Saturday, October 24, 2015

God on the Mountain, Is Still God in the Valley

Isaiah 40:29-31
“He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 31 but those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
There are times when it can seem like the enemy is getting the best of us.  Sometimes it can be a serious struggle to maintain your faith and trust in God, especially when it seems like everything is going against us.  You know what I’m talking about, those times when we find ourselves in the middle of one of the toughest battles of our life.  But it is in these times that we need the Lord more than ever.  It is in these times that our faith and trust in God is really put to the test.  These are the times when the proverbial rubber meets the road in our walk of faith.
It is easy to live for God and trust in Him when everything is going well, but what about when it seems like the weight of the whole world is on our shoulders. Unfortunately it is during such times that a lot of believers abandon ship, they bail out on God, when the storms get rough.
If your life is in the middle of turmoil, if the waves are about to swamp the boat, then look up and put your trust in God for that is often the moment that God is putting your faith to the test.  That is the moment when your faith is built and your relationship with God will show its true depth.
I heard a story years ago about a Florida army training camp during World War II.  The daily training for the recruits included a run through an obstacle course.  The last obstacle on the course was a small pond of where they had to use a rope and swing across the water.  Under the blazing southern sun the water looked so inviting that the men soon developed a habit of only making it only halfway across the obstacle.  So an enterprising lieutenant made the pond the new home for a large alligator. From that day on, the recruits left the ground 15 feet from the water’s edge and fell sprawling in the dust on the other side.
Likewise, our behavior as believers must be shaped at times by the "encouragement" of unfavorable circumstances. Without God’s loving correction and faithful discipline we would never develop spiritual strength and endurance. If the Lord didn’t permit difficult circumstances to come into our lives, we would eventually develop feelings of self-sufficiency and become overconfident.
We must not forget that God has promised us that we would never be tempted above what we are able to bear, but with every temptation, every trial, every test, every trouble, He will make a way for us to escape and win the victory. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God never promised that we wouldn’t have hard times. He never promised that we would sail through life without troubles. What He did promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He promised that He would supply our every need. He promised in Psalms 55:22, "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."
In the passage above, Israel had become discouraged so God had to remind them of just Who He Is. God is still in control and those who would place their trust in Him would be renewed in their strength.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when my strength fails. I know that many of you suffer through these times too.  I know this because the most common prayer request I receive from others is for strength to stand for the Lord. There is nothing wrong with praying for strength. In fact, that’s the best thing you can do. But, if you really want to have more strength, God has already laid down the pattern for you to get stronger in Isaiah 40:29-31.
To most people it an seem like the trials they are facing are so personal and that no one else can relate or understand, but multitudes of people have faced, and are facing the same situations that you are going through. Your circumstances are no surprise to God. Your troubles don’t move God. He knew what was coming and He already has an answer for every one of them, but we will only see victory if we do it God’s way.
There is no limit to God’s ability to meet you need. There is no limit to His deliverance and provision for whatever you need. God never gets tired, never grows weary, and is always listening for the prayers of His children.
What will we do with the trials that face us?  Will we turn to our own devices and make decisions that will cause us to have less time for God, for the church, or even for our families?  Will we forget the Word of God and become depressed because we don’t have the faith to trust God’s Word.
Romans 8:28
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
Will we break the promises that we made in our times of victory?  Will we forget the commitments we made to Christ when all was well?  Will we forget the times in the past that God has brought us through some rough seas? Will we forget the blessings, the healings, the miracles and every good thing that God has done?  What will we do, and how will be behave now that things are not perfect anymore?
It is time to stop our pity party, quit acting as if it is the end of the world, and lift up our eyes to the mountains and see that our help is on the way, and that God is far above our troubles no matter how bad things seem at the moment, He will not allow us to fail if we will keep our trust and faith in Him.
So now that the test is on, the question is not one of survival, but whether you will pass or fail?  If you pass, your faith will grow stronger. If you fail, you will abandon the ways of righteousness, turn your back on God and put everything in your life at risk.
I have to admit, I have had it go both ways in my life.  Several years ago I went through one of the darkest times of my life because I didn’t trust God in my trial.  I was pastoring and I got very ill.  I was in and out of the hospital.  Over a period of a year I spent 7 months in the hospital.  I really wasn’t sure if I would live or die.  I became physically dependent on the pain medicine.  When I tried to stop taking it I became very ill.  I asked the presbytery of my denomination for help, their response was to take my church, and except for the letter I received in the mail a few months later, I never seen or heard from these men again. 
