— Brother Phil Enlow: The reason I feel distress in this circumstance is because there’s something in me that I just, I don’t like this. I…my nature is to trust in this. You put me in a place where I’m used to figuring things out. I’m used to using my abilities to handle situations, and that doesn’t work. You have stripped me from that.
So, what do I do with that? Do I recognize, hey, God is doing me a favor? He’s taking me in a dark place, but in that place, I’m learning something about me that my nature wants to trust in me. Guess what happens when there is any part of our walk in this world in which we are trusting in ourselves?
( congregation inaudible ).
Well, failure, yeah. But trusting in ourselves is very closely linked to our nature which is self-seeking, which is prideful. If I’m successful in handling my stuff, then I feel pretty good about it. I begin to feel like my success is what commends me to God.
You see all these things come into play. And God is putting His finger on that by allowing us to be stripped of that sense that I’ve got this, I’ve got a handle on this. And so, God is doing us a favor, and Paul was wise enough in the Lord to recognize what was really going on.
Of course, I know many of you have probably thought about the thing that David went through. I mean, the last great trial he went through before he began to gain the throne, about the time Saul died, finally, the king that was opposing him. You remember what happened? Things were so bad that he had to go live with the Philistines, and he had been a warrior against the Philistines. And now he’s got to go over, and he’s safer there than he is in Israel!
And a bunch of people are living with him in a city called Ziklag, and war breaks out. And instead of going over and helping the Israelites, he goes to war with the Philistines against Israel…except that four of the five rulers of the Philistines say, wait a minute. Don’t you realize who this is? We’re not going to war with him. If the battle goes the wrong way, he’s gonna switch sides, and we’re gonna be in trouble.
And so now, the Philistine commander says, I trust you, but they won’t, so go home. And the journey home was not a little walk in the park. This was like three days, and when they got there, they were exhausted, of course. They were really…I mean the stress and the build-up of all the emotions was such that now they’re really let down, and what do they find when they get there? Everything is gone! Their whole city has been burned to the ground! Their wives and possessions are gone!
And the first thing they did was to weep until, what? They had no more power to weep. You ever been there? Yeah. You know there’s a time when emotions want to pour out, but we can become so weary even in that, that we run out of gas. Well, that’s where they got. I mean, they were at the bottom of the bottom.
And so, what do the men do? David, we’re with you? No, they were talking about stoning him. That’s not just paddling him. That’s stoning the man to death. That’s what they were talking about. Do you think David was in a low place? The Lord took every natural crutch away from his servant.
But what did David do? He encouraged himself in the Lord. You see what faith does, where God wants to bring us to that place where when He strips everything, then we have to make choices. David made the choice to trust God, effectively, to say, Lord, You have allowed these circumstances. What do You want us to do?
And the Lord took that little exercise of faith. I’m sure he didn’t have any emotions to go with this. This wasn’t where he went out, and God dumped a bucket of honey in his soul, and in the strength of that, he said, let’s go! He was…he had no emotions.
How many of you know what it’s like to be in that place, to make that choice when you have nothing naturally to go on? Yeah. I know what it’s like, and I’ve seen God hear and answer.
I tell you what, God is gonna take you…if you ever amount to anything in the Lord, God is gonna take you through places like that. Don’t you listen to this kind of fairy-tale Christianity where nothing bad ever happens. It will. And God is gonna bring us through if we’ll just put our trust in Him, in faith. If faith is all you’ve got, you’ve got all you need.
( congregational response ).
That’s what it comes down to. But you know, we learn things about God. It’s not just that we learn things about ourselves. Don’t we learn things about God? How many of you have gone through one of those dark nights of the soul? When you’ve come out the other end, you have a deeper appreciation for God who brought you through that, and you learn things about Him that you didn’t know before. Or maybe you knew them up here, but you didn’t know them here [pointing to heart].
You’d heard about stuff like Job did. But you get to the other side and say, now I’ve heard of You by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees You. Now, I get it. Now, I understand.
