(May 07, 2023) Richard Winter challenges…
Life is a journey – you will go somewhere!
When you were born you started your journey wherever your parents were and began to take you.
My parents never owned a car and so my family never travelled far. But as a boy I loved to read and was fascinated with geography… vicariously I travelled the world, at first with boy books and Indiana Jones type adventures. I guess I was a sort of Short Round.
Then real geography books, as school set the pace. My life would have some new journeys… not just reading those geography books and maps but living life!
Bibles often have maps as the last pages… full of place names, rivers, seas, and mountains. God has an interest in geography and in time.
The Lord told Israel that He would give them a Promised Land, and then described it as – ‘… a land of hills and valleys’ (Deuteronomy 11:11ESV).
When I think about the physical land of Israel, this is an apt description. But it is also of the life Christians live… we will face a land of hills and valleys!
Hills and valleys
Such as –
- High and low points.
- Not always be on mountain tops with great views.
- Nor always on level ground where things are easy.
- Bends and potholes in the roads! Up and down life.
- Problems and sins affecting our journey.
- Satan testing our spiritual defenses (maybe every day!).
- Attacks on areas of weakness!
Scripture holds life lessons that we all can take note of… hills and valleys of individuals so we can learn from their mistakes and be blessed by their blessings.
Such hills and valleys can be dangerous places as we travel through life… so let’s remember the spiritual principal of ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice’ (See 1 Samuel 15:22). Simply restated that means: Do what God wants you to do in life and these obstacles will be fewer and the blessings greater!
There are many comparison points – personalities, qualities and activities we can use from scripture. For example, Christians today have a lot in common with Moses as he faced entry into the Promised Land.
- Once Israel’s people were in bondage to Egypt, but God set them free, then led them by a cloud by day and a fire by night.
- Once we were in bondage to sin, this world and Satan, but God set us free through Jesus’ Calvary sacrifice. He leads us by His Word and His Holy Spirit.
- God brought His people to the border of their inheritance and told them to go in and possess the land. Unfortunately they fell into unbelief and failed to fully possess their promised land.
- God has given us a wonderful spiritual inheritance in Christ and all we have to do is possess it by faith, not fall into disbelief and miss possessing our inheritance!
The Bible is a divine road map describing this inheritance but… it’s a land of hill and valleys!
Many think that the Christian life is an easy life – once you’re saved all your problems disappear. But life has its problems – ups and downs – even for Christians!
Jesus never promised an easy life. He said there will be tribulation, warned that people hated Him and would hate us, that there would be ‘sufferings’ (John 15:18-19 cf 1 Peter 4:12).
Praise God, many problems can be solved instantly through reading the Bible: Such as…
- Eternal destination is assured (John 3:16).
- The reason for being here explained (Acts 1:8).
- Illnesses can be prayerfully healed (James 5:14).
And more! But note… even Bible greats had valley experiences!
Receives God’s promises re his future when he’s 75 (Genesis 12:2,4). After God reiterates them – a son for an heir (Genesis 15:4), descendants uncountable and a great nation (v5), troubles some would encounter (v13-14), he experiences the horror of a great darkness (Genesis 15:12). Further… it’s some 25 years before his son Isaac is born!
- We all want God’s promises to come about quickly… without dark times!
Wrestles with God because he doesn’t want to surrender (Genesis 32:24-32), suffers a disjointed hip (v25), and walks with a limp the rest of his life (v32).
- We want God to do things our way… and no hassles along the route of life.
Exodus 32:30 speaks of Moses willing to bear the weight of the freed Israel sins (chata – ‘missing the mark’) of not fulfilling what they’d agreed to do (Exodus 24:3).
- It’s so easy to go back to the old ways, like Israel did, instead of being patient and prepared to move on. And when it comes to church mistakes and mishaps, sometimes it’s only the pastor who willingly confesses such faults before God.
Desperate to escape Saul, fleeing David hides in the depths of a cave (1 Samuel 24:3). Psalm 142 is regarded as David in despair wondering about his future.
- There are bad moments when you know you’re alone, and wonder what’s ahead, if there’s a way out of your situation.
Isaiah 49: 4 tells of the prophet lamenting that his life has been wasted, ‘I have laboured in vain… spent my strength for nothing at all.’
- We all need to know what we’re doing here for God is worthwhile – whatever valleys we face.
Known as the weeping prophet, he weeps bitterly because his messages are discarded and ignored (Jeremiah 13:17).
- Today, many folk don’t want to hear the good news of a Saviour and a powerful, loving God!
John the Baptist
Born to be the forerunner of Jesus, he’s imprisoned, then beheaded (Matthew 11:2,14:10).
