I am sure you are saying to yourself what a strange title for a Christian article. The reality is that most of the Body of Christ who has chosen to follow the cloud in the 21st Century finds itself in a strange land. We are out of Egypt physically and spiritually but we are not yet home.
Our hearts, our dreams and our life is in the Promise Land like Caleb and Joshua but we are surrounded by a transitional wilderness. It would be great if those we love and care for were on the journey with us. Many of them have never left Egypt in their hearts or have been stopped by doubt because of the many struggles along the way.
Yesterday I heard the news that a creative brother who didn’t fit in the religious system came against some of those struggles and because he was alone and without encouragement may have taken his life. These kinds of examples are everywhere. Discouragement in this transitional stage is inevitable. The truth is this is not our world. We are just pilgrims passing through a strange land.
Here are some examples of the personal struggles;
- Young people who the Lord has spoken to concerning His ways but are trapped because the parents for one reason or another have chosen to stay in Babylon. You know you need more but out of respect you stay.
- A husband or wife whose spouse is not willing to leave Babylon. You know your house is divided but there is not a thing you can do about it in the flesh. It’s easy to get tired of praying when you don’t see anything good happening.
- A Christian leader who knows there is a better way but because of financial constraints is stuck in Babylon because it pays the bills. You know you need faith but the fear of failure and bankruptcy looms over you like a dark cloud.
- A Christian single person that has chosen to follow the Lord only to find they are alone in this world like a raft in the Pacific Ocean with no real friends. You hate being alone but you hate yourself worse when you follow them and succumb to the desires of this world.
- A Christian employee surrounded by darkness and evil at work. You know they treat you unfair but until the Lord shows you a clear way out you are stuck. You deal daily with the jabs and scorn of your bosses and fellow workers.
- You walked away from it all, chose for the Lord and his ways, but where are the promises of God? You have been waiting a long time but your ship has not come in. At this point you ask yourself, are you coming to save me Lord or must I endure to the end in this condition?
- You have been sick a long time and no healing has come to your body. You just don’t see how sickness and disease can bring God any glory. Finally, you are told by the doctors there is no cure. Your heart sinks to the point of despair. Where are you Lord, is your hearts cry?
I write this to reach out to the many to let them know they are not alone. Your suffering is not unique and without purpose. It doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It means life is hard and we have been given the privilege like Paul to suffer for His sake.
Col 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
Will we ever understand the what and why’s of God’s dealings with man? No, not always, but be assured He is aware of our predicament. God is God and His wisdom and plans are way above our comprehension.
Is it natural to get mad at Him and turn away when the pain is more than we can bear? Yes, but you must not remain in this state. We have a real enemy and he lives to discourage the saints so as to render them useless for the Lord’s purposes. Be careful, because the enemy will paint you a picture and will try to sell you a story using the circumstances of life that the Lord himself has permitted.
Here is what happened to the Jews in the Old Testament; Ps 137:1-4
By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Here is what the Lord is saying dear family of God. The Jews could not sing but we can. We are the New Jerusalem, His new creation who has been indwelt permanently by the Holy Spirit. We have Christ himself living inside of us to enable and empower us to shine in the darkest darkness. Yes, we have been chosen for this time like Esther but we must have the attitude Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.
Dan 3:17-18 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Everyone wants to serve the God who delivers but will you serve the God who allows you to go through the fire? This is where the religious bible thumpers will separate from those who have really accepted Christ’s way of death, burial and resurrection. Will you still love a God to whom you have been singing the Song of the Lord in a strange land but yet without deliverance? Have you been watching the news? Why should we be exempt from paying the ultimate sacrifice for our faith?
1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.
You say that’s great but that is just not me. I don’t have the strength! Let me share some of the insights Father has given us over the years.
Singing the Song of the Lord in a Strange Land
Eph 6:13-14 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,
- Sometimes the only positive thing we can do is to “stand” in the midst of our situation. Standing may not look like it but it is “forward progress” It says I’m here, I believe God, and I am waiting for further orders. Sitting down says I gave up!
Heb 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
- This has nothing to do with attending weekly religious services. This has to do with maintaining daily real relationships that can hold you up when you are down. The church was created as a corporate Body and no one can afford to be an island. We need each other!
Matt 5:9-12 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- Seek to be in Peace. All hell can be going on around you but you must find your cleft of the rock. You must find that internal peace that says my Lord is in control even in this. Don’t make any decisions when the fire is at its hottest. Peace is a spiritual place in the Spirit. In the Spirit is not babbling in unknown tongues inside four walls once a week. Peace is a daily reality and a fresh place of strength no matter what you are going through
Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
1 John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
- Who said all reward is here on earth? Stay in faith. I have never received a miracle in a position of doubt. But what if God doesn’t come through? Don’t entertain the thought and don’t hang with people who entertain negative thoughts for you. Your place is to believe.
Rom 5:3-5 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Rom 8:24-25 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
- Finally sing your song in a strange land. Just the fact that you continue against all odds gives glory to God. It’s the greatest testimony when you sing in the middle of the pain, when you shout your HOPE in the midst of the loss, when you proclaim what others can’t see and when you declare the goodness of God in the land of the living.
Go ahead and cry! Not from you failure but from the victory that says to all who know you, Christ in you the Hope of Glory. Persevere knowing you will come forth as gold leaning on your Beloved. All of Heaven is cheering for you! It is for this very thing in the wisdom of God that you are here on earth. Shout His praises and give Him all the Glory!
Know this, this article was not written from some far off vantage point but from one who is in the fire with you. I leave you with this verse.
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
May you sing as never before and may your life be an instrument for His Glory!
A special thanks to my brother George Dunn of North Carolina for calling out accurately what he sees in my life and for the encouragement he and Nancy have been to me. I’m singing George! I’m singing!