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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Outlasting our foes

Tired boxer

by Dennis Pollock

Although I was born in Missouri, I have lived in Texas many years. It didn't take long for me to recognize one of the more unpleasant aspects of life in this great state – the absolutely miserable Texas summer. To enter your car after it has been sitting in the blistering Texas summer sun for a few hours feels like taking a seat in a blast furnace. Even the steering wheel can barely be touched, and you have to play hot potato with it as you drive down the road the first few minutes.

The land pays a high price for this merciless season. Unless watered, the grass turns a sick shade of brown, and even the leaves of the trees begin to wither. The ground develops terrible, ugly cracks in it that force homeowners to do something much of the nation knows nothing about – water around their house's foundation. The rain seems to be shut off during these "dog days" of summer. Often we can go weeks between rains, and when we do see a little rain, it is just that – a little rain that teases more than satisfies. There is no need to listen to the weather report as it is always a carbon copy of the day before and the day before that: temperatures around 100 and no rain in sight.

My Nigerian wife had been warned by her friends to bring warm clothes with her to America to protect her from the terrible American cold. But the day she arrived happened to be July 31 – the absolute zenith of the summer. As she was greeted by the blistering Texas heat, she wondered if she were really in America. The scorching sun and one hundred degree heat went well beyond anything she had known in Africa.

The blessing in all of this is that as hot as a Texas summer is, it can never last. It comes with its own expiration date. Around the second or third week of September we usually experience the change. Mornings come with a slight chill we have not felt since spring. We often start to see some serious rain once again. And watching the weather forecast becomes more interesting, as we start seeing those high temperatures dip down into the eighties, which for us feels heavenly. Children play outside once more, you turn your car's air conditioning knob down below the maximum, and those terrible cracks in the ground disappear. Texas becomes a beautiful place to live once again.

Spiritual Summers

As I reflected upon the severity of a southern summer, I could not help but see a parallel between this and the spiritual summers of our lives – those dry, scorched, uncomfortable times when everything seems to be dying, and our lives feel parched and desperately in need of a good, thorough, soaking rain. One key word that such a season calls for is relief. In times of severe pressure or unrelenting pain and hardship, what we want is relief. As followers of Christ we rightfully look to God as the Source of relief for us in such situations. We know He is all powerful and has the ability to bring our distress to an end, and we also recognize that He loves us and takes no pleasure in the misery of His children. And so we go to Him in prayer, asking for His grace to bring us relief in our distress.

So far, so good. We are on biblical grounds to do so. In Lamentations, Jeremiah prays, "Do not hide Your ear from my prayer for relief, from my cry for help" (Lamentations 3:56). The woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus' garment and gained instant and complete relief. Her longstanding problem of bleeding was immediately healed. But we make a huge mistake if we see instant and immediate relief as the only kind of relief God gives. Sometimes deliverance does not come within a day or two after we have prayed or been prayed for, so we assume that we have no right to expect deliverance at all.  But in that, we greatly err. Too often Christians have lost out on tremendous blessings and victories in their lives due to mistaking delay for denial.

They fail to realize that simply because they cannot overcome their foe in a sudden, dramatic flourish of faith and power, this is no reason to leave the battlefield altogether. Yes, some of our victories are like the David and Goliath story, where a single stone launched in a moment of time brings swift and sudden victory. But other victories are more like waiting for summer to come to an end – the victory is just as certain, but it comes gradually over time rather than in a sudden, dramatic moment. While God can and does sometimes give the David and Goliath kind of relief, He often prefers to end our miseries in a more gradual and gentle fashion.

The Bible tells us that we are to be "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12). Not only faith, but faith and patience. And the idea of patience always implies a lengthy period of time is going to be involved. Most of us are far more excited about the faith part than the patience part.

Unpleasant, Inevitable, Limited

Hot summerLet us consider some of the parallels between a natural summer and the spiritual summers of our lives. First, both are unpleasant. (At least this is true in Texas. Those of you from Michigan may beg to differ!) They are assuredly not going to be your favorite season of the year. Secondly, in both cases we are unable to do anything about them through our own will or actions. I believe in faith as much as most and more than many, but I would never try to rebuke summer through my faith. I could rebuke summer and confess over and over again that the heat will never come this year, but it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Like it or not, believe it or not, confess it or not, summer will always come. So it is with certain trials and difficult seasons God has written into the script of our lives.

