Encouraging Devotions Blog

"Learning to Farm the Valleys."

main image

In Psalm 77, we find the psalmist in a place familiar to us all, in a "day of trouble." Certainly, we frequent this place more often than any of us would like, but I believe we can see these "days of trouble" as opportunities to cultivate fruit in unexpected places, just as the psalmist did. The call upon our lives to honor God in every season and circumstance is real, perhaps more real than ever, as we experience quarantine and uncertainty. Speaking of a famous world leader who sought to honor God as he led a nation, Stephen Mansfield said that "he learned to farm the valleys of his life and later found the fruit of his labors sweet and sustaining against the press of battle." When we find ourselves in valleys, we are tempted to look up at the mountain top and pine for the days of comfort and ease, yet there is work to be done in the valleys that we must not neglect.

In the middle of his trouble, the psalmist begins to ponder questions that we all struggle with from time to time. Verses 7-9 say,

"Will the Lord reject forever
and never again show favor?
Has His faithful love ceased forever?
Is His promise at an end
For all generations?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger
withheld his compassion?"

He ends his thought by saying, "I am grieved that the right hand of the Most High has changed." This is serious pain and hurting, which I am sure we can relate to on some level. We have all wrestled with thoughts of wondering if God has changed or left us. We wonder if we did something to deserve this or maybe not enough to deserve better. We wonder if God's promises have stopped, or perhaps we did not hear Him properly. Certainly if I had done more or done better I would not be in this situation. In these times, we must do as the psalmist did. We must farm the valley for the fruit that is promised to come from our struggles. With his mind racing, Asaph chooses to remember and reflect on God's past blessings. In verses 11-12 he writes,

"I will remember the Lord's works;
yes, I will remember
Your ancient wonders.
I will reflect on all you have done
and meditate on your actions."

This is how we farm the valley. We remember and reflect. Be careful not to bring the thought back to your mind and let it leave so quickly as not to have time to reflect upon it. We must spend time pondering upon His blessings and goodness.

As we learn to farm the valleys of our lives, we find that the seed we plant is remembrance. We plant seeds of remembrance so that we will harvest hope. Romans 5:3-4 says, "But we also rejoice in our afflictions because we know the affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character provides hope. As we plant remembrance, often watered by our tears, we are promised the fruit of hope. And this hope does not disappoint. Let us learn to farm the valleys so that we can see our God can produce fruit in every season of our lives.

"Stepping Up and Stepping In – The Role and Importance of Intercession."

main image

"For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike."
1 Samuel 30:24

This statement by David provides a clear illustration as to why David was a "man after God's own heart." David makes this beautiful proclamation amid a very turbulent, adverse time in his life. He has been pursued by King Saul and separated from his wife, his best friend Jonathan, and his homeland. David now lives in a foreign land, amongst the idol-worshiping Philistines.

After a sequence of events, David returns to the Philistine city of Ziklag, his then home, only to find it burned to the ground and discovers his family and possessions have been taken captive by the Amalekites. At this, David and his men "wept until there was no strength in them to weep (1 Samuel 30:4)." Before entering the battle, 200 of David's men were "too exhausted…and remained behind" (1 Samuel 30:9). David remained unfazed and continued. He and his men overtook the Amalekites, rescued their families, and recovered their possessions. As David and the 400 men who engaged in the battle returned, a group of "wicked and worthless men" revealed that they did not want to share the spoil with the 200 who stayed behind. David interceded, stepped up and stepped in, and said, "And who will listen to you I this matter?"
(1 Samuel 30:24).

David vehemently came to the defense of these 200 men. David demonstrated God's heart by extending grace to the 200 men who were seemingly exhausted and too tired to fight. These men did not show cowardice and run the other way. These men did not commit acts of disloyalty by sabotaging David's battle plan or questioning David's judgment. These men did not subvert his leadership or conspire a mutiny. The exhausted men stayed loyal and stayed in the fight by "staying by the baggage." David understood that just like the other men, their wives, children, and possessions were taken captive by the Amalekites. Not only did David intercede for these men he restored them to their families and returned their possessions. He shared with them in the spoil of the victory. He valued their contribution and provided them the opportunity for refreshment.

Men and women of God, stepping up, and stepping in for a fellow Christian is a necessary function of the body of Christ. At times, our brothers and sisters grow weary physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Daily, our spirit wars against our flesh, and we are bombarded by worldly messages, worldly values, and the enticement of human pleasures. The adversary of our soul takes every opportunity to exploit our weaknesses, condemn our flaws, criticize our imperfections, and crush our ambition to do the Lord's work.

Just as the Amalekites plundered David's possessions and family, the COVID-19 pandemic and society’s response have promoted fear, resulting in lost income, lost jobs, and uncertainty in the hearts of many. This can weigh on our souls so heavily that we can become exhausted and our walks with Christ can come to a stand still as we try to figure out how to pay our mortgage, put food on the table, or maintain loving relationships. These are times when we need to know it is ok to be still and seek restoration. We know that brothers and sisters in Christ will intercede on our behalf, extend God's grace, provide support, give refreshment, and continue to share in God's blessing.

David's victory in this difficult situation was not by accident. Notice that David "strengthened himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6), and "inquired of the Lord" (1 Samuel 30:8). Jesus, the Son of David, our Great High Priest, ever lives to make intercession on our behalf. He is our Advocate, our Banner, our Restorer, our Redeemer.

May we be people who are willing to step up and step in with intercessory prayer in confidence that God will do wondrous things!

“Oh! Men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival - men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations.”
—Charles Spurgeon

Previous12345678910 ... 1112