Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But the path of the just and righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines more and more until it reaches its full strength and glory in the perfect day.”
Proverbs 4: 18
“Nothing resting in its own completeness
Can have worth or beauty; but alone
Because it leads and tends to further sweetness,
Fuller, higher, deeper than its own.
Spring’s real glory dwells not in the meaning,
Gracious though it be, of her blue hours,
But is hidden in her tender leaning,
To the summer’s richer wealth of flowers.
Dawn is fair, because the mists fade slowly
Into day, which floods the world with light;
Twilight’s mystery is so sweet and holy
Just because it ends in starry night.
Life is only bright when it proceedeth
Towards a truer, deeper life above;
Human love is sweetest when it leadeth
To a more divine and perfect Love.
Learn the mystery of progression duly;
Do not call each glorious change decay;
But know we only hold our treasures truly
When it seems as if they passed away.
No dare to blame God’s gifts for incompleteness;
In that want their beauty lies; they roll
Towards some infinite depth of love and sweetness,
Bearing onward man’s reluctant soul.”
Adelaide A. Procter
Today’s Study Text:
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name give glory, for Your mercy and loving–kindness and for the sake of Your truth and faithfulness.”
“The Furnace of Affliction: - Part 17
“God’s Humbling Work”
“We must not imagine that we do anything for God by our own strength, or deserve anything from God by our own righteousness; but all the good we do is done by the power of His grace, and all the good we have is the gift of His mere mercy, and therefore He must have all the praise.”
What do I believe the word “humility” means?
What does it mean to stand humbly before my God?
“A humble person is not one who thinks little of himself or herself, hangs their head, and says, ‘I’m nothing.’ Rather, he or she is one who depends wholly on the Lord for everything, in every circumstance.”
“A humble soul that lies low, oh what sights of God hath he or she! What glory doth he behold, when the proud soul sees nothing.”
As I have prayed about our current devotional topic – “The Furnace of Affliction” – I’ve asked myself a rather direct question, “If I was going through a terribly trying time in my life, would I appreciate someone saying to me, ‘Well, God must have something He wants to teach you during this experience.’” I’d like you to honestly ask yourself if you would appreciate some friend or family member telling you that the reason you are suffering within the fires of affliction is that God wants to weed out of your life some detestable trait. Sounds a lot like Job’s friends who were more than ready to pick apart his life as they identified the faults they believed Job must have dwelling within his innermost being. They just thought Job was better than most people hiding his flaws.
It happened to be the prying eyes of Job’s buddies that got me reflecting on the fact that God doesn’t just allow “affliction” or “tribulation” to fall on us in some “willy-nilly” way. In fact, none other than the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah states that “God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3: 33, K.J.V.). I checked out the word “willingly” and it has a broad usage which includes the idea that God doesn’t have a heart which would be considered double-hearted toward us. This thought pushed me to do further study on the word “grieve” which in Hebrew is “yâgâh” which means to “cause vexation or to intentionally annoy or hassle.” God, through His prophet Jeremiah, wanted us to know that from His throne on high, He doesn’t sit around every day thinking about ways to make you and me miserable. If we believe God’s words that He doesn’t willingly grieve us then we need to look more closely at the “fires of affliction” and how God can use, even the evil that befalls us, to work for our eternal advantage and for His glory. It was Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, whose thoughts have helped me to better comprehend some of the positive affects which transpire in my life during seasons of affliction. I’d like to look more closely at some of the specific ways God uses times of affliction that upend our best laid plans, to bring us into closer fellowship with Him.
