Monthly Archives: October 2008

My God’s Bigger than an Army

For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few. (1 Samuel 14:6)  Do you know who coined that phrase?  A man who was getting ready to take on an entire army, accompanied only by “the young man carrying his armor”.

His name was Jonathan.  He was the son of a King.  The Bible lays out for us the major events in the story, but leaves out a lot of little details.  Like — what prompted Jonathan to suddenly turn to “the young man carrying his armor” and say, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised Philistines; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few”?  I’ve come up with my own version of what prompted this outburst.  Would you like to hear it?

I think Jonathan was back at camp, sitting around the fire.  It was the end of a long, weary day of travel.  The other soldiers were milling around the camp.  Did you see the Philistines?  There’s no way we can take them.  There are thousands of them.  There are only a few hundred of us. Jonathan’s heard the same grumbling all day long. He’s learned to shut it out, but this time he lets it get to him.  Anger and dissatisfaction burn in his heart — not towards the men, but towards the cowardice, fearful attitude that’s crept into them.  He props his feet up and leans back against a tree.  He stares into the fire.  He thinks of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the One he serves.  You aren’t weak, LORD.  You aren’t threatened by those who defy You, who serve idols made of wood and stone.  You don’t tremble at a thousand feeble, godless men beating their drums and raising their swords. He pauses and reminds himself of his best friend.  A shepherd boy defeated the giant that taunted Your troops day and night — because You, the God of creation, was with him. Jonathan’s eyes narrow and he stares deeper into the fire.  Then he looks away.  Standing back against the tree, a twenty yards away, is his armor bearer.  Jonathan gets up and walks his way.  I have an idea, he whispers, then keeps walking, away from the soldiers, away from the bright fire, and into the dark forest.  The armor bearer follows.  When they reach the clearing, Jonathan stops.

This is where we collide with the story written about in the Bible.  Jonathan says to his armor bearer: “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on yonder side.” The Bible makes it clear that Jonathan did not tell his father, King Saul, where he was going.

Jonathan and his armor bearer travel a great distance towards the Philistines’ garrison.  It’s at this point that Jonathan lets his faithful companion in on his great idea.  “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised Philistines; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.”

Now, catch the armor bearer’s reply.  It’s astounding.  “And his armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.” I think someone should write a story about this armor bearer someday.

When they reach the garrison, Jonathan leans over and tells the armor bearer the game plan.  Let’s cross over until they can see us.  Once they see us, if they say “Wait until we come down to you”, we’ll know it’s not God and we won’t attack.  But, if instead, they say to us, “Come up here,” we will go up, for it will be a sign from God that He has given them into our hands.

When the Philistines see the two men, they say, “Look!  The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they’ve been hiding in.”  Then they say, “Come up here so we can tell you something.”

Jonathan leans over to his armor bearer, “There’s our sign!  Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hands of Israel.”  The two climb up the hill on their hands and knees (a very poor military strategy).  When they reached the Philistines, the Bible says that the men fell before Jonathan and the armor bearer killed them.

The earth began to tremble, and in the field and among the people, even the garrison and raiders trembled.  There was great confusion among the troops and they turned against each other, striking each other dead.

The story concludes in verse 23, by saying: “So the LORD delivered Israel that day.”

Yes, He most certainly did.  I’d like to read the headline in the newspaper on this one.  TWO MEN TAKE ON ENTIRE ARMY AND WIN.

What army do you want to take on today?  And let’s not pick an enemy we could easily defeat on our own.  I like this story because it’s not logical or feasible or possible in human standards.

What’s it going to be, my friend?

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Filed under God's Promises, The Sword

Prosperity in the Midst of Famine – part 3

It’s not difficult to feel hopeless about the world’s economic state. Especially since the media is always there, just like a faithful friend (or perhaps more like an unwanted enemy) to remind you of the decay and destruction and death that will soon be poured onto your finances. That is why, in times like these, I strongly encourage use of the OFF and MUTE buttons. But shouldn’t I be aware of everything that’s going on right now? You ask. No. Don’t fool yourself. Just as I said on Monday: The righteous walk by faith, NOT by sight (2 Cor 5:7, Hebrews 10:38). That’s not a call to deny reality. It’s a call to a greater reality — God’s Word, because it doesn’t return void.

