Day 5: Vision From the Pit – Purpose in Crisis

salvation-4

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God can do miracles in the pits of life.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 29:11-14

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will make myself available to you,’   says the Lord.  ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’

We are still in the desert in here and things are heating up. In the place of dearth and scarcity, captivity and destruction – there is a promise.

Jeremiah stands as an example of trusting in God in devastating times. He understood God’s sovereignty. He lived it out as the weeping prophet at times, but trusted his God because he knew His character and remembered the deeds of his God.

We are likely all familiar with this well known passage from the book of Jeremiah. Written to the exiles following their abduction from the home they loved and in that place of scorn, persecution and destruction, God sent a message to encourage them through His weeping prophet, Jeremiah. In a place of pain, God wanted them to flourish and enjoy life. Wow. It must have seemed crazy, God allowing them to suffer and promising a pending punishment, but telling them to prosper in that moment. Get comfortable in the pit?

Camped out in a land not their own, the Israelites must have wondered how they got to this place. They were God’s chosen people – chosen for this? Have you ever felt that way? I sure have. All too often we don’t recognize how we have strayed from a path only to find we end up in a completely different place than our original destination. Or maybe someone else formed the path we are walking on that took us far away from our hopes and dreams. Can God’s sovereignty reach this new place and make sense of our suffering? Definitely. But we might have to get comfortable in the pit.

It is hard to see beyond the pit. Feeling like we are enclosed with no way out, the path to victory is in surrender. If we seek to know our God, we know that He is faithful and nothing is wasted in His hands. His character is beyond our comprehension and every promise is always fulfilled. God is always good and His ways are good. But still we can doubt His purposes and think we might have a better plan. When we find ourselves struggling to get out of the pit, we might just be wrestling against God like Jacob did.

If God allowed the pit, He always has a purpose in it. The question is whether or not we can trust Him in that place as well as in the place of blessing. The pit ultimately shaped the character of Joseph and elevated him to the second highest authority in Egypt. God can do miracles in the pits of life. He becomes our only source of strength as we are stripped from any other aid. In that isolation and temporary prison, He longs to be our Deliverer.

When we are sorry for the pit rather than seeking to understand His purpose in it, we might lengthen our stay there. Either way, God is with us in the pit and on the other side, as well. Accepting the pit, the desert, blessings – anything that comes from God’s hand – We begin to understand His purposes are higher than our own.

It was in their suffering that God made Himself available to their Israelites. When they were blessed before, they had forgotten God and were distracted with things of lesser value. Hardship had gotten their attention and had revealed to them that they were missing what mattered most – knowing and enjoying God in this life that He gave – whether He blesses or He doesn’t.

God wanted to bless His people again, but He cared more about their character and relationship with Himself than making their lives perfect. It actually would be cruel of God to do anything less. Jeremiah had a pastor’s heart and his people were suffering needlessly. Because they were also persecuting him and not surrendering to God’s sovereign purpose, they were missing God’s blessings. God did not stop his crying, but He gave him hope during his grief and caught every single tear.

Like Jeremiah and God’s people, you might wonder why God would say to enjoy life when life does not seem so enjoyable. You might apply these principles I have shared but still wish the pain did not visit you. That’s ok. None of us delight in suffering and God understands.  It is just learning to see beyond our circumstances and into what His sovereign purpose really means in our lives.

There is purpose in the tears. Jeremiah understands. Purpose in the pain. There as we gaze at our Savior, we see what He is accomplishing in our hearts. We become more like Him and suddenly our purpose is changed. We no longer want our way and start to understand that His ways are higher. We find His grace, His strength, our perfect peace – as we are wrapped in His perfect love.

When things seem to shift way off course, you can firmly know that God’s plans never fail. You just might not like his plans at the moment, but when you recount what God has done in the past and what He has promised for the future, you can surrender to His purposes because of who He is.

God wants us to surrender to His sovereignty, rise above and understand what really matters, what the purpose of this life and our circumstances really are – about knowing and glorifying our good God.

While I thought I was living before “D-Day” in our home, now I see I was merely surviving. Somehow, instinctively I knew something was wrong. God was not going to leave his children in that place. He is too good for that. Maybe your sorrow is also your deliverance. Maybe another perspective just might help us to trust Him when we, too, have to drink the cup of suffering like Jesus did.

Lord, thank You for creating the pits in life to catch our attention and fix our gaze on You. When life hurts, ignite in our hearts Your purpose and help us to walk faithfully with you.

