“They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching -- and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him,” [Mark 1:21-27]
The Scripture records numerous occasions when people, just like you and me, listened to the Word of the Lord and responded to it, forsaking the ways of the world and believing God. Job decided to obey God and even went above and beyond what the Lord required. Hezekiah removed all the idols from the land and encouraged the people of Israel to return to the Lord. Elisha offered a special, miraculous gift to a woman who had shown him unusual kindness. Paul shared the Good News with the major cities of the Empire. And the Son of Man spoke the Word unreservedly, no matter the consequence. But in each case where people of God sought to please him, the enemy counter-attacked. Job lost everything he had, including all his children –the very ones he sought to protect. The army of Assyria came against Hezekiah –when Hezekiah declared that only God should be their King. The Shunnamite’s son died –after rejoicing greatly because she and her husband never thought they would have a child. Paul was thrown in prison, tortured and stoned –by the very people he was trying to pursuade. And the very spirits of darkness tried to discredit Jesus –ironically by speaking the truth about Him, so that people might grow to question why demons might be giving “valid” testimony about Jesus (which the Pharisees and teachers of the Law actually tried to use to accuse Jesus). When people decide to obey God with all their hearts, attack is implied. Satan will never allow righteousness to flourish if he can have anything to say or do about it.
But our human, fleshly nature is often tempted to question God when things go wrong –especially when we’re trying to do right. We begin to think we’ve been abandoned, wondering why we seem to feel less blessed when we try to please God more. But when we can’t understand why things get so bad when we’re trying to do everything right, remember Jesus. The more Jesus spoke the truth, the more difficult it was for Him to remain in this world. He had many enemies. And when He didn’t behave the way the people expected Him to behave, they tried to kill Him (instigated by Satan). Doing the Lord’s will usually guarantees a counter-attack. Why? Because God and Satan are equally powerful and the balanced war of good-verses-evil never seems to end? No. Because God is wiser than all of us. God knows our hearts –and He purifies and strengthens a sincere heart. A sincere heart will hold the course even when the storm rages and the first instinct is to turn back to “safe” harbor. The enemy wants us to abandon faith and accept his conditioning-by-suffering to believe that it’s somehow good to call yourself a Christian but never get too involved. In other words, stay where it’s safe. Stay contained. Stay within his acceptable parameters –until he thinks darkness is prevalent enough to wipe out the Light (as if he could). But remember what Paul said: We haven’t taken hold of what’s been promised yet. In other words, things will get tough, and we won’t always do what we should, but we will be victorious in Christ if we keep walking as Jesus did, identifying our lives with how He lived His life –dying to self, living for God and somehow attaining to the resurrection and eternal life. In short, NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER.
Job never gave up on God –he knew God would pull through –even if it meant he had to wait for the Last Day and the resurrection. Hezekiah immediately appealed to God when Jerusalem was besieged, and pleaded for God to be honored and His Name to be known throughout the earth. Elisha brought the Shunnamite woman’s one and only child, a son, back from the dead –though he didn’t know what the Lord intended to do because it was hidden from him, he still chose to pursue what the Lord might do –whatever the outcome. Paul continued to preach –no matter how many times he had been beaten up, and was stoned once, then got right back up again and preached some more! And the Gospel went throughout all of the Roman Empire UNHINDERED. And Jesus spoke the Word all the way to the cross, but knew with all of His heart that God would bring the victory of all victories over Satan, sin and the grave.
And so, we must all press on, looking to the end result, not falling to an immediate sense of gratification or relief that compromises the Word of God. The world speaks of what we “have to do.” But God speaks of what cannot be done by human hands. The enemy says, “Give up now, and I’ll make things easier on you.” But a child of God says to him, “Your promises are empty and your presumption arrogant. The Lord alone shall be our Strength and Song. He is our Salvation.” Whatever the enemy might be throwing at you at the present time, keep reminding yourself (and allow the Spirit to encourage you) that the present moment is NOT all there is. We must press on with good end results in mind. Ask Job. Your current situation is not necessarily a good way to gauge the Lord’s faithfulness to you. Jesus promised us, “In this world, you will have trouble.” But He also promised an indescribable inheritance to all who overcome this world –NO MATTER HOW DIFFICULT IT GETS. We will rise above our current situations, knowing that ultimate victory is assured to everyone who believes God and forsakes all deceit and worldly “wisdom.” We stand at the gates of a brand new year. What will this year hold for us? Will this be the year of the Lord’s Return? Will this be the year when Kouts Christian Church does more for the Lord than she has ever done before? Or will we allow the enemy to condition us into thinking that we shouldn’t do too much for God –because if we get out of line, he might punish us…? As we face a new year, we are reminded of God’s Word: “Behold, I make all things NEW.” Let’s all renew our trust in God. Our daily difficulties are not a good measure for determining the Lord’s faithfulness -He is always faithful. He may allow suffering in our lives (just as He did with so many before us). But His intent is not to harm us, but to strengthen our faith in Him. So, for as long as we are here, and for as much of this year as the Lord will allow us to have, let us do all things with steadfast faithfulness to Him in deep gratitude and thanksgiving, knowing that our God is faithful, keeping our eyes ever on the end result –salvation for us and salvation for the world. We can do all things through Christ Who gives us strength. Storms will come, but the Vessel on which we encounter those storms is Jesus. And when storms threatened Him, Jesus was confident enough to take a nap, and tell the storm what to do. We will encounter and overcome any storm we face because Jesus is in command.