God said that He’s set before us LIFE and DEATH, BLESSINGS and CURSES. Then He says this: Choose LIFE (Deuteronomy 30:19). He also tells us that there is LIFE and DEATH in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Don’t declare over your finances and over your life the destruction that you hear radiating from the speakers on your TV (or the internet or the newspaper). No. How we fight this financial crisis we’re in is not be talking about it or reading about it or studying how much worse so-and-so says it’s going to get. You want a real weapon? A weapon that cuts through decay and destruction and death and lies? A weapon that’s stronger than any two-edged sword? Good. Let me pull it out for you to examine.

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) Wait, you say, the media’s been telling me that we’re dead meat if we don’t get a President who’s going to provide for us. Don’t look to man. Look to God. He is your source. Use His Word, your weapon, to defeat what’s trying to defeat you. Regardless of who or who doesn’t become President, God is the One who is going to provide for you. LIFT YOUR EYES TO HIM.

Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these [stars]?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But My salvation will last forever,
My righteousness will never fail. (Isaiah 51:6)

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
He who watches over you will not slumber;

Indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm—
He will watch over your life;

The LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121)

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Filed under Economy, God's Promises, Politics and God

Today I Lost My Job

Today I experienced something that I’ve never experienced before. I was laid off from my job. How ironic that I posted the following blurb in my last post before I left for work this morning:

People at your job may be being laid off right and left. But you need to stand on the promises God’s given you, knowing that even though “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, [that no such thing will] come near you.”

And I admit, it’s good advice. But what if you’ve already been laid off? What if you’re like me? Well, first of all, if you have been laid off, I’m sorry. I am so sorry. But not so sorry that I’m going to let either of us stay in this mess. God has not abandoned us. He hasn’t left us. We’re going to stand on His Word. We aren’t going to stand on our confusion or our worries or fears of questions. None of those things will get us out of this mess we’re in.

Let’s journey to Romans 4:17-18 where we read about Abraham and how he held on to what God said.

We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”

Let’s do as Abraham did. Even though everything may look hopeless in the natural, we’re going to believe God anyway. And because we’re going to be coming in agreement with God, like Abraham, we’re going to receive exactly what God’s promised us. God’s has a mighty calling on your life. And we aren’t going to settle for some dead-end, low pay, miserable job — just so we can “have a job”. Of course you need a job. We both do. But let’s not scrape by with the bare minimum. Let’s believe for ALL God has for us. Let’s believe God to move us into a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity where we can use the giftings He’s given us and be radically blessed financially at the same time.

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Filed under God's Promises, Tough Times

Prosperity in the Midst of Famine – part 2

A friend from work was telling me the other day about a certain church that sat right next to the World Trade Center twin towers, before they were tragically destroyed on 9/11.  Do you remember seeing the news coverage of people running from the towers, running from stores and shops and businesses that were blocks from the towers?  Especially when the towers toppled down.  It looked like destruction spanned for blocks and blocks.  But that church I just mentioned — it was completely unscathed.  It wasn’t destroyed by the debris.  It didn’t topple over.  No, it was fine.  In fact, that church went on to offer food and supplies to the people whose lives were turned upside down by that devastating event.  That church became a resting place for the fireman and emergency workers working non-stop to save people from the debris surrounding the towers.  As my friend finished telling me this story, she reminded me of Psalm 91:  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.  You will only observe with your eyes.  …  If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (verses 7-11).

