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Monday, April 27, 2015

Living on the Mountaintop

Photo courtesy of: watiporn, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes I laugh. If you listen to some smilevangelists (my word), the Christian life is one feel-good victory after another after another. Top that with whipped cream—prosperity—and keep beaming, because the Christian life is WONDERFUL. Everyone’s happy. YOU can take hold of VICTORY every single day, etcetera.

Flowers.

Happiness.

Positive vibes.

Rose-colored spectacles.

Live on the mountaintop! (There are no valleys.)

False!

If you’re dwelling on a mountaintop today, make sure you’re being real. I mean, life doesn’t work that way. The Bible simply doesn’t teach that. The Bible does offer hope in the midst of trials and victory over temptation and help going through adversities. But, you never, ever in the Bible find any man or woman who lives on the mountaintop every single day.

I won’t cite every Bible personage, but if you look carefully, you’ll see a lot of valleys along with the occasional high, wonderful, spiritual experiences.

Abraham—Mostly, he experienced God’s leading and generous provision as he followed God’s leading and lived in tents. He knew God’s covenant. He even saw the pre-incarnate Christ and entertained Him in his home. He also dealt with the negative consequences of his own lies, the selfishness of his nephew Lot, and he had to basically give up one of his sons (Ishmael, born to Hagar his concubine because Sarah tried to give him an heir her way). He had to rescue Lot by going to war. The Lord asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (and the Lord provided a ram to take his place). It wasn’t all hearts and flowers.

Joseph—Jacob doted on his favorite son and gave him special gifts. Joseph was good looking. He didn’t have to go out and work in the fields like his brothers. God gave him special dreams. But, his brothers sold him as a slave, and he was taken to Egypt, where he was sold again to begin a life of service. He was falsely accused of fornication, and he was thrown in jail for more than two years, where those he befriended forgot about him. Later, God promoted him to second behind Pharaoh in Egypt, and he was able to save all of his family and reconcile with his brothers. But, it sure looks like his valleys were long and tough.

Hannah—She was Elkanah’s favorite wife but childless. She suffered scorn from her husband’s other wife. Even though her Elkanah loved her, her childlessness was a great sorrow. God answered her fervent prayer and gave her a son, Samuel, whom she gave back to God’s service. The Lord then blessed her with five more children. Can you see her hills and valleys?

Elijah—He presided over a school for prophets and was used by God to prophesy to kings and other dignitaries. He was God’s messenger for many years. God used him to defy the false prophets on Mount Carmel, one of the most spectacular proofs of God’s power in the Old Testament. Immediately afterwards, Elijah suffered depression and despondency. God used ravens to feed him and brought him out of his funk. After the super-high mountaintop experience, Elijah had his deepest valley. Later, Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind and a fiery chariot. He didn’t even die!

David—He’s one of my personal favorite biblical characters, since the Psalms share his deepest feelings. Chosen to be the next king of Israel, he went through a lot before it actually came to pass. David defeated Goliath with God’s help. Later, he played the harp for Saul—and was almost pinned to the wall by jealous Saul’s spear. He married Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom he loved, but she was not always good for him. He experienced God’s victories in battle, and God spared him from Saul’s army. But, he spent years running from Saul and then from his own miserable son, Absalom. Because of his adultery with Bathsheba and consequent murder of her husband, his baby died. Later, David was a good king and did much for Israel, including providing much of the material for the Temple and an heir, Solomon. The man after (God’s) own heart experienced both hard and heartbreaking times and victorious times. He went through deep depression and victories. He knew God’s hand on his life and God’s hand in punishment.

Abigail—Married to Nabal, who fit the description of “fool” and was churlish and evil in his doings (1 Samuel 25:3), Abigail averted the destruction of all of her household by her generosity, respect, and brave pleading. Later, she became one of David’s many wives. After that, she was captured and carried away by the Amalekites. Then, in a fierce battle, David rescued her and the others. This was the life of a God-fearing woman.

And many more Old Testament persons . . . indeed, all of them!

Let’s skip to the New Testament:

Mary, the mother of Jesus—This exemplary young lady was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. First, her fiancĂ© didn’t understand her pregnancy. Then, she went away for three months. (You can imagine all the gossip about her. No one would have believed her story.) Mary gives birth in a stable, receives confirmations of her Son’s being the Messiah from shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and later, the wise men. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt, because Herod wanted to kill Jesus. Mary reared the only Perfect Child in all of history along with at least six other children. We can only imagine the challenges. Sometime before the cross, Joseph passed away, leaving her a widow. She followed Christ all her life—even to the cross and afterwards. After the resurrection, she had the joy of seeing her other sons become believers. God used them to write the biblical books of James and Jude.

Peter—One of Jesus’ fishermen disciples, Peter figures in the “inner circle,” those disciples closest to the Lord. He got to walk on water--and sink, too. He was a witness at the Transfiguration. He was the impulsive disciple, always ready to say something. He affirmed, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). He’s the one who pulled out a sword and chopped off Malchus’ ear when they came to arrest Jesus. He prayed in Gethsemane for a while, then slept. He denied Jesus three times, afterwards repenting with bitter tears. Peter was the leader of the disciples after the resurrection and the main preacher after Pentecost. God allowed him and John to heal in Jesus’ name. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Peter, the fisherman, wrote 1 and 2 Peter in the New Testament. Because of his hothead personality, Peter had many ups and downs, but look how God used him!

This is already a much longer post than I usually write—sorry, folks—but I feel we need to have a realistic view of the Christian life. It isn’t normal to experience only mountaintops. That isn’t anyone’s life story. God wants us to trust Him where He leads us—through our highs and also through the very worst circumstances. He wants us to come back to Him after we’ve failed. He really and truly understands and cares.

Let me close with a couple of verses to encourage you:

Like as a father pitieth his children,
so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame;
he remembereth that we are dust.
(Psalm 103:13-14)
  

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for these reminders! It's easy to think that when we go through hard times, "Why am I going through this valley?" Instead, I should remember that God allows the valley times in my life, and they are necessary! Thanks again!

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    1. Thank you, Susan. Bless you as you recover.

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  2. It's hard to understand how prosperity gospel people can miss all that the Bible says about trials and tribulations and how the Lord uses them. I guess either they don't read it or ignore it or twist its meaning, or something. Or maybe they don't want to share what people don't want to hear, so they keep their message "positive" to attract more followers. At any rate, the Bible tells us both by example and instruction that God does allow trials and He uses them for our good. I'm so glad we can lean on Him and experience His comfort and fellowship in the midst of trials.

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    1. Yes, it's so important to stick to biblical Truth. I am thankful for the Lord's help in so many times that come into everyone's lives. Thank you for your thoughtful words, Barbara. God bless you.

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