Monday, June 14, 2010

Life in the Valley Part 1

Tomorrow I am off to Romania, and a day after I get home I will be celebrating ten years of marriage. Those who know me, know I am not a sappy sort of fellow, I don't cry when I see puppies, or tear up when a butterfly lands on a rose, but looking back on the last ten years I am oddly emotional. Ten years is a long time, and the amazing thing is that I am still madly in love with my wife. I've always said I married far above my station, and each time I look back on my life I realize I am blessed, the wife that God has given me being one of the greatest of these blessings.
With this post, we begin a new teaching series entitled 'Life in the Valley' and my prayer is that that you are encouraged, edified, and challenged through it. Thank you all for your prayers, and may God bless you.

Deuteronomy 3:23-29, “Then I pleaded with the Lord at that time , saying: ‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you see.’ So we stayed in the valley opposite Beth Peor.”

Just in case it is still uncertain who the first person writer of these few verses is, it is none other than Moses, the man who had led Israel out of Egypt, the man who had crossed the red sea as if on dry land, the man who spoke to God, and who had, on the mountaintop, received the ten commandments from the hand of God himself. Now here was Moses, pleading with God, that God might allow him to cross over the Jordan, and see the land which God had given the people of Israel. Alas, God said no, but He told Moses to climb mount Pisgah, and lift his eyes toward the west, the north, the south and the east, that he might behold the land. After Moses saw the land into which the people of Israel were about to enter, he returned to the valley opposite Beth Peor where he and the people stayed.

Throughout the word of God we see the imagery of mountain tops and valleys readily used. There are countless places in the Word of God where we see God speaking to His servants on the mountaintop as was the case of Moses who climbed Mount Sinai that He might receive instruction from the Lord.

There are also places in the Bible wherein we see great victories being achieved on the mountaintop as was the case of Elijah on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal, and there are places in the Word, where we see great sacrifice, great deliverance, and a foreshadowing of Christ Jesus on the mountaintop as was the case of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah.

There is no doubt about it, the mountaintop is a good place to be, it is the preferred place to be, it is even the ideal place to be, but in this life there are also valleys that we must traverse, where the warfare reaches its peak, where the enemy attempts to discourage and detour us as much as he can, valleys filled with fear, hopelessness and enemies lurking in the shadows. I’ve had to traverse such valleys, and I am certain that you have had to traverse such valleys as well.

God knew we would sometimes find ourselves in the valley, God knew that we could not reside on the mountaintop in perpetuity, and He reminds us today as He forewarned Israel of old that the land which we cross over to possess, is a land of hills and valleys.

When we are on the mountaintop, we feel invincible. When we are on the mountaintop in regards to our prayer life, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our love of the brethren, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our reading of the Word, when we are on the mountaintop in regards to our giving, we feel more energized, more animated, we feel like we can take on the world. There are however moments, when we are not on the mountaintop but rather in the valley, and it is these valleys of life that I want to focus on for this post, and the subsequent few posts.

I realize some of you might be thinking about John the Baptist’s echoing of the words of Isaiah, wherein he said that every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low, but he never said that it would be here on this earth, but rather in God’s heavenly kingdom.

Yes, there will come a time when the valleys will be filled in, and the mountain and hill brought low, where the crooked places will be made straight and the rough ways made smooth, but for now, we are still here, awaiting the return of our beloved Lord. For now, we still have valleys to cross, that we might once again reach the mountaintop.

So why is it that we have to make this undesired journey through the valley? Why is it that we see the signs of descending in the valley, and are unable to stop or slow down our descent?

In case you are wondering, yes there are sure and clear signs that we are either in the valley, or are descending off the mountaintop.

The first of these signs is spiritual lack. The term lack covers a wide array of things, from lack prayer, to lack of joy, lack of interior peace, to lack of love, lack of fellowship with the brethren, and lack of intimacy with God.

On the heels of spiritual lack, there is always a tendency to compromise. It is in our seasons in the valley, in our seasons of spiritual lack that we contemplate and consider things that we would not have considered while we were on the mountaintop. We begin to reason to ourselves that no one can see us in the valley anyway, it’s not like it was while we were on the mountaintop and everyone had a clear view, so why not compromise just a little, no one will know.

