Faith in the Valley

Psalm 23:4 “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley,I fear no danger,for you are with me;
your rod and your staff reassure me.”

Many people are blessed and experienced a bountiful Christmas season. It included good food, nice gifts, fellowship with family and perhaps even some “christmas cheer”.  In this arena of experience, even if you have an expectation for a special gift, whether you got it or not, you enjoy the overall atmosphere of the season.

What a blessing it is when the commercialism of the season causes the spirit of gift giving.  Gift giving is a phenomenon that brings with it great tidings of joy, love and hope.  That is the central theme of the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is a good time and it propels us towards “mountaintop” moments. When all is well in your world and the goodness of life is holding ground, what is the dominant emotion for you? Joy or Happiness?

Then there are those who have had the blessing of being in the valley over the course of this season.  The characteristics of this season are on polar opposites of the description for mountaintop moments. However, consider for a moment the emotional experience.  For anyone that is in need -of family, job, food, clothing, shoes, shelter, healing, etc….. – the dominant emotions that are most revealed are fear and anger. Fear because the needs present overwhelming pressure with limited resources and the questions “How……?, Why……..?, Maybe……..?” Anger because the ongoing regrets and guilt associated with the onset of the valley experience, plague you with the statement “If only I……..!” So then, why is this a blessing?

It is more complex to have a faithful outlook when times are good.  It’s like an airplane soaring through the sky on “auto-pilot” at 38K.  The weather is lovely and the flight is smooth.  Once you get to that place of cruising and all is well, faith goes on cruise control.  But when the storm comes and the pilot realizes that he needs to disengage the mechanism of cruising and engage his flight training and expertise to reach his destination unharmed by the storm, the awareness of danger changes the atmosphere in the cockpit.  They are manning their stations with planning, action is taken step by step and there is a unified presence among them. Yet the storm is more powerful and the plane is forced out of the sky and hits the water. All of the skills in the world could not stand up against the power of the storm.  A faithful outlook is required.

Fear and anger show up in the early stage of the valley.  They are the surface feelings that can completely disavow any idea of faith.  Fear and anger can keep us sick, stranded, alone and can even cause us human harm up to and including death to ourselves and others.  They paralyze our abilities to engage in the benefits of faith.  Romans 10:17  reminds us “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.”

When you are reliant on your own abilities, accomplishments and achievements and the valley experience is not improved, what do you have left? I hope the answer is faith.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.  If you are going to be a CONQUEROR and maintain a “more than a conqueror” lifestyle, faith needs its proper daily requirement of God’s word, just like your body needs air to breath. Faith in the valley begins when you acknowledge that God put you there. His omniscience prevails in our valley moments. His omnipresence comforts us and reminds us of His word. His omnipotence is the blessing I referred to earlier.

The valley is designed by God for us to have the experience of “seeing God in action.”  While there are many other benefits to the valley season, let’s reflect on just how this “power” works and why it is a blessing.

When you got into the valley and the overwhelming presence of the circumstances slapped you across the face and you did not know how to breath because of the pain- faith stepped in because you did not hit the floor and die. You remained present even though fear and anger set in.  You got up and continued on the designated course. Then when the odds were stacked up against you and you could have succumbed to the pressure and lost the sight of your purpose, you did not give in. You stood there, accepted the circumstances and stayed focus on the hope of realizing the goal of your destination.  As the situation became painful because of the conditions you were forced to endure and your body began to suffer miserably, you persevered through all of the adverseness and stayed the course having a spirit of forgiveness for the sinister players in the matter.  Then you died Jesus. You experienced the agony of the valley to the point of death. The designs of your death demanded the power of your resurrection.

It is that very design that continues to work in our life.  That same power continues to bring us up out of tumultuous circumstances. When you have Faith in the Valley you are initiating the opportunity for God to have the same affect in your life.


