Last year on this day, I was struggling. I was a pastor in between churches. It was a dark and uncertain time for not just me, but my wife and kids. We all felt alone and alienated. I started claiming these two promises that I posted today, one year ago on my Facebook page--and I am still, claiming them--every day.
Reflecting back I realize just how much support there really was. My conference admin was excellent to me with regular calls from my president, VP, and ministerial director to visit, always praying with/for me/us. How many friends called or stopped by. And how many of my pastor friends were praying for us, calling us, or texting us. Looking back at a dark time in life, I realize just how close God was through such friends and colleagues.
Today, one year later, I'm pastoring in a church that is excited about what the future holds. They are excited to work for Jesus. They love my family. And my family feels accepted. We can see how God has led. It so miraculous--it's exciting to think that God cared THAT much.
I totally resonate with this statement: "Satan's efforts to hinder the work and to destroy the workmen have not ceased; but God has had a care for His servants and for His work. In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (Life Sketches, 196)
I write this Sabbath morning as an encouragement for any of my friends or colleagues who are struggling. Jesus is there. It may not feel like it. And the feelings you may have may not be pleasant, leaving you feeling deserted and distant. But keep praying. Keep holding on. You're not alone.
If you'd like, I'll pray with you too.
In can be very discouraging to wonder why other people seem to get their prayers answered while you are waiting, and waiting, and waiting for your answer.
The challenge is to keep on praying. When we pray, when we approach Calvary, we put the burden from our shoulders onto the One who died there for us. So while my challenge may persist, I am granted strength to continue.
So keep praying--or better, as the Bible suggests, keep nagging. It's true. Read the story in the version of your choice in Luke 18:1-8. I'm including the text here from the MSG paraphrase here. The caps are my emphasis.
“Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’
“He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. BUT because THIS WIDOW WON'T STOP BADGERING ME, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I'M GOING TO END UP BEATEN BLACK-AND-BLUE BY HER POUNDING.’”
Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? SO WHAT MAKES YOU THINK GOD WON'T STEP IN AND WORK JUSTICE FOR HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE, WHO CONTINUE TO CRY OUT FOR HELP? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”
After writing about Moses on Friday, I found myself asking why he was doubting God's statement about the quail? After all, isn't this the same God who opened the Red Sea and allowed all Israel to pass through on dry ground? Isn't this the same God who closed the sea and swallowed up the host of the Egyptian army?
So for context, I rewound the story just a bit more to the story of the 10 plagues down in Egypt. You'll remember the first two plagues the Egyptian magicians had been able to mimic, but the plague of lice from dust they couldn't. Turning to Pharaoh they said, "This is the FINGER of God" (Ex 8:19).
So when Moses now doubts, it's against the backdrop of all the power of God's finger. But God doesn't ask if His finger is to short--which was powerful enough. He asks has His whole arm been shortened? In other words, "Moses, if there was enough power in My finger to do all that I did to Egypt, how much more could My arm do for you?"
Interestingly, after Jesus had a cast a demon out of a fellow, the people were questioning how He did it. Was He Himself a devil so that He was capable of this? So in Luke 11:20, Jesus answers that He cast the demons out Himself, with His finger! But what I love in the following verses (20-23) is that Jesus says, "the Kingdom of God has come upon you." He then continues to explain that the strong defend themselves, but when one comes who is stronger, then the former are overtaken. Essentially Jesus is saying I'm stronger, and I'm overtaking this world--with just My FINGER!
Irony. The Egyptian magicians, who weren't believers, had enough sense to recognize God's power was beyond demons, but the people of God couldn't see past their own blind beliefs and traditions to attribute such a powerful miracle to God.