Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hiding During Difficulties

Someone I met in the check out line at Wal-Mart told me this story. I don’t know the person who told me the story; I never saw her before; and I doubt I will ever see her again. I have no idea regarding the names of the people in the story. I just thought it fit the subject of this article. So, here is the story.

(story begins)

Well, I have to tell someone about this. It was a visit from a most difficult and aggravating relative. To make matters worse, the relative wasn’t even on my husband’s side of the family. He really does have a worse relative, even a couple of them, but this relative was on my side of the family. It was going to be doom, gloom, and nosey questions for at least a couple of hours. The only consolation was that a lot of family was there that day, and everyone would stand up and take their share of dealing with the ‘nameless person’ who had come to torment us all.

So, a little while into the visit, I noticed that someone was missing from the friendly conversation going on in the living room. I quietly got up to get myself a glass of freshly brewed iced tea, and check around to see what was happening. I peeked into various rooms throughout the house as discretely as possible under the circumstances. The missing relative was nowhere to be found.

Perplexed, I went back into the living room for more of the scintillating conversation. Ok, it wasn’t scintillating. It was more like dodge and evade the questions shooting from the difficult relative’s mouth. I mean, how many times can you answer a question with just a sound like, ‘Ohhh’, ‘Hmmmm’, ‘Aaaa’, and things like that. (If you never say an actual word it is a lot harder for Mr. or Mz. negative/gossip to quote you on anything.)

I went back into the kitchen again, and then I heard a very small and unusual sound. It appeared to have come from under the kitchen table behind the long tablecloth. ‘Rat?’ I asked myself. Bravely I peeked under the table, and there she was – the missing relative. A totally grown college graduate, well respected at work, church, and socially sought after as one who enlivened any get-together, was hiding under the table getting eye strain trying to read a magazine. ‘Can you get me a flashlight?’ the one hiding mouthed at me. Not one audible peep escaped from the mouth of the coward.

My first thought was to denounce the coward for hiding under the table when the rest of us were in the lion’s den facing such a formidable foe. Ultimately, I had compassion and let the person in hiding just stay hidden. I did not fetch a flashlight, but I did toss a pillow under the table as a thoughtful gesture.

Eventually, the difficult relative left, and the cowardly relative came out of hiding. We all had a good laugh, but it wasn’t really that funny. To recover from a couple of hours with a person like that takes a full week. And it wasn’t really fair that anyone in the family got out of suffering along with the rest of us. Or – was it? Were the rest of us suffering needlessly? Should we have all been hiding under the table? It might have been a little crowded under there, but at least a few more of us could have hidden. I found myself wishing I had been the one to crawl under the table and stay there until the calamitous relative had gone on to torment someone else.
(end of story)

Of course we can’t exactly hide under the table most of the time. But we do have a hiding place. Isaiah 26:20 says, ‘Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.’ Christians have a place of refuge in Jesus Christ. We can rest in Him.

The world is full of difficulties that are even worse than the negative gossipy relative. Things are happening in the world today that are just unbelievable. I don’t care to list all the ills going on in the world today, because you already know what is going on. What can I say? With so called ministers of the gospel who do not preach the gospel, but preach a ‘different gospel’, of course the world is in trouble. The foundations of Christian civilization are being destroyed, and those who are righteous through Christ are powerless to do anything about it. Or – are we?

First, the foundations of the things of mankind may be destroyed, but the things of God will not be destroyed. The foundation on which our faith stands – stands. The foundations laid by God are not going to be destroyed. We are told in Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, and Luke 21:33, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.’ Well, that’s a relief.

(In case you are not Bible literate, the idea of heaven and earth passing away may cause you some distress. Don’t worry. God also has that detail covered. In 1 Peter 3:10-13 we are told that the earth will pass away, but that ‘we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.’ Read it all for yourself. It is very comforting.)

So, we now live in a world in which the foundations of righteousness are being destroyed, but where the foundations of the things of God cannot be destroyed. Good, in a collapsing world, we have a firm foundation on which to stand. Figuratively speaking, the earth is not going to open up and swallow Christians.

Nevertheless, we are in dire circumstances. And we find ourselves asking, ‘What can the righteous do?’ Or, ‘What can the children of God do?’ The answer is we can hide in the Lord. We can rest in Him. It isn’t quite as simple as hiding under the kitchen table until difficult people leave the house, but it is something along that line.

Psalm 57:1 says, ‘Be merciful unto me, O god, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.’

We are to hide or rest in the Lord in times of turmoil, sorrow, peril, and just plain boredom. (Don’t underestimate the danger of boredom. Remember King David and his episode with Bathsheba. If he had not been bored with the war, he would have been in the battle instead of at home messing around on top of his palace when he should have been working.)

Resting in the Lord is the smart thing to do. Think about it like this. If you are tired, you want to go to the most restful place available. You go to the comfort of your own bed. At bedtime you don’t ask yourself if you should sleep sitting up in the car so you will be in the right place to head to work the next day. You automatically go to bed to sleep. You face getting up in the morning when it comes. When Christians face a difficult situation, the automatic response should be to go directly to the Lord for help, comfort, and rest. Christians are to ‘hide’ in the Lord.

