle in some other way.
We tend to find many ways of walking around emergencies instead of walking straight through them. So often we are faced with something that frightens or overwhelms us and seek to evade the problem with the excuse: “I’m not quite ready for that now.” It may require some sacrifice, or demand our obedience in some area. Perhaps there is some Jericho we are facing, or we are lacking the courage to help someone else and to pray through his concern with him. Perhaps we have a prayer that awaits completion, or a physical problem that is partially healed and we continue to walk around it.
God says, “Lift up the hands that hang down.” March straight through the flood, and behold! The waters will divide, the Red Sea will open, the Jordan will part, and the Lord will lead you through to victory.
Do not allow your feet to “be turned out of the way,” but let your body “be healed,” and your faith strengthened. Go straight ahead, leaving no Jericho unconquered behind you, and no place where Satan can boast of having overwhelmed you. This is a valuable lesson and is extremely practical. How often we find ourselves in this very situation!
Perhaps this is where you find yourself today. A. B. Simpson
Pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. Plow ahead like a steamship, which moves forward whether facing rough or smooth seas, and in rain or shine. Remember, the goal is simply to carry the cargo and to make it to port. Maltbie D. Babcock
Grain must be ground to make bread. (Isaiah 28:28)
Many of us cannot be used as food for the world’s hunger, because we have yet to be broken in Christ’s hands. “Grain must be ground to make bread,” and being a blessing of His often requires sorrow on our part. Yet even sorrow is not too high a price to pay for the privilege of touching other lives with Christ’s blessings. The things that are most precious to us today have come to us through tears and pain. J. R. Miller
God has made me as bread for His chosen ones, and if it is necessary for me to “be ground” in the teeth of lions in order to feed His children, then blessed be the name of the Lord. Ignatius
To burn brightly our lives must first experience the flame.
In other words, we cease to bless others when we cease to bleed.
Poverty, hardship, and misfortune have propelled many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulties challenge our energy and our perseverance but bring the strongest qualities of the soul to life. It is the weights on the old grandfather clock that keep it running. And many a sailor has faced a strong head wind yet used it to make it to port. God has chosen opposition as a catalyst to our faith and holy service.
The most prominent characters of the Bible were broken, threshed, and ground into bread for the hungry. Because he stood at the head of the class, enduring affliction while remaining obedient, Abraham’s diploma is now inscribed with these words: “The Father of Faith.”
Jacob, like wheat, suffered severe threshing and grinding. Joseph was beaten and bruised, and was forced to endure Potiphar’s kitchen and Egypt’s prison before coming to his throne.
David, hunted like an animal of prey through the mountains, was bruised, weary, and footsore, and thereby ground into bread for a kingdom. Paul could never have been bread for Caesar’s household if he had not endured the bruising of being whipped and stoned. He was ground into fine flour for the Roman royal family.
Combat comes before victory. If God has chosen special trials
for you to endure, be assured He has kept a very special place
in His heart just for you. A badly bruised soul is one who is chosen.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
When we have doubts or are facing difficulties, when others suggest courses of action that are conflicting, when caution dictates one approach but faith another, we should be still. We should quiet each intruding person, calm ourselves in the sacred stillness of God’s presence, study His Word for guidance, and with true devotion focus our attention on Him. We should lift our nature into the pure light radiating from His face, having an eagerness to know only what God our Lord will determine for us. Soon He will reveal by His secret counsel a distinct and unmistakable sense of His direction.
It is unwise for a new believer to depend on this approach alone. He should wait for circumstances to also confirm what God is revealing. Yet Christians who have had many experiences in their walk with Him know the great value of secret fellowship with the Lord as a means of discerning His will.
Are you uncertain about which direction you should go? Take your question to God and receive guidance from either the light of His smile or the cloud of His refusal. You must get alone with Him, where the lights and the darknesses of this world cannot interfere and where the opinions of others cannot reach you. You must also have the courage to wait in silent expectation, even when everyone around you is insisting on an immediate decision or action. If you will do these things, the will of God will become clear to you. And you will have a deeper concept of who He is, having more insight into His nature and His heart of love.
