Monday, November 16, 2015

“Before the Earthquake”

    If we wait to rejoice until difficult circumstances and conditions abate, we will never actually know joy as defined by God.

    "Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations" (James 1:2).
    "At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God" (Acts 16:25).

    Battered Paul and Silas, having suffered beating, scourging, imprisonment, and the binding of their feet in painful shackles, did not wait until God's healing and deliverance to "count it all joy".  They rather opened the eyes of their hearts by faith to know the Lord as Scripture promises, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).  

    "This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy Word hath quickened (enlivened) me" (Psalm 119:50).

    The Psalmist affirms the comfort of his Lord in the very midst of trial and difficulty.  As James mandated, he determines to "count it all joy".  Note that he does not "feel" it all joy.  Nor did Paul and Silas in the hour of their pain and imprisonment.  Our brothers of old felt every physical agony, emotional distress, and perhaps even spiritual bewilderment known when thrust into the cauldron of suffering.  The Lord met them there.  Amid the tears, the pain, and the grief, either Paul or Silas or both men remembered the many Scriptural affirmations of the Lord's promised "very present help in trouble".  Thus they prayed, an understandable response in such difficulty.  However, they did more than pray.  They sang, a different matter altogether.  They chose to trust and praise the Lord in the dark midnight hour of torn and bruised flesh, fettered feet, and lost freedom.  They counted it all joy, knowing that God had good and loving purposes for allowing evil men to perpetrate their cruel wickedness.  A great earthquake ensued, doubtless of miraculous nature (Acts 16:26).  However, a greater miracle preceded the prison-destroying act of God's power.  Before the earthquake, before they were freed from their trial, "Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God."  They chose to rejoice in the very midst of pain and misery - "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" (II Corinthians 6:10).

    We may rejoice after the earthquake of God's deliverance from trial.  Greater joy and greater glory to our Lord ensues, however, when we rejoice before the earthquake.  Again, recall that such joy involves far more than mere emotion and a sense of happiness or relief.  True joy rather constitutes the promised presence of God, the "very" presence of God in trouble.  And, on our part, we rejoice as we "count it all joy" by believing the Word of God regardless of contrary circumstance, condition, emotion, and appearance.  Tears of grief may sometimes accompany such affirmation.  Again, Paul confessed, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."  However, deeply within, the Lord's presence will lead us to pray, and to more than pray.  We will "sing the Lord's song in a strange land" as the Spirit of God brings to heart and mind the Word of God (Psalm 137:4).  This is the greater miracle, the power of God as manifested not outwardly, but in the heart where a song of joy should not be, but is.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice."
(Philippians 4:4)
"The light shineth in darkness."
(John 1:5)

Weekly Memory Verse
    His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
(II Peter 1:3)

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