What an amazing illustration of God’s promise to protect His children.  And we can apply those same promises to the economic disaster that looms over our country and many countries around the world.  Imagine yourself — like that church, propped up right against destruction, and yet remaining completely unscathed.  In other words, people at your job may be being laid off right and left.  But you need to stand on the promises God’s given you, knowing that even though “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, [that no such thing will] come near you.”  Are your stocks plummeting?  Did your spouse lose their job?  Have you lost your job?  Have you received a foreclosure notice in the mail?  Are you laying awake at night, in fear, of all of the negative reports on the news?  Get your eyes off the circumstances!  The righteous walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7, Hebrews 10:38).  Stop putting your trust in hearsay, in news reports, in polls and lift your eyes to God.

Because he loves Me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.  He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”  (Psalm 91:14-15)

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Prosperity in the Midst of Famine – part 1

God wants His children to prosper in the midst of famine.  Isn’t that good news?  Especially as economies around the world are taking a very big hit.  So wash out of your mind right now all of the negative words the media may have spoken into your heart.  The drop in your income that they told you to expect?   Stop expecting it.  Or maybe you’ve already experienced that drop in your income.  If so, get ready for it to turn back up in the right direction.  Maybe you don’t even have a job or you’ve just lost your job.  Stop worrying and get ready for things to change.  Why?  I’m going to tell you why.

“I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” That’s what King David said (in Psalm 37:25).  And I think coming from a king, those words mean a lot.  David may have started out all alone, shepherding some sheep in a big empty pasture, but he sure didn’t end that way.  It’s just like today.  You could pluck some average person out of obscurity, someone who doesn’t pay attention to the news or the economy or the job market, and that same person could say what David said with relative ease — that they’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread, but it’d be easy to chalk it up to the fact that that person simply never gets out, never watches the news, isn’t up with the current economic situation.  But now let’s turn the tables.  And let’s think of the candidates that we, in the United States, have running for President.  They may have not heard much flack personally about the economy prior to running for President.  But now these same people are traveling all across the fruited plain, hearing everything there is to hear, from every possible angle, about the economy.  Why?  Because two of them (a President and Vice President) are going to be elected to get our country out of this mess.  That’s what leaders do.  They lead us corporately in a direction that we, ourselves, don’t have the direction or the power or the means to go.  And it wasn’t much different back then.  David was king over an entire nation.  He saw a lot.  He knew the condition of his people.  And even he, in all of his experience and knowledge as a king could say: I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

Ok, now I want you to remind yourself that Psalm 37:25 is not just some quote from some person that we read about in a history book.  Yes, it’s something David said.  But where do we find it?  In God’s Word.  And God’s Word is alive, it will accomplish what it’s been sent out to do, it doesn’t return unto Him void.

Start declaring what David said over your own life.  Declare that God will never forsake you, that your children will never be forced to beg – for work, for food, for anything.  Find scriptures you can stand on concerning finances.  The righteous walk by faith, NOT by sight (2 Cor 5:7, Hebrews 10:38).  That’s not a call to deny reality.  It’s a call to a greater reality — God’s Word, because it doesn’t return void.  You can wish and hope all day long, but there’s no guarantee that anything you wish or hope for is ever going to come to pass.  But God’s Word?  It doesn’t return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).  And God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19).  Take Him at His word.  And watch how your finances change for the better.

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Wielding the Sword

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32

The Bible is powerless in my life if I don’t believe it.  I can hear the truth, I can read the truth, I can copy the truth onto 3 by 5 notecards and tape them on my mirror, I can memorize the truth, I can shout the truth over my situation, but until I know the truth… I will not be set free.

