December was a hard month for me. It was a month of crisis, particularly for my faith. Many things came to a head, and it looked like my faith was going to fail, but God, who is faithful, came through and supplied a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Who are my enemies? Mostly myself, my flesh. My flesh is a more troublesome and deadier enemy than satan or the world ever can be.
We run a race against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and if we don't win that race, we die.
This is what the Bible says about our race:
- "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."
[1 Corinthians 9:24 – 26]
- "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
[Hebrews 12:1 – 3]
I was losing heart. It wasn't so much that I was dealing with persecution, but rather that it looked like my dreams were crumbling to dust. What do you do when loved ones whose salvation and deliverance you have believed for seem to be going backwards instead of forwards? What do you do when you seem to be moving farther away from a promise you have believed for many years?
This is what the Lord says:
- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
[Proverbs 3:5 &: 6]
I read a really interesting biography this month, about an American Olympic runner named Louis Zamperini. You can read the book for free at this LINK. It is called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. But the title isn't really true. Louie was broken; the things he experienced took a toll on him, but God healed him.
Louie was a BRAT. Oh boy! You wanna talk about chemical balances? I think that this kid had 'em. He would have definitely been diagnosed as having a defiance disorder, if he was born a few decades later. He tore all over town picking locks and stealing food from other people's kitchens, performing unauthorized collection of coins from pay phones, running cons on various citizenry, and many other types of mischief. And this is what he was doing before he even got to his teens!
Who would have ever thought that Louie would be an Olympic runner? Every girl could beat him in a race when he was a little guy, as he suffered from the effects of pneumonia. And because he was a funny–looking kid, bullies picked on him. Who would have ever thought that he would grow into being a handsome man whom the girls thought was dreamy? His parents were poor and he lived in a shabby neighbourhood. Who would have thought that he would marry a beautiful girl from a wealthy family?
It seems that God has a peculiar fondness for "dark horses." A dark horse is one that most people would never put a bet on; it doesn't look like there is any hope that it would win a race.
Louie was definitely a dark horse, but getting chased all over town by the local police made him get better at running, and when he was fourteen, his older brother Pete persuaded him to start running track. He was also persuaded by the fact that, in those days, the authorities sometimes sent kids who were considered trouble makers to asylums and forcibly sterilized them. He realized that there was a real possibility that this could happen to him because it nearly happened to a neighbourhood kid who was labelled as "feeble–minded." The boy was saved from this through the frantic efforts of his parents, supported by donations from neighbours for the legal fees. Also, Louie's siblings tutored the boy and helped him earn straight A's on his report card.
In the beginning, Louie really hated running, but it was his attraction to girls that triggered an interest; he wanted to impress them, and then he became intoxicated by the applause when he won the races. Eventually, he made it onto the 1936 Olympic team, competing in Munich. He came eighth in his race, but made a surprising finish, running faster on the last lap than anyone had timed before. Hitler congratulated him on this feat and Louie achieved a bit more fame after that by stealing Hitler's personal flag.
In 1938, Louie ran a race that stands out to me as an example of how our competitors in the race of life, the world, the flesh, and the devil, run against us. Louie was warned before the race that the other runners were going to play dirty; they knew he was the runner who was likely to win, unless they gave him some serious handicaps.
Halfway through the race, to keep him from breaking out ahead, the runners crowded around him on the track, one of them stomped on his foot, spiking his toe, he was slashed in the shins with the spikes at the bottom of their shoes, and another one elbowed him in the chest, cracking his rib. Louie was bleeding and in an agony of pain, much to the horrified consternation of the onlooking crowd who witnessed these dirty tricks. Louie had to run a lap and a half before he could find a tiny opening where he could break free. Then he poured on the speed and came in first, setting a record that stood for fifteen years before it was broken.
The devil plays dirty, and so does the world. As for the flesh, it will do anything it can to get what it wants. It will buy into any lame excuse that satan suggests to our mind to justify doing what it wants to do. It will run roughshod over many fine counter arguments as to why we shouldn't do the things that it wants us to do. I've lost many battles with Self–gratification.
These are not battles that most other humans would consider to be a scandal; just things that the Lord has convicted me that I shouldn't do, which many Christians don't consider that big of a deal, such as how Esau didn't consider it a big deal that he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. But these "little things" that we give way on nibble away at things we could have accomplished on Earth and rewards in Heaven that we could have enjoyed. How much of our inheritance have we forfeited by squandering the precious time that God has given us on things that do not profit? And on things that can send us heading into the wrong direction in life and make our love for God grow cold?
Many times, the good arguments came up, to deter me from becoming cold towards God, but they seemed to leave me unmoved. I thought, "What is wrong with me?" When you ask that question of yourself a lot, and sift through the possible answers, there is a good chance that you can get to the root of the problem. In my case, it has been an evil heart of unbelief.
As I reflected on this, it came to me that one of the reasons unbelief is so evil is that it can make a heart grow cold, and the light of our testimony to go out. Unbelief fosters discouragement. When we don't see the miracles we have been believing for, we can sink into depression, if we don't keep things in the proper perspective. And besides that, it is evil to not believe God, who cannot lie or do anything that is unholy. It is an insult to Him.
