Even in Deep Darkness Thou Art with Me

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The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isa 9:2, ESV2011)

Dear precious saints of God,

Our Father has a process that He puts many of us through of which the above verse speaks. It is here that all dependence on our natural abilities is stripped away and all we can do is throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of God, even when He seems far away. It is the “afterwards” that He is after (see Hebrews 12:11) even though this dark time in our lives seems to never end. There is a day when the Refiner of Silver and Gold (see Malachi 3:3) looks into the crucible of our afflictions and sees only His own reflection instead of all that soulish dross that is mixed in with it, because our God is a consuming fire.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1John 3:2-3, ESV2011)

We start out as God’s children, but what He is after is sons who are like Christ, the Pattern Son.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to perfect the Author of their salvation by sufferings. For both he that sanctifies, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Heb 2:10-11, Haweis)

So we submit ourselves under His mighty hand with this blessed hope of being conformed into the image of Christ.

There are those of us who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death in one way or another, have come out the other side, and fully believe by experience that the flesh (our soul life, that old Adam we were born into) profits nothing. The result is a deeper relationship with our Lord in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus. Isn’t that what we are after, no matter what the cost?

I’ve felt led to post this excerpt from T. Austin-Sparks for those who feel cut-off from God and cry out in the depths of your darkness as Jesus did on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!” Remember, rather, His final words in that dark hour, “Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” This is the victory on the other side of this test, the release of our spirit IN Christ Jesus.

We close by referring to this one point. We must seek always to believe in the fact that this Divine life, with all its tremendous potencies, is far deeper down than surrounding conditions and circumstances, than our own physical life, and than our own soul-life. Unless we grasp that, hold that firmly, we have not the ground of victory. When we feel that death is working with such tremendous force in the realm of our bodies or our souls, and everything in this sentient life of ours speaks of death, we are too often in danger of surrendering the whole position. I believe that this thing which is of God is deeper than our mortal being. I believe that it is possible even for children of God, being truly born again and possessing eternal life, to lose their reason and go into an asylum, and yet to have no change made in the deepest fact and reality of the being in relation to the Lord. We touch that point to indicate what we mean – that if our rational life is the sum total of our life, then it is a poor look-out for us. If our sanity, our natural mental balance, is the ground of our being children of God, then some from time to time would have real reason to doubt whether they were born again. And if that is true in the mental, it is true in the physical. This life of the Lord is far deeper than this mortal life of ours.

I am going to say something which may, to some, sound very terrible. It may perplex some, but it may help others. It is this: it is possible for a true child or servant of God, living in true fellowship with Him and walking in the light as far as they have it, to pass through a time of deep and terrible darkness. At such a time it may seem as though the Lord has left them and that Satan has taken His place of government. Prayer seems impossible or useless, and the Bible closed. Evil seems triumphant. The promises of God never to leave nor in anywise to forsake seem to have failed. Things may seem to be even worse than that, and one’s salvation may be brought into question. Such has been the experience of some of the most saintly, devoted, and God-used servants of the Lord. Abraham had it (Genesis 15:12). Jeremiah knew it (Jeremiah 20:7). David knew it (Psalm 22). Job knew it. Our Lord Jesus knew it (Matthew 27:46). Dr. A. B. Simpson had this experience near the end of his wonderful life for God. And so it has been with others.

What is the explanation? With all my heart I do not believe that this seeming forsakenness is true, however real it may seem. In many cases it is because those concerned have done so much damage to the kingdom of Satan that he has rallied all his forces to quench their life and testimony. Or it may be that the enemy has discerned the potential value of a life which will be a menace to his interests. But, whether either of these explanations be true or not so, the fact remains that, where the Lord Jesus truly is, the battle for life often assumes most serious forms. Sometimes it is a devastating and desolating experience.

We need to remember that these are spiritual forces, and spiritual forces stand at no physical barriers. We have a soul, a great nervous system. Children of God for many reasons, and very often after a time of pouring out spiritually, will find their nerves are all a jangle, and they feel anything but good and holy. But are you going to say that that means that after all they are not children of God, and that it is all a myth? Do you mean to say that Elijah was no longer the prophet of the Most High when he cast himself under the juniper tree and asked the Lord to take away his life? He was still the servant of God, still as true to God as ever. We are not trying to excuse our weaknesses, but trying to get to the heart of a situation. That does not argue that the Lord has forsaken, that the Lord is not there, and that such are not the Lord’s children or His servants. It indicates that the enemy has made them marked men or women because of something he is trying to destroy in the life. If you get into that realm, do not accept the suggestions of the enemy or seek to interpret things in the light of circumstances.

