"He teaches my hand to war,
The army that does not train well will not fight well. Soldiers are not only trained in the use of their weapons, but they are trained that they might become strong. Deliberate resistance is put in front of every soldier. He finds himself facing obstacle courses. He weaves his way through all types of difficulties, bunkers, hazards, hindrances, snags, tripwires, hurdles, hedges and barriers. He is made to run with great weights upon his shoulders, march for miles, arise at the crack of dawn, and stand for long periods of time. He is forced to go against the grain. The objective is to create a strong, disciplined, finely-tuned, well-regulated, organized force of soldiers who will stop athero didn't get that way through easy living. To attain such a physical state, he had to train hard. Through many years of running, weight training and self-discipline, he brought himself to the peak of condition. The more resistance he put against his muscles, the more they developed.
God is seeking to bring you and I to the peak of condition. He is refining us through resistance. He desires to build in us the muscle of a strong and good character, not being caught up in the vanities of this futile life. He wants to teach us good judgment, self-discipline, perseverance, godliness and love. These are the muscles that impress God. These are the virtues of His Divine Nature, the qualities that will cause the army of God to be strong, delicately-tuned, and well-regulated to a point where we will obtain our objectives.
The soldier who truly understands the object of his superiors, will gladly submit himself to the discipline of the army. The true soldier of Christ, who sees the objective of his Superior, will joyfully submit himself to the discipline and trials of the Christian walk. In the light of the objective, the yoke of Jesus is easy and the burden is light. He has not been drafted into the army of God, but he has willingly submitted himself to the yoke of Christ. He knows that whatever affliction, trial, or weight of resistance comes his way, comes only by the will of his Superior. God has allowed a particular trial, no matter how bad it may seem, for his good. He can fall into the great safety-net of Romans 8:28 when everything else fails. Paul says, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Look at John Wesley's understanding of the disciplines of God:
Wesley knew that affliction works for, not against the Christian -- "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17, NKJV). Remember in tribulation, that every problem which comes our way can be a stepping stone, rather than a stumbling block. The Apostle Paul actually took pleasure in trials because he knew that they had the effect of bringing a closer commitment to the cause (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It has been rightly said that one distinguishing mark of an unregenerate man is ingratitude. The soldier of Christ will not entangle himself with the affairs of this world, because he is continually motivated to please God, by gratitude for the cross. He has meat to eat that the world knows not of. The cross gives him a merry heart, and a continual feast, rations that keep him energized in the battle. The moment the cross is seen in truth, the flesh is crucified. Any zeal I have is fed from fuel from Calvary's hill. George Whitefield said, "I had a day in my life when I fully surrendered in consecration to the Lord and that day I said, `I call Heaven and earth to witness that I give up myself entirely to be a martyr for Him who hung on the cross for me. I have thrown myself blindfolded and without reserve into His mighty hands!'"
The troopers of the cross who have seen the commendation of the love of God, cannot help but fling themselves into the heat of the battle, constrained by the same irresistible force that drove Jesus to the cross. Trials not only have the effect of driving us closer to God, but they also show us our point of growth as Christians. The soldier who fails an obstacle course, needs more training.
If it wasn't for my trust in God -- my knowledge that He knows what He is doing with my life, I certainly would lose heart. It seems that the Christian life is one obstacle after another, yet I know that when I am tried, "I shall come forth as gold." God is not only preparing a place for us, but us for that place.
An Unhelpful Friend
A man once noticed movement in a cocoon outside his bedroom window. It was obvious that a butterfly was struggling to get out, so he took a razor-blade, leaned out of the window and slit the side of the cocoon to help the creature. The butterfly struggled for the moment, then fell out onto the ground. It looked sickly and pale. After a little movement, it died. The man hadn't helped the butterfly, he had killed it. The very process of struggling in the cocoon should have pumped blood into the wings of the butterfly, giving it beauty, life and character.
In the same way, all the trials and struggling which comes our way, are not to do us harm, but to do us good. They are bringing beauty and color to our character, which will be revealed the moment we break free from the cocoon of this life. If we have faith in God we will be exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation. This rejoicing may be a "sacrifice of praise," almost a matter of gritting your teeth and saying, "I don't know what's going on. Everything is working against me, but I will rejoice anyway, and give God thanks because He has said that all things are working together for my good."
If it is a financial problem, get hold of the prescriptionary Scripture and speak it out against your situation:
This is not easy to do, but the more difficult the situation, the more you will have to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. The athlete doesn't buckle under the pressure, he resists it and in so doing, strengthens his muscle.
The Unwanted Fan
As I have mentioned earlier, for some time Sue and I had our own Christian bookstore. This was in the suburbs and proved ideal for my writing. Our busy day was Saturday, and during the week it was peaceful and quiet.