More than anything else in life, I want to know the truth.  I don’t just want to read it.  I don’t just want to hear it.  I don’t even just want to think about it.  I’ve got to know it.  Because when I know it, I will be totally and unquestionably free.  Free from the every lie that tries to creep into my mind.  Free from intimidation and worry and confusion and fear.  Free from every symptom of sickness that ever tries to turn into something more.  Free from debt and insufficiency and lack.  Yes, that’s what I want.  I don’t just want to have the word stored away in my heart.  I want to live it!  Because it’s not enough for me to just read stories of victory and triumph, of nations being won for Jesus in a day, of the dead being brought back to life, sickness and disease vanishing.  I’ve got to live it.  I can’t stand to live another day hearing names like parkinsons and cancer and heart disease and hiv and standing back to make way for them — or seeing others gawk in fear towards them.  No way.  I’ve got to be in a position of such confidence in Jesus, in complete awareness of the authority I have in Him,  that I can stand and look down upon these ugly, horrible names that represent such demonic torment — not looking up at them in awe or intimidation, but looking down upon them in complete hatred and a complete lack of amazement.  They’ve got to be ants beneath my feet.  I will no longer make them to be anything more.  Jesus didn’t.  Jesus was not impressed with sickness like we are.  The Bible says that when He cast out a demon, He refused to even let it speak.  People today are not only letting the enemy speak to them and overwhelm them — they are speaking back.  I won’t stand for it.  Sickness and disease, cancer and hiv, tuberculosis and strokes, colds and flus — they are all Goliaths in our society.  Will we be like King Saul who cowered and fretted over this uncircumcised Philistine?  Or will we be like David? David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.” I think we’d start seeing a lot more victories in our life if we treated sickness and torment and debt — and all of satan’s devices like David treated Goliath.

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Something Wonderful is about to Happen

The other day, as I was driving, I came up behind a car with a bumper sticker that read: Something wonderful is about to happen. I smiled. I had just lived through another one of my Really Bad Wrong-Turn episodes. I was driving home from the mall, which I stopped at after work. This mall is quite a stretch from where I live, but I’ve been there a million times. And every time, I always take the same highway home. But somehow, I ended up exiting on the wrong street and taking some wrong turns, and pretty soon, there were signs introducing me to a whole different highway. A highway I don’t like. A big, big highway. A highway that’s 5 lanes wide. But I wasn’t scared. If I was, I would have pulled a U-turn and gotten myself out of that mess. Instead, I whispered to myself, “Oh goodie, this way may get me home even faster!” In the last few years, I must have spent 10% of my life sitting in traffic. Thus everything is about find a faster route, a better way to avoid traffic. It was false hope though. I just didn’t know it yet. I planned to get on the big, big highway and then exited onto the highway that I always use to get home. But, turns out I had gotten on too late to merge onto the highway. Instead, my only option was to go south…. and I did go south. Until finally, I knew my only hope was to exit at the next city and pull a U-turn. So I did. And then I had to figure out how to get back on the same highway but going in the opposite direction. So I pulled into a gas station and drove around it three times until I figured out what to do. After three times, I still hadn’t figured out what to do, but I saw a couple of people pointing and laughing at me, so I got right out of there. Then I got to a stop light. Maybe I should call my Dad. I always call my dad in situations such as these. And he always knows exactly where I’m at and guides me back on the road that leads to home. I pulled out my cell phone. The light turned green. I got ready to turn. Then a guy, from the middle of nowhere, comes driving right at me. Silly guy. He was in the wrong lane to go straight. I slammed on my breaks. My cell phone flew off my lap and onto the floor. Guess I won’t be calling dad. When I did finally get back onto the right highway, the highway that I love and know, the highway that leads me straight home, I found myself in a log jam. A million cars, bumper to bumper, moving at a snail’s pace.

Yes, it was before this incident that I saw my favorite bumper stick of all time: Something Wonderful is About to Happen. And though nothing wonderful did happen (apart from finally getting home), I am no cynic. I fully agree with that bumper sticker. I fully agree with God. I fully believe the promises He’s given me. There are some that I’ve been holding onto for years. There are some promises He’s given me that I see no sign of at the moment. All I see is the complete opposite happening. But I believe Him. There are days when I may feel like Joseph, chained up in prison, hoping he’d be remembered, hoping his release would come. But Joseph’s release came. He never gave up. And I won’t give up either. I know my time is coming. I know the release of His promises is coming. I don’t care what it looks like in the natural. The righteous walk by faith — not by sight.

Something wonderful is about to happen. I can feel it.