If you do not understand this that we are saying, do not strive after an explanation, and please do not put your own construction upon it. There are some who know what it is to have such an assault upon their being, their physical and nervous life as to make them feel that they are lost. I do not believe that it means that they are lost, and it is because some people accept that suggestion from the tempter that they sink into darkness. Oh, that many of these people who feel this thing upon them could know what we are trying to say, that it is for the spirit to rise up in faith and refuse the argument of the seeming! The seeming is sometimes so terribly real. People who have not suffered sometimes say to us: ‘It only seems to be so; it is not really so!’ And we reply: ‘You do not know what you are talking about! It is more real than anything else to those concerned.’ But the Lord will teach us as we go on not to accept that as the final thing. There is something deeper than that. The Lord is deeper than our physical feelings. The Lord is deeper than our soul.

Let me say here what I have said elsewhere. There are times and situations when ordinary lines of communication with a child of God are suspended. They are in a state of unconsciousness. It is useless to speak to them, for they can make no response. But if you pray, so often there is a response, not in words, but deeper than natural consciousness. You touch something deeper; it is the spirit, and spirit responds to spirit. We have known this to happen, even to the point of a hand-squeeze, or a facial glow. It is the mystery of Divine life.

https://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000706.html
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

On a personal note:

Sparks in the above paragraph wrote, “There are times and situations when ordinary lines of communication with a child of God are suspended. They are in a state of unconsciousness. It is useless to speak to them, for they can make no response. But if you pray, so often there is a response, not in words, but deeper than natural consciousness. You touch something deeper; it is the spirit, and spirit responds to spirit. We have known this to happen, even to the point of a hand-squeeze, or a facial glow. It is the mystery of Divine life.”

This is very personal to me. I spent 14 years in His wilderness (the dark night of the soul) and I was in this state of “spiritual suspended animation,” during the whole time. It was here that all the things that used to speak to me of the presence of God were gone; fellowship with the saints, inspired reading of the Bible and Christian books, prayer, and even inward feelings of His love, etc. It was like He truly was not there. This was necessary to weaken my soul nature that always wanted to “surf” on what God was doing. My soul would always add its “two bits” to what God was saying and was always seeking to be recognized by others. “I, I, me, me, my!” “Look at me, I’m one of the boys, too!”

But at one point during this time of isolation I met a dear old saint, sat at a table with him, held his hand and felt something deeper. No words were spoken for to do so would have been to defile what God was doing. When I felt I could go on no longer, God would give me enough assurance to hang in there and seek His face. When my wife, Dorothy, felt she could not handle my depression any longer He would give her a promise and encouragement as well. I found out after the end of this long dark tunnel when I came out again into His Light, that He had been teaching me subliminally the whole time in a way that my soul could not feel, relate or find pleasure in. As one brother said to me near the end, “I can see this vast resource God has put within you. When are you going to speak?” I just said, “Only when He tells me to.” So, to this day I try to only write a blog when He gives it to me. I hope some of you can relate and are blessed.

Michael

Why We Have the Discipline of the Lord in Our Lives

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I have spent a great deal of my life trying to become self-sufficient. In my youth I found that I could not depend on my family for love and support and even so-called “friends” were often self-centered and often cruel with no compassion toward me in my social awkwardness (I grew up in a completely dysfunctional family). So my answer to that was to seek a place where I could show my worth by what I could do. I became quite proficient in many fields, at least proficient enough that I was of value to employers even though I tried some of them with my social ineptitude.

I said all this to say that once I came to a saving faith in Christ, meeting Him was a most wonderful experience. I was on a spiritual honeymoon with Jesus that lasted for many months. He was my constant companion. Because of His great love, the day came that I wanted to become all that He had for me. That was when the trials started in earnest. I had to find out that God was not interested in all my soulish abilities, gifts and self-sufficiency. The Bible says that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. How little did I know!

One day Jesus and the disciples were walking along and they came across a blind man and the story goes like this:

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Teacher, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:1-3, KJ2000)

Did you get that? He did not say, “… so that the works of God might be manifest TO him,” but rather he was born blind so that the works of God might be manifest IN him! This man’s blindness was a gift from God to humble him and prepare him to meet and accept Christ. God knows exactly what we need to bring us into the fullness of Christ. This is the only case where Jesus put His spit on a person and the man did not protest one iota. In his lack of reaction Jesus knew that his blindness had done its work. Truly the working of God was manifest that day in a blind man while he was still blind. He had spit and mud in his eyes, yet he did not curse Jesus and wipe it away. He went by himself and washed in the pool of Siloam as commanded and in his humble obedience he received his sight. Yes, he was healed, but truly the working of God was manifest by his humility and obedience to such a foolish command. Jesus often spoke humiliating things to people to prove their hearts before He healed them. Maybe that is what He is waiting for in us. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”

We have heard that old quote from Benjamin Franklin, “God helps those who help themselves.” Sorry, but it’s a lie! Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1, ESV2011). Then He said a most curious thing, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV2011).