Both natural summers and spiritual summers are longstanding situations. Summer really wouldn't be so bad if we had just three miserably hot, dry days each year. Suppose we could so control the weather that we could condense summer into the days of July 28 – 30. Before that we would have spring temperatures and afterwards we would be in the fall. We could all handle that. But three months of summer is really too much! Similarly there are seasons of our lives that we really wouldn't mind so much if they just lasted a few days, or a week at most. We could be out of a job for five days, or go through a serious illness that lasted three days, or have a child become rebellious and go astray, as long as he returned to his senses within the week! But when these things stretch from days into months and sometimes from months into years, it seems beyond endurance.

What should give us great hope is that natural summers and spiritual summers come with an expiration date. Just as summer must surely give way to fall, so our seasons of pain and pressure will surely give way to happier times. God may require His children to go through painful experiences, but He takes no delight in this, and is sure to bring relief as soon as His purposes are fulfilled. In late August and early September it feels like summer will never end. The temperatures are often just as hot in these late summer days as they were in early summer. But anyone who knows the weather patterns knows that this is an illusion. Within a few weeks, hundred degree highs will be transformed into highs of around eighty-five and another month after that will see highs in the seventies. The very back of the summer is being broken; it just doesn't know it yet!

So it is with our spiritual deserts. Often when we are only weeks from a breakthrough, things look as difficult and as miserable as they ever did. There is no sign of relief at all. But if our eyes are on the Lord Jesus, we will hear the quiet voice of the Spirit, comforting us and telling us, "Be still, my child. Deliverance is on the way." Both natural summers and spiritual summers are destroyed through the same basic means: the passage of time. All that is necessary is that we endure. Every breakfast we eat, every time we go to bed at night, every day that we spend on our job, every Scriptural promise we quote, and every time we praise God for His coming deliverance, we are being drawn closer and closer to complete relief. Time is our friend; every day marked off the calendar weakens our adversary and hastens our blessing. If we cannot overcome our foes in a single battle, we can at least outlast them.

Necessity of Faith

The one major difference between natural and spiritual summers is that in order to see deliverance and relief from our spiritual trials and pressures, we must exercise faith. Summer will give way to fall with no faith involved on our part. But in our spiritual trials and parched places God commands us to exercise faith in Him even while we endure that terrible heat and miserable drought. There is a fight of faith to which we must give ourselves. There are prayers to be prayed, promises to be claimed, and an abiding walk with Jesus that we must zealously guard. When we first experience an attack or season of pressure, our foe looks exceedingly intimidating. We can hardly imagine ever defeating this ugly, sneering giant. But what we must recognize is that he will not always be so tough. He will weaken greatly over time. His days are numbered, and in time, as we keep our eyes on Jesus, he will be transformed from a strapping, virile, warrior into a weak and crippled old man. While time is our great friend, it is his terrible enemy. He will not be tomorrow what he is today.

Psalm 119 is a special psalm that emphasizes the hope for deliverance we have in the Word of God. In verse 49 the psalmist prays, "Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope." And in verse 147 he prays, "I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word." Like this ancient psalmist we too must put our hope in the Word of God – the precious promises God gives us for deliverance and favor that come to us in Jesus Christ. We do not pray God's promises in panic, or in a mode that demands instant deliverance, but in a quiet, steadfast faith that recognizes God's faithfulness to fulfill His Word and bring His deliverance in His time.

James writes, "Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord --- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" (James 5:11). To endure is not only to survive the ordeal, but to keep a right attitude throughout, and to exercise a calm faith, based upon the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The main point of the book of Job is surely to tell us that we are too small to second guess God in all the suffering we experience in life, but there is a second point we sometimes miss: Job's season of misery had an end point! How depressing it would be if Job's misery lasted all his life. If he was sick and poor and miserable for the next fifty years until his death, it would hardly be a book any of us would want to read. But instead we find Job's tribulations lasted only for a brief period, and then the favor and blessings of heaven returned – in double portion! For Job, as is so often the case, all that was required was that he should get up every morning, get through the day as best he could, maintain his faith, and go to bed every night. Do this enough times, and relief would come. How quickly God can remove our foes, when His purposes have been accomplished! With what blazing speed our trials can vanish once their expiration date has passed!

The lesson here is simple, but it is powerful: if you cannot defeat your foes in a single day, you can outlast them and outlive them as you abide in Jesus and confess His great victory for you through His cross and resurrection. As it says in Hebrews: "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36).

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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