February 13

“The hill country shall be thine.” Joshua 17:18 RSV

There is always room higher up. When the valleys are full of Canaanites, whose iron chariots withstand your progress, get up into the hills, occupy the upper spaces. If you can no longer work for God, pray for those who can. If you cannot move earth by your speech, you may move Heaven. If the development of life on the lower slopes is impossible, through limitations of service, the necessity of maintaining others, and such-like restrictions, let it break out toward the unseen, the eternal, the Divine.

Faith can fell forests. Even if the tribes had realized what treasures lay above them, they would hardly have dared to suppose it possible to rid the hills of their dense forest-growth. But as God indicated their task, He reminded them that they had power enough. The visions of things that seem impossible are presented to us, like these forest-covered steeps, not to mock us, but to incite us to spiritual exploits which would be impossible unless God had stored within us the great strength of His own indwelling. Difficulty is sent to reveal to us what God can do in answer to the faith that prays and works. Are you straitened in the valleys? Get away to the hills, live there; get honey out of the rock, and wealth out of the terraced slopes now hidden by forest. (Streams in the Desert)

Make no mistake about it, giants are real. There is no sense pretending that they are but figments of our imagination. Challenges assert themselves daily, and forces beyond our control are at work. I frequently hear believers declare that the absence of struggle and complication is indication of God’s will in any given situation, and that when everything goes our way we may move forward confident God is affirming our decision. What if I strongly sense divine compulsion to move ahead but encounter giants standing in my way? What then? Did I misunderstand the Father, or is there more than meets the eye afoot?

I spoke to a group of graduate students and at the outset of my lecture one of them interrupted and said he needed to leave class to place a call to his mother. He returned thirty minutes later and apologized for disrupting class. When I asked how we might pray, he explained that his father committed suicide several months previous and that his mother is currently fighting depression and the urge to end it all herself. The student’s call was to convince her of God’s love and his own. This is a young man who plans to marry in a few months, shortly thereafter to complete a graduate degree, and then the two of them will move to Japan for missionary service. If one might expect smooth sailing for any couple, it would be this one; yet, life has been hard and becoming increasingly so. Beware the trap of equating “everything falling into place” with God’s favor. Many of Christianity’s sturdiest heroes of the faith endured immense suffering and died without ever knowing victory. A quick review of Hebrews 11, particularly verses 32-39 may prove beneficial at this point. Ease is not the clearest vindication of following God’s will, faith is.

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