You see troubles and tribulation “go with the territory” when we get serious about our place as God’s children. He wants us to mature into full sonship and not remain as self-focused children. Jeremiah called out to God in his troubles, “Why do the wicked prosper?” How many times have we asked that and how can Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor?” God replied to Jeremiah saying, “If you have tired running with men, how will you make it with horsemen?” In other words, “Quit your complaining, Jeremiah.” Paul wrote:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2Tim 3:12-13, ESV2011)

As His children, God puts us into a place where we can no longer trust in our natural abilities, intellect, beauty or any other thing that the world sees as valuable. Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Herein is the key. The amplified Bible translates the word “believe” as that place where we “cling to, trust in and totally rely upon” Christ. Yes, in this world we who desire truly godly lives in Christ are going to suffer rejection and suffering as He did. Why? So that we will quit trusting in the world, its ways, its people, and our own abilities. Those things that got us ahead in the world system are in conflict with the kingdom of God. You might say that when we come to Christ our “Midas touch” starts working in reverse! I have met men who made themselves millionaires only to see it all vaporize when they surrendered to Christ. Some became bitter and others surrendered to His working, believing that God was in it all. He was making their “camel” fit through the eye of God’s needle (see Luke 18:25-28).

All that we suffer as His saints has an eternal purpose as He conforms us into the image of Christ. Some of us come under severe persecution and some come under physical suffering through diseases or bodily degradation (the effects of Covid 19 has become all too familiar with many of His saints). Some have their riches stripped from them when they come to Christ. One way or another our loving Father brings us to a place in His maturing process where we put our whole trust in Him and removes those things we once took pride in. In my case I had taken pride in being taller than most men, my ability to get things done with my own strength, and not asking others for help when I needed it. That has all changed. In my old age my back is suffering from scoliosis and deteriorating disk disease as well as compression fractures in my spine. Back pain is my constant companion and my height is shrinking. I have to call upon others for help in lifting and moving things and it is totally against my nature to do so. Even technical things I once knew evade my aging mind. I am reminded of what Jesus told that old self-sufficient Peter.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19, ESV2011)

This death He spoke of is also dying to self-sufficiency and all other forms of self as we totally surrender to Christ. It is a death in which He alone is glorified. So how do we overcome tribulation and suffering in this world? By escaping it? No! We mature to the place in life through our Father’s discipline where we overcome completely by abiding IN Christ who said, “take heart; I have overcome the world.” Or as Paul put it, “We are more than overcomers IN Christ Jesus.” Jesus told the disciples, “If you abide in Me and I abide in you, you will bring forth much fruit.” The key word in these verses is IN. The Christian walk is not a religion or a belief system, nor is it an organization. It is totally dependent on a moment by moment relationship with and IN Jesus Christ (see John 17:20-21).

Jesus was and is the ultimate obedient Son. He is the forerunner of many sons and daughters unto the glory of the Father. Early in my Christian walk, I prayed what my church friends called “dangerous prayers.” They learned not to pray such prayers in hopes of avoiding suffering. As it is written “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a Living God.” But I wanted all that God had in mind for me so that like Paul, “I might apprehend ALL that I had been apprehended for.” I prayed, “Father make me like your Son, so that I would only speak the words you give me to speak and only do those things you want me to do.” I also prayed as Paul saying, “That I may know Him, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings and be conformed unto His death.” Most Christians I knew wanted the power of God at their disposal and their prayers ended right there. But in the economy of God it is a “full meal deal.” You can’t have the one without the others. We must mature to the place where we find fellowship with Christ not only in the good times but in our suffering instead of moldering in our self-pity when it happens. We must mature to the place where we are conformed into the image of Christ by dying to our old nature and being raised in His newness of life. Remember Jesus’ final prayer before He suffered on the cross, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will by yours be done.” Few of us ever dreamed that taking up our crosses and following Him would be so literal.

One time I heard a story of a traveling evangelist who spoke at a small church gathering about the power of God. Afterward he had an “altar call” where he said, “All of you who want God’s power line up on the left side of the church and all you who want suffering line up over here on the right side.” Well, the majority lined up on the left side with only two on the right. He then pointed to those two and said, “I will now pray for them. These will experience the power of God.” As Paul wrote, “In my weakness is Christ made perfect within me.”

I would encourage you to read an article by T. Austin-Sparks that I found this morning,

“Maturity- the Lord’s Desire for His People.” http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/003680.html

Love to all of you who desire ALL that Christ has for you. You are my brethren and I look forward to the day we can meet face to face. “When He appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him [and one another] as He is.”

