Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you in times of trouble?

Dear Pilgrim, are you in times of trouble? Are difficulties and concerns crowding in around you? Are you feeling oppressed and afflicted?

Then lift your head, dear Pilgrim, for we worship the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19). What a testimony! He will deliver you from all your troubles, dear Pilgrim!

How is this possible? Through Christ! Listen to His words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). Though trouble comes our way, He has overcome the world. He has the victory! It is finished!

For it is His desire that though we walk in the midst of trouble, yet in Him we have peace (John 16:33). Peace with God! O why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God. My Saviour and my God! Our Saviour and our God, dear Pilgrim! He has saved us out of our trouble!

How He has saved us, dear Pilgrim! Behold, the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:26) – the valley of trouble. Oh, what a wretched place this is. The site of Achan’s sin against God. The place where Achan stole from God, and lied to God, in a vain attempt to cover up what he had done. But nothing is hidden from the eyes of God, and He saw. Achan’s sin was uncovered by God. Achan was revealed to be the one who had brought trouble upon Israel because of his sin. And trouble came upon him that day as he was stoned to death because of his sin in the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble.

O Pilgrim, does this not cause us to tremble? For are we not troubled by our sin? There is no one who is good, not one. Are we not as guilty as Achan? Do we not cry out with the Psalmist, “…troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me” (Psalm 40:12).

O Pilgrim, take heart, be encouraged, for in the Valley of Achor, a door is appearing in the midst of this valley of trouble! A door! It is a door of olive wood (1 Kings 6:31). Olive wood….the olive tree which has been beaten for its fruit (Isaiah 24:13), and is now stripped bare for all to stare at. O Pilgrim, the symbolism is impossible to ignore. This door is His cross – the cross where all of the trouble of sin, all of it, fell upon His shoulders as He died the death that should have been ours. The trouble of sin that fell upon Him was so great that darkness fell across the land for three hours. As He breathed His last breath, it appeared that all hope was gone. But that would be to ignore His last words: “It is finished!” For three days later, the trouble of sin was transformed into a door of hope, as He rose triumphant from the grave, opening up a new and living Way to enter the Most Holy Place, through this Door of Hope, Jesus Christ. For He said, “I am the door” (John 10:9). Christ Jesus, our hope, is the narrow Door leading to the Most Holy Place, and it is this narrow Door that we must enter through! So let us make every effort to enter through the narrow door, for many will try to enter and will not be able to (Luke 13:24). Let us ask, seek and knock that the Door may be opened for us (Matthew 7:7).

O Pilgrim, He promised that He would make the Valley of Achor a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:15). He promised that the Valley of Achor would become a resting-place for herds (Isaiah 65:10). And no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ! As we pass through the Door of Hope, we are delivered from our troubles of sin, and we walk into His promised rest in Christ. As we pass through the Door of Hope, may we not be like King Ahaz, who in his time of trouble became even more unfaithful to the Lord (2 Chronicles 28:22). Rather, may we be like Paul, who in his time of trouble made his good confession of faith, saying, “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). O Pilgrim, let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful! It is our hope in our Lord Jesus Christ that will inspire us to endure. Let us set our hope on Him alone, and as we do so, dear Pilgrim, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).