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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Faith the victory

As I passed by a ditch that collects rain runoff, I saw small minnows swimming in the water. This made me curious how those fish got in that ditch, a good distance from a river or lake, especially since, though we had just had rain, it hadn’t rained for months. It made a case for spontaneous generation.

Then it dawned on me that those ditches were about eight feet deep and probably the water table is high enough to maintain a few puddles in the ditch during the hottest, driest seasons. Thus the fish always have water to live in. I don’t know that it explains how they originally got there in the first place. Surely before the ditches were dug, no fish were around.

Then my pattern of thoughts changed to the health of the fish. I’ve seen those ditches with lots of water after much rain, and empty (presumably with some water) during dry spells. I assume that when the water is scant, many fish die, but the strongest and healthiest survive. Then when the rains are abundant, the fish multiply and fill the ditches again. Thus, the species remains strong, because the weaker fish are always being culled by life’s circumstance.

Isn’t that the way it is for the whole animal kingdom? And isn’t that the way life is for humanity, as well? When peace reigns, a population multiplies. Then war strikes, or some gangster or dictator rules; and men perish.

Might we say that thus the human race remains strong? Maybe it has, physically and mentally, and intelligence-wise. But what about spiritually? I have my doubts.

The reason I ask is that normally to survive a dictator or gangster or corrupt organization that uses immoral tactics to destroy the competition, one must capitulate to the demands of the illicit person or organization, and join in their evil doings. Totalitarianism doesn’t allow for freedom of opposition. All must partner in with the regime; none may expose it before the people’s consciences or dissent against it. Any source of an uprising must go.

Yet, there are inevitably those whose consciences will not let them take part in the violence of the regime. It repulses them; they despise it with all their heart and soul, refuse to even remotely appear to approve of it.

These kind of people rarely survive the opposition cleansing. But survival does happen. How and why? Is there a law to this? Can we devise a formula? Can we forecast events during the next great time of trouble already looming on the horizon?

Is survival a matter of how much faith in God’s protection the survivor has? Do those die who did not have a strong enough or close enough communion with Christ? I think of Moses who died on Mt. Peor because he lost his hold on Christ and misrepresented God to the sin-loving multitudes. I think of Samson who perished in the collapsing temple of Dagon after his prodigal life. I don’t mean Samson deserved to die, but did he deserve to live out his whole life, to enjoy a hero’s funeral and burial, and thus show that there are no consequences to flagrant immorality as a leader? Or did his welcoming of death tell how repentant and regretful and humbled he was after coming to his senses? Yet, Solomon lived his full life and received a large burial despite his prodigal life.

Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego experienced a miracle in the Babylonian brick kiln into which they were thrown. They survived after standing solidly for obedience to God’s commandments. Yet, faithful and holy Isaiah was sawed to death, and Paul was beheaded. A martyr’s death ended the lives of all the apostles, except for John, who lived out his full life to an old age.

“All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28).

IIII
The fact that we are called upon to endure trial shows that the Lord Jesus sees in us something precious which He desires to develop. If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name, He would not spend time in refining us. He does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He refines.
God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.
All that has perplexed us in the providences of God will in the world to come be made plain. The things hard to be understood will then find explanation. The mysteries of grace will unfold before us. Where our finite minds discovered only confusion and broken promises, we shall see the most perfect and beautiful harmony. We shall know that infinite love ordered the experiences that seemed most trying.
He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and “all things” that are permitted “work together for good to them that love God.”
... Those who accept the one principle of making the service of God supreme, will find perplexities vanish and a plain path before their feet.
As a little child, trust to the guidance of Him who will “keep the feet of his saints.” 1 Samuel 2:9.
As we commit our ways to Him, He will direct our steps.
Ellen White, Faith I Live By, p. 64.

Everything will happen as God sees best. He must be glorified, His character vindicated, whether in our life or death. The three Hebrews knew and were happy for this. So their answer to Nebuchadnezzar reflected the big picture of the Great Controversy, of God’s character on trial. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan 3: 16-18).

Of course, this kind of response to a dictator doesn’t go over very well. Nebuchadnezzar was more expressive than most tyrants. Normally the dissenters just disappear and no one sees them again; but, he had had a relationship with them. They were his highly esteemed, highest members of his cabinet.

Previously, the king had already shown his anger, to put it mildly. (“Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”) (Dan. 3:13). But they rejected his nicely repeated command to bow down to his gods, and now he was really upset. “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.” (Dan. 3: 19,20).

The author of the book Hebrews wrote that it was by faith that the three men could stand so calmly and speak so forcefully, respectfully, and eloquently to the enraged and powerful king. Heb. 11:34. But by that same faith, others were hunted like animals and died, not accepting the terms for deliverance—agreement with Satan’s human agencies.

In the tribulation quickly wending its way to the world today, there will no doubt be many who lose their life in order to broadcast to men and angels the power of God’s love to make them into die-hard loyalists for God. Many sinners, even some Nebuchadnezzars and Sauls of Tarsus, will see this and be converted and saved as a result. But when probation closes on this doomed world and no one else can be saved because they have all seared their conscience and accepted the Mark of the Beast, then it will benefit no one to witness another martyrdom and God will spare His people more murders.

Yet they will still suffer during “Jacob’s” troubles when the guilty world stands before the great Judge without a mediator and the plagues are falling, God’s people being blamed for it all. The righteous are in great fear for their life and their tremendous sense of guilt before God will double their fears. But they will survive to see Jesus come in great power and glory and horrendous noise from the heavens.

“Before Him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at His feet.
He stood, and measured the earth: He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: His ways are everlasting....
The mountains saw Thee, and they trembled: the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of Thy glittering spear.
Thou didst march through the land in indignation, Thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.
Thou wentest forth for the salvation of Thy people, even for salvation with Thine anointed; Thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck.” “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.” (Hab. 3:5,6,10-13,16).

“Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:
And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” (Is. 13:7-12).

Those who are sealed in His anointing will think they will all die, as all their faces go pale and their guts melt. But then it happens—that for which “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22). “The voice of the trumpet [will] sound long, and [wax] louder and louder,” as “the Lord [comes] down.” He will “rend the heavens, and come down, ... the mountains [shall] flow down at [His] presence,” “for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Ex. 19:19,20;Is. 64:1;Lk. 21:26). “Before [His] face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.” (Joel 2:6). “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” (Rev. 1:7).

Then in the blink of an eye, they are translated. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Cor. 15:52). “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (1Jn. 3:2).

It’s all over now; all danger is behind. Eternity spreads out before them as their angels lift them to Jesus. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thess. 4:17).

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