The Sweetest Gift

The Sweetest Gift

posted Dec 18, 2011 1:06 PM by Darrin Payne

When I was a child I loved to eat tootsie rolls and Swedish fish.  I would go to the corner store or Mr. Buddy’s and get me some penny candy.  A quarter would get me enough for myself. $.50 was enough for me to share with my friends.  I loved to eat that candy.  When I became a teenager I did not eat candy that much and even today I don’t eat candy often. However, I graduated to eating cakes, pies, cobblers and cookies.  That is my weakness.  I have learned to modify the quantities so that I am not killing myself through hefty indulgence.  But I love well-prepared, home-made desserts.  Oh, and then there is the occasional indulgence for ice-cream.  Lord knows that is a “guilty pleasure.”   Umm umm umm!!!!!

Yesterday, I participated in a fund raiser and I baked cookies for the first time.  To my surprise I have good skills in this area of food preparation.  The event was not well publicized and we did not have a steady flow of patrons.  Yet the ones who did buy and eat the cookies in my presence, they all seemed to really enjoy them.  There was one patron who actually ate one in front of me and ended up buying 4 more.  There was mild over-indulgence going on. 

 The idea for this entry came to me during a particular exchange yesterday.  A lady was eating the cookies and she said now this is a sweet gift. ” I could buy these and give them out”, she stated.  However, she hesitated because of her concern about eating them all herself.  That got me to thinking.  She coined my cookies as a “sweet gift” because of the pleasure she got from eating them.  The reason for my love of sweets is because of the instant gratification I get the moment that food hits my tongue.  My love affair for sweets is in effect at that moment.  There are times when it is so good I don’t want to swallow – but I have to so I can eat some more.  When it is good – the more I get the more I want. 

 Ephesians 2.8 says ” For by grace you have been saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God NASB

During this holiday week ahead, it is really important for me to realize I have the “Sweetest Gift” of all – JESUS CHRIST. I was introduced to faith in Christ at an early age.  It was good for me to have the knowledge of Christ and my Salvation early but it was also a hindrance.  I took it for granted.  I thought that because of my salvation I was free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and however I wanted and I would still go to Heaven.  No one could separate me from the love of God and  nothing could make me loose my salvation.  That type of “spiritual irrationality” kept me sin-sick for MANY years.

  I needed to have the experience where the knowledge of salvation begins initiating a desire for my salvation spiritually.  
Knowing about Christ is not enough to live a victorious Christian life.  Conquerors, walk by faith and not by sight.  Faith comes by hearing and receiving the Word of God in your spirit – not in your mind.  Whenever the Word of God is heard and processed in the mind it is on the same basis of acquiring knowledge from any literary or reference source. We read and hopefully comprehend the material.  While comprehension happens in the mind, the spirit of man is not necessarily influenced by the words – only the soul.  The new life begins as the information travels from the head to the heart.  Some say that distance is further than a trip from NYC to LA!!!
When you get to where you have developed a desire in your spirit for the salvation you know about to actually be at work in you via spiritual regeneration, you experience the sweetness of Christ resonating in you from the inside out.  One example may go something like this:
You thought you were going to get a check in the mail that would be used to buy groceries for the family.  The check does not come. You are tempted to call up the issuer and “bless them out verbally” but your spirit moves you to turn the problem over to the Lord in prayer instead.  You may even cry over it to the Lord in prayer.  Afterwards, during the continued course of your day you notice a flyer that is in your mail. It informs you that there is a free ham and groceries for a week and a $50.00 gift certificate available for you if you go to the location at a certain hour.  The sweetness of your Savior is manifesting.  Then you get there and to your surprise there is no line.  You just walk in and get what the flyer advertised.  However, in addition to the expected outcome there is an additional bounty of goods that is more than what you could have even imagined.  The sweetness is now making you have visceral responses – praise in your mouth, hands, feet, etc.  Then you get home and begin to put the free groceries away and someone starts knocking on your door.   One of your neighbors comes by to hand you mail that mysteriously showed up in their box.  You thank them and close the door. On your way you discover that the check is there after all.
Jesus is the “SWEETEST GIFT” ever.  Once you receive Him “for real for real”, He is the kind of gift that just keeps on giving.  Just like I used to eat candy, and still enjoy eating desserts, I LOVE TO TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD.  It is a blessed experience to have when you TRUST in Him.
Remember to keep Christ in your Christmas celebration.