- We all want a cushy, safe life as Christians while witnessing Jesus and speaking the truth about situations… but there may be times when we are in danger (see reports in April Update Roundup).
Many times this great missionary makes it clear that he doesn’t want us to be ignorant of his missionary troubles (Acts 13-20 and various epistles). He is opposed virtually everywhere he goes.
- We too will be opposed at times when we endeavour to share the gospel of Jesus!
Much could be said about our Lord’s sufferings such as was shared last month in The Cross-Centrepiece of the Gospel of Christ.
- Praise God that He ‘bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (1Peter 2:24a)!
Why does God allow hills and valleys?
To learn lessons we would never learn on a mountaintop!
Do you think David could have written those distressful psalms that had positive points if he hadn’t hit the valleys? He learned to trust his God and could write the like of Psalm 23… ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me’(v4).
Suppose Paul never had a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7); could he have written that God’s grace was sufficient for him (v9a)? And declare ‘Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses…’(v9b).
When we go through our valleys we learn lessons we could never learn any other way. Like Paul we too will declare ‘… I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (v10).
- We grow in character when we go through valleys.
- Great Christians are made great because of trials.
- As gold is purified in great heat to remove any impurities, so are ours burned away.
- We don’t become patient because we read a book on patience!
- Rather we learn by being patient in trials, by going through the valley spiritually led.
- Nor do we learn to pray by sitting idly in a chair – we need trials to bring us on our knees before God in prayer and cry out to Him in faith!
The purpose of valleys
God’s purpose in these valleys is to teach us how to help others. Valleys can be trying…
Psalm 84:5-6 speaks of this principle: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.’
Your life experiences, both good and bad, God can use to help others! What may cause us to weep in the valleys can become springs of life to refresh others!
Like Joseph, who experienced dark times, affirmed to his brothers: ‘… you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now’ – his life journey blessed many people (Genesis 50:12Mge).
Your dark valleys experiences? You may think of that the devil meant them for evil… well, God has some plan whereby they are meant for good, even as He had with Joseph’s life!
- Have you cried over cancer in your body? You’re the best person to speak to another sufferer.
- Have you ever cried over a broken heart, a tragic divorce or a wayward child, and God restored joy to you?
- Your tears were stored spiritually to help another pass through a similar trial!
Paul wrote: ‘God comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves we are comforted of God’(2 Corinthians 1:4NJKV).
God allows us to go through valleys so He may teach us valuable lessons for our life – and for others. Christians are not to live for themselves, we live for others as well.
Wouldn’t it be great to have no hills and valleys in life? Yes! But God knows how to balance our lives.
All sunshine makes a desert! Hills without valleys will make an immature and shallow life. If you want to experience the mountaintops of happiness you must endure a valley of trial.
Comfort comes from knowing that at the end of every valley is a hill and atop of that hill is a new experience of blessing from God.
As mentioned above biblical greats of God had hills and valleys – I remind us of three…
- Abraham received his great promise of a son, land and innumerable descendants – but then faced ‘drought and famine hills and valleys’ (Genesis 12:10).
- Moses faced his hills and valleys as soon as he had delivered Israel from Egypt – the people wanted to go back to slavery!
- Jesus, as soon as He is baptised, hills and valleys experiences begin! From being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1) in what is traditionally regarded as Jebel Qurantal (the ‘mountain of temptation’), overlooking the Jordan Valley, to being crucified on the hill called Calvary.
Life can be described as The Geography of Time. God knows the geography of time in your life, my life. It’s approximately 80 years, a journey that starts at birth and concludes at death. And as you and I move through life we experience ups and downs – good times, bad times, sad times and learning times.
The Christian life is full of such hills and valleys – but God’s word of encouragement to us as we go through valleys is that He has a blessing waiting for you at the end of them.
Jesus has gone before us to prepare the way! Every valley we face Jesus has been before! Our God is the victorious God of all hills and valleys!
Churches has often been called hospitals… our ER is so very effective. Spiritually sick people come and are healed by Jesus and His word. And with our help as we reach out to them.
But in these dark days, with the world getting more sinful and difficult, our mission is not getting smaller. You were predestined to bless others in times like these… to help them reach happy, peaceful mountaintops!
Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com
Great article of encouragement, Richard. Here are some words from a song (sung by various Gaither singers): ‘Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain and you’ve got peace of mind like you’ve never known, but when things change and you’re down in the valley, don’t lose hope for you’re never alone — the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley, when things go wrong He’ll make them right and the God in the good times is still God in the bad times, the God of the day is still God of the night.’