Tuesday, January 4, 2011

THE GREATEST TEST OF ALL

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).

Before the Israelites was a path that would lead them to safety. In this crucial moment, God wanted his people to look at those walls and believe he would hold back the water until they arrived safely on the other side. Simply put, God wanted his people to have a faith that declared, “He who began this miracle for us will finish it. He has already proven to us he’s faithful.

“As we look back, we see that all our fears were wasted. We shouldn’t have been afraid when we saw the Egyptians coming. God put up a supernatural wall of darkness to protect us from them, and we shouldn’t have feared their threats through the night. The whole time, God provided us with an illuminating light, while our enemies were blinded by darkness. We also wasted our fears on those fierce winds, when all that time God was using them to make our way of escape.

“We see now that God desires only to do good to us. We’ve seen his power and glory on our behalf. And now we are determined to no longer live in fear. It doesn’t matter to us if those walls of water collapse. Live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

There was a reason God wanted this kind of faith for Israel at this point. They were about to face a journey through the wilderness. They would endure deprivation, danger and suffering. So He said, “I want my people to know I’ll do them only good. I don’t want them to be afraid they’re going to die every time they face danger. I want a people who aren’t afraid of death, because they know I am trustworthy in all things.”

A true worshipper isn’t someone who dances after the victory is won. It isn’t the person who sings God’s praises once the enemy has been vanquished. That’s what the Israelites did. When God parted the Red Sea and they arrived on the other side, they sang and danced, praised God and extolled his greatness. Yet, three days later, these same people murmured bitterly against God, at Marah. These weren’t worshippers—they were shallow shouters!

A true worshipper is one who has learned to trust God in the storm. This person’s worship isn’t just in his words, but in his way of life. His world is at rest at all times, because his trust in God’s faithfulness is unshakable. He isn’t afraid of the future, because he’s no longer afraid to die.

Gwen and I saw this kind of unshakable faith in our twelve-year-old granddaughter Tiffany. Sitting at her bedside in her final days, we beheld in her a peace that surpassed all our understanding. She told me, “Grandpa, I want to go home. I’ve seen Jesus, and he told me he wants me to be there. I just don’t want to be here anymore.” Tiffany had lost all fear of death and deprivation.

That is the rest God wants for his people. It’s a confidence that says like Paul, and like Tiffany, “Live or die, I am the Lord’s.” This is what makes a true worshipper.

I pray that all who read this message can say in the midst of their storm: “Yes, the economy may collapse. Yes, I may still be facing a dark, stormy night. But God has proven himself faithful to me. No matter what comes, I will rest in his love for me.”