All this will be your unsurpassed gift. It will be a heavenly experience, a precious eternal privilege, and the rich reward for the long hours of waiting. David
“STAND STILL,” my soul, for so your Lord commands:
E’en when your way seems blocked, leave it in His wise hands;
His arm is mighty to divide the wave.
“Stand still,” my soul, “stand still” and you will see
How God can work the “impossible” for thee,
For with a great deliverance He does save.
Be not impatient, but in stillness stand,
Even when surrounded on every hand,
In ways your spirit does not comprehend.
God cannot clear your way till you are still,
That He may work in you His blessed will,
And all your heart and will to Him do bend.
“BE STILL,” my soul, for just when you are still,
Can God reveal Himself to you; until
Through you His love and light and life can freely flow;
In stillness God can work through you and reach
The souls around you. He then through you can teach
His lessons, and His power in weakness show.
“BE STILL”—a deeper step in faith and rest.
“Be still and know” your Father does know best
The way to lead His child to that fair land,
A “summer” land, where quiet waters flow;
Where longing souls are satisfied, and “know
Their God,” and praise for all that He has planned.
The people heard that he had come home. (Mark 2:1)
The adult coral invertebrates, known as polyps, work underwater constructing coral reefs. They do so never even imagining they are building the foundation of a new island, which will someday support plants and animals and will be a home where the children of God will be born and equipped for eternal glory as “co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).
Beloved, if your place in God’s army is hidden and secluded, do not grumble and complain. Do not seek to run from His will and the circumstances in which He has placed you. Remember, without the polyps, the coral reefs would never be built, and God calls some people to be spiritual polyps. He is looking for those who are willing to serve in places hidden from the sight of others, yet in full view of heaven, and who are sustained by the Holy Spirit.
A day is coming when Jesus will bestow His rewards. On that day some people may wonder how you came to merit a certain reward, since they have never heard of you. But remember, He makes no mistakes. selected
Just where you stand in the conflict,
There is your place.
Just where you think you are useless,
Hide not your face.
God placed you there for a purpose,
Whate’er it be;
Think He has chosen you for it;
Put on your armor!
At toil or rest!
Whate’er it be, never doubting
God’s way is best.
Out in the fight or on lookout,
Stand firm and true;
This is the work that your Master
Gives you to do.
With freedom from danger, we can leave a crowded meeting of believers, an inspiring mountaintop experience, or a helpful fellowship with “righteous men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23), in order to return to our modest and simple Emmaus, to the dreaded home of the Colossians, or even to the mission field of distant Macedonia. We can do so with the calm assurance that wherever God has placed us, and in every detail of our daily lives, He has ordained the land we are to possess to its very borders and has ordained the victory to be won. Northcote Deck
Love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)
Follow the way of love. (1 Corinthians 14:1 [also see 1 Corinthians 13:7–13])
When you are troubled, share your problems with God alone. Recently I read the personal experience of a precious child of God. It made such an impression on me that I would like to relate it to you here.
“At midnight I found myself completely unable to sleep,” she wrote. “Waves of cruel injustice were sweeping over me, and the covering of love seemed to have been unknowingly removed from my heart. In great agony I cried to God for the power to obey His admonition, ‘Love covers over all wrongs.’
“Immediately His Spirit began to work the power into me that ultimately brought about forgetfulness. I mentally dug a grave, deliberately throwing the dirt out until the hole was very deep. With sorrow, I lowered the offense that had wounded me into the grave and quickly shoveled the soil over it. Then I carefully covered the hole with green sod, planted beautiful white roses and forget-me-nots on top, and briskly walked away.
“Suddenly restful sleep came to me. And the wound that had seemed so deadly was healed without a scar. God’s love has covered so completely that today I cannot remember what caused my grief.”
There was a scar on yonder mountainside,
Gashed out where once the cruel storm had trod;
A barren, desolate chasm, reaching wide
Across the soft green sod.