Here is a worship song for you to go with today’s devotion: Valley of Vision

Mundane Monday: Friend in High Places

In High Places

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Walking with God does not mean we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Scripture of the Day:

Jeremiah 20:10-12

10 “I hear many whispering words of intrigue against me. Those who would cause me terror are everywhere! They are saying, “Come on, let’s publicly denounce him!” All my so-called friends are just watching for something that would lead to my downfall. They say, “Perhaps he can be enticed into slipping up, so we can prevail over him and get our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD is with me to help me like an awe-inspiring warrior. Therefore those who persecute me will fail and will not prevail over me. They will be thoroughly disgraced because they did not succeed. Their disgrace will never be forgotten. 12 O LORD who rules over all, you test and prove the righteous. You see into people’s hearts and minds. Pay them back for what they have done because I trust you to vindicate my cause.” 

Jeremiah is such an encouragement to me. That might seem like an ironic statement. When someone was known as a “weeping prophet” and no one listened to His prophesies, it would seem his life was a failure. But God.

Jeremiah was faithful to what God called him to, relentless in adhering to the calling of God on his life, and pressed in when affliction besieged him. Jeremiah loved the people so much that he initially stayed behind in Judah instead of going into Exile where God promised blessing. Even though it meant he would suffer with them, Jeremiah had to be with His people. His reward? Persecution.

When He obeyed God and said a tough word, he was thrust in a cistern of mud to die. But God. When he was thrust in a dungeon, God saw. And when he was scourged because he spoke the truth, God had not forgotten him. Time and time again he was persecuted, but God. 

Form the life of Jeremiah we see that walking with God does not mean that we will not suffer, but it does mean He has a purpose in that suffering and will cause us to ultimately overcome.

Man thinks he has power. He thinks he can control people and positions, but ultimately God is the only One in full control. It might look like we are forgotten or like being righteous or following God leads us to suffering. But when the chips are down and it appears that defeat is looming over our lives, we can be like Jeremiah and look to God as our hero. Remembering God’s promises means we might lose some battles, but we will have the ultimate victory.

Lord, thank You that we can count on You at all times. Help us to trust in You and to be faithful even when our ministry of the Gospel is not well received.

 

Patience in Affliction

Photo Credits amodernreformation.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
amodernreformation.blogspot.com

Lamentations 3:21-28, 31-33

3:21 But this I call to mindtherefore I have hope22 The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. 23 They are fresh every morningyour faithfulness is abundant!  24My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself, so I will put my hope in him.  25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him, to the one who seeks him. 26 It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  28 Let a person sit alone in silence when the LORD is disciplining him.  31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32 Though he causes us grief, he then has compassion on us according to the abundance of his loyal kindness33 For he is not predisposed to afflict or to grieve people.

Lamentations 5:21

5:21 Bring us back to yourself, O Lord, so that we may return to you; renew our life as in days before.

James 1:12-18

12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. 18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

This moment of worship in Lamentations by Jeremiah is preceded by a vivid description of complete and utter devastation for himself and his people.  The suffering that is depicted is severe and seemingly hopeless.  Infants eaten by their mothers, priests and prophets killed in the LORD’s sanctuary, young men and women falling by the sword, children slowly starving to death in their mother’s arms.  Such wicked atrocities permitted can give us a sense of betrayal.  How could someone who loves us so much allow it? But Jeremiah did not blame God.  He knew it was punishment for their sins and patiently endured, placing his hope in the living God.  Instead of an embittered hopelessness, Jeremiah modeled that suffering produces a surprising fruit for those who are patient in the midst.  He was even thankful for it, for it opened his eyes to the truth and to how faithful God is and ultimately brought him to the place where God alone was his portion.

The honeymoon period after first accepting the LORD as my personal Savior was sweet.  The excitement of knowing my God more was incomparable to any other joy.  Getting off work from T.G.I. Friday’s at 3:00 am, I could not wait to get home and seek God, despite classes at 9:00 in the morning.  I have never wanted to lose my fervor for the LORD, but admittedly there have been seasons where I have felt dry, forgotten and almost gave up hope.  Praise God that He carries us through such times as we place our hope in Him.  While suffering admittedly is not something people typically yearn for, the hidden treasures it bestows ironically make it a blessing for those who walk through the suffering and not around it.  No pain, no gain.  And what does the suffering achieve?

