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Streams in the Desert
By L. B. Cowman
ZondervanCopyright © 2001 Zondervan
All right reserved.
The land you are ... to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11-12)
Today we stand at the threshold of the unknown. Before us lies a new year, and we are going forward to take possession of it. Who knows what we will find? What new experiences or changes will come our way? What new needs will arise? In spite of the uncertainty before us, we have a cheerful and comforting message from our heavenly Father: "The Lord your God cares for [it]; the eyes of the Lord ... are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."
The Lord is to be our Source of supply. In Him are springs, fountains, and streams that will never be cut off or run dry. To those who are anxious comes the gracious promise of our heavenly Father: If He is the Source of our mercies, mercy will never fail us. No heat or drought can dry the "river whose streams make glad the city of God" (Ps. 46:4).
Yet the land we are to possess is a land of valleys and hills. It is not all flat or downhill. If life were always smooth and level, the boring sameness would weigh us down. We need the valleys and the hills. The hills collect the rain for hundreds of fruitful valleys. And so it is with us! It is the difficulty encountered on the hills that drives us to the throne of grace and brings the showers of blessing. Yes, it is the hills, the cold and seemingly barren hills of life that we question and complain about, that bring down the showers. How many people have perished in the wilderness valley, buried under its golden sand, who would have thrived in the hills? And how many would have been killed by the cold, destroyed or swept desolate of their fruitfulness by the wind, if not for the hills-stern, hard, rugged, and so steep to climb? God's hills are a gracious protection for His people against their foes!
We cannot see what loss, sorrow, and trials are accomplishing. We need only to trust. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It will be a good and blessed New Year!
He leads us on by paths we did not know; Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow, Though oft we faint and falter on the way, Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on. He leads us on through all the unquiet years; Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears, He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze Of losses, sorrows, and o'er clouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.
Nicholaus Ludwig Zinzendorf
The side rooms all around the temple were wider at each successive level. The structure surrounding the temple was built in ascending stages, so that the rooms widened as one went upward. A stairway went up from the lowest floor to the top floor through the middle floor. (Ezekiel 41:7)
Still upward be your onward course:
For this I pray today; Still upward as the years go by,
And seasons pass away. Still upward in this coming year,
Your path is all untried; Still upward may you journey on,
Close by your Savior's side.
Still upward although sorrow come,
And trials crush your heart; Still upward may they draw your soul,
With Christ to walk apart.
Still upward till the day shall break,
And shadows all have flown; Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
And stand before the throne.
We should never be content to rest in the mists of the valley when the summit of Mount Tabor awaits us. How pure is the dew of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the food and drink of those who dwell above, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem! Many saints are content to live like people in coal mines, who never see the sun. Tears sadden their faces when they could be anointed with heavenly oil. I am convinced that many believers suffer in a dungeon when they could walk on a palace roof, viewing the lush landscape and Lebanon. Wake up, believers, from your lowly condition! Throw away your laziness, sluggishness, coldness, or whatever is interfering with your pure love for Christ. Make Him the Source, the Center, and the One who encompasses every delight of your soul. Refuse to be satisfied any longer with your meager accomplishments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, and a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God! Charles H. Spurgeon
I want to scale the utmost height, And catch a gleam of glory bright; But still I'll pray, till heaven I've found, Lord, lead me on to higher ground!
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the low-lands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness discourage us, so we stay in the mist of the valleys and never learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what is lost by our self-indulgence, what glory awaits if we only have the courage to climb, or what blessings we will find if we will only ascend the mountains of God! J. R. M.
Too low they build who build beneath the stars.
I [will] move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children. (Genesis 33:14)
What a beautiful picture of Jacob's thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be driven too hard for even one day. He would not lead them at a pace equal to what a strong man like Esau could keep or expected them to keep, but only one as fast as they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day, and he made that his only consideration in planning their travel. He had taken the same wilderness journey years before and knew from personal experience its roughness, heat, and distance. And so he said, "I [will] move along slowly." "Since you have never been this way before" (Josh. 3:4).
