This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Naji Abi-Hashem (from Lebanon. Naji now lives in the free west), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. (Psalm 27:3)
To experience tranquility in the midst of tribulation is indeed a divine gift. One evening, during the long years of troubles in Beirut, the shelling over our part of the city was very heavy. However, I felt an urgency to go out and check on a certain family from our congregation. So I asked a brother, who happened to be in the church building waiting for the shelling round to end, to accompany me.
At first, he hesitated and said: 'If people see us running on the deserted streets, they will think we have lost our senses.' But then, we briefly prayed and left. We took with us some bread, fresh water, and candles for the family, some basic needs which were not always available those days.
Bombs and shells were exploding right and left. We walked close to walls and took short cuts when possible. Finally, we arrived. The household was very surprised by our unexpected visit. Although they warmly received us, they looked afraid, frustrated, and very distressed. We visited with them, talked about the Lord, laughed and ate together, and soon forgot about the horror of the war around us. We carefully read Psalm 27 twice and we all prayed. Before we left, their faces looked cheerful, radiant, and relieved. They said they felt as if two angels had visited them during a dark hour.
On our way back, we marveled at the power of God's Word and Spirit. Although the shelling never stopped the whole evening, we learned that the climax of the Christian experience comes after we respond to and obey the Lord's calling in the time of danger and serious challenge.
A moment of introspection: As believers in Christ, we are at times faced with the wonderful opportunity of wishing a fellow Christian the best that life has to offer. We might employ any of a number of blessings with which to send a friend or co-worker in the faith on his or her way.
Here are a couple common blessings:
Aaronic Blessing Old Irish Blessing
The LORD bless you and keep you; May the road rise up to meet you.
the LORD make his face to shine May the wind always be at your back.
upon you and be gracious to you; May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the LORD lift up his countenance and rains fall soft upon your fields.
upon you and give you peace. And until we meet again,
(Numbers 6:24-26) May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
These and other blessings set forth what might be an ideal of Christian life--fair skies, God's keeping and blessing a person, and other idyllic images arise from these blessings.
But Naji asserts a different image of what the acme of experiencing a Christian life might be. He asserts that such a "climax of the Christian experience comes after we respond to and obey the Lord's calling in the time of danger and serious challenge." Let's break this down and consider his point. He states that the high point of being a Christian comes after we respond to and obey the Lord's calling. James finds blessing in responding to and obeying Jesus Christ and His Word (James 1:22-25). The writer of Hebrews carried the thought further, reminding us that Christ himself learned obedience through what He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-10) James also talks about our response to trials, to times of danger and serious challenge--and makes the point that such trials/challenges bring about patience (James 1:2-4); in Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, he talks about the need for prayer in times of trouble, and also speaks of peace that defies logic or understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
Patience and peace--both of which blessings are the outcome of faith in the midst of danger, of peril, of worldly stress and insecurity. "To experience tranquility in the midst of tribulation is indeed a divine gift." The acme of a Christian's experience is a divine gift of patience and peace that comes from a life of response and obedience to the claim or calling of Christ in perilous situations. So the "acid" test of our faith is also the acme of our experience of being a Christian; the question a Christian is facing during duress or challenge, is whether we will be faithful within such peril. Are we faithful to Christ's call on our lives, in the mundane day-to-day activities that characterize our life at present? We have not yet reached the climax of the Christian experience. We have not yet attained the "pure joy" mentioned by James (James 1:2-4), or the "rejoicing" described by Paul in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 5:3-5).
In a printed resource from Precept Ministries, entitled "The Essentials of Effective Prayer", Psalm 4:1-5 describes the experience of David thusly:
"...when David encountered stressful situations, rather than giving in to his fears or focusing on his circumstances, he called out to God and trusted in Him. The result was peace in the midst of the difficulty as David offered up a sacrifice of righteousness."
An unknown individual once remarked that "Peace is not the absence of trouble. Peace is the presence of God." In the midst of bombs and shells exploding right and left, God makes His presence known. I think back to the words of the Psalmist who echoes these thoughts when he wrote: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalms 46:1) In other words, God is present in times of trouble; He is our help, our refuge and strength. Because He is Immanuel in times of danger and serious challenge, we will know perfect peace in Him (Isaiah 26:3-4). We trust Him. We take refuge in Him. We draw strength from Him. We sense His presence (Hebrews 13:5-6) and are not afraid. Again, the Psalmist confirms our confidence, our freedom from fear, our peace in the midst of difficulty, our patience and trust in Immanuel, God with us: Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. (Psalm 27:3) Amen!