But years crept by beneath the purple pines,
And veiled the scar with grass and moss once more,
And left it fairer now with flowers and vines
Than it had been before.
There was a wound once in a gentle heart,
From which life’s sweetness seemed to ebb and die;
And love’s confiding changed to bitter smart,
While slow, sad years went by.
Yet as they passed, unseen an angel stole
And laid a balm of healing on the pain,
Till love grew purer in the heart made whole,
And peace came back again.
Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29–30)
John Bunyan said that Peter did have a little faith, even in the midst of his doubts. In spite of crying out in fear, it was by getting out of the boat and walking that he got to Jesus.
In this passage of Scripture, we see that Peter’s sight was actually a hindrance. Once he had stepped out of the boat, the waves were none of his business. His only concern should have been the path of light shining across the darkness from Christ Himself. Even the glow of a kingdom ten times brighter than that of ancient Egypt should not have diverted Peter’s eyes.
When the Lord calls you to come across the water, step out with confidence and joy. And never glance away from Him for even a moment. You will not prevail by measuring the waves or grow strong by gauging the wind. Attempting to survey the danger may actually cause you to fall before it. Pausing at the difficulties will result in the waves breaking over your head.
“Lift up [your] eyes to the hills” (Ps. 121:1) and go forward.
There is no other way.
Do you fear to launch away?
Faith lets go to swim!
Never will He let you go;
It’s by trusting you will know
Fellowship with Him.
Concerning the work of my hands command ye me. (Isaiah 45:11 KJV)
The Lord Jesus took this very approach with God when He said, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me” (John 17:24). Joshua used it during the moment of his greatest victory, when he lifted his spear toward the setting sun and cried aloud, “O sun, stand still” (Josh. 10:12). Elijah employed it when he stopped the rain from heaven and started it again after three and a half years. Martin Luther followed it when, kneeling by his dying colleague, Philipp Melanchthon, he forbid death to take its victim.
This is a wonderful relationship that God invites us to enter. We are certainly familiar with passages of Scripture like the one that follows the above verse: “My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts” (Isa. 45:12). But knowing that God invites us to command Him to act reveals a surprising change in our normal relationship!
What a distinction there is between this attitude and the hesitancy and uncertainty of our prayers of unbelief, to which we have become so accustomed! The constant repetition of our prayers has also caused them to lose their sharp cutting edge.
Think how often Jesus, during His earthly ministry, put others in a position to command Him. “As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho,” Jesus stopped and responded to two blind men who had called out to Him. “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matt. 20:29, 32). It was as though He said, “I am yours to command.”
Could we ever forget how Jesus yielded the key to His resources to the Greek woman from Syrian Phoenicia because of her reply to Him? In effect, He told her to help herself to all that she needed. (See Mark 7:24–30.)
What human mind can fully realize the total significance of the lofty position to which God lovingly raises His little children? He seems to be saying, “All my resources are at your command.” “And I will do whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:13). F. B. Meyer
Say to this mountain, “Go,
Be cast into the sea”;
And doubt not in your heart
That it will be to thee.
It will be done, doubt not His Word,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
Claim your redemption right,
Purchased by precious blood;
The Trinity unite
To make it true and good.
It will be done, obey the Word,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
Self, sickness, sorrow, sin,
The Lord did meet that day
On His beloved One,
And you are freed away.
It has been done, rest on His Word,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
Surround the rival’s wall
With silent prayer, then raise—
Before its ramparts fall—
The victor’s shout of praise.
It will be done, faith rests assured,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
The massive gates of brass,
The bars of iron yield,
To let the faithful pass,
Conquerors in every field.
It will be done, the foe ignored,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
Take then the faith of God,
Free from the taint of doubt;
The miracle-working rod
That casts all reasoning out.
It will be done, stand on the Word,
Challenge your mountain in the Lord!
