Spiritual Trials and The Development of Vision.
devotional thought of the day:
8 Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. 9 You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. 10 You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. Psalm 65:8-10 (NLT2)
21 King Josiah ordered the people to celebrate the Passover in honor of the LORD their God, as written in the book of the covenant. 22 No Passover like this one had ever been celebrated by any of the kings of Israel or of Judah, since the time when judges ruled the nation. 23 Now at last, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah, the Passover was celebrated in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 23:21-23 GNT
For as soon as the word of God rises up within you, the devil will track you down and afflict you. [This will] make a real doctor of you and, by making you suffer such devilish assaults, will teach you to look for and love God’s word. For I myself (if I, mouse dirt that I am, might mingle myself with pepper) have a great deal to thank my papists for, because they beat, belted, pressed, and frightened me so through the rampaging of the devil that they made a rather good theologian out of me, which I otherwise would not have become.
They had lost their vision.
But not a corporate vision with mission statements, and measurable goals and strategies. Not a vision created in board meetings and through surveys of congregations. Not a vision of the future, or of the goal they wanted to aim at.
They lost the vision that scripture says the absence of leads to death. (Proverbs 29:18a (King James Version) The kind of vision that Paul tells the Corinthian church transforms them. The king of vision that changes a sinner into the saint he was designed to be –
The vision of Christ crucified, and risen, revealing the love of the Father. It when we see that when it dominates our vision, that everything else we encounter we find ourselves in awe of, knowing that God created this to bless us. That is what the Psalmist is so amazed at, as he looks out at the world.
He realizes this is all God’s provision.
The same thing happens as King Josiah and his people find the Books of Scripture in the temple, and understand the glory that had been lost for two generations. The incredible story of God saving His people, so He could dwell among them
As the Holy Spirit makes the word of God come alive in them, the celebration is greater than any in Israel’s history, going all the way back to the Judges. (which would therefore include Solomon’s time!)
When we become in awe of God’s work in our midst, when we realize it is God at work, and it is proof of His love, the joy is amazing! Even in the midst of the trials and afflications of Satan! (he has a vested interest in you not seeing what is revealed in scripture, and will throw everything at you to prevent it!) This struggle, also known as Tentatio works against Satan’s purpose, for when we recognize it as such it can drive us deeper into scripture. It can, and does deepen our dependence on God
Luther said it was this that gave him such and understanding of Grace, for the pressure focused his vision of a God who was merciful, loving and present, blessing us through His word, and through the Sacraments.
Again, from the Apostle Paul,
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 (NLT2)
(James gives voice to this as well, in the first chapter)
So how in the middle of the struggle, do we find this endurance? It is through prayer and meditation on the word of God. It is found in the awe that comes from see Him keep the promises He has made, of His the devotion He has for His people, and the way He wants to relate, to interact with us. It is found as the Spirit reveals His love to us, and adoring Him, the Spirit consoles, comforts and changes us.
Without a vision of God, without realizing that, “the Lord is with you!” we perish. But as we realize that love, as He becomes our vision, not even the power of Satan can separate us from His love. In fact, realizing Satan’s attempt to distract us and separate us from the Love of God, will kindle the fire to help it grow.
Lord Jesus, help us to stay focused on You, to experience the dimensions of Your love, even though we can’t understand it fully. AMEN!
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 123). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.