Throughout this series of posts I hope to answer the questions of why we end up in the valley in the first place, what to do when we find ourselves in the valley, the battles that we must expect while in the valley, how to react when we find ourselves among the dead bones in the valley, and also focus at least one post on the beauty of the mountaintop. It is always wise to see the contrast, to see that even though we might find ourselves in the valley presently, there is a mountaintop waiting for us as long as we persevere, as long as we press on, as long as we do not grow weary in the valley, and set our sights on higher ground.

There is no rest in the valley, yet we often find ourselves spending more time in the valley than we ought. There is no peace in the valley, but we often find ourselves pandering to the flesh in order to achieve some semblance of peace. There is no fellowship in the valley, but rather than run to higher ground we often compromise and set aside our beliefs that we might find a semblance of fellowship with the world.

So how do we end up in the valley? What are the causes, what is the causality that brings us into this undesired spiritual landscape, this spiritual valley where every aspect of our spiritual walk is difficult, and the enemy’s plots and devices all the more sinister?

The first cause, and one of the first signs that we are headed into a spiritual valley, is absence of dialogue with God. There are countless examples in the word, of men who lost their joy, who lost their peace, who descended off the spiritual mountaintop because they ceased communicating and fellowshipping with God.

Even going back as far as the first man and woman, we see the spiritual decline beginning, when dialogue with God ended. In the beginning they would readily communicate with God in the cool of the day, but at some point Eve’s communication and dialogue with God ended, and she began to dialogue with the serpent instead. When Even began dialoguing with the serpent, God ceased his dialogue with her. When the Bible warns us that we cannot worship two masters, it is not hyperbole but an absolute truth. God will not stand in line, and once we’ve finished our dialogue with the serpent, if we, per chance have any time left, give him a few minutes of our lives. We serve a jealous God, we serve a sovereign God, and we either fellowship, dialogue, and seek after Him exclusively, without reservation, or we don’t. This is one of the reasons so many don’t hear from God today, because their hearts are divided, and they still believe they can have ongoing dialogue with the serpent as well as with God. Once Eve began to dialogue with the serpent, it didn’t take long for her to be deceived into disobeying God, and convincing Adam to do likewise.

If we desire God to speak with us, we must cease all dialogue with the serpent. If we commune with the serpent, God will not commune with us. It is that simple. The instant you can no longer bend your knee, and just dialogue with God, the instant prayer and supplication become difficult for you and seem like a burden, know that you are already in the valley. This knowledge should serve to do one thing, and one thing only, to focus all your energies and strengths into regaining your footing and returning to the mountaintop.

God has ways and means by which He communicates with His children, and it is He that chooses how He speaks to us. Whether through the Word, through nature, through prophets, through dreams, through the manifested work of the Holy Spirit, through healings, through miracles, God does speak to His children, but only by the measure in which they speak and dialogue with Him.

God will not divide His glory, and God will not accept a divided heart. If we have no dialogue with Him, if we do not have a prayer life, if we are not daily in the Word, if we do not seek His face in humility and brokenness, we cannot expect that He will speak to us.

I have met so many people whose biggest complaint is that God is no longer speaking to them, and my question has always been, are you still speaking to Him? Is your prayer life as vibrant as it once was, do you find as much joy in fellowship and intimacy with God as you once did? If not, it’s time to take a step back and see where and when we stopped dialoguing, see where and when we stopped communicating with God, and remedy the broken link that we might once again hear His voice.

The second reason why many souls find themselves in the valley is compromise. Compromise is as dangerous as it is subtle in the life of a believer, and if we give in to compromise, it can have disastrous and often times irreparable effects. Although there are plenty of examples in the Bible as to how destructive compromise is, there is no better example than Lot.

We all know the sad tale of Lot, Abraham’s nephew, the man who ended up in the valley, void of any peace, void of any joy, void of any fulfillment, whose soul was continually vexed due to the sin that surrounded him.

Lot had separated from Abraham, and Lot had turned his gaze to the plains, to the valley, and it was Lot that chose Sodom. Abraham remained on the mountain with God, because it is on the mountaintop wherein we can build an altar to God, and have fellowship with Him.

What I’ve always found interesting, is that when the two angels came to Sodom, they found Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom. He was neither outside of Sodom, nor was he inside Sodom. Lot’s compromise had led him to having one foot in the world, and one foot in the church as it were, wherein he was not willing to give up the comforts of Sodom, but he also yearned for the fellowship and intimacy with God that one finds on the mountaintop. So there he sat at the gate, between two worlds, lonely and lowly, vexed in his heart, with the tentacles of compromise firmly fastened to his heart.

