A few months ago, I passed through a desert that looked like it had no streams. Although I tried to remain steadfast in the Lord, many are the times that I got angry at Him for putting me through it all. I found myself jobless, deprived, desperate, depressed, a product of abandonment with nothing to eat, no money for rent and an unfriendly non-believer to house me. From the depths of my pain I cried unto Him. From the murk of indignity and the pain of hitting a wall, I knew only that my salvation would come from Him. As I lay down broken and contrite in prayer, I did not realize that even then that Jehovah was with me, until He answered my prayers. And I was glad I had gone through it all.
John Calvin, a renowned theologian lived an enviable life of faithfulness to God. Yet he was riddled by all manner of disease which never stopped him from doing what he had decided to do for God: serve him.
God gives us grace for the season. In 2Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks of his own struggles with what God refused to take away from him. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away but each time the answer was the same, "My grace is sufficient for you because my power is made perfect in weakness". Paul himself discovered that if he had to go through these difficulties in order to be a beneficiary of Christ's power, then he was willing to go through anything that God put him through. Of this he said, "That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong".
As Christians we are promised that we shall be the heads and not the tails. We become confused therefore when things are going bad for us and especially when it seems that our breakthroughs can only come from non-believers, but simply because life is not going well for us does not mean that the essence of the Gospel has changed. Christ said that we would face many things in this life. In John 17:14-15 we see him praying for the disciples, to the Father, "I have given them your Word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one". James 1:12 further tells us that "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him". It is therefore false doctrine for a preacher to always preach about blessings and forget to emphasize that victory will actually come from hardships. Everything that God allows to happen to us is geared towards making us better.
Unfortunately the church does not want to embrace the God of pain. Salvation is not about health or sickness, riches or poverty, bad marriages or good ones; it is about seeing victory at the end of dark tunnels. It is about living in faith in the belief that He who is faithful will eventually pull you out of intolerable situations .It is about triumph over the devil's devices which God uses for His glory like in the life of John Calvin. In Hebrews 11 we see the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and even Sarah commended; people that admitted that they were aliens in the world and longed for a better country-a heavenly one. The faith of Moses, Jacob, Joseph Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel is also commended yet the same book concludes this chapter by saying that none of these heroes of faith received what had been promised because , "God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect". This is what salvation promises us that despite what we may pass through in the journey; God has something better for us at the very end of the race.
You could be bitter, hopeless, dissatisfied and disappointed by the life that you are leading. You may even be regretting the kind of life that you had led before or are still leading. But remember you are not alone; others may be in similar or worse off situations than yourself. Better still are those that have gone through what you are experiencing and have emerged victorious. Be encouraged in the knowledge that every situation and every person that God brings your way is somehow related to His plan for your future. God is embroidering your life pattern after pattern, stroke after stroke, situation after situation, pain after pain. He is in control so be wise in the way that you go through your desert experience. Proverbs 15:24 says, 'The path of life leads upwards for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave'.
God is always working out something for His glory. In our aches, He is real. Not only does He hear our cries but He feels our pain, our loneliness, our sorrow with us. He felt Elijah's pain under the tree as He was pursued by a wicked queen. He held Elijah's hand and fed him even in that desert situation. Although Elijah had seen the goodness of God before, this one time he just gave up and waited to die. God understood that he was a mere mortal as he understands us today. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us. Joseph was forsaken, hated and even jailed but he wisely discerned that what others meant for evil, God used for good. Our God uses what He does not like to accomplish what He wants.
The story of Job is one of pain and unimaginable suffering. It shows us that the devil roams the world shopping for people to devour, to depress, to discourage and to destroy. His primary objective is not to destroy your body or your property but to have your soul. He will therefore strike you again and again until you give up on God, this way he ensures that you never get to heaven. God allowed Job to go through all the pain and out of this a wiser version of him discerned that God is always in control. Job used to think that he knew God, but after his experience he realized that he was only beginning to know Him.
The streams of God's grace are sufficient to sustain us; even the young depressed people who are looking for fulfillment in drugs and sex, some even contemplating suicide. Only God through Jesus Christ can give us quenching streams in our hardships. Those who have been through horrors at the hands of people we loved and trusted only need to discover the quenching power of forgiveness-the forgiveness of Christ because we are unable to do so on our own.
I read somewhere that forgiveness is love in its most noble form. How true this is because it is only in forgiveness which flows from God that we can move on. In salvation this truth is made clear as we read the Word that tells us that it was Christ's love for us that led him to atone for our sins with his life. Do not give in to the forces of darkness by hardening your heart to forgiveness, let the sustaining grace of God's streams of forgiveness wash over you and make you whole again.
Prosperity is not about the cars you drive, the rich husband or beautiful wife that you married, the job you have or the position you hold; it is about being in God's walk and letting His will and desire for your life to become a reality. Once again His grace is sufficient to hold you together where you are with all the challenges that come with your circumstances and placement in life. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. His love washes over us in our darkest of moments and over all that we consider to be our prosperity gauge.
God's streams of love, hope and joy will flow into our deserts, our illnesses, our loses, our betrayals and our hurts. Some faithful spouses have been infected by HIV as they remained quietly faithful to wayward partners. Some people are going through the motions of divorce and have no clue as to what life has in store for them in the future. Some people have lost a loved one and like Naomi wonder what God is up to. Some are about to lose their jobs and their livelihood. Some believers are feeling the weight of backsliding shadowing them as they remain faithful in a work place that does not understand nor respect the Gospel they stand for. Some people are struggling with the guilt of backsliding and wonder whether God will restore them. Be encouraged because God's grace is sufficient, it is all we need. It is available and it is free. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". His grace is sufficient in all situations.
May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.