God, in His faithfulness, had not only directed us into the ministry, but He had also confirmed my writing and speaking ministry. Our family had been overseas for about four weeks, and when we returned, my pastor asked if I would share with the congregation where I thought God was taking my ministry. I began to seek the Lord, and all I could get was Psalm 45:1: "My heart is overflowing with a good theme...my tongue is the pen of a ready writer." I dismissed it as my own mind. If any scripture was appropriate, that one was. I wanted to use both my pen and my tongue.
On the following Sunday, I stood in front of the church, ready to share how I felt God was leading me to speak out and write for Him. The service opened in prayer, then went straight into worship. As the praise died down, a woman spoke out in prophecy, "My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." She had no idea what I had in my mind, but God knew. This was my first service in this church for four weeks, and the very scripture which had been on my heart all week had come through the gift of prophecy to confirm the direction I was taking!
It was because of this clear leading, I had confidence that the bookstore was God's further provision for my writing ministry. It was ideal, so I expected smooth sailing. After some time in the store, the premises next door became vacant. I prayed that a Christian would move in, and sure enough, within a week or so a young Christian gentleman moved next door to open a sandwich bar.
The name of our store was Living Waters Book Store, and our window sign read, "Jesus said, he that believeth on Me, shall never thirst." My new neighbor in the sandwich bar suggested for his window, "Man shall not live by bread alone," and we both decided to pray that a Christian butcher would move in next door and have on his window, "Labor not for the meat that perishes." We had the perfect little evangelical setup.
It was smooth sailing, until one day my friend had a large fan installed and took the wind out of my sails. It effectively sucked out unwanted air on his side of the wall, but sent unbearable vibrations through our side. One could hardly hear the vibrations, but they could certainly be felt. They were the type of thing one would imagine would be used in torture. My neighbor kept the fan turned down to a minimum, but this hardly helped the situation. The most concentrated area of vibration was right at my writing desk! I prayed about the situation repeatedly. I called in experts who told me that the fan was incorrectly mounted, so I had it correctly mounted. That cost me about $100.
All this time I wanted to keep my attitude right toward my Christianother. He was not in a position financially to help with any costs for improvement, besides, even with the correct mounting, it didn't help. I moved my office to another area, but that didn't help much. Every morning it was the same. I would open the door and step into that vibrating, pulsating, shaking, throbbing torture room. It would have the effect of pulling the muscles, especially in my throat, tense.
On one day it was particularly bad. When I arrived home, I was a wreck. The next day I opened the door and entered the store. I jumped for joy, rejoiced, gave thanks and nearly burst into tears as I entered another day in the torture chamber. I knew all the principles of trials being for our good, but I could stand it no longer; it was driving me insane. I felt so trapped...so helpless...there was absolutely nothing I could do! I was at the point of breaking down. If I stayed in that store for one more minute, I would lose my sanity. As far as I was concerned, it was God's business, so I would close up shop and go home.
I began to write a note to leave on the door, "We apologize for any inconve..." Suddenly the fan stopped, and at that exact moment, a woman stepped into the store and handed me $1,000 to help our ministry! The timing was perfect. I held onto that money and said, "You know Lord, that noise isn't so bad after all."
God knows exactly what we can take. He knows how to encourage us, and when to deliver us. He is strengthening and training us so that we can say, "It is God who arms me with strength...You enlarged my path under me; so that my feet did not slip. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them...for You have armed me with strength for the battle."
If Moses Had A Boat
So often we blame the devil for adversity, but we must remember that God is sovereign, and that if the enemy does come against us, it is by His permission. This does not mean that we are to live in fatalistic passivism. As I have stated in previous chapters, when satan comes against us in any way, we are to submit to God, then resist the devil. It is in that trial that we are to exercise faith, patience and steadfastly resist the wiles of the enemy, being fully confident that the trial will work together for our good.
David had the utmost confidence in affliction: "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness, You have afflicted me." (Psalm 119:71,75).
Often, as in my situation, we are brought to a point of total helplessness, and therefore utter dependence on God. God brought Moses to a point where he had to "stand still and see the deliverance of God." There was no alternative. If Moses had had a boat (a large one), there would have been no miracle.cle.
Daniel was placed into that same position of helplessness. He didn't have a whip or a chair to fight off the beasts. His only means of escape was by way of the supernatural. We are to come to a point where we will say "we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead."
We spoke earlier of the soldier who failed to pass the obstacle course needing more training. This is the test of pass or fail -- the measure of faith we have in God will be evidenced by the amount of joy we have in tribulation.
Look at this powerful Scripture, "I am filled with comfort (that's my problem). I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 7:4). These were not just boastful, empty words from Paul. When he and Silas lay bleeding in a cold Philippian jail, they sang hymns to God. He tells us why he rejoiced in tribulation in Romans Chapter 5, "...but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope" (NKJV).
The question arises, "How on earth do we get that sort of faith?"