The Lord said to Moses,“. . .Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea.” (Exodus 14:15–16)
Dear child of God, just imagine that triumphal march! Picture the excited children being constantly hushed and restrained by their parents from their outbursts of wonder. Think how the women must have experienced an uncontrollable excitement as they found themselves suddenly saved from a fate worse than death. Imagine how the men who accompanied them must have felt ashamed and admonished for mistrusting God and for complaining against Moses. And as you envision the Red Sea’s mighty walls of water, separated by the outstretched hand of the Eternal in response to the faith of a single man, learn what God will do for His own.
Never dread any consequence resulting from absolute obedience to His command. Never fear the rough waters ahead, which through their proud contempt impede your progress. God is greater than the roar of raging water and the mighty waves of the sea. “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever” (Ps. 29:10). A storm is simply the hem of His robe, the sign of His coming, and the evidence of His presence.
Dare to trust Him! Dare to follow Him! Then discover that the forces that blocked your progress and threatened your life become at His command the very materials He uses to build your street of freedom. F. B. Meyer
Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind, He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Move on.”
And His hand will lead you through—clear through—
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But o’er the seabed you will walk dry ground
In the path that your Lord will make.
In the morning watch, ’neath the lifted cloud,
You will see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears will pass as your foes have passed,
You will be no more afraid;
You will sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.
Annie Johnson Flint
What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? (Romans 3:3)
I suspect that the source of every bit of sorrow in my life can be traced to simple unbelief. If I truly believe the past is totally forgiven, the present is supplied with power, and the future is bright with hope, how could I be anything but completely happy?
Yes, the future is bright, because of God’s faithfulness. His abiding truth does not change with my mood, and He never wavers when I stumble and fall over a promise of His through my unbelief. His faithfulness stands firm and as prominent as mountain peaks of pearl splitting the clouds of eternity. And each base of His hills is rooted at an unfathomable depth on the rock of God.
Mont Blanc does not disappear, becoming a passing vision or a whimsical mist, simply because a climber grows dizzy on its slopes. James Smetham
Is it any wonder that we do not receive God’s blessing after stumbling over His promise through unbelief? I am not saying that faith merits an answer or that we can work to earn it. But God Himself has made believing a condition of receiving, and the Giver has a sovereign right to choose His own terms for His gifts. Samuel Hart
Unbelief continually asks, “How can this be possible?” It is always full of “how’s,” yet faith needs only one great answer to even ten thousand “how’s.” That answer is—GOD! C. H. M.
No one accomplishes so much in so little time as when he or she is praying. And the following thought certainly aligns well with all that the Lord Jesus Christ taught on prayer: If only ONE BELIEVER WITH TOTAL FAITH rises up, the history of the world will be changed.
Will YOU be that one to rise up, submitting yourself to the sovereignty and guidance of God our Father? A. E. McAdam
Prayer without faith quickly degenerates into an aimless routine or heartless hypocrisy. However, prayer with faith brings the omnipotence of God to the support of our petitions. It is better not to pray until your entire being responds to, and understands, the power of prayer. When genuine prayer is even whispered, earth and heaven, and the past and future, say, “Amen!”
This is the kind of prayer Christ prayed. P. C. M.
Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except those things
outside the will of God.
Summon your power, O God; show us your strength. (Psalm 68:28)
The Lord imparts to me the underlying strength of character that gives me the necessary energy and decision-making ability to live my life. He strengthens me “with power through his Spirit in [my] inner being” (Eph. 3:16). And the strength He gives is continuous, for He is a source of power I cannot exhaust.
“Your strength will equal your days” (Deut. 33:25)—my strength of will, affection, judgment, ideals, and achievement will last a lifetime.
“The Lord is my strength” (Ex. 15:2) to go on. He gives me the power to walk the long, straight, and level path, even when the monotonous way has no turns or curves offering pleasant surprises and when my spirit is depressed with the terrible drudgery.
“The Lord is my strength” to go up. He is my power to climb the straight and narrow path up the Hill of Difficulty, as Christian did in Pilgrim’s Progress, and not be afraid.
