by Mike Ratliff
1 To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
3 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
4 Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.
(Psalms 123:1-4 ESV)
The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear “another Jesus,” but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Also their Jesus is “different” because they do not particularly like the one who is revealed to mankind in God’s Word. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following “another Jesus” who does not resemble in the least the one found in Sacred Scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are immature Christians who whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait, these being “cultural Christians.” Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord their God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance and, of course, by partaking of the means of grace. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory.
However, all believers have walks with God that have ups and downs. Sometimes they are on the mount while other times they are in the valley or somewhere in between. Sometimes, God will allow the enemy to take them down in defeat by cutting in on them in the race that God has set before them. When they take their eyes away from their Lord, distractions come. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Unless they are very careful, they will fall out of the race. This fall was caused by Spiritual leakage that began in the imagination over time. The enemy distracted them so that their eyes averted from the Master towards self. This may or may not involve some fleshly sin. It may be nothing more than doubt growing as to the veracity of their close walk with their Lord. When the eyes are averted from the Lord, the voice of the enemy may sound very much like the voice of another. That is when they hear themselves thinking that they shouldn’t have expected so much from their devotion to God. They condemn themselves for trying to attain a spiritual stature that is too high for any person to sustain. They are right no person can do it. It can only be sustained by remaining in the race and that requires eyes to be fixed on the Lord in complete devotion and obedience in full cooperation with Him in repentance. The one who remains in the race knows that no effort can be too high for their Lord’s sake.
Sometimes Christians can stumble in the race as the result of a crisis when they make a stand for God and Truth and know in their heart by the witness of the Spirit that all is right, but during the battle they take many fiery darts from the enemy and the cost can seem very high. It is at times like this that they may feel bereft of any support from anyone, even if it is there. God seems to not care about them. They feel beaten down and think that perhaps that stand was not so wise after all. Perhaps they should have listened to the more “careful” around them who never “take risks.” They start to believe that they were being highly pretentious or presumptuous in believing that God would be with them in the battle. It is at this time that it is crucial for the Christian who is still stinging from the battle in discouragement and doubt to recognize that something has been coming between them and God. What is it? That something cannot come in between Christians and God as long as they remain in the race with their eyes fully fixed on their Lord. It is as the enemy cuts in on the runner that distractions come into the mix.
What does God do here? Those who stumble and fall out of the race are still His. They are only wounded and confused and distracted. God will cause ministries to halt. He will bring service to full stop. What once flowed smoothly is now nearly impossible. It is only as God does this that the Christian who is thrashing about in self-reliance realizes what has happened. What is the cure? The Christian must get back in the race. How is that done? Prayer, repentance, submission, surrender, all culminating in the Christian giving all of self to God to do with as He sees fit. When this takes place, the eyes go back to Christ and the Christian reenters the race.
No Christian is immune from this happening to them. In fact, the more we work with God the more of a target we become. Never forget that God will allow our enemy to use people, even other Christians, as weapon bearers against us. Doubt and fear are what he wants to use to defeat us and he is not beyond using those very close to us or those we deeply respect as the means to deliver those weapons. The one in race easily overcomes doubt and fear, but the Christian who is distracted or mired in self-reliance or self-absorption or self-focus is highly vulnerable. Why? They are in Spiritual leakage mode and the enemy, even though limited by God, can easily deliver his weapons into their hearts.
Let us devote ourselves to running the race God has set before us. If we do this we will find that we will be working with Him instead of for Him. We will not have doubt nor will we be fearful no matter how fearsome the enemy appears. We will be devoted to the prayer closet and the Word of God and walking in repentance. We will be obeying our Lord no matter how severe the battle becomes. Those reading this who are wounded, fearful and doubtful must readjust your walk. You must get back into the race. If you do not then you will be mired in mediocrity. However, if you are in the race and are working with God instead of for Him be ever watchful of the one trying to cut in on you to make you stumble and fall out of the race.
The Christian music group Sons of Korah do a very good job of interpreting the Psalms. I find their music tremendously soothing when I have been involved in any form of spiritual warfare. One of my favorite albums by them is called “Light of Life” and the one song on it that I play over and over at trying times is titled simply “Psalm 116”. If you follow that link and click on “Music” you will also see a link to their first CD which was “Light of Life” and from there you can listen to “Psalm 116.” A dear friend and fellow warrior who has been in the fire as much if not more than most of us told me about this resource and I find that listening to God’s Word like this is especially soothing to my soul and that I will soon be at peace, full of joy and worshipping our God in spirit and truth instead wasting all of my time in fear, worry, and sorrow about the way the battle is going.
Here is Psalm 116 from the ESV.
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
2 Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”;
11 I said in my alarm,
“All mankind are liars.”
12 What shall I render to the Lord
for all his benefits to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
14 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord! (Psalms 116:1-19 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!