You think God is about relationship? Sure, He is. God is not just about correct theology. I mean, you know, truth is part of it. But truth that we don’t walk in, that we don’t get, what is that about? God wants us to learn about Him.
And of course, we learn about the enemy too, don’t we? We recognize how he works in different circumstances. And God will bring you through that so that you can talk to somebody else and say, I’ve been where you’re at. You stand. That’s what you need to do.
You know, I thought about something. There are so many other things that, obviously, could be said. None of this is new to us. But for some reason, the Lord wanted this this morning. And the songs we sang kind of confirmed it. You know, if I’d wanted to argue with the Lord…you know, I really had to go against something, because the songs…you know, “Praise Him…When you’re up against a struggle.” I mean, the Lord picked those songs.
How about Colossians 1? There’s a scripture that’s come to me. There are some principles involved in what Paul was praying for the believers there. Now, this is a place Paul had never been. He’d heard about a group of people that had come to the Lord under a ministry that God had sent to them, and so he’s writing to encourage them. And he talks about having learned of their faith.
In verse 9, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” (NIV).
The word growing, there, reminds us of the fact that everybody who’s ever been born into the kingdom of God is, effectively, born as a baby, right? Spiritually, there is that correspondence to what happens in the natural.
And what does the Word say? “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word…” (KJV). Why? “…That ye may grow thereby.” In other words, there’s a life here that God has placed within us that needs to grow up.
Most of us don’t want to grow up. We want to lie in a warm, soft place and feel the loving arms around us and just bask in that, and just be able to live our lives and not worry about anything, as though that’s what’s it’s all about. God wants sons and daughters who grow up to be mature in Him!
That’s what…and what he says here, what he’s praying for is the heart of it. It’s knowledge. It’s wisdom! And it’s understanding. And folks, we need all of those. Now knowledge asks…or answers the question of, what? What is true? What do I believe? What can I stand on, because we’re talking about, again, placing your entire trust, your weight, as it were, upon something?
Now, how many of you’ve found out you can’t trust in anything in this world? I mean, that’s not where your ultimate trust is. If your heart is so entwinned in something, God’s gonna fix it to where that’s not gonna hold you up. I mean, like Jesus said, the house may look good until the storm comes. And then, it’s not gonna last.
So, I’ll tell you, part of that knowledge is that we need to know what is true, and God has a way of bringing us to a place where we can look into the Word. We can…we’re gonna have to decide. Am I gonna believe what God says, or am I not? So, what is truth? Does the absence of the sense of God’s presence mean that He is gone?
( congregational inaudible ).
How do we know that? The Word tells us! Our experience as we go along, tells us that His Word remains true! The truthfulness of God’s Word never varies! It never ebbs and flows with our circumstances and our feelings. It never changes. There is an anchor, as we’ve said recently, for the soul. God’s Word never changes.
How many of you remember the story Brother Thomas used to tell about the Jewish couple that came to the Lord…and for three or four days, they were just in euphoria. I mean, it was just…oh, it was so wonderful, so new, to feel forgiven and loved. And all of a sudden, they woke up one day, and there were no feelings!
And I think the wife said something like, was it all a lie? What’s going on? I don’t get it. So, he opens the Bible and says, it still says the same thing. I mean, it’s so simple. But, how much of a challenge is that sometimes?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah. It’s a real choice that we’re gonna have to make when this does not seem to be true, and yet, there it is in black and white! God’s Word does not change! When He says, He will be with to the end of the age, does that not mean He will be with us to the end of the age?
( congregational response ).
It doesn’t say, I’ll be with you when you feel it. So you see, we’re gonna have to lay hold…there’s knowledge there. The more our convictions are based upon what God has said, the sturdier, the steadier we’re going to be when those times…when faith is all we have, it’s gonna be less and less of an issue, less and less of a problem. ‘Til we might just be that person that Jesus can walk right on by, ‘cause He knows…they’re steady in the boat. They know. They’re not going by all these little winds of change that come through.
