Have you ever felt like you cannot go on? Have you ever experienced the weights of despair, discouragement and disappointment? Do you ever wonder if there is anybody left who actually cares for your plight? If any of these questions ring true in your heart than you understand to some degree the experiences of the powerful prophet Elijah. There he sits under the desert Juniper shrub having personally experienced one of the greatest evidences of God’s power in history, and he is discouraged to the point of desiring death. How does a great man of God who is known for his life of prayer, miracles and his appearance at Christ’s transfiguration get to this low point in his journey of faith?
The answer to this question above is found in numerous Bible passages; 1 Timothy 3:12 ‘Yea and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ Hebrews 12:3 ‘For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.’
Men and women who dedicate themselves to the cause of Christ will never live far from the neighbourhood of suffering. Adoniram Judson was such a man; he lived from 1788-1850 and was a pioneer missionary to Burma. An extremely intelligent boy who had learned to read at the age of three, and was fluent in Latin and Greek at the age of 10. Adoniram graduated from Andover Theological Seminary as the valedictorian of his class. One day during a morning chapel at Andover, Adoniram, was challenged by the words of Mark 16:15 ‘Go ye into all the world.’ In 1810 he helped to form the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and, two years later, he and his new wife, Ann, sailed for India. Upon his arrival to India, the government refused him entrance and so they went and worked in Burma for 6 years before winning a single convert. During those years they were plagued with ill health, loneliness, and the death of their baby son. Judson was imprisoned for nearly two years, during which time Ann faithfully visited him, smuggling to him his books, papers and notes, which he used in translating the Bible into the Burmese language. Soon after his release from prison, Ann and their baby daughter, Maria, died of spotted fever. Judson withdrew into seclusion into the interior, where he completed the translation of the entire Bible into Burmese. In 1845 he returned to visit America, but the burning desire to win the Burmese people sent him back to the Orient, where he soon died.
The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 2:3 ‘Thou therefore endure hardness , as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’ ‘Endurance’ in this verse is an imperative not a suggestion or idea to consider. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ we must endure because He endured. There are times where we are tempted to simply throw our hands up in despair and give up. There are times when the mountain ahead seems too steep and the valley below appears too deep. It is at this point that I must re-affix my eyes on Christ because the mountain is only too steep and the valley too deep when I have redirected my gaze from Christ to the raging waters below.
Dear friend reading this simple blog; I know this to be true in my own life (even though I am most guilty of taking my eyes off Christ). This past month has been the most difficult that I have faced in the 21 years of my walking with God. I have lost my Father to a heart attack without certainty of his eternal destination. I have lost great ministry opportunities because the church which I now attend does not meet the approval of some men. I have lost many ‘friends’ who now will not associate with me because of my stand on certain ‘issues’ and I have furiously battled with the desire to simply quit based upon the ‘Christianity’ (or lack thereof) that I have seen in others.
However, I find myself in these dark moments peering beyond the Juniper tree and beyond the desert and beyond the slough of despair, and I see ever so slightly the glimmer of the celestial city. At this point, I find myself with Pilgrim (of the Pilgrim’s Progress) arising and pressing on toward the heavenly city. Will you join me as we come out from under the desert shrub and continue on the journey in spite of the hardships?