The last couple of weeks have been challenging, to put it mildly. The husband of one of my spiritual daughters went home to be with The Lord. Just as everyone was coming to terms with this sad loss, I got a call that one of my close spiritual sons had been involved in an accident which had almost claimed the life of his toddler daughter and had caused his young son some injury. Indeed, as I sat down to write this message, I got a call from my wife telling me someone had just run into her car at a roundabout! Not to mention that a few weeks ago, I was informed that my younger sister was diagnosed with cancer.
That we are in spiritual warfare is not in contention. In fact, the Word of God warns us that our adversary, the devil is prowling like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I decree that you will not be prey to the evil one in Jesus’ mighty name.
On account of the relentless attacks that characterise these perilous times, many are losing their faith and questioning God’s love, benevolence and protection. Our warped logic asks questions like: If God really loves me, how can He allow such things to happen to me? If He is Omnipotent, why does He not restrain the enemy on my behalf? Why am I subject to the same challenges (and even worse!) as my unbelieving friends and family and why do they seem to be prospering where I am struggling? The Bible tells us that God made what He could do clear to the children of Israel, but to Moses, He revealed His Laws and the knowledge of His ways.
Our preference is that we should be protected from all problems so that we can leave a stressless life. Should that option be improbable, then we expect God and His siren-blaring, weapon-bearing, chariot-blazing “SWAT” team to hasten to our rescue when trouble and troublers assail us. Any other option is unthinkable and unacceptable.
Hear however what God tells the prophet Isaiah in
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
From my limited experience, I have discovered three strategies God uses to deal with our issues. Firstly, He goes before us and prevents us from getting into trouble or falling into the snares the enemy may have sprung for us. Some times He makes us aware of His work and preventive strategies. At other times, we are blissfully ignorant of Jesus’ advocacy for us in the warfare in the realm of the spirit. Secondly, God permits the trouble to actually come our way, and then when we have fought the battle(s), He gives us the victory. Thirdly, God actually permits the enemy to overwhelm or even defeat us. This is the scenario we just cannot handle or understand. Suffice it to say that we may lose the battle(s) but we will always win the war. Alleluia!
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
The first strategy is consistent with infancy. Children are usually inoculated or vaccinated to prevent the full force of the disease from ravaging and destroying their frail bodies and underdeveloped immune systems. When Israel was a fledgling nation, having just come out of 400 years of bondage in Egypt, being vulnerable, untrained and unarmed, this was the strategy God used to protect them. Joshua recounts the story in Joshua 24:6-13
6 When I brought your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. 7 But they cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.
8 ” ‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. 9 When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. 10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.
11 ” ‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you-also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’(BNIV)
If all your battles are still being fought using this strategy, it is a damning indictment on the level of your maturity.
TIME FOR THE CHILD TO GROW
Once the children of Israel got to the Promised Land, the divine strategy was revised. For forty years God had provided manna virtually daily for the children of Israel. The narrative in Joshua 5:10-12 shows God’s change of strategy10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.
From that point also, they began to physically contend with their enemies in battle. Do not be deceived though, God was with them and not only gave them battle strategies but regularly threw in angelic and other supernatural assistance to guarantee victory. One thing was consistent after each battle though and that was the collecting of the spoils of war. Many times, you are minding your own business and the enemy stronger than you,targets you because he thinks you are a soft touch. God does not intervene to stop him because He wants to give you double for your trouble. The prophet Isaiah in Chapter 61:7 says
7 Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.
More importantly, God wants to exact a sevenfold penalty on the enemy. This means you get what was taken from you, with interest. See the principle explained in Proverbs 6:30-31 bearing in mind that the enemy is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy.
30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
For proof of this see the end of the battle with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 17:53
53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.
See also the end of the battle with the Amalekites after they had raided and burned Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30:18-20
18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. 20 He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”
Finally, recall how Jehoshaphat’s battle with three nations ended in 2 Chronicles 20:
25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value- more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.
So if you are facing corporate or other giants who have deprived you of promotion, inheritances, justice,etc then start rejoicing in the expectation of great plunder! Remember however, that it is only the mature that are permitted to enlist in the army.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS
The third strategy is the equivalent of strong meat or solid food as opposed to the milk of the first two strategies. When Paul yearned to know more of God, he was aware that it was more than just the power of His resurrection. There was also the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings and the aspect of becoming like Him in His death (see Philippians 3:10). Paul tells His spiritual son Timothy that “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” This third strategy is designed to build your character until you are completely like Christ. Like Him you will learn obedience through the things you suffer. You will keep your word even when it hurts.
Now that you understand why you are going through all these things my first prayer for you is that which Jesus prayed for Peter- that your faith will not fail. Once you successfully go through these trials, tests and tribulations, then like Peter also, your next assignment is to strengthen your brethren who are going through similar situations.
Let all these things draw you into a closer relationship with your Heavenly Father. Spend more time studying the Word of God so that you may meditate on it day and night and make it your only confession. This means, of course that you will not be moved by extenuating circumstances because you are fully convinced that God, who can not fail, will do what He has promised. This will result in a lifestyle of thanksgiving, praise and worship. Since this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus, can you see how what the enemy meant for evil is now working for your good?
There is no better place to end than with Isaiah’s prophecy in our text
ISAIAH 35:1-10 BNIV
1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”(GW. “He will come and rescue you”)
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
So whether before, during or after the crisis, God will come and rescue you and give you a recompense for the trouble He permitted to come your way. As for the devil, if he was aware of what it would cost him, he would never have come near you. Now though, it is too late for him. Praise God for ever more.