Utmost Christian

Yet I will continue to trust my Lord

 

A little while ago, I received a forward in my WhatsApp. It was from a man I know closely, a good man, but who lacks many good things in life. The forward contained a verse from the Bible,

‘Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.’   Ps 34:10

And below the verse was a video of a young lady with a guitar and she was declaring why she was going to sing the song. There was a time when her family lacked bread…I knew the gist of what was coming, which is, somehow the Lord miraculously provided them some bread in time, before they starved to death, and they have been praising God for this bread ever since. I have heard similar stories too many times, and just can’t bear to hear another one. The sight and sound of this milk bread that’s been offered to me makes me sick in my stomach, and I long for some strong meat. Almost always this kind of story brings up in my mind another story I heard long ago:

A widow lacked bread and was praying to the Lord to supply her some. Two little rascals from the neighborhood playing under her window, heard her plea. “Let’s play a trick on her,’ said one. They got a small loaf from somewhere, and as the widow continued her supplications for the life-saving bread, they tossed in the loaf from under the window. The amazed lady praised God for such a sudden and dramatic miracle, and as she began to munch on the loaf, the lads peered in and shouted, ‘It ain’t no God supplied your bread, it’s us threw it in, hee, hee!’. The widow looked up surprised. Unfazed, she replied, ‘Yea, the devil may have delivered it, but all the same the Lord did supply it.’

I didn’t wait to hear how the Lord supplied bread to that singer’s family, but thought I should immediately write about this teaching that’s making many milk-fed Christians undernourished in the Body of Christ.

I have known several men and women in my life, who continue to live since their young days to their present senior age, or who have died, without being supplied many good things in life – people who have always trusted the Lord to supply their needs, who have been good Christians, as good or even more fervent, than the bread-supplied family of that girl in the video. Oh yea, these people lacked many, many good things in life. In fact, if they had chosen to forsake the Lord, and seek refuge in another lord, they might have had better things in life, as many I knew of tragically did.

But the greatest testimony is my own life. To this very day, I lack too many good things in life, even some basic good things, which if I write about would shock you. But, praise my good God, who ensures that though I lack many good things in life, though he refuses to grant me many things that would have reduced the suffering in my life, though he repeatedly says a firm ‘Never!’ to many of my pleas – as he did to Paul three times in response to the fervent pleas of the Apostle to remove something that was constantly a painful part of his life (have you ever had a thorn embedded in the sole of your feet anytime?…imagine walking around with that thorn for the rest of your life) – though my life may end up being slayed by God, yet I will continue to trust my Lord. (Job 13:15)

Indeed, many are the preachers, many are the babes in Christ who pass on testimonies such as the one I received a while ago, who have misinterpreted the Lord’s ways of dealing with his beloved people. And their platitudes about the Lord ensuring that his son or daughter will lack no good thing, including good health, is confusing and undermining the faith of those little ones who are just coming to know the Lord. They are like the three friends of Job, who spoke on and on, page after page, of how the Lord will grant good things to those who love him, and if he didn’t, surely it is because of some fault in them. And what did Job reply to his friends, in the midst of his mental and physical agonies:

‘Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay…“I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are!’   Job 13:12; 16:2

So what is my strength, what is my hope, when the Lord continues to refuse me many good things that would have eliminated, or even just reduced a bit, the sufferings in my life? Why do I and innumerable other suffering Christians, continue to respond, in the midst of our afflictions, with the following words:

‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’   Job 13:15

Because I know it is only a matter of time, when I and my fellow sufferers in the Lord, will receive a hundredfold of all that we lack in this life – food, home, clothing, job, health, and more. We are among the second category of God’s children who,

‘all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’   Heb 11:13

We are not counted among those

‘who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.’   Heb 11:33-35

But we are among other who were

‘tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise’   Heb 11:35-39

I praise my God daily, that though he continues to deny me many good things in my life, I can survive from moment to moment, from hour to hour, from day to day, with the fullness of joy that comes from Christ dwelling in me, from the excitement of waiting for the day of his return, when all that I am suffering now cannot even begin to be compared with what I am going to receive when my Lord comes.

