“When does the spiritual life of the righteous flourish best? Not when all hindrances and temptations are removed. Not when the skies are always bright, and the breezes soft and refreshing. Not when prosperity gathers about the Christian everything which heart can wish for. The soul is much more likely to rise upward, or assert its higher claims, when misfortunes, and ill-usage, and wrongs, are pressing heavily upon it. As the bodily strength is best developed and preserved by those inured to toil, and who boldly face the tempest and the cold, so is our inner life invigorated and prolonged by the roughnesses and afflictions which beset the good man’s way.” –The Biblical Illustrator
Are you presently experiencing hard times? Has life recently dealt you a hard blow? Have you faced trial after trial to the point where you are wondering – “Where is God in all of this? What is He doing in my life?”
Or, perhaps, you are just coming out of a very trying experience, and wondering – “What was the purpose of it all?”
One Preacher explained it in this way – “Every Christian is either headed for a trial or coming out of one.”
Whatever the case, this message is for you!
But, before getting into this message, allow me to ask you two questions – “Did the Lord Jesus promise His servants an easy life? Are God’s children promised a life free of pain, sorrow, heartache, etc.?”
According to the Bible – God’s Holy Word – the answer is a definitive – “NO!”
Despite what the false prophets promise the believer (if he should send his offering their way), the Bible specifies that, in this earthly life (due to the Fall), he will face some hard times.
The following Scriptures emphasize this truth!
Isaiah 43:2 says –“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
John 16:33 says –“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Acts 14:22 says – “…and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
Romans 8:18 says – “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
2 Corinthians 4:17 says –“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Some, in reading this, would have a real problem accepting these truths. Nonetheless, it is the Truth! It is Bible!
Some would like to tear out or ignore certain Scriptures from the Bible that they do not like and that “go against the grain” of their flesh, but the Word of God stands as it is written! “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
Yes, Jesus came that you “might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) But, His “abundant life” manifests itself in many ways, shapes, and forms.
Consider for a moment why God included the Book of Job or the Book of Psalms in the Holy Writ! Is it not to encourage those whose faith would be sorely tested and would need encouragement along the way?
Consider the lives of Joseph, David, Paul, and the prophets. Was not their faith sorely tested?
However, when it was all said and done, their testimony in the end was this – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him That loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)
I am here to tell you – that in all that you face, encounter, or experience in this life – whether good or bad – it is all “working together for (your) good” because you “love God” and “are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
God is at work in your life! There is no doubt about it!
Allow me to prove it to you by using the Scriptures and by looking specifically at the palm tree, the cedar tree, and the lily.
Psalm 92:12 says –“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”
Song of Solomon 2:2 says –“As the lily among thorns, so is My love among the daughters.”
First, let’s consider “the palm tree.”
In the East, “the palm tree” does not grow in the depth of the forest or in the fertile ground but in the arid sands of the desert where there appears to be no moisture to sustain it and where the scorching sun seems almost certain to destroy it. It grows in barren soil – being watered at the roots – which causes it to remain always green in winter as well as in summer…never to cast its leaves…its foliage never to fade…and dust to never settle upon it.
Interestingly enough, this “tree” thrives under heavy pressures and weights. The more you attempt to hinder its growth by pressing it down with the heaviest of weights, the higher it grows and the stronger and broader it becomes at the top. It grows upright under the greatest pressures. It grows upward when most pressed down. Neither weight nor violence can cause it to bow nor grow downwards or crooked. None of its branches grow out of its side. It is a very tall and straight tree whose branches always grow upward.
Perhaps, you can relate to “the palm tree” in that – at this time – you find yourself in a “desert” experience of some sort. Like this tree, God’s purpose is that your spiritual “roots” go deeper and deeper in Him (the “water” of His Word) – causing your testimony to always be vibrant (remaining “green” in “winter” or “summer” – bad times or good times) – and the “dust” of the “desert” (never settling) never allowed to affect your attitude or your spirit.
His purpose is that the more Satan, other people, or your circumstances seek to oppress or weigh you down, the higher (upright, upward), stronger, and broader you grow in Him. No pressure or violence can cause you to bow or grow downwards or crooked (compromise, give up, or sin).
Like “the palm tree,” the “cedar” grows in uncongenial soil. It does not grow in the fertile, sheltered valley (where most trees are found). On the contrary, it grows on the rocky heights where all seems cold and sterile. It grows on the summit of the mountain where it is unsheltered from the blast of snows and storms.
From whence comes its great strength? It comes from the tempests – the hostile elements (stormy wind, hail, rain, and frost) that do it great service (help its growth). It secures its sturdy grasp by embedding its roots in the rocks. It is fed by the streams that come trickling down from the snow-crowned tops of Lebanon.
Perhaps, you can relate to the “cedar” in that – at this time – you find yourself in an “elevated position” of some sort where your Christian faith and testimony is being severely tested. You are encountering “hostile elements” and “storms” of all magnitudes. God’s purpose is that you dig your spiritual “roots” into the Rock – Christ Jesus – and lay a foundation for your faith against which the “gates of hell” will “never prevail.”
He also purposes that the “storms” that are presently assailing you would cause you to reach higher unto Him – that your ambition would aspire towards the upper world – causing you to ascend to higher heights (greater faith, grace, strength, and glory) in your walk with Him. Lastly, He purposes that the most adverse circumstances – by the grace of God – would aid in the true development of your soul.
Lastly, consider “the lily among thorns.” The “lily” is a noble plant in the East. It is white, pure, and luxuriant with a velvety softness. It has six leaves, sheds a sweet and fragrant perfume, and grows to a considerable height. In Song of Solomon 2:2, it is placed in a totally unbefitting environment –“among thorns.”
This is a picture of the saint in the unconverted world – a world lying in wickedness.
Perhaps you can relate to “the lily among thorns” in that – at this time – you find yourself among the godless – in your family…on the job…in your neighborhood…in your nation…etc. You are surrounded by wicked men – such as have no love for Christ. Daily, you are vexed by their “filthy conversation.” You are exposed to hardships, troubles, trials, tribulations, and afflictions – while being planted among them.
Why does the Lord put you – His “lily” –
(among base and vile sinners)? What purpose could He possibly have in doing so?
It is because He desires transformation – spiritual transformation – in your life by their means. By His grace, He enables you to maintain your innocency, purity, beauty, and station and not take on their corruptions. Ultimately, it is His purpose to show forth the mighty power of His grace in “keeping” you – yes, even while you are in the midst of such perversion, evil, and wickedness.
There is no doubt about it! As a Christian, you will face hard times in this life. You have seen this truth brought out through the Scriptures and the examples of “the palm tree,” “the cedar tree,” and “the lily among thorns.”
Nonetheless, you must understand that God is at work! He has a Divine Purpose in mind!
And, as Psalm 66:10-12 indicates, when it is all said and done, you will be brought to “a wealthy place” in the end – “For Thou, O God, hast proved us: Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; Thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.”
May God Bless His Word,
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. (Isaiah 54:17)
© COPYRIGHT Connie Giordano – All Rights Reserved