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Political Confusion

I was just brushing my teeth… and I had a thought. I haven’t been to the garden in a while. My heart fluttered. How could I go so long without visiting? The garden, unlike the dentist, is not some place I’m supposed to visit every six months (though, if you’re like me, you’ve been meaning to call for the past year and just haven’t gotten around to it). No, the garden, isn’t somewhere I have to or am supposed to visit at all. And that’s a good thing, because… let’s face it: if someone told me that I needed to go, I probably wouldn’t. It’s like cleaning the bathroom. If someone would simply say to me, “Please stop cleaning the bathroom. Please don’t ever do it again!” I would. I would clean the bathroom. Probably that very minute. But instead, I’m always hounding myself to clean it – and well, I rarely do (I am being generous with the word rarely). Or… if my English teacher would have told me, all those years ago, to not bother reading To Kill a Mockingbird. To just take it home and look at the front cover and maybe, maybe read the back cover… but only if I really felt like it, then by golly, I probably would have scoured the whole thing from front to back. Curiosity would have got the better of me. But it was the exact opposite. And curiosity and wonderment had no part in it. As a result, I was drawn into the arms of Spark Notes. I didn’t even read the back cover. Oh, but I did watch the movie (sorry, Miss Aden… thanks anyways for the A though).

But as I said, the garden is nothing like any of the obligatory things I just mentioned. And so, as I set my toothbrush into its little tray and wiped my backwash off the mirror (just being honest), my heart was drawn. I could see Him waiting at the gate for me.

Do you hear that? He whispered. Hear what? I asked. Listen. Do you hear that? He continued. I paused and listened carefully. I could hear it. Something. Something which was very quiet at first, but became louder as I stood there. It was a rushing noise. Like water. And waves crashing. Then I could hear the pounding of rain and the boom of thunder and lightening. I looked around me. This wasn’t the garden anymore. It was a torrential downpour — in the middle of a huge body of water. I was sitting in a small canoe by myself, trying to paddle my way out, but failing miserably. The sky was so dark and the rain was so fierce, I couldn’t see land in any direction. I couldn’t see fifteen feet in front of me.

Where am I? I asked.

Political confusion, He answered.

We were back in the garden. The sun was radiating, casting warmth on my back. We were standing in a beautiful field of tall grass. I collapsed onto my knees — the way I always do when He speaks. The way I do when I want to ask questions, want to change the subject, but can’t. I know what He means. I’ve maybe never heard such a thing in my life, but when He speaks, darkness flees. Confusions flees. Lies flee. There’s no gray area. There’s nothing to question. There’s no confusion. His words cut like a knife — through everything that must be cut away.

I simply stood before Him, my eyes flooded with light, and nodded. Then I walked into His arms. He grabbed me and pulled me tight. I’m so sorry, Daddy.

I didn’t have to pull out a list and name all of the things that had vied to tug my heart away from Him — political opinions, strong political opinions, extremely strong political opinions. Pride. I hate pride. I would like to put another word in its place, but it’s really the only one that fits. No, there was no list. There was no naming names. There was just collapsing in His arms and forsaking it all instantly. How? I don’t know. It’s not that I had such restrain or resistance against these things that I could just drop them and not care to ever go back. No, I like my opinions. But I like Him more. And when He spoke, I couldn’t turn away. Not because I didn’t want to turn away. I was absolutely, physically incapable of doing so. His word cut through everything that would have kept me from Him, from truth.

The political spirit that looms over this country right now is very blinding. It’s exactly like the picture He showed me — of sitting in the boat, the storm so loud that you can’t hear, so dark that you can’t see anything — but yourself. Maybe I started out on the shore, but once I put my boat in the water, the tide pulled me out. I couldn’t resist it. The political spirit is strong, alluring, enticing.

Does this mean I can’t fight anymore? I asked Him this. And do you know what He said? No. What a wonderful Daddy! I can still fight. But He told me to fight from the garden — our secret place, where I can see everything clearly. He told me to stop fighting from that old boat that’s stuck in the eye of the storm. I can’t see anything out there. I can’t tell east from west from north from south. All darkness is the same at night.

