Last night I heard a radio show host explaining how he had received call after call of people asking for prayer. He was understanding of the reality that these people are hurting, for whatever reason. It was when he, very firmly, started correcting listeners about being down and out during hard times that his words really grabbed my attention. He spoke that we should be joyful and not walk with our heads hung. Amen to that.
However, this host’s admonition took a sharp turn as he introduced the next song. He talked about how we are to go boldly before the throne of God in our time of need- and this principle is Biblical (Hebrews 4:16). He spoke regarding Matthew 11:12 which reads, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” He emphasized the last part of this verse by asking listeners to go before the Lord, proclaiming, “Father.” And then in a fury of emotion he began to instruct people to call more loudly and aggressively, “Father!” This continued for a while, with more emotion and more aggressiveness called to each cry until he was almost yelling “FATHER!” I was completely turned off. The song he was introducing contains the line “I believe it’s turning around for me.” It’s a song about being in a difficult time and believing the Lord to work it out, and bring it to pass- which I believe is completely true and Biblical. That being said, I don’t believe we have the authority to go before the LORD and change His will, and most certainly not by yelling at Him.
As we claim to be a Christian, we should be as one of the mindset who has completely surrendered all to follow Christ and be near Him and to love Him, and pursue His purposes. If we claim such a title in truth and action, we are going to face times that are so dark, you won’t understand anything about the situation. All you’ll understand is that you feel alone, abandoned, broken, and betrayed by the very God you so loved and laid down your entire self to serve. And this too, is Biblical. Jesus, while hanging on the cross, cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)” In the account of Jonah, after he was swallowed up in a fish’s belly- (Jonah 2)
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. (Jonah) 2 And he said:
“I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction,
And He answered me.
“Out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
And You heard my voice.
3 For You cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the floods surrounded me;
All Your billows and Your waves passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight;
Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
5 The waters surrounded me, even to my soul;
The deep closed around me;
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains;
The earth with its bars closed behind me forever;
Yet You have brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD, my God.
7 “When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
And my prayer went up to You,
Into Your holy temple.
8 “Those who regard worthless idols
Forsake their own Mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD.”
The world “Sheol” translates to “hell.” Jonah felt as if he were crying out to God for salvation from the belly of Hell. When he was cast into the deep, and felt abandoned by God, he prayed with understanding that the LORD was in control. He did not rebuke his situation and call it an act of Hell. No, rather Jonah relied in the LORD’s sovereignty and cried for salvation.
When you are so broken and hopeless, all you can do is cry to the Lord for salvation, you are nearer to Jesus than most any other time. That is the point of the Gospel. Man is no capable hope, solution, or salvation to himself. In being a Christian, the kind mentioned above, dying to self and the will of our own comfort and control of our own situation, is absolutely, unconditionally important to the understanding of who we are as those called by and hidden in and charged with the mandate of the Gospel by Christ Jesus.
We must be committed and serious about our walk with Christ if we will call ourselves a Christian. We simply can not curse and label heartache, the broken times, and seemingly impossible situations as attacks from Hell or speak/believe that they have no permission to be near us as a child of God. He is in control, and He is using these things. But hallelujah, He is using these for His own purposes and His own glory! He is working all things together for your good, sweet child (Romans 8:28). “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” According to HIS purpose. One of His purposes for us is allowing us to love Him- what a beautiful treasure of a gift. This kind of love steadily reveals, by the LORD’s own grace and goodness, our own inefficiency to save ourselves from the depths and consequence of sin. Once you truly wrap your mind around this inefficiency, your entire paradigm of grace changes. A holy grace becomes breath to your soul and life to your body.
So precious child of God, do not fear. A wise man once wrote, “The future is already a memory to God.” (See Deuteronomy 31:8)
He has ordained purpose for you, and all that you face. As God is one who is in the past, present, and future, how sure you can be that the LORD is fully aware of everything you have been through, are facing, and each detail of your future. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing can overcome Him. He loves you, you are His beloved, and the apple of His eye by the covering of the blood of Jesus (Psalm 17:7-8, Zechariah 2:8, Deuteronomy 7:9, Deuteronomy 32:9-11, Song of Solomon).
Yes, the LORD is for you (Psalm 56:9), yes we have been granted the privilege to come boldly before His throne of grace, but we can not grow if we are so full of ourselves and seeking our own goodness in the place of His will (whether we do so knowingly or unknowingly). He is sovereign, and HE IS GOOD. This doesn’t come from a God, a Father, who wants mankind to feel hopeless and broken and defeated and etc. No, this comes from the heart of a GOOD God who loves His own creation, created and set apart for Himself, that we might have a true understanding of our own depravity in relation to a holy and righteous God and be given life and hope forever through Jesus.
Life is not about being comfortable, feeling safe, being in control, believing the delusion that you could even control your life if you tried, earning degrees to get fancy jobs, selling your life and self to your career to earn money, and on and on. These are things which are so easy to become consumed with, especially living in such a prosperous and comfortable nation where these are the only things we’re really surrounded by. There is more, and our purpose can not stay hidden underneath the façade of comfort and success. Is the LORD good and generous by His own hand- yes! Does He love to give- yes (2 Cor 9:7)! Are we supposed to forsake working and trying to make a better life for ourselves and our families- by no means! Can we seek these things as by-products of our lives in Jesus, sure. Should we love or seek these things above Christ- NO.
We can not forsake the teachings, plans, purpose, and will of God by manipulating our situation by “claiming” this and that to make our own lives more comfortable. Claiming jobs, money, wealth, blessings, cars, “seeds”, and anything else temporal and of the flesh, is not what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about, nor should it be what we believe is our purpose in Christ.
What if we were to claim His victory, His truth, His love, His promise to be with us, His promise of faithfulness, His goodness, the truths revealed of His character and nature by the Word and the Holy Spirit. These are the things worth using your words for! These are greater things than fleshly desires (Hebrews 13:5). So yes, darkness feels like it surrounds us from time to time as a believer, but God has promised His love and faithfulness to the end. He goes before you, and He is with you, and He is faithful forever. Don’t be afraid to let go of the love for earthly things, He will provide. He will provide because it is His good pleasure, for His own glory- not because we “claim” this and “reject” that in “the name of Jesus.” Jesus Christ suffered feeling abandoned more than we ever could in this life. If King David, Jonah, and so many others are found throughout the Bible facing hardships and spiritual discomforts and uncertainties, and if Jesus himself cried to the Father “Why have You forsaken Me?”- how well we should be prepared to undergo such feelings and times. But, Jesus is good. Jesus is worth it always.
Regarding Matthew 11:12- “It shows us also, what fervency and zeal are required of all those who design to make heaven of their religion. Note, They who would enter into the kingdom of heaven must strive to enter; that kingdom suffers a holy violence; self must be denied, the bent and bias, the frame and temper, of the mind must be altered; there are hard sufferings to be undergone, a force to be put upon the corrupt nature; we must run, and wrestle, and fight, and be in an agony, and all little enough to win such a prize, and to get over such opposition from without and from within. The violent take it by force. They who will have an interest in the great salvation are carried out towards it with a strong desire, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing, Gen. 32:26 . They who will make their calling and election sure must give diligence. The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers, but to be the rest of them that labour…” (Matthew Henry Commentary)
Our claiming, laboring, and words should be to that of the glory of Jesus. Do not curse the hardships, heartaches, and lonely times- cry unto the LORD for help and salvation. And bless His name with joy, and bless His name when you aren’t sure you should, bless His name through the doubts that He isn’t even real. Bless His name, His love is steadfast and His ways are faithful unto you, dear, precious, sweet, wonderful child of God.