2 Corinthians 4:6-10 (NLT)
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
This thought has been with me for more than a week, but each time I began to study God’s Word and pray for new meaning it just did not come together. After a week of worries, cares, burden, pressure and the like – I find myself in a place too tired to worry, too overwhelmed to be burdened, crushed beneath the pressure. It is in this place facedown before my God that His Spirit whispers “now you are ready to listen.” It makes me smile in the midst of my self-pity to think that my Father knows me so well. He is well aware of when I am listening or just praying to be heard. He knows when I am looking for His Response or just a release from it all. He waits so patiently and sweetly for my surrender. When I finally haul my heart to the altar, stop my mind in His Midst and my body can take it no longer, that He is there to welcome me into His Presence. I am knocked down but not destroyed. I feel the pressure of my problems seemingly from every side. Yet in this place that I have been driven by despair I feel relief. Nothing in this moment has changed. All the details remain the same. I am different in this place. It is called surrender. My flesh does not welcome it but my soul prospers in it.
“I am gently held by the Hand that could crush me. But I won't be afraid because I know that You love me! So I will stay here because I am safe here. Yes I will stay here.” I discovered this worship song this week called “Gently Held” by Bethel Music. Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger has been my worship leader of choice the past couple of months ever since I discovered her singing “Closer”. This young woman worships with a heart after God. She has a new project coming out called “The Undoing”. In an interview talking about the soon to be released project she said, “I realized that this life was all about process, God’s pleasure over my life was in the process, in the journey,” Steffany found herself searching out honest ways to engage with God in daily life, learning to be more “undone” before Him. The more that I more I thought about her words, the more the Spirit of God stirred within me. I keep crying out for this journey that we have been on to be over. I am tired of our son being sick. However, I am not upset when he is healed. The faith that our family has discovered in this journey has been worth every second. Life is a journey. These pressures and problems are not the journey. They are what God uses to shape and change us so we can know Him more and have His Way in our life. If we did not have a reason to seek Him would we. If we were not desperate, would we be deliberate in our pursuit. Our life is a process. God could easily crush us in His Hand and destroy us for our sin, rebellion and willful disobedience. But His Grace keeps His Hand in check, and ever so gently He surrounds us in His Love. We are pressed but not crushed.
Matthew 9:16-17 (NLT)
“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
We ask God to come closer. We want His Will. We seek His Way. But we do not accept change as an option, so when our world falls apart and heart is broken there is no other way but to change. Our life in its present condition cannot contain the Goodness and Glory of God that is ours as Children of God. It cannot hold the abundance of His Grace, Mercy and Love that will change your life forever. When the enemy tries to destroy us, God laughs and empowers us. God knows what is in us. He put it there. The Lord knows the beginning from the end. I have heard many times, been sent messages, and quotes that God gives the greatest battles to His Strongest Warriors. I am not strong. I am not a warrior. But I know who fights for me – does that count? I want my life to be comfortable so change is not my first choice. We were not given a choice when cancer came calling. There was no questionnaire that said, “Are you ready to fight this fight?” Check – Yes or No. It was handed to us in a neat little package called a diagnosis. There was no “patching” the old wineskin that day. It burst under the pressure. God had new wine that needed new wineskin. This is also undoing in its greatest form. When everything changes and your life turns out nothing as you expected or planned for. The ultimate undoing comes what is your response. That is what God is after. This is what He is trying to show you. The potential that He sees in you is ready to come out whether you are ready or not is irrelevant.
I Samuel 17:17-19 (NLT)
One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing.” David’s brothers were with Saul and the Israelite army at the valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.
David was a shepherd who tended his father’s sheep. Jesse called David one day to carry lunch to the battlefield where his brothers were camped with the Israelite Army fighting the Philistines. He was to take them lunch and bring back a report to his father of how they were all doing. His father did not tell David to join them in the fight or do anything other than deliver some food and bring back some news. David was not sent to battle or to go to war. You didn’t ask for the battle you are fighting and you did not set out looking for war.
I Samuel 17:26-31 (NLT)
David asked the soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” And these men gave David the same reply. They said, “Yes, that is the reward for killing him.” But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” “What have I done now?” David replied. “I was only asking a question!” He walked over to some others and asked them the same thing and received the same answer. Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.
Every time Goliath would step out and threaten the Israelites, they would shrink back in fear. David heard the boasts of the giant and he was appalled that this heathen would defy his God. See David may have been a shepherd on the outside, but on the inside he was a man after God’s Heart. He called out to the Lord in the midst of empty fields with only sheep to keep him company. His brothers so no real worth in their sibling. Everyone in his life underestimated him. But all that would change…when the king send for him. You did not wander into this battle unexpectedly. This war is not about you but has the potential to bless you in the end. Has the King sent for you?
I Samuel 17:34-37 (NLT)
“Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!” “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!”
The heart of a warrior hidden in a shepherd boy. No one expected him to win that day. No one expected him to survive. David knew that God was with Him. He recited all the times that the Lord had rescued him so logically assumed now would be no different. He put his trust in God not man. Do you have the heart of a warrior hidden inside of you? Do you feel the pressure of change coming over you? All you know is that something has to give. This is the part of your heart that refuses to let go of the Love of God you have found to surrender to the opposition in your life. You are on the verge of victory – don’t you dare give up. There is a giant in your land, but God is bigger than any giant. David did not have the credentials of a seasoned warrior but had experienced victory in God. It was enough to empower his faith when called to the frontline. How is your faith today? It may be stronger than you think but you won’t know that until it is tested.
I Samuel 17:40-47 (NLT)
He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!”
You know the rest of the story, David sunk the first stone in Goliath’s head and the battle was over. David did not rely on his own strength, but told the giant “I come to you in the Name of the Lord…this is the Lord’s battle and He will give you to us!” Do I need to remind you today as I have reminded myself that the battle you are facing, the fight you are in and the war being waged against you belongs to the Lord? He overcame the world and everything in it for you. (John 16:33) As I read this familiar story again, I have heard many teachings about the “five smooth stones” and what others feel that they have represented when David clearly only needed one. Sometimes the trials of life require endurance. The problem you are facing may not take one stone but five stones to overcome. God will give you the strength to keep at it. Will you remain engaged long enough to win? The Lord is speaking to me today. He knows that my arms are tired and my knees grow weak. The pressure seems crushing. Victory is close. If I will just cling to Him a little longer, we will have new life.
Psalm 119:143-144 (NLT)
As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands. Your laws are always right; help me to understand them so I may live.
Crushing a petal will release concentrated oil so its fragrance will live beyond the flower. Crushing an olive yields oil that will live beyond the tree. God has something inside of you and me that needs to be expressed that we will live beyond our days on this earth. Faith is the very thing that allows us to be pressed but never crushed. Hope keeps us in this place of undoing knowing that it will be worth it all. Choosing to endure this pressure and stress on our life will allow me to find joy in His Commands as His Word becomes a reality in my life. The Spirit keep fanning the flame of refinement so my faith will be genuine and my hope becomes real anchoring me in this place of surrender. I find my life in this place as I am pressed not crushed.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.