Respect for the Pilot
Some years ago, I was travelling by plane with a rather large lady sitting next to me. As we were about to land I noticed that the poor woman had a look of terror in her eyes, so I leaned over and said that if she was afraid she could hold my hand. I had hardly finished speaking when her hand whipped across and held mine so tightly that it went white. I remember thinking, "Great. She's still in fear and now I'm in pain!"
Imagine if I said to that fear-filled female, "You don't need to be scared, I know the pilot of this plane. He's an incredible guy. He could land this plane blindfolded." Perhaps the woman would look at me and say, "Do you really know him?" Fear begins to leave her eyes. "Yes, I've known him for years. He has flown over 4,000 times and never even had one mishap, let alone a crash. Your fears are totally groundless." The more I speak of the ability of the pilot, the less fearful she becomes. Can you see that knowledge allows her to choose faith, and reject fear? I am building respect for the pilot. Soldier, are you becoming a little fearful? Let's talk for a few moments about the Captain of our salvation. Let's build up our respect for the One who directs our path. Respect for Him is commonly called "reverence" or "fear of the Lord." Proverbs 2:1-6 gives clues as to how we can obtain "fear of the Lord," which is the beginning of wisdom:
"My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my Com- mandments within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God."
When we understand the greatness, the integrity, the majesty, the power, the preeminence, the nobility, the splendor, the grandeur, the supremacy and the ability of our God, then we will begin to fear Him. I love storms with thunder and lightning. They display a tiny portion of the power of our God. We are witnesses to the fact that creation displays the genius of the Creator. Look at this quote from the Reader's Digest and remember that it is speaking of the handiwork of God:
God is infinitely greater than any of us can imagine. No wonder the Psalmist says, "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can show forth all His praise? Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable."
The Prophet continues to give us light: "All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing; and vanity. To whom then will you liken God or what likeness will you compare unto Him? To whom then will you liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold what hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power: not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding" (Isaiah 40:17-28, KJV).
When we catch a glimpse of the greatness of God, we will never fear the enemy. There are some thoughts about God which I have to dismiss from my mind because they are too mind-boggling for me to hold onto. Let me give you an example.
When I look at you, I am limited to seeing you from the front. When you are facing me I can't see the back of your head. But the Bible tells us that the "eye of the Lord is in every place," so from what direction does God see you? You say, "From above, because He is in Heaven." But if His eye is omnipresent, He will not be limited to seeing you from one position. When God sees you, He sees you all at one time, from above, behind, in front, underneath, each side, inside and outside! What then do you look like to God? "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it."
The Bible says, "His ways are past finding." While the unregenerate have the "understanding darkened," we can receive "spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9). This is why the Psalmist exhorts us to, "Sing praises with understanding." How can we give God praise if we don't understand His infinite greatness?
We, even as Christians, are still partially blind to the greatness of His power. We take so much for granted even in nature. How is it that the same soil and water produces the sweetness of an orange and the bitterness of a lemon? How can soil and water produce a beet and onion alongside each other? The substance of both come directly from the same water and soil! How can a brown cow, eat green grass, which turns into white milk, becomes yellow butter and is eaten by a man who has red hair!
My prayer is, "Open my eyes that I might continually see the genius of Your mind displayed in creation!" If we could walk in such a spirit of illumination, we would walk around awestruck! We would continually worship God. We would be filled with such faith, we would see no problem too great for our God. We would say, "Ah, Lord God! (as the revelation of His greatness astounds us), Behold You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You!"
Such knowledge of His power and ability would cause us to have faith that produces joy, even at the Red Sea, even in the Lion's den. We can look at the world with all its problems, sins and pains, and say, "One small breath of Almighty God's Spirit, and our nation can be saved. If the mere tip of the finger of God is for us, nothing can be against us. We can run toward the enemy saying, "Who are you that you should defy the armies of the Living God!"
Be encouraged soldier, whatever trial you are going through at the present time, realize that it is God who is at work within you to will and do of His good pleasure. He is teaching your hands to war, so that a bow of bronze is broken by your arms. He has the ability and the wisdom to deliver you from it, or take you through it, so that when you have been tried you will come forth as gold.
Early in 1993, in Auckland, New Zealand, a small group of people moved into an old jewelry factory to conduct their church services. After cleaning the building they were left with a pile of dust, which someone had the good sense to take to a gold refinery. It yielded $8,500 in gold dust! When the refinery asked if they could burn the carpet, the church group gave them a piece which was 12 feet square. It produced $3,500 worth of gold. They also vacuumed $350 worth of gold dust from the ceiling.
God is allowing the heat of trials only to produce in you that which is precious in His sight. Charles Spurgeon said, "Let satan do what he may, he only speeds on the cause which he desires to hinder." There is no way the enemy can defeat those soldiers who trust in God, their victory is their faith in Him. The soldier truly stands in a victorious spirit, who can say "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
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