Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“You will weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher. And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.’”
Today’s Study Text:
“Having said these things, Jesus went out with His disciples beyond (across) the winter torrent of the Kidron, in the ravine. There was a garden there, which He and His disciples entered.”
“Into The Woods”
“The stars are constantly shining, but often we do not see them until the dark hours.”
Is there a dark time in my life right now where the fear of moving in any direction has nearly paralyzed my life?
“Affliction is a searching wind which strips the leaves off the trees and brings to light the bird’s nests.”
J. C. Ryle
“I walk alone, and I am sore afraid;
My way is dark, my path with thorns o’erlaid;
Draw near me, Lord, and take my trembling hand
And make me brave to join Thy pilgrim band…
…life is not life which knows no shrinking fears;
Life is not life which sheds no bitter tears;
This is true life when, through dark suffering,
One learns from Christ and (ones) brave conquering.”
Henry W. Frost
As you review your own life, are there prayers you have lifted to heaven for which the answer seems to be a “long time coming?” Maybe your desperation in having to wait for the answer has brought you to the breaking point.
Over the past few weeks, as we have looked at the life of Moses, and his special request to God that he could enter into the Promised Land, we have been able to witness the fact that what Moses asked God for was minor indeed to the great gift he was given --entrance into the “Heavenly Land.” Again, in the life of Hannah, her prayer for a long-desired child was answered, but only after great heartache which was followed by a long delay. Hannah’s answer for a special child, Samuel, whose ministry for God and Israel proved to be a spiritual turning point in the life of Israel, shows us again that waiting for an answer, may often bring an even greater blessing than we first requested.
This past week, we looked into the life of the Apostle Paul, called to be a witness to the Gentile world, who was given a “thorn in the flesh” which ended up keeping him focused, everyday, on the fact that God’s sufficient grace was all he needed to fulfill the heavenly purpose of his life on earth. Truly in Paul’s life, we can attest to the truth that an unanswered prayer for Paul became God’s heavenly triumph of grace, not only in Paul’s personal life, but in the lives of you and me today.
This week we are spending five days looking at the subject of thorns, and unanswered prayers, however, this time, the “thorn” is not a “thorn in the flesh” but the thorns which make up the crown of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, as he willingly determined that no thorn and no dark way could dissuade Him from following His Father’s will for His life.
Our study today begins with Jesus’ journey in John 18, where we find that after the Passover supper with His closest friends and after enjoying moments of encouragement and prayer, Jesus took a familiar walk. As the Amplified Bible so descriptively describes, across the winter torrent in the Kidron Valley, Jesus made His way to the Garden of Gethsemane – a place well-known for seclusion, rest and yes, above all, prayer.
It was in this Garden, filled with old olive trees, that Jesus chose to pray, before taking the agonizing walk up Golgotha’s peak.
I don’t know about you, but I find there is something almost heavenly about quiet, prayer in a garden setting. And under the darkly lit sky, we find Jesus – with His three closest earthly friends, Peter, James and John, seeking solace from the battle He knew He would face at daybreak.
In 1880, Sidney C. Lanier, penned the words below to a poem which later became a hymn in the early Methodist Hymnal:
“Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent,
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to him.
The little grey leaves were kind to Him,
The thorn tree had a mind to Him,
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master came
And He was well content;
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When death and shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last,
‘Twas on a tree they slew Him – last,
When out of the woods He came.”
Sidney C. Laneir
As I read these touching words, I thought to myself, “How would I have felt if Jesus had asked me to enter into the darkness of the woods with Him?” This was not a journey for mere acquaintances. This was a journey for the dearest of friends – those whose lives were bonded by a love that never lets go. And in the evening dark, these four figures made their way into the isolation of Gethsemane’s Garden refuge.
Yes, the walk was to be a thorny, rocky one. And yes, the way was dark and the woods were cold. But, for those nearest and dearest to Jesus, their Master’s call had brought them on this journey. He had asked for their loving support and so into the woods they went.
I take time today to share the special setting of the most eternity-changing prayer in history because for each of us, in our own personal lives, there may well come a call from our Master, “Will you walk into the woods with Me?” The example and experience of those closest to Christ in His deepest moment of need is such a tremendous lesson when we are invited into the presence of the One who says, “Come, I need you. I long for your company. I want you right here, near to me.”
As we join our Master on his garden journey this week, I’ve asked myself this one question, “Is there anything in my life that would keep me held back from entering into the darkness of the woods, or will I gladly follow, no matter what fears may encompass my heart by the unknown and the unfamiliar?”
While the walk into the woods was dark, the walk out was not, for a prayer answered became the eternal glory of God’s dear Son – and the eternal salvation for all His daughters and sons.
“Who answers Christ’s insistent call
Must give (herself), (her) life, (her) all,
Without one backward look.
Who sets (her) hand upon the plow,
And glances back with anxious brow,
(Her) calling hath mistook;
Christ claims (her) wholly for His own;
(She) must be Christ’s and Christ’s alone.”
“Wilt thou follow Me?”
The Savior asked.
The road looked bright and fair,
And filled with youthful hope and zeal
I answered, “Anywhere.”
“Wilt thou follow Me?”
Again He asked.
The road looked dim ahead;
But I gave one glance at His glowing face
“To the end, dear Lord,” I said.
“Wilt thou follow Me?”
I almost blanched,
For the road was rough and new,
But I felt the grip of His steady Hand,
And it thrilled me through and through.
“Still followest thou?”
‘Twas a tender tone,
And it thrilled my inmost heart.
I answered not, but He drew me close,
And I knew we would never part.”
“The way lies through Gethsemane, through the city gate, outside the camp. The way lies alone, and the way lies until there is no trace of a footstep, only the Voice, “Follow Me!” But in the end it leads to “the joy that was set before him” and to the Mount of God.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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