Useless Against an Assailant
A loud crash awakened their petite daughter from a deep sleep. As a single mom, her first instinct was to protect her small children. She sprang from bed and grabbed the bat that was close by. With heart pounding and bat clutched to strike, she rushed out her door.
She checked the children’s rooms. They were in their beds and sleeping soundly. White knuckles held her weapon close and ready as she cautiously checked the rest of the house.
Ahhh! A shower curtain had crashed to the floor, causing the disturbance. All was secure. She sighed with relief—especially when she saw the weapon in her hands. She was clutching the hollow plastic bat of her two-year-old. It was useless against an assailant.
However, the story gives us cause to think. No matter what difficulty we face, our weapons are never adequate. They are as plastic bats.
How often have we grabbed from our arsenal only to find our weapons grossly inadequate, even useless against the intruders of our lives? Consequently, when we have to use them, we become overwhelmed because of our inability to cope. We might even question where God is in the midst of our problem. Are we lacking because God has given us inadequate, or useless, weapons? Or is it simply that we are depending on our own weapons — or strength — rather than on our God?
As Moses led the Israelites to freedom, they were trapped between the Red Sea, mountains, and a fierce army chasing after them. As slaves, they knew the Egyptians’ cruelty. Now they didn’t even have plastic bats to fight with. They were doomed and were terrified.
In desperation, they cried out to the Lord for help. However, in the same breath, they hurled accusations at Moses for their predicament.
Then they said to Moses,
“Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:11-12 (NASB)
When we depend on our own strength, we easily become afraid. Then, are we like the Israelites? Do we feel like we have to take care of the problem? Are we terrified because we don’t expect God to answer? If the problem is bigger than we can handle, helplessness and fear easily lead to anger and blame — all because we are trusting in ourselves.
In contrast, Moses’ faith was not misplaced. He did not need a weapon. He was confident God would handle the problem.
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.” Exodus 14:13 (NASB)
The Lord parted the Red Sea and His children walked across to freedom. The Egyptian army followed and the sea closed over them. The whole army was destroyed without the Israelites raising a hand. (Well, Moses did hold his rod up and stretched his hand over the sea to part it!)
God sometimes chooses to let us participate in the fight — but we always need Him to fight our battles for us, whether we take part or not. Conversely, He doesn’t need us in order to win. When He fights for us, victory is sure.
God never intended for us to be our sole defense. If we find that our resources inadequate in life’s battles, it’s because we’re not fully depending on God. He is our shield, defense, bulwark, and strong tower. If we trust in the Lord rather than our plastic bats, we will find that He is never useless against an assailant.
For though we walk inkier than learning boldness because we can easily tip the scales too far and become passive. It’s a difficult balance, but a necessary one if we want to reflect Christ to a hurting world.
Blessed Are the Meek
by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Mt 5: 5 (NIV)
I used to have a strong dislike for the word “meek.” It brings me back more than a decade to a defining moment during my sophomore year of high school.
I was a shy teenager who had stepped outside of her comfort zone by enrolling in several theater classes, including a class on “behind the scenes” theater productions. This should have been the easiest of all the courses for my sensitive nature. But my instructor, while delegating roles for the Spring production of Peter Pan, proved me wrong when she voiced her choice of stage manager like this:
“I’ve chosen Melissa because I need someone with a strong personality – someone who isn’t meek, like Sarah.”
Of course, I only drove her point home when I didn’t stick up for myself. I spent years after that scene developing assertiveness, determined to prove that Sarah was not meek. Like this teacher, I associated meekness with weakness andboth were traits that needed to be eradicated if I was going to get anywhere in life.
At least that’s what I thought until I found that dreaded word jumping off the pages of scripture at me in the Gospel of Matthew. There it was, one of the first things Jesus says in his famous Sermon on the Mount.
Our deacon offered some thoughts on this verse that helped put things in perspective for me. He shared that it’s in the Sermon on the Mount where we see Jesus begin to expand on His true purpose – and to the disappointment of many, He was not going to be an earthly king bestowing power and prestige on His people, not just yet. Instead, God’s plan for mankind included an interior transformation of souls for the sake of an eternal kingdom. To properly prepare us for this kingdom, God rejected earthly methods of acquiring power in favor of the healing that comes with merciful love.
It is God’s mercy that changes our hearts from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. It’s Christ’s humility, His lowliness, that beckons us into a relationship with Him. And ultimately, it was Christ’s willingness to give up earthly glory that opened the door for us to share in His eternal glory.
Now, as much as I would like earthly power, He asks us to “learn from him.” As our souls find rest in God, He can continue His redemptive work through us as we display these same “weaker” virtues to the world.
This isn’t to say God lacks power or that Christians should throw out virtues like courage. I think sometimes cultivating traits like meekness and humility are trickier than learning boldness because we can easily tip the scales too far and become passive. It’s a difficult balance, but a necessary one if we want to reflect Christ to a hurting world.
Streams in the Desert – January 26
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
I have begun to give;…begin to possess (Deuteronomy 2:31).
A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God’s delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.
We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting. There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.
There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to “Go forward.” Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith.
We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. “I have begun to give, begin to possess.”
–J. R. Miller
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
Edward Bickersteth spent his life in ministry. Born in London in 1825, he became an influential church leader, serving as editor of the hymnal companion to the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer.
While on vacation in August 1875, Bickersteth heard a sermon based on Isaiah 26. The minister stressed that the Hebrew text repeated the word we translate as “peace” (shalom shalom). The implication was that the world may promise peace, but God could provide something more: absolute perfection and absolute peace.
Bickersteth remembered these words when visiting a relative. Reading from Isaiah, he was impressed with the importance of peace and wrote a poem he called “Peace, Perfect Peace.” Later this became the text for a beloved hymn.
Bickersteth wondered if peace was possible “in this dark world of sin.” But he knew that because of Jesus’ blood, we really could have peace. We may face difficulties, but we find rest when we do His will. Sorrows may surge around us, but we can find calmness in Him. If we feel alone, we can be safe in His keeping.
We may not know the future, but Jesus “is on the throne.” He “has vanquished death and all its powers … Earth’s struggles soon shall cease,” and we will spend eternity experiencing Heaven’s perfect peace.
Is there any turmoil in your heart? The Bible promises that God can give you perfect peace right now. Jesus is on the throne. Trust Him!