“These Are Times that Try Men’s Souls”

Painting of Thomas Paine

I am by my human nature a political creature. I speak this as a confession of weakness. Times like these try not only my soul (my mind, will and emotions), but my faith as well, revealing where I place my trust and hope. We Americans (and much of the rest of the world) are watching our bodies and souls being taxed by Covid 19 and all the laws and rules that governments are putting in place to keep both this disease and ourselves contained, regardless of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Speaking of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine prophetically wrote in 1776, “These are times that try men’s souls.” It’s our souls that are being tried! I just read the following this morning on a web news site:

Trump campaign fundraiser, Pamela Martin, said at a rally in Washington D.C. on Saturday, there is no doubt that President Trump won the election, but that it was stolen and she wants to take it back, adding that the battle is both spiritual and physical [so far, so good]. She continued,

God is in charge. There are many corrupt judges, all the way up to the top, and that will be turned around by God. God will see that every enemy be turned down. Victory will be here because President Donald Trump is one of our greatest presidents in all of history.”

And I will tell you this, nobody, nobody can come against God and his army and his army is the people, that people and the Constitution of the United States and every single person standing here will stand for Him,” Martin said. [1]

It seems that America is also filled with false prophets these days, all thinking that Christian America is God’s answer to all that the world needs. I used to think that way before Jesus saved me from right-wing politics. He took a heart of stone out of me and replaced it with a heart that could respond to His Spirit with love for all mankind, not just conservatives. Back then, anyone to the left of where I stood was suspect! Before God intervened over 50 years ago, I truly hated everyone I perceived as attacking or trying to pull down my “America the Beautiful.” Yes, for me “God, Jesus and Country” were on equal footing in my religious pantheon. But is this what Jesus taught us 2000 years ago?

In your reading of the Gospels, have you noticed that Jesus was not political? Most Jews back then equated Israel and Jerusalem as God’s seat of government on this earth. The chief priests and Pharisees thought they were God’s gift to mankind and when the Messiah came, He would place them in His seats of power in the new administration. They were “God’s People” and that’s all there was to it! They even had the throne of God right there in their temple – never mind that the Holy of Holies had not had the Arc of the Covenant, where God’s glory once shone, in it for centuries! Let’s look at what the scriptures say.

Yet the most High dwells not in temples made with hands; as says the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build me? says the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all these things? (Acts 7:48-50, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here… Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:36-37, KJ2000 – emphasis added)

And when the disciples were infatuated with the temple and all its buildings Jesus said,

“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6, ESV2011)

With all these things being true, Christianity still is all about putting up great buildings “for the glory of God” until this very day. When I see just how material Christianity is, I wonder if we really know what Covenant we are of? Didn’t Jesus also say, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward observation.Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And, “Wherever two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there.”

The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, their Messiah, and their leaders were appealing to Pilate to crucify Him. Why? Because He did not perform according to their political expectations. He didn’t come as a mighty general leading a vast army to deliver them from the Romans. The more things change, the more they remain the same! The leaders of the Jews were totally political, so much so that they no longer wanted the will of God or recognized when God was no longer dealing with them according to the Old Covenant.

For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord… In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away. (Heb 8:8-13, KJ2000)

No, they refused the New Covenant of grace given them because, as enforcers of the Old Covenant law, they had stature and power over men. Consider this passage:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man [Jesus] performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48, ESV2011)

They forgot that God does not take sides with human governments and armies but rather with HIS Son and all who are walking by His Spirit IN Him! Yet, to this day religious zealots insist that God is on their side! To this He still answers, “NO: but I!”

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come”… (Josh 5:13-14, ESV2011)

At the time of the above passage, Israel had finally fallen in line with the will of God after forty years of rebellion in the wilderness with Him finally forsaking that generation. The one thing that I find troubling about President Trump (not that I like Joe Biden any better) is his pride and the pride in Christians who stand behind him as if they are “God’s Army.” Many of us want to see America turn to Christ and be healed, but God has made a requirement before this can happen. He “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Solomon had just finished his palace and the temple as a place of sacrifice in Jerusalem when God said to him,

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence [Heb. Loimos – a pestilence, any deadly infectious malady] among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2Chr 7:13-14, ESV2011)

I would say that Covid 19 is one of the most “deadly infectious maladies” that the world has had to deal with in modern times. We can build up our mighty armies and concoct our medical cures to deal with enemies and diseases, but as Bob Mumford once said, “If you fix the fix that God fixes to fix you, then He will fix another fix to fix you!” Yes, until we humble ourselves and pray in brokenness and truly start walking in the Spirit as HIS people, we can expect our enemies to continue to gain power over us and Covid 19 will not be the last plague that we will have to deal with in this world.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. (Ps 118:8-9, KJ2000)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas 4:8-10, ESV2011)

Thomas Paine concluded his treatise, “The American Crisis,” by saying something even more profound,

“Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

Or as Paul put it, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom 8:37, KJ2000)

[1] https://www.theepochtimes.com/trump-campaign-fundraiser-this-is-a-spiritual-battle_3616489.html