“The Lord is my strength” to go down. It is often once I leave the invigorating heights, where the wind and sunlight have surrounded me, and begin to descend to the more confining, humid, and stifling heat of the valley below that my heart grows faint. In fact, I recently heard someone say, referring to his own increasing physical frailty, “It is coming down that tires me most!”
“The Lord is my strength” to sit still. And what a difficult accomplishment this is! I often say to others during those times when I am compelled to be still, “If only I could do something!” I feel like the mother who stands by her sick child but is powerless to heal. What a severe test! Yet to do nothing except to sit still and wait requires tremendous strength.
“The Lord is my strength!” “Our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). from The Silver Lining
There before me was a door standing open in heaven. (Revelation 4:1)
We should remember that John wrote these words while on the island of Patmos. He was there “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). He had been banished to this island, which was an isolated, rocky, and inhospitable prison. Yet it was here, under difficult circumstances—separated from all his loved ones in Ephesus, excluded from worshiping with the church, and condemned to only the companionship of unpleasant fellow captives—that he was granted this vision as a special privilege. It was as a prisoner that he saw “a door standing open in heaven.”
We should also remember Jacob, who laid down in the desert to sleep after leaving his father’s house. “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and . . . above it stood the Lord” (Gen. 28:12–13).
The doors of heaven have been opened not only for these two men but also for many others. And in the world’s estimation, it seems as if their circumstances were utterly unlikely to receive such revelations. Yet how often we have seen “a door standing open in heaven" for those who are prisoners and captives, for those who suffer from a chronic illness and are bound with iron chains of pain to a bed of sickness, for those who wander the earth in lonely isolation, and for those who are kept from the Lord’s house by the demands of home and family.
But there are conditions to seeing the open door. We must know what it is to be “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10). We must be “pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8) and obedient in faith. We must be willing to “consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8). Then once God is everything to us, so that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), the door to heaven will stand open before us as well. from Daily Devotional Commentary
God has His mountains bleak and bare,
Where He does bid us rest awhile;
Cliffs where we breathe a purer air,
Lone peaks that catch the day’s first smile.
God has His deserts broad and brown—
A solitude—a sea of sand,
Where He does let heaven’s curtain down,
Unveiled by His Almighty hand.
There we saw the giants. (Numbers 13:33 KJV)
Yes, the Israeli spies saw giants, but Joshua and Caleb saw God! Those who doubt still say today, “We can’t attack . . .; they are stronger than we are” (v. 31). Yet those who believe say, “We should go up and take possession . . . , for we can certainly do it” (v. 30).
Giants represent great difficulties, and they stalk us everywhere. They are in our families, our churches, our social life, and even our own hearts. We must overcome them or they will devour us, just as the ancient Israelites, fearing those in Canaan, said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size” (v. 32). We should exhibit faith as did Joshua and Caleb, who said, “Do not be afraid . . . , because we will swallow them up” (Num. 14:9). In effect, they told the others, “We will be stronger by overcoming them than if there had been no giants to defeat.”
In fact, unless we have overcoming faith, we will be swallowed up—consumed by the giants who block our path. “With that same spirit of faith” (2 Cor. 4:13) that Joshua and Caleb had, let us look to God, and He will take care of the difficulties. selected
We encounter giants only when we are serving God and following Him. It was when Israel was going forward that the giants appeared, for when they turned back into the wilderness, they found none.
Many people believe that the power of God in a person’s life should keep him from all trials and conflicts. However, the power of God actually brings conflict and struggles. You would think that Paul, during his great missionary journey to Rome, would have been kept by God’s sovereignty from the power of violent storms and of his enemies. Yet just the opposite was true. He endured one long, difficult struggle with the Jews who were persecuting him. He faced fierce winds, poisonous snakes, and all the powers of earth and of hell. And finally, he narrowly escaped drowning, by swimming to shore at Malta after a shipwreck nearly sent him to a watery grave.
Does this sound like a God of infinite power? Yes, it is just like Him. And that is why Paul told us that once he took the Lord Jesus Christ as his life in his body, a severe conflict immediately arose. In fact, the conflict never ended. The pressure on Paul was persistent, but from the conflict he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.
