Thursday, July 18, 2013

When All is Well

One of my favorite places to go in the fall of the year is Natural Bridge State Park in Powell County Ky. David and I have been there several times. I like to go because I enjoy climbing to the top of the mountain and walking out onto that very scary, very high natural bridge that connects one small mountain with the one next to it. And David likes to go because Kentucky Mustang is only a few miles down the road. He calls it a "man's mall." He told me once, "You know how you feel when you go to the mall and they're having a big sale, your heart races, and you can't wait to get inside? Well that's how I feel when I go to Kentucky Mustang." When we go to the mall, he sits outside the store on a bench waiting for me to "hurry up". When we go to Kentucky Mustang I sit outside the store on a bench, waiting for him to "hurry up"!

A few years ago we were staying at Natural Bridge Lodge, and instead of walking up the mountain, we decided to ride the tram up one side and walk down the other side. It was a little over 2 miles and we knew we could easily handle that, or so we thought. We figured going down would be much easier than going up, but were we ever wrong!

One of the first things I noticed as we were coming down the mountain were signs posted at strategic intervals cautioning climbers not to go near the edge because the previous year, 22 people had died from falling off the mountain. So, needless to say, I couldn't enjoy the beautiful fall colors and scenery all around me, (the things I love best about fall) because I was too busy looking down at my feet, making sure we didn't become a statistic for the next years postings.

That was my last attempt at mountain climbing, but I'm always looking for a spiritual application to whatever my situation may be. And one thing I have learned the hard way about the Christian life is this; we are either in a valley, (down where all the problems are), getting ready to climb a mountain, (things are starting to look up, but we still have a way to go) on top of the mountain, (everything that was unclear in the valley is "clear as a bell" in the wide open spaces of the mountaintop) or...we're walking down the other side of the mountain toward another valley. But on the top of that mountain things sure look good, all is well, we can rest awhile from the battles of the valley, enjoy the moment, enjoy the peace and quiet. But for many believers, me included, it is when we are in a place, spiritually, where things have plateaued for a little while, and we are enjoying the calm after the storm, that we are most vulnerable to a sneak attack from our enemy.
One of the biggest mistakes we as believers often make is when our lives are running smoothly, and we feel close to God, we loose that sense of urgency for God. We aren't as desperate for Him on the mountain where all feels good and safe like we did in the valley when our situation kept us awake at night, when we were afraid and alone. And on the mountain, we tend to be less aware of our obedience.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites would cry out to God from their valley, they would pray, seek Him, repent, make huge promises. God would answer them, deliver them from their enemies, heal their sick, give them a season of prosperity. Then the cycle would repeat itself, time after time, after time.

In 2 Samuel 11, we have the story of what happened in David's life when all was well. He was about 50 years old. He had experienced a closeness with God that few people have known. He had everything a man could possibly want; a kingdom of adoring servants, wives, children, riches, you name it, he had it.

One evening when his army was fighting his battles, David was at home, alone. He stepped out onto his "rooftop" (we would call it a terrace today) and walked around, surveying his kingdom. His palace was the tallest structure in Judah, and he could virtually look down onto all the rooftops of the surrounding homes. You know the rest of the story; adultery and murder. David wasn't defeated in his fight with Goliath. He came out the victor in his battle with Saul, and in those never-ending threats of treason, and countless other attacks by Satan. But when all was well, when there were no battles to fight in the valley, that is when temptation came at him with a vengeance.

The Bible warns us in 1 Corinth. 10:12; "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." That's because our enemy Satan, never takes a day off, he never takes a break, he never leaves us alone for very long. In the New Testament, Christians are called soldiers. Our armor is found in Ephesians 6:12-17. We are to have it with us at all times to protect us from the fiery darts of our enemy. So how do we stay ready to fight the battle in the valley, and enjoy the peace of the mountaintop?

1. Like the soldiers in the New Testament, stay dressed for battle. My helmet is my salvation. It protects my mind, my thoughts, the things I hear, see, and say. My breastplate is the righteousness of my God. My belt is the Holy Spirit of Truth.(John 16:13) My shoes are my desire to be a peacemaker. My sword is my Bible. Every spiritual battle is fought with the Word of God. And my shield is my faith. When we go through difficult times, remember Who sustained us. And when we sense all is well, remember Who led us there.

2. On the mountaintop, we feel victorious and invincible. That is when we are most vulnerable. When I have a sense that all is well, that is when I need to take up the battle of another believer and wear my armor for her. I need to pray for her as I have prayed for myself, intercede for her, be an extra set of eyes, hands, feet so she doesn't slip as she is climbing up, out of the valley.

3. Determine to be obedient. Don't ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, be aware of His conviction of even the slightest area of disobedience. When all is well, I especially need to be more vigilant in reading my Bible, praying, being faithful to every church service, staying in close contact with other believers. This is my spirutal support and defense in the valley and on the mountaintop. This is my protection.

I hope all is well with you today. And if it is "Give Thanks". (1 Thess. 5:18) But remember, the top of the mountain is a beautiful place to be and it sure is a nice place to visit, but it's in the valley where all the living takes place. Mature, strong, successful Christians spend a lot more time in the valley than they do on the mountain. And the next time we go to Natural Bridge, we'll ride the tram up
AND down. Now if I could just figure out a way to keep David out of Kentucky Mustang...........

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