So, I will continue to fight — for righteousness, for justice, for a godly leader who will pass righteous laws and stand for justice — for those who cannot defend themselves. 40 million of them. But I will do so from a place of far greater power and influence.

Help me, LORD. Please keep my hands frozen to the sword.

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The Sword

His eyes are piercing. His gaze, unbroken. His face is decorated with a stray cut on his forehead, a stream of dried blood dried between his eyes. His cheeks are bronzed by dirt. His lips are cracked.

He doesn’t know fear, but fear knows him. It calls his name; he doesn’t hear it. It chases him; he doesn’t hide. He rides and the ground trembles beneath him. His fist clenches tight around his inseparable companion: a sword. Splinters from the hilt threaten to pierce his skin but lose every time. His skin is tough and worn, like a piece of good leather that softens and becomes more pliable but never looses its seal.

A sliver of light breaks through a barrier of dark clouds and finds a shiny spot to reflect on his sword. He looks at it and remembers a day when the entire sword would turn to gold in the light. That day was short lived. A shiny sword costs nothing. A dull sword with splinters that’s caked in red and brown costs lives – in particular, his own.

He pulls the sword from his side and raises it to the sky. The familiar feel of splinters jutting into the palm of his hand brings a calm to his mind. It’s time for battle. He opens his mouth and releases a roar. Soldiers gather around him. They, too, raise their swords. Fear is in their eyes and he commands it to leave.

Before them is a staggering army of countless barbarians, savages, defenders of all that is evil and cruel. At a distance, they are specks. Is there a thousand? Ten thousand? One-hundred thousand? Half a million? No one can tell.

He looks to his soldiers. They amount to a few hundred. He rides to the front and looks them square in the eyes. “Does anything restrain the LORD from saving by many or by few?” Their response is in a rumbling roar. They are ready.

He grips the sword tighter. Casualties are inevitable. They will drop around him. Some of his own soldiers will be snatched away. But this sword will never leave his hand. He will fight through death and ice and blood. He will fight until his arm grows weak and his very hand becomes frozen to the sword. He will not set it down for anything. Not even his own life.

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Change

It’s my beloved enemy. I always resist it. I always fight it. And, when I realize that the only way to true victory is to relent to it, I eventually sit down and surrender. Eventually. Even then though, I sit there with gritted teeth. I reach out to it with one hand and push it away with the other. I reach out to everything He’s promised me, while at the same time, squinting my eyes and covering my face, trying to shield the pain and discomfort that I know will come too. As the discomfort closes in around me, I pull my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around them, burying my head on top of them. I think and dream about running back to my comfort. I know I can’t, so I don’t even bother. I sigh. I wait. I grit my teeth. And I remember this: what kills you will only make you stronger. It’s not something I tell myself. It’s an attitude I have. I look at the discomfort like a foe in battle. I can either learn to live with it, despising it the rest of my life — or, I can conquer it. Discomfort is now my enemy. The change He’s promised me is my destination, my prize, and the reason I fight.

I pull out the sword He’s given me. I look down at it and can see my image reflecting back at me. It’s still shiny. My heart sinks. It’s spent far too long hanging over the fireplace and not enough piercing into the heart of my enemy. I shake my head. Today is the day, a new day, God’s day. I won’t look any longer on the regrets of my past. I mount my horse. I look into the storm. Lightening strikes on the ground in front of me. Thunder booms so loud that my eardrums shake. Cold, frigid rain thrusts down onto my head. I can’t see my destination. It’s on the other side of the hill. I can’t see the hill, but I know if I keep riding, I will inevitably reach it. I look back. I can see clearly the land I came from. It is a small land, with a small, tattered looking house in the midst of desolation. But it’s close. And if I turn back now, I know I won’t even be threatened or challenged. I’ll be welcomed.

