Amidst all the miraculous accounts in the Bible, tucked away between the pages of Scripture we discover those less dramatic encounters which reveal how deeply the Lord cares about every small detail in our lives.
In 1 Kings 19:11-15, Elijah was discouraged, overwhelmed and hiding in a cave. Elijah desperately sought the Lord, but the Lord was not found in the winds, the earthquake, or the fire. Instead, the Lord came to Elijah in a low whisper. Jesus told us that God’s sheep hear his voice, but often it is not easy to perceive the gentle whisper of God in our high decibel world. Therefore, we must cultivate the ability to listen for our Shepherd’s call.
When Elijah heard God’s quiet word to him, he regained strength to leave the cave and continue in his ministry to Israel. When we hear God whisper to our souls, we too find the strength and courage to leave our caves and live out His purposes. His powerful whispers enable us to stay His course in spite of the bombarding clamor from the world around us.
While visiting eleven waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, my husband and I wondered about their origins. Did they begin as a tiny trickle? Did the heavy rains and gravity turn them into raging rapids?
Mike suggested a spiritual parallel. Can’t this metaphor express what happens with worries and self-defeating thoughts? When we give these anxious ponderings more water and allow them run their course, before we know it, we become ensnared in a torrent of downward spiraling thoughts.
In contrast, what begins as a trickle by setting our minds on God’s character and eternal things can gain momentum into a waterfall of hope and joy. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Small beginnings can have powerful outcomes. God allows us to direct the course of our thought life by choosing to whether to magnify our anxiety or Him.
…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2
Our pastor, Shawn Franco, has stated, “Miracles don’t mature us,” yet we still ask our loving, omnipotent God for miracles knowing nothing is impossible with Him. However, we recognize that often instead of removing the obstacle God brings about His purposes by enabling us to persevere in the midst of unanswered prayers and challenging circumstances. While miracles build our faith in a God who can do anything, maturity comes slowly decision by decision to trust God night after dark night.
In Zimbabwe, “SHINGA” means to persevere through a difficulty with bravery and resiliency. The author of Hebrews describes it like this, “For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised…We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Endurance comes as we make it our aim to please God in spite of this messy life. Miracles may not mature us but messes do.
I wondered if our Christian journey could be compared to lochs and switch backs. If you have ever seen a boat move through a system of lochs from one waterway to another, you observe the boat enters at one elevation yet exits at another. Since the water on the other side of the loch is either higher or lower, the boat enters the loch, the door is closed and the level of water increases or decreases to enable the boat to proceed to the next waterway. The boat waits in the small area until the water level is exactly right. Then the loch on the other side is opened and the boat moves seamlessly into the next body of water. So it is in our spiritual lives. The Lord may want to move us into a new phase of life yet the level is different from where we are currently. We must wait in a loch until God determines we have reached the right maturity to move into the place He has prepared for us.
At other times, it is not merely a period of waiting, but I seem to be heading in a direction leading away from God’s goal for me. If you have ever ascended a mountain by vehicle (Pike’s Peak being a classic example), you find yourself driving higher and higher, hairpin turn following hairpin turn. At times you feel you will fall right off the edge. Spiritually, I may question the seemingly backward direction my life route is taking and occasionally I feel as if I am about to plummet over a cliff. In the Lord’s omniscience, He makes the ascent manageable. My path switches back and forth, yet the apparent backtracking is moving me closer to the summit.
While I may not understand the delays and reversals, I “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14