“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities.” NKJV.
The pro-video vintage of God in the places of dark providences
Yes the word providence does come from two Latin words, pro, meaning “before” and video meaning “to see”.
If we are going on a journey, setting up a business, we plan before hand, we try and “see before,” just what might happen; we project and therefore prepare for any occurrence, especially the possibility of the unexpected! Now, not in the same way, no, in a far greater way, God also “sees before”. We could say that “God plans what will happen and has prepared for His beloved children especially great provisions, for in His case, God plans for the expected, not the unexpected!” However, I sometimes wonder though, if God might maybe continually experience knowledge for the first time! If so, how do you plan for that! I remember Jesus was amazed, surprisingly shocked at the unbelief of the Jews as well as the faith of a Gentile centurion! In any event, I know that if God is indeed most marvellously “informed and delighted” or really annoyed and let down when He experiences the fruit of foreknowledge, that even so, as a wise Master builder, He has never the less, provided fully for Himself and His family in every expected occurrence.
Yesterday I met with one of my mentors. I was seeking prayer for some chronic and debilitating pain and in so doing, was expressing that common but unspoken knowledge which we all have, that in relationship to pain, there was for me three areas where I lose my sense of both the presence of God with me and the goodness of God toward me! Indeed, I become so ill, that both of these two precious things we experience when in health, become a felt irrelevancy in sickness, for if His presence and His goodness cannot heal my sickness, all I want in these dark providential times is someone to simply get a gun and put me out of my misery!
For me, those three particular instances of ‘shoot me now please’ illnesses are chronic sea sickness, flu gone wild and any other persistent and debilitating chronic pain, say like a deep molar toothache. My mentor gave me two wise insights saying first that, “The Deepest pain a man experiences is the pain which he is personally experiencing right now, whether it be emotional, psychological, spiritual or physical.” And also some encouragement from Samuel Rutherford, who says that, “When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines.”
In the presence of such dark providences, I would like to tell you tonight, all to briefly, of the catering of God from the cellar of affliction.
It might seem obvious but first let us acknowledge, that terrible pain exists. For example, on the current “Barnham and Bailey” circus freak type television shows masquerading as personal documentaries, I recently saw a man whose whole face was consumed with a giant tumour which enveloped his sensual features and over the years, had so sucked the nutrition intended for growth of good things into its black and evil self, that it had left him dwarf like in stature and a hunched back as well. The poor man looked liked the mess of a melted candle. I cannot with all goodness say to such a person that, “Your terrible condition is planned and prepared and factored into your life by God.” If you can, then you go tell him! I can however say to him with Scriptural and declared clarity that his condition is catered for by the Father. Yes, if we adhere to the view that such terrible pain is factored into our lives by the direct hand of good God, then that is indeed a cloud filled conundrum, some might say, a very dark providence indeed, even for the believer. For sure, such a view raises a whole bunch of other questions but for tonight, let me just say that terrible pain is present in our lives but it is catered for by God. In this mess His mercies are new every morning and indeed, piled up and stacked high quite nearby, in bottles of loving refreshment waiting for the sufferer to taste.
Some of you I know will be seated on the good seats of the classical doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. Praise the Lord! Enjoy the view and the pontificating game of badminton you can happily engage when in for your position of health. Healthy brethren, I am not speaking to you tonight. I am speaking to those who suffer under such dark providences, to those who seek relief and escape. To those who suffer, I am talking about the application of love and medicine and the mild Holy Spirit anaesthetic for the soul.
Naturally, providential or supernaturally, healing will come to some of you tonight. For many more of you though, hid under the cloud of dark providences, there is a need to reach out toward the cold and dripping walls of your painful confine, for I am convinced that vintage succour has been laid down in their thousands of bottles against the those bulwarks of dusty darkness, bearing the labelic descriptions of “Grace Sufficient,” “Perfection in Weakness,” “Glory Despite,” “Stood with me,” “Never be shamed,” “Unto Death,” “Crown of Glory,” “Leaves of Life,” “Roots Reached,” “Casting Care,” “Way of Escape,” and even, “Stomachs Sake,” and many, many more! Yes I believe that there are bottles of supportive vintage, that will, despite the wrecktitude of our days under these dark fat clouds that touch the surface of our lives with gross and tremulous pain, that when uncorked, left to breath a while and drunk in thankfulness, shall yet dance like lovelies upon our tepid tongues and be found to be full of the fragrant goodness of God, which is most needful to our present and most unsatisfied condition.
Abstainers under dark providences suffer somewhat, yes they even suffer beyond necessity. Remember that, for tonight some of you need to uncork a couple of bottles and start drinking.
Sadly, there are many dear friends, who for whatever reason are beyond the getting, the uncorking and the drinking and to these sorry folk, we the more able, must become the wine waiters of Jesus to them. For there are un-tasted comforts, un-supped restorations and un-swallowed soothings, yet to be imbibed from the well catered for wine cellars of the Most High God!
So, if you are in the cellar of affliction, look for the Lord's choicest wines and always keep a cork-screw in your pocket.
Listen: “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.” Proverbs 31:6 NKJV
Pray: Lord, give a corkscrew, an open mouth and thankful swallows. Let me taste of Your goodness in all my cellars of affliction, in Jesus name I pray, amen.
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