Most mornings its a battle to get out of bed, because I see things on the horizon that make my knees knock a little. I oscillate between fear and faith, and contend to get my head facing the right direction before I face the day. I know that every fear that rattles itself in my face is also an opportunity to increase my trust and surrender to Jesus. So I pick up my sword and start swinging, recognizing that this battle for the mind is part of my refining.
For a long, long time, I think we’ve been reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 like Americans rather than Christians. We, Americans, tend to think we’re entitled to having things our way. So, we read the command to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and repent in order that God will turn back to us in grace. But what if He allows suffering, and it’s also grace? And what if we prayed, repented and sought to honor God, and the Church’s purification was the actual healing of the land, rather than us just getting to live out our days in comfort?
I really think the Church needs to be prepared to suffer. I am not looking forward to it, by any means or measure, but I have seen it coming for quite some time. I have prayed long and hard for revival, forgetting that revival usually comes by fire. I see us standing on the edge of the Promised Land, and remember that we are promised us a place of rest and joy, but we walk through battle to arrive. Still, the Lord never leaves or forsakes His Church, and He always has good reasons for allowing suffering. Sometimes He does give amazing victory, which He just might do today… but it won’t be because we manipulated Him with our selfishly-motivated facade of humility and contrition, or our warped version of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
For years, the Church in America has let her voice be silenced by the opinions of men. We’ve let others define love and truth, rather than staying faithful to the Word of God, which is always righteous, true, and loving. We’ve tacked God onto our own agenda, rather than making Him central to all. And, for one final, blasphemous blow, we’ve neglected and dusted Bibles, and hauled them to thrift shops like they were clutter! No wonder God seems to have turned His back to us, in so many ways, and we may not have seen anything yet.
Yet I am also reminded of the book of Judges. If you’ve ever simply read through Judges, you might have picked up on the cyclical theme. Israel turns away from God, gets enslaved by other nations, then turns to God with humble pleading, and He graciously sends deliverance. Then they get fat and lazy and the cycle starts over.
I just feel like it’s time to encourage and strengthen the Church. If He doesn’t give speedy deliverance, I hope you have cherished the Word of God, and memorized chunks of it. It will hold you fast in oppression. Suffer well, my friends. “Those who look to Him are radiant and their faces will never be ashamed.” (Psalm 34:5) “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock.” (Isaiah 26:3). Remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glories that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). If it is our time to suffer, may we suffer with the humility and courage of those three Jewish boys getting tossed into a furnace while professing that their God was able to deliver, but even if He chose not to, they were resolved to remain faithful to the end (Daniel 3).
Then, Church, lets also remember that the Bible is LOADED with stories of uncanny, impossible deliverance. Though things look bleak on these shores, and the whole world feels like it’s just about to implode, things may not be as they seem. I hope you have been reading that Old Testament. If not, it’s time to repent and look at all those crazy victory stories in Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Joshua, etc. They will stun you into awe!
Finally, beloved ones, lets truly humble ourselves and confess. Let’s repent of all that’s holding us back from full surrender and trust. Let’s take our concerns, frustrations, and fears to the One who always listens and loves us. Let’s trust that He is worthy of all our affections, and can give us radiant joy in any circumstances.
I think the greatest thing that’s come from this past year is the stripping of idols. Some of the idols we cling most tightly to are our comfort, our reputation, our safety, and our avoidance of suffering. It may be that we are soon to show the world how glorious and worthy Christ is by how we suffer. If that happens, rejoice! “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We have a Kingdom waiting that far surpasses any hardship we could ever experience here. Even the worst of it is nothing but a “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17), and God has never relinquished His authority over all things. And really, we have nothing to fear, because perfect love casts out fear, and He, my friends, is Perfect Love. Besides, do you know how many times the Bible tells us not to fear… 365 times? That’s no coincidence.
On one final note, to encourage your souls…
“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. And you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there. But the humble will inherit the land, And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous, And gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow, To cast down the afflicted and the needy, To slay those who are upright in conduct. Their sword will enter their own heart, And their bows will be broken. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked will be broken; But the Lord sustains the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless; And their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, And in the days of famine they will have abundance.” (Psalm 37:7-19)
I am not sure how this will turn out in the momentary, but the eternal is nothing but delight for the saints of God! Look beyond the temporal, and into Glory-land! “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” (Psalm 84:5)