There are days filled with sunshine, the glow of abundance and tranquility casting a golden hue over everything in sight. Each step is a delight, barefoot toes brushing the soft grass; grass so green and vibrant it eludes description. Each breath; inhaling peace, exhaling joy. It truly is a path beside still waters. Why would we ever leave this paradise, this oasis?
Yet, we are drawn inexorably forward, pulled onward and upward and…the oasis is left behind; a glowing memory to pull out and use to warm our hands and hearts. And what is this ahead of us? A desert, stretching as far as the eye can see through squinted eyelids. Is this really where He wants us to walk, to journey through, this vast, barren, blindingly bright place?
Yes. The God who grew the trees that brought shade in the oasis is the same God calling us to leave it all behind, calling us to trust that He will provide what we need, when we need it. He is calling us to trust His generosity, His word, and His character. Why would He do that? Why would He take us out of a place of abundance and peace, and bring us to a place that seems to hold only scarcity and danger and anxiety? Because it is for our good and our growth. The oases we walk through in life are helpful as they provide rejuvenation and periods of rest. But if we stay there long enough, we start to become complacent. We start trusting in the resources and gifts we can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear, rather than trusting in God who provides the gifts and resources. Furthermore, we would never want to leave and continue on to the place He has prepared for us that is far more beautiful than we can even imagine; a place that makes the oases seem drab and lackluster by comparison. And the seeming scarcity in the desert? That is only because we cannot see the whole picture. God is not less able to provide in the desert. He may withhold, and even take back many of the things we have become accustomed to having, but he never takes more than we can do without
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” – Luke 18:1-8
Not only does Jesus say here that God will bring justice, but he will bring it speedily. But, His definition of speedily is different than ours. David spent years running from Saul, after Samuel had anointed David king in Saul’s place. David had the opportunity, at least twice and maybe more, to take the timing of his ascension to king of Israel into his own hands; but he would have had to kill Saul, the Lord’s anointed. Sinclair Ferguson puts it this way. “He (David) might understandably have questioned his calling and doubted the wisdom or love of God. He certainly must have found it difficult, if not actually impossible, to understand God’s ways with him.” Yet, he persevered, waiting patiently for God to fulfill His promise. “God is not a man, that He should lie.” Numbers 23:19a. He will fulfill all His promises to us—in His timing.
Jesus was instructing his followers on the importance of prayer. It is vital to pray because prayer is a powerful tool that God has given us. It is not a token task He gave us to feel important. It is our privilege. The Almighty God, who created the universe and flawlessly upholds everything in it, listens to and talks to us through prayer. In prayer, we rejoice and give thanks for His goodness, faithfulness, justice, love, and so forth. It is our sacred duty. In prayer, we speak for those whose voices have been silenced. In prayer, we lift up those who are stumbling. So we must always pray, pray without ceasing, so that we do not lose heart and give up the good fight. How do we keep up faith and trust when He seems to delay, and when He seems to allow suffering and injustice to go on for too long? We pray. We cry out to God, day and night. Take comfort in the knowledge that He not only hears our prayers because of their repetition, but He delights in them because He delights in us.
So the question is: Will we persevere? Will we run with endurance the race that is set before us, knowing we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have run the course before us? They did not run it perfectly; they stumbled many times, and yet—they ran. The steps do not come easily now. Each breath requires such effort. Our feet are battered and torn, and our legs are exhausted from constantly shifting and sinking in the sand. Our memory of the oasis, the shade, the cool water, is dried up, a husk of the real thing. Can we trust God’s character, abundance, and timing?
Yes, we can and we will. For this is the God who brought water out of a rock; not just for two or three people, but for millions. This is the God who orchestrated Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt so that all of his family would eat and be provided for through a seven year famine. This is the God who took five loaves and two fish and fed over five thousand men, women, and children. This is the God who, as Paul puts it in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” This is the God who can and will bring us through and out of the deserts He calls us into. And this is the God who will bring us to the place where there is no mourning or crying or death or darkness, where God Himself is our light. Oh, what a day that will be!
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
He is good. He is wise. He is generous. He will provide. Whether in an oasis, a desert, or some other kind of terrain, He is with us every step of the way. Let us therefore press on, patiently continuing on the path He has laid out for us, trusting Him in and through each change of pace and each change of terrain.
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” – Philippians 3:12-16
“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24