(Joshua 21: 44-45) 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

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Battles are trying, and they make us weary.  Over the course of our lives and our walks of faith, we face many of them, some of which seem to never end.  In the midst of it, we can begin to feel as if we just cannot continue on as is. 

Personally, I can’t identify with the fellows in the picture above in a literal sense, as I have never physically fought in a war.  I’ve never put on a military uniform, left my friends and loved ones, and traveled somewhere foreign to engage in life-threatening combat.  I don’t know that specific kind of fear and loneliness, and though I will most likely never have to experience it, I do know that as a person of faith in Christ, there is a much different type of warfare I must willfully face. 

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

It’s inevitable that we will encounter struggles, but we are not left powerless.  Paul goes on to say, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13). 

We are warriors who are equipped for battle.  All we have to do is brandish our faith, stand firm, and hold onto the promises of God, and at the end of every trial that we meet, just like the people of Israel, and much like the soldiers above, we will receive rest.  We are never done fighting, but we are always victorious, whether we see it or not, because that is the promise!  God is just as faithful to us today as he was and has been to Israel.  If you believe the word of the Lord, then your faith has no room for fear, doubt, discouragement or defeat. 

I am reminded of something that happened with the tribe of Judah when Jehoshaphat was their king.  Jehoshaphat was informed that three different tribes were on their way to wage war against Judah and were already close at hand.  These three tribes formed a huge army and Jehoshaphat became very alarmed.  Using great wisdom and exercising faith in what seemed like a hopeless situation, this king turned to God in prayer and called for a fast across the entire tribe of Judah.  In response to the prayers of his people, the Lord spoke to them and said, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…”  (2 Chronicles 20: 15,17)

The people of Judah, instead of cowering in fear, began to sing praises to the Lord, and that is how they marched toward the looming battle ahead.  When they finally came to a place where they would be able to see the approaching armies, they saw only the lifeless bodies of their enemies…not one soldier spared.  Ain’t that just like our God?  You see, the Lord has already gone before us.  He makes the rough places smooth, and he clears a path for us.  Sometimes that path leads us to battle, and we have to jump in and fight, but when we grow weary and are wounded there is rest.  He leads us beside the still waters, where we can drink deeply and regain our strength in him.  His promises are true, and he cannot fail us.    

(Jeremiah 31:2) “This is what the Lord says: ‘The people who survive the sword will find favor in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.’ ”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, in my weakness I know that you are stronger.  In every situation, I trust you.  When darkness hangs heavy over my head, I will turn to you and sing your praises because I know that whatever I face, you’ve seen it already and you have prepared my path.  I know that I can be strong because in you I will always find rest on the other side of the battlefield.  Amen.

“It’s Gonna Be Worth It All”

(James 1: 14-15, NLT) 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

I love to plant flowers and tend to them.  I always have.  I even love the satisfaction that comes from pulling weeds.  Each spring/summer, I almost always have a plan as to what flowers and greenery I am going to purchase, and how I’m going to get it all situated in my landscaping and various pots.  It is almost therapeutic to me, and I can’t wait to get my hands in the soil — bringing my imaginings to life!  However, this year, my heart just wasn’t in it.  I had a VERY stressful fall and winter, and by the time spring and summer came around, all I wanted to do was just be a little lazy before the busyness of my summer schedule began. 

So the plant sales came and went, and I bought nothing.  Planting time got away from me.  So I thought, “Well, I will just mulch, and weed, and water my perennials, and it will still be beautiful.”  However…I never bought the mulch…and though I pulled a few of the bigger weeds here and there, the usual glory of my summer flower beds was regrettably absent.  Each time I would walk past my empty pots and lackluster flower beds, I would feel this pang of what almost felt like guilt…and I would self-soothe with thoughts like, “It’s just one summer.  It’s not like it looks bad.”  And it didn’t…look bad, that is. 

Then…I got busy…as I always do in the summer.  So far I have spent a total of 4 weeks away from my home, only coming in for a few days here and there.  As you can imagine, things have become to look not-so-pretty.  Yesterday after church, I decided to take a little time for myself to lie out on my chair in the sun.  I went out, got myself situated and I settled in for some tanning.  As I sang along to John Mayer and sipped on my ice water, I began to look around…and there was that guilt again.  I looked to my left and I saw a rose bush entangled with some sort of vine-like weed that was curling its tendrils around many of the branches of my poor, bug-chomped roses.  Then I looked even further still at my hostas and my hydrangea, drooping from the summer heat and lack of daily waterings.  My hydrangea, which has always been a show-stopping shock of gorgeous, blueish-purple blossom bunches, had but one sad head that was droopy and pale.  My hostas were half the size they usually are at this point, and also had several of the same vines attempting to take them over.  I looked down to see that some large weed stalks (milkweed and dandelion) had also taken root among my day lilies.  In that moment, I was overcome with disappointment in myself.  I saw something that I had always loved deeply being overtaken by an army of unwelcome terrorists, simply because I had been lazy and selfish during the most important season for this little garden of mine.  So I got up, indignant, and I began to yank at weeds — bare feet and all — cursing them through my tears of frustration and anger at myself.  And I as I pulled and stepped on thorns, I began to receive revelation from God.  Isn’t it just like Him to use something as simple as a weed infested garden to gently teach a lesson? 

Our spiritual lives are much like my poor flower beds.  When we neglect them, even just for a season, things quickly get out of hand.  We can’t allow the enemy even one second of opportunity to sow seeds of doubt and sin into our lives.  Those weeds grow so fast.  We have only to turn our heads for one moment and they have sprung up out of the ground, grasping onto and choking out the nearest bit of beauty and life that they can find.  Sin, when left to grow and flourish, so quickly becomes an overwhelming force.  We may see one little thing that needs to be uprooted, yet in our laziness we think we will just take care of it later…but then later comes and that one little thing has reinforcements!  Friends, we have to uproot those weeds every single day.  It is an ongoing process that never ends, and as long as we stay on top of it — proactive and aware — it will never be too much for us to handle.  We just have to be vigilant.  And when we do go through lazy seasons…when it does get out of hand…we have to be willing to get up and fight. 

For the parents, we have to be just as vigilant with our children.  We can never let down our guards against the enemy.  He is seeking out our children, hungry for them, lurking at the ready to wrap his tendrils around their branches and squeeze the life and beauty from their blossoming souls.  We are parents, guardians, protectors…and we must never give up on our children — our future. 

When we are able to clear the ground of all of the junk that has been trying to take over, that is when we are able to confidently spread it with that protective layer of nourishing mulch — a covering of prayer — and plant those seeds of faith, hope, and love — the Word of God — drenching it all each day with fresh water — praise and thanksgiving — so that we can look upon our gardens — our lives and our families’ lives — with the pride and joy that comes with knowing we have fought…and won.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the things that You teach me through the seemingly mundane parts of my life.  I am reminded, more and more, of just how important my life is to You…and of how much You truly do love us all.  Help me, Lord, to never give up the fight.  There is much beauty and joy to be found at the end of each battle.  It’s gonna be worth it all.  Amen.

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