We "have never been this way before," but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untraveled and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all through personal experience. He knows the steep places that take our breath away, the rocky paths that make our feet ache, the hot and shadeless stretches that bring us to exhaustion, and the rushing rivers that we have to cross-Jesus has gone through it all before us. As John 4:6 shows, "Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down." He was battered by every possible torrent, but all the floodwaters coming against Him never quenched His love. Jesus was made a perfect leader by the things He suffered. "He knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14).Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He remembers all the time and will never make you take even one step beyond what your feet are able to endure. Never mind if you think you are unable to take another step, for either He will strengthen you to make you able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you will not have to take it at all. Frances Ridley Havergal
In "pastures green"? Not always; sometimes He Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hilltops high and fair I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. (John 4:50)
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe. (Mark 11:24)
When you are confronted with a matter that requires immediate prayer, pray until you believe God-until with whole-hearted sincerity you can thank Him for the answer. If you do not see the external answer immediately, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident you are not definitely believing God for it. This type of prayer will be a hindrance instead of a help to you. And when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has been weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting for His answer, but be sure to do so in a way that shows your faith.
Never pray in a way that diminishes your faith. You may tell Him you are waiting, still believing and therefore praising Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully solidifies faith as being so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that empty us of faith deny both God's promises from His Word and the "Yes" that He whispered to our hearts. Such prayers are only the expression of the unrest of our hearts, and unrest implies unbelief that our prayers will be answered. "Now we who have believed enter that rest" (Heb. 4:3).
The type of prayer that empties us of faith frequently arises from focusing our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham, "without weakening in his faith, ... faced the fact that his body was as good as dead.... Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God" (Rom. 4:19-20). May we "watch and pray so that [we] will not fall into [the] temptation" (Matt. 26:41) of praying faith-diminishing prayers. C. H. P.
Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but simply taking God at His word. Christmas Evans
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. George Mueller You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us His promises in a quiet hour, seals our covenants with great and gracious words, and then steps back, waiting to see how much we believe. He then allows the Tempter to come, and the ensuing test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. This is when faith wins its crown. This is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened sailors declare, "I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me" (Acts 27:25).
Believe and trust; through stars and suns, Through life and death, through soul and sense, His wise, paternal purpose runs; The darkness of His Providence Is starlit with Divine intents.
Then Asa ... said, "Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless
against the mighty." (2 Chronicles 14:11)
Remind God of His exclusive responsibility: "There is no one like you to help." The odds against Asa's men were enormous. "Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with a vast army and three hundred chariots" (v. 9). It seemed impossible for Asa to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his defense. Therefore his only hope was in God.
It may be that your difficulties have come to such an alarming level that you may be compelled to refuse all human help. In lesser trials, you may have had that recourse, but now you must cast yourself on your almighty Friend. Put God between yourself and the enemy.
Asa, realizing his lack of strength, saw Jehovah as standing between the might of Zerah and himself. And he was not mistaken. We are told that the Cushites "were crushed before the Lord and his forces" (v. 13), as though heavenly warriors threw themselves against the enemy on Israel's behalf. God's forces so overwhelmed the vast army of the enemy that they fled. Then all Israel had to do was follow up and gather the plunder. Our God is "the Lord of hosts" (Isa. 10:16 KJV), who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to help His people. Believe that He is between you and your difficulty, and what troubles you will flee before Him, as clouds in the wind. F. B. Meyer
When nothing on which to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust; When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.
It's better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine; And the darkest night, when there's no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine.
"Abraham believed God" (Rom. 4:3), and said to his eyes, "Stand back!" and to the laws of nature, "Hold your peace!" and to an unbelieving heart, "Silence, you lying tempter!" He simply "believed God." Joseph Parker
When you pass through the waters ... they will not sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2)
God does not open paths for us before we come to them, or provide help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are at our point of need, God's hand is outstretched.
Many people forget this truth and continually worry about difficulties they envision in the future. They expect God to open and clear many miles of road before them, but He promises to do it step by step, only as their need arises. You must be in the floodwaters before you can claim God's promise. Many people dread death and are distressed that they do not have "dying grace." Of course, they will never have the grace for death when they are in good health. Why should they have it while in the midst of life's duties, with death still far away? Living grace is what is needed for life's work and calling, and then dying grace when it is time to die. J. R. M.
"When you pass through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold, But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold; For the Lord Himself has said it,
He, the faithful God and true: "When you come to the waters
You will not go down, BUT THROUGH."
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitter anguish, fiercest pain, Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain- They will never overflow us
For we know His word is true; All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely THROUGH.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow, Will not sink us, will not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe; For His promise will sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true! We will not go down, or under,
For He says, "You will pass THROUGH."
Annie Johnson Flint
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Excerpted from Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.