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Many of GodÂ’s people are experiencing today more pressure in their lives than ever before. In todayÂ’s "pell-mell" living, with society spiraling downward, pressures are coming upon some of GodÂ’s people in a measure that threatens to overcome them. On a personal scale, there are increasing conflicts in homes, or it may be layoffs at work, financial reverses in business or farming, weather-related calamities, sudden deaths or debilitating disease of dear ones, escalating crime in areas that were formerly safe, making innocents injured victims. Perhaps it is yourself with a life-threatening disease or a fiery temptation that is wearing you down. You may have a heavy burden for something that has not responded to prayer--for unsaved family, or a barren church which urgently needs cleansing from sin and a gracious inflowing of the Holy Spirit to bring fresh life and conversions.
As Herald of His Coming readers in developing countries write to us we learn of severe economic conditions that make it a struggle to feed and clothe and school their families. Justice may be replaced by bribery and selfishness and corruption. A religion opposed to Christianity may isolate Christians or persecute and kill or leave them in utterly destitute circumstances.
Christians Not Exempt
A. B. Simpson has written helpfully to Christians under pressure. He writes:
"There is a prevalent idea that the power of God in a human life should lift us above all trials and conflicts. The fact is, the power of God always brings a conflict and a struggle. One would have thought that on his great missionary journey to Rome, Paul would have been carried by some mighty providence above the power of storms and tempests and enemies. But on the contrary, it was one long, hard fight with persecuting Jews, with wild tempests, with venomous vipers, and all the powers of earth and hell. At last he was saved, as it seemed, by the narrowest margin, and had to swim ashore at Malta on a piece of wreckage and barely escaped a watery grave.
"Was that like a God of infinite power? Yes, just like Him. And so Paul tells us that when he took the Lord Jesus Christ as the life of his body, a severe conflict immediately came, indeed, a conflict that never ended, a pressure that was persistent, but out of which he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.
"The language in which he describes this is most graphic. Â‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ...perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our bodyÂ’ (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).
"What a ceaseless, strenuous struggle! It is impossible to express in English the forcible language of the original. There are five pictures in succession. In the first, the idea is crowding enemies pressing in from every side, and yet not crushing him because the police of heaven cleared the way just wide enough for him to get through. The literal translation would be, Â‘We are crowded on every side, but not crushed.Â’
"The second picture is that of one whose way seems utterly closed and yet he has pressed through; there is light enough to show him the next step. The revised version translates it, Â‘perplexed but not unto despair.Â’ Rotherham still more literally renders it, Â‘without a way, but not without a by-way.Â’
"The third figure is that of an enemy in hot pursuit while the divine Defender still stands by, and he is not left alone. Again we adopt the fine rendering of Rotherham, Â‘pursued but not abandoned.Â’
"The fourth figure advances, and lastly it seems to be even death itself. Â‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.Â’ But he does not die, for Â‘the life also of JesusÂ’ now comes to his aid, and he lives in the life of Another until his life work is done....
Faith Is The Victory!
"God has nothing worth having that is easy. There are no cheap goods in the heavenly market. Our redemption cost all that God had to give, and everything worth having is expensive. Hard places are the very school of faith and character, and if we are to rise over mere human strength and prove the power of life divine in these mortal bodies, it must be through a process of conflict that may well be called the birth travail of a new life. It is the old figure of the bush that burned, but was not consumed....Dear suffering child of God, you cannot fail if only you dare to believe, to stand fast and refuse to be overcome....We must take the attitude of faith. We must lean our weight over upon Him for the thing that we have claimed, and take it for granted that He gives it, and is going to continue to give it. This is the attitude of trust.
"When we take Christ as a Saviour, as a Sanctifier, as a Healer, or as a Deliverer, He expects us to fall into the attitude of recognizing Him in the capacity that we have claimed, and expect Him to be for us all that we have trusted Him for."
Power To The Faint
W. C. Moore, founder of Herald of His Coming, writes helpfully also: "Ofttimes as an earnest soul is pressing on with the Lord, some severe test, or some condition in the work or in the home arises, which simply Â‘swampsÂ’ him. How often, alas, he forgets that it is not the thing itself, it is not that disagreeable person or that impossible condition, it is not the circumstances, whatever they may be, that are to be fought.
"The Word of God is very clear in its statement that Â‘We wrestle not against flesh and bloodÂ’ (Eph. 6:12), but against the powers of darkness, and the only way to overcome the devil and all the powers of darkness is to Â‘wait upon the LordÂ’ (Isaiah 40:31) and renew our strength, and get GodÂ’s help and GodÂ’s direction in the conflict.
"To whom is it that God gives power? It is the faint. To whom does He increase strength? To them that have no might (Isaiah 40:29). No matter how much natural will power we may have, or how much force of character, it will not avail in the battle against the powers of the devil. Â‘Even the young men shall utterly fallÂ’ (Isaiah 40:30)...
"Melanchthon said, Â‘Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer, and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble.Â’ Believe God to deal with that [difficult or impossible] situation, and let Him make it a great blessing to us, to humble us, and to teach us to put our trust in Him alone! Our Blessed Heavenly Father wants us to permit all things to work together for our good, not for our harm. He desires that we be so anointed with His Spirit that we will be polished by the grindstone of life, not ground down.
"We never would pray so earnestly if we did not have troubles. Brother, Sister, tested and tried, perplexed and cast down, look to Jesus, the Blessed Son of God. Utterly trust Him, no matter how things seem to be! Praise His Name! Let every test be a stepping stone to a closer walk with God!
"Â‘My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [testings]Â’ (James 1:12). Â‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning youÂ’ (1 Thess. 5:18)."
Let us all be encouraged, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, by the counsel of the two brothers quoted above, who bore the heat and burden of the day while living for God and who learned precious lessons as they did so. They knew their God. They spent time in prayer with Him. They dwelt in His Word and believed it unquestioningly. They did a good work for God, finishing that which He gave them to do, that He might be glorified. Built on Christ Jesus, their ministries continue. Now some of us are called to build on the foundation which they laid. God help us to build with materials of gold, silver and precious stones, worthy of the foundation!
As George Morrison reminds us in his article on page 7, Christ Jesus calls us to take His yoke upon us. ChristÂ’s "unfaltering trust that God was over Him, and that the everlasting arms were underneath Him" gave Him peace when burdens grew intolerable. Sustained by that, He never gave things up. He gave Himself up upon the Cross." What ultimate victory!