When our resting place or hiding place is in the Lord, it isn’t going to change. It will always be there for us. Christians are to live/abide in the Lord. Our place of rest may be rocked by events and circumstances beyond our control, but it will stand. We may be so shocked or traumatized by events that we leave the safety of our hiding place, but our hiding place itself will not be destroyed. All the foes and antagonists of the Christian cannot bring down this stronghold. Our human frailties and small faith can cause us added conflict, turmoil, and even pain and sorrow; but, the hiding place itself cannot be moved.

Today is the day to set your course to enter the haven of rest, which of course is the Lord. You don’t want to look back or turn back. Christians who have set out to enter into God’s rest should be like the farmer who has set his shoulder to the plow. He isn’t going to stop until he reaches the goal. In the farmer’s case it is the end of the row. Then he will rest a spell and set his shoulder to the plow once again to reach the end of the next row. Christians seeking God’s rest are really advancing in about the same way. Every row plowed brings the farmer closer to the goal of plowing the entire field. For the Christian, every calamity causes us to run deeper into the rest offered by the Lord.

The opposition you will face in hiding in the Lord/entering into His rest are the things of this world. There will always be something dire and distressing that ‘slaps you up side the head’ every time you stick your head out of the fox hole. You do have a target on your back that says, ‘hit me’. Don’t take it personal. Everyone is in the same boat; we live in a world that is in turmoil. The boat does have two divisions. There are the saved of the Lord in one division, and the lost of the world in the other division. The children of God certainly have a better position because they have the promised rest that the lost of the world do not have. So, here we are with a place to hide, a place to rest, and sometimes we don’t make use of it. We stumble around and fret and worry like the children of this world. (The rest of the Lord is only available to the children of the Lord. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ Acts 16:31)

Resting in the Lord is not easy. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be all that hard. Other times it seems to require a vice that holds our head pointed in the right direction. It is hard to stay focused on the Lord when a calamity is ripping through our family or our country. I have a suggestion that can be very helpful.

Choose a Bible topic and study that topic every spare minute. There are two types of topics from which to choose.

Number one is a topic related to the calamity you are facing. This is the topic of choice if you are seeking direction and guidance in a specific matter. Ultimately, you will have made a decision regarding most things in your life. You will know the right course of action, or what you should do, or what you shouldn’t do. You wind up with time on your hands waiting on the Lord’s time. You are stuck living in that limbo land where the only smart thing to do is to learn patience. Then it is time to move on to topic number two.

Topic number two is just choosing something in the Bible in which you are interested. Creation is a great subject with lots of wonderful Biblical resources. In following this subject, or any subject for that matter you first read what God Himself has to say on the subject. God can be trusted to always tell you the truth. Then, you have to be careful to use only reference books that are written by people who comment on the word of God in order to help people better understand what God is saying. You don’t want to bother with people trying to explain that while God said one thing, He/he really meant something else. If a Bible commentary presents error as truth, then it is really preaching a different gospel. Chunk it in the trash.

My personal experience is that time spent waiting on the Lord is really study time. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read and study, then make the time to listen! There are audio versions of the entire Bible and numerous audio resources available free at many web sites. Make use of these resources. Some people say, and perhaps I agree, that there are more temptations available today than ever before. Fortunately, there are more resources readily available for Christians seeking to live a Godly life than ever before.

A good way to begin or continue your journey into resting and hiding in the Lord, or to go deeper into the hiding place is:

Read the Bible cover to cover. I recommend investing in a Thompson Chain Reference KJV Bible. The references are wonderful study helps.

If you are not a reader, then be a listener. Listen to the Bible on audio. I recommend the Alexander Scourby audio, and I have a link to it at my web site . There are others available that are good, and someone you know may have one they will lend to you.

Then just follow your interests.

Pick a book that you found easy reading or easy listening and read some good commentaries on that book. Everyone has favorite books of the Bible. Because of my interest in history, I have a great interest in the historical records in the Bible. Genealogy is also interesting to me, but is just mind boggling for me when I am trying to focus off of something troubling and onto a specific subject. When I am trying to take my mind off a worldly problem, I need something that is easier to get into. There will be a lot of free sermon audios on different web sites if you don’t feel like reading. Sometimes you can just be so ‘down’ or depressed that you can’t read. You can listen. Be sure you are listening to something good that will pull you up and through the problems. Don’t listen to things that pull you down deeper into the mire.

Pick a subject that interests you. Use a good concordance or study Bible to read every word the Bible has to say on the subject, and then go to good commentaries. Of course a favorite subject of mine is Bible prophecy.

Some people say that you need a specific study time, or quiet time, with the Lord. I wouldn’t dispute that. However, when you are facing something that wants to gain control of your thoughts like an illness or financial problem, or even something wicked like an addiction, then every spare second not required in your work becomes study time. Remember the subject of your study (prophecy, creation, gifts of the spirit, …) and keep your thoughts on that subject. Diligently and passionately pursue a better understanding of the Bible subject you have chosen. You will be delighted with what you learn.

Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
 Pray for one another – and help those in need as best you can. 

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