Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Dear Pilgrim, when He comes, will He find faith on the earth?

Mount Carmel ("the vineyard of God")

Dear Pilgrim, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)?

O Pilgrim, it is a challenging word that He has brought to us. He told us that many will turn away from the faith in times of trouble. For it is true that not everyone has faith.

Yet Pilgrim, we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). And Pilgrim, your ears have been opened by the One who looked up to heaven with a deep sigh and said, “Ephphatha!”(Mark 7:34).  You have heard His voice, you have heard the Word of God!

Pilgrim, come with me, come up Mount Carmel, come and see a man of faith. Elijah has heard and received the word of God, that rain is coming, and in faith he announces to Ahab that there is the sound of an abundance of rain (1 Kings 18:41). Three years of drought, three years where neither dew nor rain had fallen in the land, and now an abundance of rain is proclaimed because of the word of the Lord! For this was a man who lived by faith, and not by sight.

Look, Pilgrim! Here, on the top of the mountain, the place where God reveals Himself, the man of God has bowed down on the ground, with his face between his knees. He is praying to his God, Pilgrim. What does a man of God pray in such a situation? These words come to mind: “Remember Your word to Your servant, for You have given me hope” (Psalm 119:49). He asks his servant to go and look towards the sea, that their eyes might see the word of the Lord come to pass. His servant looks, comes back, and says, “There is nothing”. There is no sign.

Elijah continues to pray. He continues to trust in the word of the Lord. He continues to trust in the faithfulness of his God. For no word from God will ever fail (Luke 1:37). Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). A second time he asks his servant to report what he sees – nothing.

Undaunted, the man of faith in such a situation reminds himself that “the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does” (Psalm 33:4). “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). A third time he asks his servant what he sees – nothing.

Faithfully, the man of God, who perseveres in prayer at His throne, cries out, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope” (Psalm 130:5). He calls to mind familiar words of Scripture and brings them before the Lord in humble submission: “My word that goes out from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). A fourth time there is no response to his prayers.

Still he does not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God, but he is strengthened in his faith and gives glory to God, for he is fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised (Romans 4:20-21). He knows that even though heaven and earth may pass away, His words will never pass away (Mark 13:31). A fifth time he is told there is still no sign.

He holds unswervingly to his hope, for he knows that He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23), and he prays aloud for all to hear, “As for God, His way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him” (2 Samuel 22:31). As he prays, he takes up his shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrows from the evil one, who is whispering, “Did God really say He would send rain?” A sixth time the servant goes to look towards the sea. Nothing.

The man of faith continues knocking, continues seeking, continues asking that the Lord bring to pass the word He has spoken.  He knows that God will bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night. He knows that the Lord will not keep putting them off, that His God will see that they get justice, and quickly (Luke 18:7-8). A seventh time the servant goes to look towards the sea.

The servant comes running back to the man of God, breathless with excitement! He has seen something! Oh! An abundance of rain is the promise. What is it that can be seen? The skies filled with ominous dark clouds? No – a single cloud! A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea! Do not despise the day of small things, dear Pilgrim! For from this cloud as small as a man’s hand, an abundance of rain will fall over the land! Rejoice that the Lord has heard your cry!

Dear Pilgrim, here, atop Mount Carmel, the mountain of faith, the mountain of belief, He has tested your faith and has produced perseverance as a result! What a thing of beauty your faith in Him is! Is it any wonder that Mount Carmel is known as a mountain of splendour (Isaiah 35:2)? And now, dear Pilgrim, you can join the Psalmist in this victorious cry: “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

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