Paul described this in quite vivid language: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8–10).
What a ceaseless and strenuous struggle he related! It is nearly impossible to express in English the impact of the original language. Paul gives us five different images in succession. In the first, he has us picture enemies completely surrounding and pressuring but not crushing him, because the heavenly “police” have protected him and cleared a path just wide enough for him to escape. The literal meaning is, “We are crowded from all sides, but not defeated.”
The second image is that of someone whose way is completely blocked or thwarted by the enemy. Yet he has persevered, for there is just enough light for him to see the next step. Paul said, “Perplexed, but not in despair,” or as one literal translation put it, “Without a road, but not without a ‘side road’ of escape.”
The third picture, “Persecuted, but not abandoned,” is one of the enemy in hot pursuit of him while the divine Defender stands nearby. He is pursued, but not left alone.
The fourth is even more vivid and dramatic. The enemy has overtaken him, struck him, and knocked him down. But it is not a fatal blow—he is able to rise again. He has been “struck down, but not destroyed,” or literally, “overthrown, but not overcome.”
In the fifth and final image, Paul advances the thought still further, giving us a picture that appears to be one of death itself: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus.” Yet he does not die, for “the life of Jesus” comes to his aid, and he lives through Christ’s life until his lifework is complete.
The reason so many people fail to experience this divine principle is that they expect to receive it all without a struggle. When conflict comes and the battle rages on, they become discouraged and surrender. God has nothing worth having that is easily gained, for there are no cheap goods on the heavenly market. The cost of our redemption was everything God had to give, and anything worth having is expensive. Difficult times and places are our schools of faith and character. If we are ever to rise above mere human strength, and experience the power of the life of Christ in our mortal bodies, it will be through the process of conflict that could very well be called the “labor pains” of the new life. It is like the story of Moses, who “saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Ex. 3:2); although Satan’s demons tried to extinguish the flame in Moses’ life by continually pouring water on his plans, they could not, because God’s angels were ever vigilant, pouring oil on the flame to keep it burning brightly.
Dear child of God, you may be suffering, but you cannot fail if you will only dare to believe, stand firm, and refuse to be overcome. from a tract
I heard a hushed voice. (Job 4:16)
Some twenty years ago a friend gave me a book entitled True Peace. It had an old medieval message and this one primary thought—that God was waiting in the depths of my being to speak to me if I would only be still enough to hear His voice.
I assumed this would not be a difficult thing to do, so I tried to be still. No sooner had I begun to do so than complete pandemonium seemed to break loose. Suddenly I heard a thousand voices and sounds from without and within, until I could hear nothing except these incredible noises. Some were my own words, my own questions, and even my own prayers, while others were temptations of the Enemy, and the voices of the world’s turmoil.
In every direction I turned, I was pushed, pulled, and confronted with indescribable unrest and overwhelming noises. I seemed compelled to listen to some of them and to respond in some way. But God said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Then my mind was filled with worries over my responsibilities and plans for tomorrow, and God said again, “Be still.”
As I listened and slowly learned to obey, I shut my ears to every other sound. Soon I discovered that once the other voices ceased, or once I ceased to hear them, “a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12) began to speak in the depths of my being. And it spoke to me with an inexpressible tenderness, power, and comfort.
This “gentle whisper” became for me the voice of prayer, wisdom, and service. No longer did I need to work so hard to think, pray, or trust, because the Holy Spirit’s “gentle whisper” in my heart was God’s prayer in the secret places of my soul. It was His answer to all my questions, and His life and strength for my soul and body. His voice became the essence of all knowledge, prayer, and blessings, for it was the living God Himself as my life and my all.
This is precisely how our spirit drinks in the life of our risen Lord. And then we are enabled to face life’s conflicts and responsibilities, like a flower that has absorbed the cool and refreshing drops of dew through the darkness of the night. Yet just as dew never falls on a stormy night, the dew of His grace never covers a restless soul. A. B. Simpson