Last night, I was thinking about all the prayers I have prayed that seem to have gone nowhere, such as believing for a release of power to minister healing to others. There are so many needy people in this world who need the intervention of God. We hear about marvellous miracles happening in crusades, and in other circumstances, but there are millions of people who are being tormented by sickness and injuries and deformities and scars, more than the outstanding healing evangelists can reach. Every Christian needs to be activated in their faith, in order to bring a higher level of relief to satan's attacks against humanity.
I was feeling like a failure because of lack of prayer (according to my standards for myself), lack of enough passion for prayer, because of my housekeeping (my place isn't a disaster, but it's not always up to my standards), because of my weight gain, because of my aging, and still not having realized my dreams.
My kids aren't saved, yet. What is taking them so long? Is it because I haven't prayed enough for them, or because my faith isn't unhindered enough by doubt and unbelief? Major condemnation here. I think I probably prayed more for them, though, than my mother did for me.
I got saved in my teens and my children are in their thirties, but they have not yet committed their lives to the Lord. I worked hard to set a good example for them and for my grandchildren, once I got on track with God after several backslidings, and to teach them the Word every chance where I saw an opening. Sometimes there was only enough time to dart in and say a short piece, then back off before I got shredded.
A printed copy of Jeremiah 31: 16 & 17 has been on my wall for many years:
- "Thus says the Lord, Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded, declares the Lord, And they will return from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, And your children will return to their own territory."
One time I was mashing a pomegranate, and the juice splashed onto this little poster, which is tacked to my kitchen wall. A blob that looked like an exclamation mark landed right after where it says, "And your work shall be rewarded." The splatter of juice is faded, but still quite evident.
- "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
That sweet little sign from the Lord carried me for many years, but the Bible also says in Proverbs 13:12 that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I've been through ups and downs. I was preparing to go to Israel in January and then got broadsided by a family situation that seems to have derailed those plans. Okay, so this was a serious problem, but I encouraged myself with the slogan, "Don't tell God how big your problem is; tell your problem how big your God is."
I also encouraged myself from Psalm 27:13 &: 14:
- "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."
But I didn't wait on the Lord. In my waiting, I got discouraged and escaped off to Lalaland, losing myself in fantasy, trying to create a perfect world in my head where my heart's desires were fulfilled. And found out, yet again, that my heart's desires need to be changed. Some of them aren't so good. They certainly aren't realistic.
It has been such an eye–opening experience. Who can I blame this time? I went there in the last years of my marriage, discouraged because my husband was an alcoholic, and because of our arguments and his other behaviours that were hard on the kids and me, but this time around, I had nobody living with me, nobody in my immediate vicinity to cause me stress. Nobody's messes to clean up but my own. Nobody nagging me.
And what is the big deal about my deferred hopes? What are they compared to the Christians who are sitting in cold, lonely prisons, tortured daily? What are my deferred hopes compared to the Christians in Nigeria and other places who are grieving over slaughtered loved ones? It has been a humbling experience, leaving me feeling like I'm not the hot Christian that I thought I was.
Fantasizing can be an addiction. It can turn a person into a mental case. I read a newspaper article once entitled A Dustship Called Glory. It was about some old duffer in a mental institution who was, for the most part, catatonic, but every now and then, he would make an enthusiastic outcry, indicating that he had a very vivid and lively inner world where he acted out fantastic feats of daring and adventure. The writer wrote in great admiration of the man's vivid imagination, as if he had found an appropriate solution to the dreariness and defeats of his life. I thought, "What a waste! Living in a fantasy world where Self–gratification is king, and doing nobody else any good in this life."
I still feel the same way, but, like I said, the arguments of common sense weren't getting me out of my Slough of Despond. They reached out a hand and helped me climb halfway out, long enough to do some good to benefit others, then I'd slip back again in the mire, over and over.
Unbelief is a weight that so easily besets us. We feed on the world's lies when we watch movies and read novels that subtly promote this mindset. I watched a seemingly wholesome western where a mother was teaching her children to read, using the Bible, and the passage was the begats from Genesis. One of the kids said scornfully to the other child that people don't live for 960 years. The mother quickly interjected, "It's just a story," and then moved on to the next topic. Do you think the phrase "It's just a story," wasn't placed there deliberately? Think again. Movies are one method of transportation into Lalaland, and the brakes on that mode of travel have been tampered with, embedded with messages that are contrary to God's Word. Without a vision, the people perish (cast off discipline), and unbelief is a serious hindrance to having faith in God.
Consider the heart–warming stories about people coming to terms with illness and handicaps and death. Have you ever seen any of the characters in those movies rise up with a mighty prayer of faith and the sick being healed supernaturally? Of course not. Most people don't consider that "realistic" because they don't take the Bible seriously. Those movies don't help us take it seriously.
