TITLE: The VALLEYS
By J. Austin Bennett
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J. Austin Bennett
Romans 8:18 “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which is revealed in us.” (KJV)
What did Paul mean when he said he counted his sufferings as nothing; when he told us to rejoice in our suffering? What do we gain by suffering?
A better question is, “When do we gain?” Is it when we are on the mountaintop? Do we spend our time when we are UP improving ourselves, strengthening our faith by depending on Jesus? Is this the time when we learn what we are made of and really recognize our own frailty? Or is our time “on top” spent basking in the sunshine of self-adulation and the admiration of men? Do we truly give thanks for those blessings that we feel enrich our earthly lives? Or do we just count up the “stuff”, play with our new toys and allow ourselves to be blinded by the sudden abundance of the things of this world? The mindset here is one of arrogance.
Only in the valley can one learn the joy of dependence on the bountiful, gracious God who is always faithful. Jesus told us we would not be left as orphans. But until we have to rely on him, our human desire to be in control of our lives denies him the chance to prove it.
How many have come to Jesus while in the valley? Only when confronted by the utter worthlessness of life without God, can anyone truly relinquish the chains of slavery that bind us to the things of this world.
When Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had, give it to the poor and come follow him, that young man turned away with a sad face.
Bertrand Russell once said, “It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” Russell summed up that wealthy young fellow’s dilemma.
The mountaintop is not a popular place for conversions. Jesus observed that it is easier to walk a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He then added, that what is impossible for man is not impossible for God to accomplish.
Both salvation for the hell bound sinner and the peace of the saved are plentiful in the valley of suffering. This peace is the evidence of God’s provision and protection that are most visible only when most needed. It is the experience of seeing Him in action that gives us that assurance, that supreme confidence, of being able to live without fear. Only the valley allows us to walk by faith, not by sight.
Our views, distorted by things that we think we need and are sure we want, prevent us from seeing the gain that we derive in the hard times. Gain is defined as increase.
Napoleon Hill, speaking to the acquiring of worldly wealth in his best seller, THINK AND GROW RICH, wrote a very insightful axiom. “Happiness is found in doing, not merely in possessing.” I believe that when reviewing our lives in the presence of Jesus and through the eyes of our Lord, we will see the ultimate truth of Hill’s statement.
As crops are grown in valleys, not on mountaintops, so is our fruit increased. When walking through the shadow of suffering, we can know that He is there. Just as Job never took his eyes off of God, it is more important to remember that God never took his eyes off of Job.
I pity those who have never walked the valley floor with Jesus. They have yet to see the crop of strength that the fertile soil of the suffering can produce. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
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