I think one of the first things that has happened in my own life, when what I identify to be times of affliction have fallen upon me, is that I have recognized that I am not the one that runs the universe! As Matthew Henry points out, affliction can serve to humble us to the work and ways of God in our lives. I’ll use myself as an example for I have had a problem with the idea that God is in charge of Dorothy’s life. I’m not talking about blatantly denying God’s rulership – it‘s just that I like to have my life neatly laid out. Well planned in advance. I don’t do so well with the unexpected, especially when it crosses my will. Working as I did for 30 years with hundreds of clients around the world, there was a lot of necessary planning. In order to keep things running smoothly with each organization, our team of workers had a budget for every client – planned out a year in advance. So you can only imagine what an event like our wreck did to our business world. During the years after that accident, I witnessed more upheaval than I care to remember. And believe me, “furnace of affliction” would be the proper label for events that didn’t just take us unaware but in retrospect, I don’t know how we could have even planned ahead for something so traumatic to crash into our world like an uncontrollable meteor.
And yet, looking back in hindsight I have found many of the events I felt were so treacherous in my life, actually became the places where I learned the most about letting go and letting God take over. Some call this what I’ve entitled, “God’s Humbling Work.” It’s when I have the humility to tell my Father in heaven, “I don’t know everything. I don’t know what’s best for me. I’m going to let You be my Guide in everything I do.” In their book, Spiritual Progress, penned in the 17th century by authors Francois Fénlon and Jeanne Guyon, these deeply devoted children of God state that “True humility consists in a deep view of our utter unworthiness, and in an absolute abandonment to God, without the slightest doubt that He will do the greatest things in us.” In all honesty, it’s hard to read these words, let alone write them to some of you who I know have hearts that are broken in pieces because your beloved died suddenly or your cherished dreams just were shattered in pieces and you feel like God has totally let you down. This for me is where the “pedal hits the metal.” It is where the reality of each day transpires. It is when we get up from a restless night’s sleep only to say to ourselves: “I have to face this mess again!”
At times when we can’t see even a tiny pinpoint of light, will we choose to humble ourselves before God and say, “I’ll trust you no matter what!” I love the words of Meister Echkart, “When (we) humble ourselves, God cannot restrain His mercy, He must come down and pour His grace into the humble person, and He gives Himself most of all, and all at once, to the least of all.”
During those times of affliction, when we find it most difficult to bow down before our God in a spirit of humility and let Him work His will and way in our lives, may we be able to say, as Thomas Brooks so perfectly shares, “Oh what sights of God…what glory (I) behold…Here is a wonder!” Brooks goes on to further reflect that, “God is on high; and yet the higher a man lifts up himself, the farther he is from God; and the lower a man humbles himself, the nearer he is to God.” These words come from Thomas Brook’s incredible writings in his book, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ written in 1655. The title came from the words of the Apostle Paul, penned to the early Christian converts in the geographic area of Ephesus. Here’s what Paul wrote to those dear to his heart, “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3: 8, K.J.V.).
How it touches my heart that even as Paul was in prison, afflicted for his loyalty to Jesus Christ the risen Savior, he tells his friends that he is “the least,” the most lowly and yet Jesus chose him to preach of the “unspeakable riches” we all have been given, even when the fires of affliction envelope our lives.
Just maybe today as the heat from the fire you are in right now encircles your world, as you bow in humility before God, you, like Paul, will become a witness to the indescribable wealth of Jesus Christ. For as Andrew Murray tells us, “There are three great motivations to humility: it becomes us as creatures; it becomes us as sinners, and it becomes us as saints.” If it takes the fires of affliction to bring me to the point where I can clearly testify to the glory of my Lord – then may I be able to say: “Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights, O Lord.”
In the words of a prayer of Francois Fénlon, “My strength fails; I feel only weakness, irritation, and depression. I am tempted to complain and to despair. What has become of the courage I was so proud of and that gave me so much self-confidence? In addition to my pain, I have to bear the shame of my fretful feebleness. Lord, destroy my pride; leave it no resource. How happy I shall be if you can teach me by these terrible trials that I am nothing, that I can do nothing and the You are all!”
“O Lord, never suffer us to think that we can stand by ourselves and not need Thee.”
“O Father, give us the humility which
Realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes,
Recognizes its need,
Help us always
To praise rather than criticize,
To sympathize rather than to condemn,
To encourage rather than to discourage,
To build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best
rather than at their worst.
This we ask for Thy name’s sake.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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