Friday, February 10, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Someone sent me this story in e-mail yesterday:

A king, who did not believe in the goodness of God, had a slave who, in all circumstances, said: My king, do not be discouraged because everything God does is perfect, no mistakes!

One day they went hunting and along the way a wild animal attacked the king. His slave managed to kill the animal but could not prevent his majesty losing a finger. Furious and without showing any gratitude for being saved, the nobleman said, "Is God good? If He was good I would not have been attacked and lost my finger." The slave replied: "My king, despite all these things, I can only tell you that God is good and He knows "why" of all these things. What God does is perfect; He is never wrong!" Outraged by the response, the king ordered the arrest of his slave.

Later he left for another hunt and was captured by savages who made human sacrifices. On the altar, ready to sacrifice the nobleman, the savages found that the victim had not one of his fingers, so he was released. According to them it was not so complete to be offered to the gods.

Upon his return to the palace he authorized the release of his slave that he received very affectionately. "My dear, God was really good to me! I was almost killed by the wild men but, for lack of a single finger, I was let go! But I have a question: If God is so good, why did he allow me to put you in jail?" "My King, if I had gone with you in this hunt, I would have been sacrificed for you, because I have no missing finger. Therefore, remember everything God does is perfect; He is never wrong."

A wonderful story, isn't it? Something caught my attention, though. I was very excited about the end. Aaaw, look how wonderfully it all worked out. I automatically skipped over the bit where the king was furious without a stitch of gratitude and throwing the man in jail who had just risked his own life to save him - the ungrateful brat! I conveniently didn't consider what it must have been like for the innocent slave to sit in prison, not knowing if he'll ever get out. Did he have a family that he was separated from? Was it cold, dark and dirty? What was the food like? Yuck! In the end the king returns and releases him, apologizing, but the slave had no way of knowing the outcome when he was in the middle of his jail experience, did he?

I've often read the Bible in the same way; I'm sure I'm not the only one.

When I think of Noah I think of the boat, the animals and the pretty rainbow - a beautiful story! But have you ever considered what it must have felt like for him to be ridiculed like an outcast by people who had no idea what rain was? Didn't Noah feel just a tad bit stupid compared to other "normal" people? Have you ever considered what it might have been like cooped up in that boat for forty days and nights; have you ever smelt wet dog? What happened to all the animal poop? Was it noisy? Did Noah ever wish the rain would just stop, already! What did he do to keep sane during this time? Certainly it was not easy for him up till the rainbow. But the rainbow is wonderful! 

When I think of Jonah I think of the big fish that saved his life - wow! Have you ever considered what it smelt like in the belly of that fish? It lived and ate normal just like any other fish before it swallowed Jonah. It must have lived and eaten with Jonah in its belly for three days, don't you think? Did Jonah kneel and pray, repenting his heart out next to a half eaten, two day old piece of tuna? Eeeeuw! What must he have smelt like when that fish finally spit him out - fish guts? Eeeeuw! Yes, he was alive but I don't think we realize what he really went through because of his big escape. 

Maybe you're facing challenges in your marriage and you look at other married couples - they have a beautiful house, car, three adorable children, they go to church and seem to have it all together. Why can they "have it all" and you can't? All awhile you are blissfully unaware that they struggled for years to have any children, or that the husband maybe cheated on his wife (or vice versa) while she struggled with "baby blues" or perhaps they had struggled financially for a time before God restored prosperity in their finances. How do you know?

Maybe you're facing challenges of wanting to find a husband (while everyone around you is getting married like it's going out of fashion), or you've lost your job and no one seems to want to hire you, or you're struggling with depression - how can other people seem so care free and happy? Etc., etc., etc. 

You know what? We're all on our own journey. Everybody have their own challenges that they deal with every day; people just don't always go around advertising and things are often not what they seem on the surface. 

I want to encourage you with two things today:
  • Go back to your Bible and read those cute children's Bible stories again, but this time really consider the details; consider the challenge before the breakthrough. Consider how they had to choose to trust God, choose their words carefully (speaking life and death), choose to not give up in the middle and consider the circumstances under which they had to do it in order to get to the other side.
  • Then consider God in those stories. Consider His faithfulness, His response to their heart cry, His creative and unique ways in which He delivered them in the end. Then consider God in your story. Consider His ability to do the impossible, how the prayer of the righteous has tremendous power; consider all that you have available to you in Christ to be more than a conqueror that God says you are. Consider how nothing can ever separate you from His love and how His resources never run dry. Consider the promises in His Word for you today and that His Words never return void! 
But remember this - the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for He has promised this and will do what He says. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:3 (NLT)

This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, since He had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave way to them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive His mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT)

See, you're not alone! Often the biggest difference between you and "them" is simply that they've been there and you are there, but if you're going through the wilderness, keep going!!

Today, instead of comparing your life or your circumstance with others, find your hope in God; the Author and Finisher of your faith; the Way, the Truth, the Life; the Cornerstone, the Beginning and the End. There may not be any 'microwave miracles' or 'drive-through breakthroughs' but that doesn't mean that there is no breakthrough at all. Life is not a fairy tale but God's love and faithfulness is real and He can make a way where there seems to be no way. May you find comfort in His presence today.

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