One of the reasons I have been doing these Sunday messages- and the readings they require- is to work on my perseverance. I am a fallen man- I struggle with anger, lust, the lack of forgiveness, pride, just like we all do. There are nights that I hear loudly Satan telling me it's not worth it. No one is listening... "Even you aren't paying attention." But I go on- and it commits me to not ignoring God, because without prayer, these readings often end up in places dictated more by creases in my Bible than places where God wants me to be.
And this week was a very good example of that. Even after I got to Saturday, I was looking at a varied jumble of readings that stopped making sense to me after day #2; and Satan was saying, "Well, this is because you messed up, it doesn't go together, take a week off."
But God, at 6:45 on Saturday morning, said, "Write it all down, and it will make sense." So I tried. Over and over, trying to hammer it in my way, chronologically. But what I found out was, God didn't want me to read it in MY order. He didn't even want me to read it in Paul's order.
At 7:00 Saturday morning, I learned that the lesson was about the pathway to Glory that God has made for each of us. And it was based on verses 2, 3, and 4 of Romans 5:
...and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
So in Paul's understanding, it goes tribulation, perseverance, character, hope, glory. But that wasn't exactly the way God taught it this week- or necessarily the way we experience it.
You see, I started off in I Kings 8, as Solomon finishes dedicating the Temple with a long prayer to God and a blessing on the people. In v. 56, he reminds them of how God has and is fulfilling every promise He made to them. The next verse, he mentions how God never will leave them or forsake them- as long as they are faithful. And at the end of v. 59 he adds one more important concept- "...as EACH DAY REQUIRES." This is what perseverance is- not the getting through the disaster du jour, but the being faithful and remembering His promises each day. Where Paul observes (and correctly) that perseverance is built through tribulation, you ain't going to make it through the trib without the foundation of an each-day perseverance.
Then I was off to Numbers 14. This is where God has His belly full of the newly-liberated and disobedient nation of Israel, and tells Moses, I'm going to wipe them out, start from scratch, and make a new nation FROM MOSES. At first I thought that this was going to be about the longsuffering of God that Moses "talked Him into"; but the lesson was not what God did, but what Moses did. You see, God's angry "offer" had two advantages for Moses. No one other than God had had to put up with more crap from these people than he had. It would be a big relief to get them off of his hands. Plus, he'd be the new "father of a nation"- his name would be bigger than Abraham's! He would be Moseraham! But He was concerned with two other things more than that. First, what would the Egyptian, the Amalekites, and the others think of Him if He could bring them out of Egypt but not out of the desert? God's glory was upmost in Moses' mind. Plus, he loved this cantankerous people he was guiding with God's help, and implored God to forgive them. He had developed- first by walking with God the last 40-odd years, and second through the rough spots- the CHARACTER he needed to do what was right.
Wednesday landed me into the midst of Ezekiel 38-39, and the destruction of Gog. For those of you not up on prophecy, "Gog" is the great nation from the uttermost north who is to invade Israel, and be destroyed there by God, in the last days. For those of you who are, imagine my WTH moment coming here after the previous two readings. But as I tried writing this story's contents and context down, I saw what was really going on. But then, I noticed all the "I am"s in the passage:
-"..when I AM hallowed in you, o Gog, before their eyes..." (38:16)
- "...I would bring you against them..." (38:17)
- "I will call for a sword against Gog..." (38:21)
- "...and I will bring him to judgment..." (38:22)
- "Thus I will magnify Myself..." (38:23)
- "...and I will turn you around and lead you on..." (39:2)
- "Then they shall know that I AM the Lord..." (39: 6 and 7)
Point being, this is the BIG TRIBULATION- and God's got it all under control. He's saying, I'll handle the big stuff. But you have something to worry about...
And I got to that Thursday, in Matthew 4's passage about Jesus' temptations by Satan in the desert. Jesus, being God, could have snapped a finger and gotten rid of the pest. But what would we have learned? Here's where an additional layer gets added onto character. Like Jesus, we face the big and small temptations every day (Remember, Solomon mentioned that we need to go to Him every day?). But God equipped us. Each of those temptations, Jesus didn't just withstand- He refuted them through His knowledge of the Word of God. "It is written," He said before quoting Deuteronomy, David, and Deuteronomy again. It's still written, and when we learn it, we develop more of that character we need for the tribulation. Get it? Character is part the willingness to learn the right thing and part the courage to do it!
Friday brought my confused self to Proverbs 3 and 4, where Solomon (surprise surprise) admonishes us to seek wisdom and understanding. Over and over he goes through the tangible benefits of seeking wisdom and understanding (which of course you get from the reading of the Word mentioned in Matthew), but then he finishes with this:
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
And see, now we arrive at glory- if we do all the rest. Solomon gives us HOPE of that glory, that we will get there in the end if we do all the rest FIRST.
Which brought me to Saturday morning and my slight reshuffling of Paul's pathway in Romans. We have to have first that perseverance in doing the daily stuff, and the character to do the right thing, to get to the point of trusting God's control of the BIG tribulations as well as knowing what to do about the "little" tribulations. That solidifies the perseverance and character we need to come through the tribulations with the wisdom we earn getting through them- and the hope of the reward at the end.