April 10, 2013
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Psalms 23:4 NKJV)
Friend to Friend
The greenest grass is always found in the valley. Shepherds and sheep are well acquainted with the fact that both mountains and valleys are an inevitable part of life. Again, the shepherd is the one who has to figure out a way over the mountain and through the valley. If a sheep is injured, the shepherd must carry his sheep and tend to its wounds until they are healed and the sheep is ready to return to the fold. The shepherd’s whole world revolves around the safety and comfort of his sheep, even in the deepest valley.
Valleys are a certainty of life. Your job is eliminated. Your husband is having an affair, or your teenage daughter is pregnant. Financial pressure suffocates dreams, or the betrayal of a trusted friend inflicts a wound so deep and painful that you long for that valley of death. Each day is thick with fear, and your heart is filled with disbelief. The valley may suddenly be before you in a time of loneliness or in the shock of a dire medical diagnosis.
The death of a loved one can derail a life. The death of a long-held hope can plunge us into a slimy pit of despair and darkness. Dreams that have slowly died or relationships that have abruptly ended can leave us stranded and alone in our own personal valley of death. While valleys may come in all shapes and sizes, one thing is certain—valleys will come. That being said, we must ask and answer the question, “How can we deal with the valleys in life? We must respond with faith.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
It was advertised that the devil was putting his tools up for sale. When the day of the sale came, each tool was priced and laid out for public inspection. And what a collection it was. Hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit or pride…the inventory was treacherous. Off to one side was a harmless-looking tool priced higher than all the rest, even though it was obviously more worn than any other tool the devil owned. “What’s the name of this tool?” asked one of the customers. “That,” the devil replied, “is discouragement.” The customer asked, “But why have you priced it so high?” The devil smiled and explained, “Because discouragement is more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get inside a man’s heart with that tool when I can’t get near him with any other. It’s badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since so few people know it belongs to me.”
Valleys are lined with disappointment and discouragement. Some people seem to thrive on adversity, emerging from their valley with greater strength and deeper faith. Others stumble and fall, giving in to discouragement and dropping out of the race. The difference in outcome is determined by the way we choose to handle discouragement.
We must respond to each valley with trust and faith. The word “trust” means “to lie helpless, face down” and is the picture of a servant waiting for his master’s command or a soldier yielding himself to a conquering general. “Heart” refers to “the center of one’s being.” In other words, to trust God completely means that from the very center of our being, from the very core of our existence, we trust Him, totally abandoning ourselves in childlike faith to Him and His plan. We come, holding nothing in our hands, pushing no agenda, with one word in our heart—“whatever!” “Whatever You want me to do, Lord, I will do. Whatever You want me to say, Lord, I will say. Whatever You want me to think, Lord, I will think. Whatever path You have for me, Lord, I will walk.”
If you are like me, you sometimes think you don’t have enough faith. The amount of faith is not nearly as important as the right kind of faith—faith in God alone. A mustard seed is small but can still take root and grow—just like faith. Faith is also like a muscle. The more we use it, the stronger it becomes. We must remember that faith doesn’t rest on what we have done but on what Christ has done. As Paul says, times of stress accentuate the presence and power of God.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5nlt).
When the valleys come, we are tempted to abandon our faith and strike out in our own strength when what we should do is embrace our faith in God, look for our Shepherd, and follow Him.
The story is told of a shepherd who tried to persuade his sheep to cross a swiftly flowing stream. Since sheep are naturally afraid of rapidly running water, the shepherd couldn’t get them to cross. Then he had an idea. Picking up a lamb, he stepped with it into the river and carried it to the opposite shore. When the mother saw that the shepherd had safely led her lamb across the stream, she forgot her fear and stepped out in faith and into the rushing current. Soon, she was safely on the other side. The rest of the flock followed.
Faith rests in what Christ has already done on the cross and in our lives. Faith also hopes for what He will do for us in the future. Faith builds on the victories of yesterday to help us face the valleys of today and the questions about tomorrow. Faith in God is sure and certain, believing that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. When we believe that God will fulfill His promises, even though we can’t see a single promise materializing, we are exercising faith. Faith does not bypass pain. It does, however, empower us to deal with pain. Faith steps up to the bat and invites the opponent to throw his best pitch. Sometimes faith strengthens us, and other times, surprises us. Great faith is forged in the deepest valleys, beginning where our strength and power end.
Father, I want to thank You for being my Shepherd. Please teach me how to rest in Your care and trust You no matter how high the mountains or how deep the valleys in my life may be.
In Jesus’s name,
Now It’s Your Turn
By faith, accept the truth that God is always at work in your life and thank Him for His steadfast provision. Look back over the past few days, weeks and months of your life. Now praise Him for the things He has done.
Read Proverbs 3:5-6. What are the steps listed in this passage that – when taken – will help you walk by faith?
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