Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11
In recent days my heart has been broken for dear friends of mine. In both cases these friends have contacted me and have asked for prayers because their marriage has crumbled. My heart aches for these fine people. These are people who are great Christians with strong testimonies. In both cases, my friends spend their time away from their daily jobs to minister to others. Both of these fine people have encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. In both cases I had to ask myself, what happened?
When people come to me in their broken state, I never start asking questions. Those probing, nosy questions that will only lead to further speculation and gossip have no place in ministry. Instead, I ask God, what can be done to help this person. What words can I share that will give them strength to carry on and not lose hope or faith in God? When dealing with such cases, I am a blank slate. God has to supply the words and the comfort. In each of the cases, I have come away from the discussions encouraged by their stand with God.
Peter reminds us that we are the enemy's prey. He wants nothing more than to destroy us, but more than that, he wants to destroy our testimony. He wants God's servants to fail. Nothing gets us on the road to failure quicker than doubt. Doubt walks hand-in-hand with discouragement. Discouragement leads to depression. Depression leads to dysfunction and of course, dysfunction leads to death. Death does not necessarily mean a physical death. It could mean a spiritual death, an emotional death, even a death in one's reasoning skills.
I once did a sermon series on the deadly 'D's. The D's are the weapons of the enemy that uses most often to cause a Christian to fail. The first time I preached the sermon, I identified 17 of the D's. The second time I was up to 23. Without exception, all the D's will lead to some sort of death if we are not careful. We, as believers need to identify the D's and take a stand against them. Ephesians 6 tells us to stand and pray. We are not to go on the attack, but stand firm, guard the ground God has given us and most of all pray! The only one in Ephesians 6 who is on the attack is the enemy. We are to remain sure in our footing and ready to defend.
Psalm 23 states that the Lord is our shepherd. A shepherd is our guardian, our protector, our refuge. That is comforting because in the same chapter, the psalmist assures us that when we go through the shadows of death, our shepherd is still with us, guarding us and protecting us. In other words, even in the symptoms of death the enemy may give us, all we have to do is understand we are not alone. Our shepherd is there to help us through the darkest moments of our life and to bring us through. He will never leave us in the depths of death. We are only walking through the difficult times.
My two friends have lost their life mates to the lures of the world. Yet, in each of the cases, their faith has not waivered. They are deep in the hurts of the attack, but both are rejoicing that this is only a season of darkness. Both are resting on the promises of Psalm 30, "weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning". Both are trusting God in everything. They do not know what is coming, but they know that when they are walking with the shepherd, they are protected. No matter how bitter the sting of the attack from the enemy may be, there is coming a time of rejoicing because it is our Shepherd that will bring them through the difficult times.
While my friends came to me for prayer and council, in both cases my broken heart for them was mended by their faith in God. They may have been attacked, but their faith is unshakable. They are standing firm in their faith, standing next to their Shepherd and looking forward to coming through the season of death. To God be the glory! Joy does come in the morning.