December 11, 2009

Walk by faith

More than a decade ago and during several months of turmoil in my life, keeping a journal helped sort out my thoughts. To remind me that this time of life was not permanent, I wrote ahead on the top of random blank pages, “This too shall pass.”

Today’s devotional reading suggests the same idea about today’s challenges. I’ve been ill, struggling with a few “monkeys on my back” and having difficulty focusing. God seems far away — even though I know that He is not. This is a spiritual valley and I’ve been in them before.

Paul had walked through them too. He was physically in jail when he wrote Philippians, and although he spoke about joy, he also spoke about his choice. Rather than worry about his situation, he trusted God for the outcome, whatever that outcome might be.

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  (Philippians 1:19-21)
Paul knew that his current distress was only temporary. He also knew that he would be delivered from it one way or another. His statement, “I know this will turn out for my deliverance” is a quote of the Greek version of Job 13:16, “He also shall be my salvation.”

I like the reference to Job. Job was a righteous man who suffered for seemingly no reason. Readers can see that his faith was being tested, but Job himself had no idea of the spiritual battle concerning him. In the end, he was delivered because God always delivers the righteous. Job also said, “After my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26). His faith was that God would deliver him, either temporally from his distress, or eternally from all distresses.

Paul had the same faith. His circumstances would work out for good, whether he was released from prison, vindicated at his trial, and delivered from execution, or whether he passed into glory as a martyr. No matter the method, he was not stuck in jail. This too would pass.

My trials are different and mostly concern my mental state and attitudes. Yesterday I began thinking about Job. I’m also reminded that faith is defined as, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I recognize that I’ve been tipping too far into “walking by sight” and disappointed because I was not “seeing” God at work. Trust is not always rewarded immediately and I cannot demand that it be.

I also know that this valley is not permanent. Taking a jaunt with God through a dark place is His remedy to overcome my problem. He holds my hand and will not let go no matter what happens. His goal is the same as His goal was for Job and Paul. He wants me to trust Him, and know that He will do with me whatever He thinks best.

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