The most dangerous thing about compromise is that it is never satisfied with just a part of you. Eventually, given enough time, it will consume the whole. If you give the enemy a finger, be sure that he will first want the hand, then the entire arm. It is the way the enemy deceives people into compromise, and thus causes them to journey off the mountaintop and into the valley.

The third reason many souls find themselves in the valley, is disobedience, and this is where we return to Moses, the man who did not enter into God’s Promised Land, but was only allowed to see it.

What had Moses done to warrant such severe judgment? What sin had Moses committed that after decades of faithful service, he was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land?

We find the answer in the book of Numbers, a time when the people of Israel had run out of water, and as such had gathered against Moses and Aaron.

Numbers 20:6-8, “So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and its animals.”

God’s instructions were relatively simple. Moses was to take his brother Aaron, gather the assembly together, and speak to the rock before their eyes, and it would yield water.

What Moses does however, is something totally different. He gathers the congregation before the rock, and begins to rebuke them, “Hear now, you rebels!” he cries out, “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod.

Yes, the water did come out of the rock, and abundantly so, but Moses had disobeyed God. He had not followed the instructions. First, it was not he who was bringing water for them out of the rock, and second God never told him to strike the rock.

It would have been so simple just to obey, it would have been so simple just to do what God had instructed, but Moses took it upon himself to alter God’s instructions. God then rebukes Moses, and His rebuke was not for the speech that he made, or even that he struck the rock, but rather for the root cause of his outburst, that of unbelief.

“Because you did not believe Me” God says to Moses, “you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

We must obey! It is our duty, and we must obey. Even if something seems right in our own eyes, even if something God says goes against our mental reasoning, we must obey it, because failing to heed the voice of God, is just a lengthy way of saying that we were disobedient, or that we disobeyed.

We cannot pick and choose only those scriptures that suit us in God’s word, we cannot pick and choose only those scriptures that require no sacrifice of us, but we must obey the entirety of God’s Holy word.

The fourth reason men find themselves in the valley, is the forming of bad habits. We all know of Samson and his exploits, as well as his ending up blinded and in chains, but what some of us might have overlooked, is that Samson had a habit of going down into valleys. At first, he went down to Timnah, to see a woman, a daughter of the Pharisees, not once, but multiple times, and then he exchanged one valley for another, going to the valley of Sorek, to be with a woman known as Delilah. Samson made a habit of descending into the valley, he had formed a habit of being where he was not supposed to be, and this led to his ruination.

If you happen to find yourself in the valley dear friend, there is hope. The mountaintop is still there, the prayer life is still there, the intimacy with God is still there, all you have to do is pick yourself up, and begin the climb. All you have to do is desire to be back on the mountaintop, and not grow comfortable in the valley. There are many souls who find themselves in the valley, and become comfortable there. They talk themselves into not desiring to be back on the mountaintop, they talk themselves into not desiring to be closer to God, and so they remain in their disobedience, in their habits, in their unbelief, feeding themselves with the memory of what once was.

Have the will to get back on the mountaintop, and God will help you. He is a good father, a loving father, a father who desires that none perish but that all might have eternal life. If we are in the valley, it is of our choosing, and we can choose to be back on the mountaintop as well. Purpose in your heart that you will not waste another second in the valley, and begin your journey toward the fullness of what God has in store for His children.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.


Anonymous said...

Michael, this is good, SO good! I want to print this post and tuck it into my Bible, because it's the best teaching I've ever come across for dealing with "valley times." I myself have recently been dealing with a valley experience due to a lack of endtimes fellowship - I find very few who believe they'll experience tribulation. I know you are right, that I mustn't be passive, but rather strive to draw closer than ever to my Lord. Thanks for expressing this so very well. Your words have convicted me.

I pray the Lord will bless you and your wife in an extra-special way as you celebrate your tenth anniversary. Your loving words about her deeply touched my heart. God's highest and best to you both as you continue to serve Him together! Enjoy your visit to Romania, but please pray for the brothers and sisters you're leaving behind, particularly concerning the Gulf oil spill for it is apparently MUCH more serious than the mainstream media are telling us (I live in one of the Gulf states).

With you in Christ,


Anonymous said...

Very good word, Brother. Thank you and God bless you & yours. Also congratulations on 10 years of marriage!!! :)