‘For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’   Rom 8:18

‘For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God’   Job 19:25,26

For this slight, momentary trouble is piling up for me an eternal blessedness beyond all comparison, because I keep my eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.   2 Cor 4:17

So what about the sure verse in Psalm 34:10 which was so lovingly forwarded to me for my encouragement?

As a former English teacher, and present English language reformer, I place a lot of importance on the tense used in a sentence. The verse does not say, ‘those who trust in the Lord lacks no good thing’, but ‘those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing’.

The time is coming – O with what surpassing excitement and joy I wait for it every moment, every day! – when I will lack no good thing.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

“You don’t appreciate a lot of things until you come very, very close to losing them”

Rape victims in Dem. Rep. Congo

That title quote is from the novel The Last Days of America by Paul E Erdman. The book is a frightening tale of how an economic crisis could lead to major political upheavals and shifts in the global balance of powers, and bring civilization as we know it to the brink of extinction by nuclear holocaust. When people realize they don’t have much time anymore to enjoy the everyday mundane benefits and facilities they had always taken for granted, they begin for the first time to realize what precious blessings these amenities had been all along. Open the tap, and there is always water flowing out for use to your heart’s content. Gasoline running low in your car…just take it to the gas station around the corner, and ‘fill ’er up’. Your kitchen cupboard needs to be replenished? Just call the grocery and they deliver it right at your doorstep, until…

Until these seemingly little facilities and services suddenly stop, and people are desperately trying to flee a city to escape impending devastation by invading forces. Or there is a deadly earthquake, and the most pressing thought of the people is not how to best spend the evening out, but how to find some unpolluted water to drink and where to find some safe shelter for the night. Or there is a roaring tide of water heading toward your house and your only thought is how best to keep your children from being swept away in the tsunami. Today, thank God, none of these things are happening to you or me. And we can continue to enjoy our daily blessings to the full. But for millions of others, these daily little appurtenances of modern civilization is the difference between survival and death.

I was in a Middle East country during the first Gulf war. When the conflict broke out, the countries close to the war zone began to quaver in fearful anticipation. Throughout the city, common household commodities like bottled water were quickly swept off the supermarket shelves. My close two colleagues and I made plans to flee to our home countries. One of them, a young man in his twenties had recently married his beautiful sweetheart. All the battle scenes on CNN, and all the usual frenzy of a battle brought in edited form to us through the media somehow made the whole war somewhat surreal for this young colleague. You know how it is…soldiers tat-tat-tatting away their enemies with their AK-47s, the explosions and vehicles thrown twenty feet into the air, a plane on a strafing pass at the convoy below… the sounds and colors can raise the adrenalin level in one who hasn’t actually seen these actions in real life. But when these sounds and sights are happening a few miles outside your door, you have a different perception of them altogether.

To put him in the right perspective, I asked my newly married colleague, ‘Do you know what is the first thing invading soldiers normally do on entering a city?’ He didn’t. So I told him: they enter apartments in groups and gang-rape any woman of any age they find there. My colleague’s countenance dropped. He now seemed more eager than any of us to get out of the country as fast as we could. [As I review this message some years later, I just read on the CNN website of a well-dressed middle-aged Libyan woman who burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell the journalists there that she had been raped and beaten by Gadhafi’s militia. She sobbed and said she was held against her will for two days and raped by fifteen men.]

A few days after the great tsunami of 2004, I visited one of the most tragically devastated areas in India. I met two survivors – a handsome man and his pretty wife, both in their twenties. Six months ago they had the fruit of their love union in their hands, a baby girl. They showed me her photo. Just like any other cute smiling baby you see on a parenting magazine’s front cover. On the day of the tsunami, they were dandling their precious gift in their arms, when the wave smashed through their walls and swept the little one away forever from their arms.

Readers do not usually want to hear these tragic tales. But I have mentioned them here in the hope that at least occasionally you may deeply reflect on the daily prosaic happenings…as daylight gives in to dusk and you reach out to press the light switch and the whole room is lit up in cheerful hues; or as you stroll on the street pavement with your wife and kids and do not have to fear any sniper’s bullet…pause a moment to ponder, and be thankful.

 

Pappa Joseph