My response should have been to run into the arms of Jesus, instead I kicked him out of my life and invited the devil to come in and have a seat.  I abandoned the ways of righteousness, turned my back on God and nearly lost everything.  As I returned to old habits from before I knew the Lord of drinking and drugging.  My failure put everything in my life at risk.
God in His grace placed good people in my life that have helped me to recover and return to the path of righteousness and I have repented and once again have a deep personal relationship with Jesus.  I found the father running to meet me with open arms when I returned from my prodigal ways.  He was there waiting all that time for me to come to my senses.
Recently I faced a very similar trial.  I became sick, I had been losing weight for months and had gone from a size 40 waist down to a 36, and then the pain started.  I went to the doctors and after several weeks of testing my worst fear was realized, they told me that I had renal cancer. 
I wish I could say that I handled the news like a man, but I would be lying.  I was scared.  I didn’t tell my wife or kids because I wasn’t sure how to tell them.  But I told my pastor and enlisted him to pray for me.  I had the whole church praying for me too, even though they didn’t know what the doctors had finally told me.  I asked for prayer from my FB friends, also without sharing the details.  And I began to pray like I have never prayed before.
I never for a moment considered turning my back on God this time or blaming Him for my circumstances.  I didn’t allow myself to experience the pity and self-absorbed feelings that the enemy would have liked me to sink back into.  I prayed and I waited for the Lord to answer and my faith got stronger and my relationship with Jesus grew deeper as I became totally dependent upon Him.  And then the miracle happened, God healed me.
The lesson I learned wasn’t that if we trust Him that everything is going to go our way.  There are too many stories of people who are not healed for me to convince you of that lie.  But I learned that the three Hebrews that told king Nebuchadnezzar, “Our God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to your image,” understood that even if God does not remove us from our immediate circumstances He is with us and we can rejoice because He is still God and He is greater than our troubles.
“…there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”
I wish I could say that I understand why God allows some things to happen. I wish I could but I can’t. His ways are far above my ability to understand. I can only put my trust in Him with faith and know that somehow God will take care of everything.
God will give you the power to overcome. He will take your weaknesses, your failures, your doubts and fears, and He will turn them into miracles of deliverance. In fact, God often does not move until we have given it over to Him completely because He will not share the glory of your deliverance with you. It is all of Him or none of Him. God is our source of strength. God is our source of provision. God is our source of power. God is our source for everything we need! We can’t do anything within ourselves.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
We may pride ourselves in our ability to take care of ourselves. We in America, have such a pride in our freedom and independence that we hate having to admit that we need help from anyone, including God.
But this scriptures tell us that no matter how strong or independent we may be, we cannot do it alone. God often has to bring us to the place where we have to stop trying, turn to Him and say, “God, that’s all I can do, now it’s up to you.” God is waiting for those words but they often aren’t said until we have exhausted our own ideas with no results.
The longer I live, the more I realize that everything is in God’s hands. When I was younger I was more inclined to solve everything with my own ability. Now, after many years of trials, tests and troubles, I am just beginning to get a real glimpse of what living by faith really means.
Faith says that everything will work out when it seems that everything is crumbling around me. Faith says that my bills will be paid when I can’t see how they will in the natural sense.  Faith says that God will take care of me and that I must force myself to stop being overly concerned with the future.  Faith says that I know, that I know, that I know, that somehow God will work it all out and that when He does I will be blessed for having faced all that is happening right now.
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
This is a scripture that has been preached on so many times that I cannot count them. We quote it, we read it, we preach it, but do we really believe it?
Waiting upon the Lord requires true faith.  Waiting upon the Lord requires going through the fire sometimes and still trusting God to bring us through. Waiting upon the Lord requires that we believe in the impossible, look for the unseen answers, hope in the times of hopelessness and know, without knowing why or how, that God will take care of us.
The reason so many Christians fail the fiery tests of their faith is that too many are bankrupt spiritually.  When the trials come, there is no faith and trust in God built up in their spiritual account to draw strength from.  They have not spent time preparing and “saving up” our blessings for the “rainy day” of trials to come.  They haven’t spent time studying, they haven’t spent time praying, they not have fasted at all, and they have gone about their daily lives as though there would never come a time of trouble.
God won’t let you stay on the mountaintop for long because it’s in the valley that your faith and strength will grow.  There is a song that I love to hear that says this:
The God on the mountain, is still God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
The God of the Good times, is still God in the Bad times
The God of the day, is still God in the night.
That’s the God that we serve!
Isaiah 59:1
"Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear:"

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