An inner joy when circumstances surrounding us are less than desirable.  A peace that surpasses understanding.   A sweet fellowship with our LORD.   An enduring hope when there is seemingly nothing to hope in.  Most importantly, those who have tasted suffering and glorified God in the midst no longer worship Him for what He can give them, but for Who He is.  He is our portion.  Discipline never seems pleasant at the time, but the harvest of righteousness is the sweetest reward.

Lord, help us to submit to You in the processes in this life which are not desirable to our flesh.  Give strength and perseverance to those suffering now.  Help us to see what really matters – knowing You.  Be glorified in our lives, LORD.

God Notices When You’re Stuck in the Mud

Jeremiah 37:2  “Neither he nor the officials who served him nor the people of Judah paid any attention to what the LORD said through the prophet Jeremiah.  16 So Jeremiah was put in prison in a cell in the dungeon in Jonathan’s house.  He was kept there a long time.

Jeremiah 38:6  “So the officials took Jeremiah and put him in the cistern . . . there was no water in the cistern, only mud.  So when they lowered Jeremiah into the cistern with ropes he sank into the mud.

Jeremiah 38:9  “Your Royal Majesty, those men have been very wicked in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah.  They have thrown him into a cistern and he is sure to die of starvation there because there is no food left in the city.

Jeremiah 39:12Find Jeremiah and look out for him.”

Jeremiah 40:4 “But now, Jeremiah, today I will set you free from the chains on your wrists.  If you would like to come to Babylon with me, come along and I will take care of you . . . go wherever you choose.  5  Then the captain of the guard gave Jeremiah some food and a present and let him go.

Life has many twists and turns, most of them unforeseen.  In the middle of chaos, we can begin to wonder if God is aware, but once we are on the other side of turmoil, the treasure gained from the ordeal far surpasses any temporary hardship.  Of course if the trial is severe, one shudders at the thought of having to journey that path ever again.  The doubt of God’s enablement prior to hardship, though, has been changed forever in the presence of a Sovereign God Who was truly sufficient to meet our every need.

The story of an individual who was noticed, rescued and provided for by the King evokes respect and a sense of awe.  But when one contemplates what came before the honor, I wonder if anyone would want to go through all they have to in order to receive the blessing on the other side.  We cannot see in the future, though, which is where faith comes in.

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet, and after reading once again from the book of Jeremiah, I can surely understand why.  Imagine hearing from God and being His mouthpiece, only to be rejected for your obedience and thrust into imprisonment continually and a deep pit of mud.  Was that a part of God’s plan?  He allowed it in – but why?  How could He receive glory for the torture of His chosen servant?

We have seen this before by those chosen to serve God.  Joseph saw a vision and ended up being sold into slavery – God kept him from being murdered and eventually elevated him to second in command of the land.  Wow.  Even though we delight in the end of the story, we often do not understand the middle of the story, but God does.  I love how the Lord ensures that someone was looking out for Jeremiah.  Imagine getting the mud cleaned off and then going before the king and the Captain of the Guard, who gives you a present and more importantly, your freedom.  Israel was under siege and all the Israelites were being captured or murdered.  But Jeremiah was set free. 

God knows our suffering and all of the inner workings of our lives have a very specific end which He already knows completely.  When we read all of the accounts of faithful followers of God and see how God always kept His covenant promises, we should never be given to doubt.  But life’s pain creates a raw sense of reality that causes us in our flesh to wonder if we have been a fool to trust in the One who would permit such atrocities.

Just like the individual who was late on 9/11 and whose life was spared, I have to wonder if Jeremiah’s life was spared as he sat in the mud and wondered.  Israel was under attack – Jeremiah had foretold it and even told the king how he could avoid Babylon’s punishment.  It might have seemed like God was not in control when His servant was dying in mud.  Not so.  Not exactly a glorious picture of how one would want to die, though, and I am sure fear gripped his heart.  Kind of reminds me of a story I heard of someone who suffered a humiliating death when they were hit by a potato chip truck.  Tragic.  We don’t want to see such an end for a man of God.  Not suffocating in mud.  Not Jeremiah.

Are you in the mud of life right now?  Feeling forgotten and beginning to wonder if your Deliverer will ever come?  He hears.  He sees.  He is weaving something beautiful out of that pain.  He promises.

Lord, when we do not understand, help us to place our faith in you.  In our fragile humanity, help us to rise above our circumstances and abide in You.