The intense heat of the furnace is necessary to melt gold into something useful. So it is with the suffering we often endure. God is preparing us for something useful.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has several outstanding longcase clocks. One clock features moving ships above the clock face. The ships rock back and forth as if moved by the ocean. The clock chimes every hour. It is an excellent example of craftsmanship, but it must be wound and set every day. If it is not tended regularly, it will stop ticking and become useless as a clock. Our spiritual lives need regular maintenance. Without daily tending, our souls can become idle or stale.
A fish cannot swim without water. Natural laws point to spiritual law. Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for example, explains the movement of fish in the water and birds in the air: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We use this law to propel rockets in space. There is a connection between the force applied in one direction and the movement of the rocket in the opposite direction.
Navigating a new city or a new school can be intimidating. Uncertainty about our next steps or our next plans can give us anxiety. Tragedies and troubles can make us fearful, not only for our lives, but also for the lives of others. Fear can make our bodies ache and paralyze our decision-making if we allow the feeling of fear to grip us. (I know, I’ve let it do that to me.) The apostle John had a vision in which he encountered the Risen Christ in all his majesty and glory. He writes that he “fell at feet as though dead” when he saw Jesus (Revelation 1:17 ESV) – that’s fear. Coming face to face with Jesus literally paralyzed John, perhaps causing him to sweat and to hyperventilate – real, tangible fear.
Some believers expect big winds and fires from God, but we must train ourselves to discern the low whisper.
In the year 853 B.C., a “great horde” (ESV) – a “huge army” (NET) – prepared to attack Israel. King Jehoshaphat was told of the impending invasion of armies from Moab and Syria. The 20th chapter of 2 Chronicles records how the king and the people prayed in desperation and fasted before the Lord. “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3-4 ESV). There was a genuine sense of alarm and a complete dependence on God for deliverance. They felt that if God did not deliver them, they would be defeated. “We do know what to do,” was the desperate plea of Jehoshaphat. He needed God’s help. A Levite in the assembly told everyone, “Do not be afraid … the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV).
The steeple of the church in Bann, Germany, rises higher than the homes of the village, and atop the steeple is the cross of Christ. Its bells not only toll the hour but also call villagers to the times of prayer and worship. The steeple points the people to Christ. Its very prominence above the village is testimony that “there is nothing on earth” greater than Christ and everything else is little in comparison.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great king. Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress (Psalm 48:1-2 ESV). Castles and forts are built on hills, because they are harder to attack and overcome when they are higher in elevation. The psalmist thinks of Jerusalem and its walls and defenses. It is a picture of beauty and safety; for the psalmist, it is home and happiness because it is safe and secure. Jerusalem is his safe place, because God has made it so. Martin Luther penned the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and that is exactly what God is to those who need protection. God is a refuge when we feel threatened by the forces of evil in our world. He is a comfort and a shield. It is like having a castle or a fort to hide in when there is an attack coming. Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (ESV). When you call on God, you make Him your safe place. Today, do not fret over any attack from the enemy. Turn to the Lord and trust his protection. Call his name and pray. Hide in the shadow of his strength and know that God is your refuge and fortress. When you feel discouraged, quote a verse of Scripture or sing some familiar hymn or song of praise. It will encourage you and remind you that you can hide in the fortress of God’s strength. Remember to read the Bible and to pray. “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!” God is your safe place.
Look too closely at a painting and you will see only the colored oil and the brush strokes. You must step back from the painting to see the picture and view it from different perspectives to appreciate its beauty. View it too closely and you will see very little.
Have you ever run out of something good? As good as it may be, a milkshake won’t last. Neither will a candy bar or a good cup of coffee. Earthly pleasures are short-lived. They all run out. Even when the coffee is “good to the last drop,” the advertising slogan of Maxwell House many years ago, it has a last drop – a last good drop – before it runs out. Then it is all gone.