My failure to see the answers to my prayers manifested has been fed by not keeping my mind on the Lord. I could argue that for many long stretches of time, I have kept my mind on the Lord, and still not seen the answers manifested. At least, not all of them, but the Lord reminded me, "You have had miracles, though. I healed your jaw when it was dislocated, your knee from stretched ligaments, your eyes from tearing up because of dryness due to aging, from carpal tunnel syndrome, from a frozen shoulder; you have seen the answer to many prayers; just not all of them. It's not that you don't have any faith; you just need to grow more in your faith."
Growing pains. I've been having growing pains, and whining like a baby about it, throwing a tantrum by turning to escapism, instead of to the Lord. It is in my hands to turn things around, by getting back to waiting on the Lord. Have I not had enough faith? Faith comes by hearing a Word from God. I can renew my mind by reading the Bible more and thinking on it. That was one of the things I let slip this month, and the result was a disaster! I saw a really catchy slogan on Facebook that makes quite an impact: "God doesn't make winners or losers; He makes choosers."
We have it in us to be winners, if we choose Jesus and His ways.
The Bible says to trust in the Lord with ALL our heart, and to not lean to our own understanding. A friend ministered that word to me in 1986, when I went through a nervous breakdown after my husband left me, and that word got me through the nervous breakdown and victorious to the other side of it. So much weird stuff was happening, but I trusted in the Lord, and He gave me a new life, though there were people who thought (and hoped) I was going down for the count.
There were many times that Louie Zamperini looked like he was going down for the count. He wasn't a Christian until later in life, and it is amazing how patient God was with him in all his foibles, and how merciful He was in keeping Louie alive. Louie was in the army airforce during World War II and his plane went down over the ocean. He miraculously survived from drowning, as he had been tangled in some wires and there looked like no possibilty of getting free of them. He passed out, and when he came to, the wires were gone and he was floating in a pocket of air.
After he found his way out of the plane wreckage, and popped to the surface, he discovered that only two other men had survived the crash. They got into their life rafts and endured many hard days without water or food, being circled by sharks. It rained from time to time, they caught some birds and fish, and eventually one of the men died. There was also an occasion when Louie was in the water and fought off sharks by making his eyes grow wider, baring his teeth, and biffing the sharks on the nose. He was a quite a guy!
After more than forty days adrift, Louie and his friend, the pilot, who was a Christian, came to an island, where they were picked up by the Japanese. They underwent imprisonment, deprivation, and torture. At one camp, a sadistic Japanese officer made Louie his number one project because he was jealous of Louie's fame as an Olympic runner, and because Louie was so defiant, regardless of anything that the man did to him.
When Louie returned to America after the war, he was hailed as a great hero and got caught up in a whirlwind of speaking tours because so many people wanted to lade him with honours. But he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, which he tried to deal with through alcohol. Then his wife got saved at a Billy Graham meeting and tricked him into attending the crusade. Louie got saved and God instantly delivered him from PTSD. He later went to Japan and spoke at a prison where some of the guards from the concentration camp were serving sentences, and he extended forgiveness to all of them. He even extended his forgiveness to the officer who had made him his special object on which to vent his malice.
This story sure gave me hope for my kids and grandkids. Who would have thunk that such a troublesome little brat would have such a shining testimony as a Christian? And it is so amazing how God spared his life over and over, in spite of what a rascal he was!
Does it look like your kids are going backwards, instead of forwards? Just trust that the Lord is working in their heart, bringing them to Himself, regardless of how it looks. Does it look like your dreams are crumbling to ashes? God can resurrect the dead, even from ashes. All things are possible to those who BELIEVE, if their belief is in God's goodness and mercy and what He can do in our lives through Jesus Christ.
March 21, 2010 Newsletter
March 2010 Newsletter
April 2010 Newsletter
May 2010 Newsletter
June 2010 Newsletter
July 2010 Newsletter
August 2010 Newsletter
September 2010 Newsletter
October 2010 Newsletter
November 2010 Newsletter
December 2010 Newsletter
January 2011 Newsletter
February 2011 Newsletter
March 2011 Newsletter
April 2011 Newsletter
May 2011 Newsletter
June 2011 Newsletter
July 2011 Newsletter
August 2011 Newsletter
September 2011 Newsletter
October 2011 Newsletter
November 2011 Newsletter
December 2011 Newsletter
January 2012 Newsletter
February 2012 Newsletter
March 2012 Newsletter
April 2012 Newsletter
May 2012 Newsletter
June 2012 Newsletter
July 2012 Newsletter
August 2012 Newsletter
September 2012 Newsletter
October 2012 Newsletter
November 2012 Newsletter
December 2012 Newsletter
January 2013 Newsletter
February 2013 Newsletter
March 2013 Newsletter
April 2013 Newsletter
May 2013 Newsletter
June 2013 Newsletter
July 2013 Newsletter
August 2013 Newsletter
September 2013 Newsletter
October 2013 Newsletter
November 2013 Newsletter
December 20123 Newsletter
January 2014 Newsletter
February 2014 Newsletter
March 2014 Newsletter
April 2014 Newsletter
May 2014 Newsletter
June 2014 Newsletter
July 2014 Newsletter
August 2014 Newsletter
September 2014 Newsletter
October 2014 Newsletter
November 2014 Newsletter