Hard Times

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The World’s in Crisis – So What’s New?

The TIME Magazine photo cover for October 13, 2008 was a 1930’s “soup line” with the title “The New Hard Times.” This year’s global economic and virus crises have touched virtually every resident of the planet. The U.S. elections signify a major change in direction. In Israel, our country is going through political upheaval. Our prime minister has been indicted on three corruption charges, while our fractured parties face the prospect of a fourth election in two years.

On a more local level there are smaller, but still pesky trials. Do you remember the year when at theoutset of welcome early rains our Akko congregation’s new building was flooded. The roof had not been properly leak-proofed by the contractor. The leader just happened to be out of the country and his young wife had to deal with the crisis. Then there was the week I received a threatening letter, harassing us for our faith. At the same time I was about to meet with a couple whose marriage was being pitched toward shipwreck by the storms of selfishness and resentment. Ever heard the expression “it never rains, but it pours”?

As believers, can we expect “clear sailing” no matter what the “weather” conditions? At times we get the impression that if our faith is strong, trials and tragedy will not appear in our lives, or that their impact will be wonderfully limited. In some respects that’s true. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). But in so many cases the evidence proves our vulnerability to life’s unpredictable trials. This validates Yeshua’s statement that the rain falls on the just and on the unjust. It does not mean that we should stop praying for protection (Psalm 91 comes to mind) or blessing. Our prayers DO make a difference. Yet unwanted events still happen.

Adopting the approach of “I’m a believer, therefore nothing bad can ever happen to me” is asking for disillusionment. And it renders us ill-equipped to serve the needs of those who fall on hard times.

Consider it all joy …when you encounter various trials

I was refreshed by this remarkably relevant e-mail from friend, Alan Rausnitz. We came to faith as hippie farmers during the “back to the land” days of 1972.

It’s been a season of re-dedication to the Lord as well as stripping away of the pretense of self reliance. It’s good and painful. They are small steps of renewal but comforting. Ya’akov says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” and concludes the thought saying, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2;12). We are called to celebrate in the time of difficulties, praise the Lord! It’s not easy. We are told to fix “our eyes on Yeshua, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Following Yeshua in trials and difficulties with joy is our calling. The end justifies the process. Fixing our eyes on Him is our answer and our hope.

The Bible Tells Me So …

The Bible “greats” repeatedly found themselves embroiled in impossible, even excruciating situations. But when they looked to God their trials gave way to incredible breakthroughs in real time. They are our model for responding to trials, tribulations, and tragedy. At the Red Sea Moshe was pressed hard by Pharaoh’s army. In fear, the Israelites cried out “Were there no graves in Egypt? Take us back and we’ll gladly serve the Egyptians” – and this, after a supernatural deliverance from slavery. Moses gave good answers that apply to us as well. 1) Don’t be afraid. 2) Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (look for Yeshua in the situation, He’s there). 3.) Don’t panic, for the Lord will fight for you.

When David was running for his life from King Saul, he found the following formula (recorded in Psalm 18:3-4: 6-7): A. God is my strength.  B. I will trust in the Lord.  C. I will call upon the Lord.

After being severely beaten, thrown in a Philippian jail and put in stocks, Sha’ul and Silas began praying and singing praises to God. What a godly and “counter-intuitive” reaction. The outcome? The jail doors were blasted open by an earthquake and the jailer came to faith with his whole family! We could add many names to the list: Joseph, Hannah, Jeremiah, Daniel … Yeshua Himself! In fact, it’s difficult to find even one who did not pass through some manner of crucible on the way to defeating Evil.

End of the Age – No Picnic

The Bible is clear that the end of the age will not be a picnic. I am convicted and challenged by this proverb: “If you faint in the day of adversity, how small is your strength” (Proverbs 24:10). The unvarnished truth is that I don’t even like inconvenience, much less real hardship. The other night my neighbor knocked on the door at 10pm asking for help to deal with a strange kitchen noise. It turned out to be a rodent. I really didn’t want to be bothered. But the incident became an opportunity to pray with her and to manifest a tiny portion of the Lord’s love for her.

How often are we missing doorways to touch people for God, because we don’t want to be inconvenienced? We steer as far away from difficulties as possible? Regardless of your eschatology, the world is becoming a tougher, more complicated place to live in. Daniel (12:1,3) predicts that “thereshall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” But in that dark time “those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

Painless Birth?

Something unprecedented is about to be birthed. Do we believe it will happen without sacrifice or pain? What do we learn from natural birth? Though a tiny percentage of women report “painless” childbirth the vast majority say “It REALLY hurts. But it’s worth it for what you receive – a brand new life.” These can be days of trepidation and depression, if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the hard circumstances. But they need to be days of anticipation and preparation to bring forth God’s glorious, righteous and loving kingdom on this planet.

So, what should we do when the roof seems to be caving in?

  1. SEEK GOD AS NEVER BEFORE. Declare His unwavering purposes in your life regardless of the painful circumstances. Job is the biblical example here: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth … this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God … How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:25-27).
  2. TAKE ACTION IN CONCERT WITH HIS PURPOSES.To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning. The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3). The context here is about us, the Jews coming back from exile and destruction.
  3. BE INSPIRED AND DRAW COURAGE FROM OTHER’S STORIES. For an incredible example, learn about Israeli believers, David and Leah Ortiz’ response to their son Ami’s near death from a terrorist explosion. The perpetrator aimed at destroying their family because of their faith in Yeshua.

What about you? What about me? Are we willing to endure hardship for the sake of establishing Messiah’s reign in Israel and throughout the earth? Beloved, Yeshua told us that when we see these things taking place we are not to fear, rather we are to “Look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:18). The God who said “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) has promised to give you sufficient grace. While you wrestle with ferocious opposition, Yeshua WILL be present, to comfort, strengthen, equip and deliver you. Your struggle is for the sake of redemption!

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