Tears well up my eyes. I want victory, but I also want to turn back. And it’d be much easier. There would be no fight. I turn my horse around and walk closer to the safety behind me. My heart is beating faster. This is it. I must decide. I turn my head and look into the storm. The further I look, the more threatening and angry the storm appears. I know the hill is out there somewhere in that darkness. I know there’s something on the other side of the hill, but I don’t know what it looks like. Will I be welcomed? Maybe not. I turn my head and inch closer to safety. It may not be amazing, but it’s predictable. No one would fight me. In fact, they want me to come back. My heart beats faster. I know He’d forgive me. I look down at my shiny sword and see my face again, scared, frightened, completely uncertain. Yeah, He’d forgive me. But would I forgive me? Would I ever be able to live, knowing that the Promised Land was one fight away?

I look up at the dark sky and rain pelts my face. It hurts like the slap of sand in a sand storm. Who am I? Am I a coward or a warrior? I’m a coward. He says I’m a warrior. I look back again. Safety. Security. Comfort. Predictability. If I go back, I will be outwardly happy. But inwardly, I will always feel and see and know the coward who lives inside of me. I look back at the storm. If I go, I must fight. Cowards don’t fight. Warriors fight. And that’s who I’ll be. If I get to that hill, it’s only because I’ve defeated the discomfort that fought me and assaulted me and kicked me and tried to kill me all the way there. Lightening strikes feet away and the thunder that follows resounds for what feels like a short eternity. I’ve had enough of this. The rain turns to hail and pelts me harder, piercing into my skin, most likely leaving bruises everywhere it lands. I scream and yell. Anger rises up inside of me. I pull my sword out and hoist it in the air. I dig my heels into the horse’s sides and it reacts. He starts to run. I dig my heels in again and he runs faster. The wind has shifted and now the hail is not pelting me from above, it’s pelting me onwardly in the face. I keep going. I’m too angry to stop.

The storm gets worse. The lightening is more frequent and closer. The thunder is louder. But I no longer notice the discomfort. I’m fighting to win. And if necessary, I will fight to the death. I will get to that hill. I will not be defeated. The hail is still falling, I can see it, but I can’t feel it. The lightening must still be striking, because I can see it’s light. The thunder is booming, I can feel it’s vibration, but I cannot hear it. I’m still fighting, but I’ve already won. Where is my prize? It’s there. I know it is.

I keep riding. The horse slows down and we begin to move upward. It is completely dark, but I know we’re ascending because I have to lean forward to stay on. We slide backwards, entrenched in the mud, and then we gain momentum and move further up the mound. We get stuck and I fall off. I claw and scratch and my horse frees himself and runs ahead of me. I call his name, but he doesn’t come back. I reach for my sword and drive it in the ground as hard as I can. Then I use it to hoist me out. I get out but have to keep moving before I sink again. There’s no chance to rescue my sword. If I go back for it, I’d take the risk of never getting out of the mud. My heart sinks. I was finally using it. It was just starting to get dirty from battle. But I can’t look back. I keep going. I keep clawing. The land flattens out. I am no longer clawing to keep from sliding backwards. I’ve reached the top of the hill. I’m there. I’m there.

I lift my head. I lift my eyes. The darkness is gone. The cold is gone. The mud is gone. The thunder and lightening have ceased. The fight is over. I am there. And before me, He stands. I can feel His love and joy crashing from His heart to mine and over all of who I am. He knew I’d come. I can see it in His eyes. He’s not surprised in the least. But He is inexpressibly full of delight. He’s holding something in His hands. I strain my eyes to see what it is. He reaches His hands forward to give me something. It’s my sword. It’s dirty. It’s caked with mud and blood from the battle. I smile. That thing was never meant to by shiny. Good job, He says. He’s so proud of me. I run into His arms and He catches me, lifting me high into the air and spinning me around. He pulls me close and I have never felt so alive. This is it, He whispers in my ear. I hug Him tighter. What if I had gone back? Tears well up in my eyes. I haven’t seen where I’m at. I don’t need to. I’ve seen Him. He was what I was searching for. He is the prize.

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