Difficulties, dangers, disease, death or divisions don’t deter any but (Chocolate Soldiers) from executing God’s will. When someone says there is a lion in the way, the real Christian promptly replies, “That’s hardly enough inducement for me; I want a bear or two besides to make it worth my while to go.” Missionary C. T. Studd
“I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit and placed my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my heart, a hymn of praise to my God. Many will hear and see and put their trust in God.” Psalm 40:1-2
Our walk with Jesus is not one unbroken incline upward in holiness. The way is lined with pits, (Isaiah 40:1) snares (Psalms 25:15) and traps (2 Timothy 2:26). Our journey is also marked by tests (1 Thess. 2:4), pressures (2 Cor. 1:8) and sometimes stumbles (Psalm 37:23-24). But, one thing remains the same: We serve a reliable and faithful God who works through all of these challenges to bring us more reasons to sing praises of His glory. (Psalm 40:2-3) And, I think it is also true, the closer we follow Jesus in ministry, we will be subjected to greater scrutiny from the enemy. For Chocolate Soldiers that is not good. But, for those who delight in the Lord and commit their way to him, struggle and trouble are part of the holy adventure. He sovereignly rules over our lives for our good and His glory in every trial (Rom. 8:28-29; James 1:2)
I also believe that victory in public is determined by preparation in private. Anyone who
wants to be mighty in God’s army must be willing to engage in personal disciplines. No man will do great things for God until he spends much time before God. This strategy I call my “Delightful Disciplines of Devotion” There are three parts: 1) MEETING with Jesus in an early morning fellowship in His Scriptures. 2) BEATING on a text and digging for every piece of gold by meditating on His words for long periods of time. 3) REPEATING His words and hiding His weapons in our hearts through memorization. I have found my hope and my joy and my effectiveness in ministry has exploded as I have met with Jesus in these life-fortifying disciplines.
Slimy pits are designed to point us to the precious promises found in His Holy Word. The slimiest pit of my life was used by the Lord to change the whole trajectory of my ministry. A year of devotion to one passage, meeting with Jesus, meditating and digging into His treasure chest, hiding its truth in my mind and heart, was the preparation for the pit, pit of all pit, pits! (Gen. 14:12) Psalm 27 became a weapon in my hands to fight the lies of the enemy when I slipped into the slime. That experience not only changed my heart, it set me off on a whole other level of ministry to the world.
Today, I find myself in another kind of pit. I have been diagnosed with cancer. On one hand I am stuck in the mud. On the other hand, I am in the pit by God’s command. On one hand, I fear that I will not live to go back to my beloved Malawi. On the other hand, I cannot wait to see what the Lord will do in my life through this pit.
I have found encouragement in Paul’s prison thoughts. In his letter to the church at Philippi, he testifies that his time in jail, which appeared to be a great impediment to his mission, was in fact a powerful advancement of that mission. Because of his shackles, the palace guard knew that he was there, not because of Rome, but because of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was there at the Lord’s command. This was not time wasted. This was part of the deal.
Persecution and death have always been threatened by our enemies. But, Paul is not intimidated. If it was time to lay down his life, it would be a glorious elevation where he would see his precious Lord Jesus Christ, face to face. When all things are done and everything is wrapped up, that is the goal! That is our living hope. That isour reward!
But, Paul discerns something else is going on. His mission is not yet complete. The Philippian church still needs his ministry. They are under pressure within and without. They need to hear the words of Paul and the faith, hope and joy that flows from his trust in Jesus. So, he affirms, “it is more necessary, for you, that I remain in my body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and will continue with all of you for your joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again, your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (Philippians 1:25-26)
That is now the direction of my thinking. My time before the Lord, and the medical experts he has placed in our path, are pointing to a joyous return to our station in Malawi. The Lord has put me aside for His purposes. He is still shaping and preparing me for what he has prepared me for. There are many disciples that still need to be mentored and set in place. New ministries of the Word, now in my head and heart, have yet to be put in place. My people still need my encouragement and leadership.
So, when the radiation is complete, our preparation to leave will begin. The Lord is lifting me out of the pit. He is putting my feet on solid ground. He has given me a new song. And He has given me an even greater expectation of spiritual victories, for the glory of God and the deep satisfaction of my soul. In Christ, every pit has a purpose. May his purpose be accomplished in me so that “many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3)