And the fact…does my lack of feeling God’s presence, is He mad at me? Has He stopped loving me? Is that how I know that He loves me, because I get these warm, gooey feelings in my soul? Is that how I know God loves me? Do my emotions control what He does, or do they reflect what He does?
Does that somehow change the cross? I can look at something objective in history and say, I know…Devil, I know God loves me. He sent His Son to the cross to take care of…to erase my guilt before a holy God, to open heaven’s door for me! Praise God! Devil, I will not listen to you!
( congregational amens ).
You think there’s something happening when we are brought to that place, where we lean upon the things that we know to be true, because God has said it, and God cannot lie? The same things we said last week, I guess. I’ll tell you, God wants us to…wants to increase our knowledge, and we’re gonna learn things about God.
But I’ll tell you, in the meantime, when the sun is shining, we need to be saying, hey, I need to get this. I need to receive it into my soul. When I hear something, God’s gonna give me a test on that. There’s gonna be homework. There’s gonna be exams. God wants me to have this, not just here, He wants me to know it.
We do not need second-hand faith in this place, or any place. God wants you and you and you to know Him in your everyday life. And I’ll tell you, what is true remains true regardless of the place that we’re at in our journey. And so I’ll tell you, we need that knowledge. We need to increase.
That’s what Paul was…the burden that he has. I want you to be effective Christians, but there’s stuff you’ve got to know, because if all you think you know is what Satan has put in here, the lies that this world tells, you’re gonna have a hard time with the Christian life. But I’ll tell you, the more we get this, the steadier we’re gonna be in the boat.
But he doesn’t leave it with just knowledge. There are a lot of people that that’s all they want. They want knowledge. They just want the doctrines. They want to get their doctrines right, their knowledge right. It goes beyond that. What’s the next thing he wants?
( congregation inaudible ).
Wisdom. Wisdom answers the question how? Knowledge is what? What do I know? What do I believe? What can I stand on? Wisdom says, how do I…how does this play out in my life? How do I apply what I know to how I live and what happens to me in my life? We need God.
You see, Job’s friends had some knowledge that had been handed down to them. They didn’t have any wisdom to understand what was going on. I’ll tell you, we need God to help us to understand.
And there are going to be times--guaranteed, there are going to be times when we will be in the place David was, when we’ll be looking for those answers, and they won’t be there, at least not for a while. When God’s done the work that He intended to do, through those circumstances, don’t worry, He’ll come on the scene. He’ll help us.
But I’ll tell you, you and I need to know how to apply the wisdom that we know. You could know, for example, that God wants us to live a holy life. And then, you could take that and say, okay, so I’ve got to be holy. I’ve got to…and start making rules. Whose wisdom is that? It’s not based on truth for starters.
But I’ll tell you, I need wisdom to know how to apply the things that God shows me that are true. I need to know how they affect everyday life, because our Christian life is not just what we do in here. It’s how I live out here.
And I’ll tell you…this is one of the things that came to me…how are you when nobody is watching? That’s kind of how we really are, isn’t it? We have a way of portraying ourselves to others and even to ourselves. But I’ll tell you, the wisdom and the knowledge by which we walk is carried out, it’s expressed when nobody is looking.
When you’re a thousand miles away, and nobody knows you, how do you live? What do you do? God wants us to be the same as we are when we’re in here, out there. And He wants to bring us into line with His heart, not just His teachings and His religion. My God, we don’t need that. But He wants to bring us into line with His heart.
And His heart would tell you and me things that are true. They’re not always things we want to hear. Sometimes they’re the truth about us. We don’t want to hear them. But I’ll tell you, I would rather hear an uncomfortable truth than a pleasant lie, and align the wisdom that governs what I do with the truth. I don’t care how much it hurts. I know God loves me. I know that’s a fact that remains. I can lean on that. I know He’s with me. I know He’s for me.
And so…where knowledge answers the question, what, wisdom answers the question, how? What is understanding? That answers the question, why? God wants us to come to a place where we begin to understand the whys. We can get a sense of where God is going with this and so we can start and say, oh, I get it. I was leaning on the arm of flesh, and God saw me in a weakened place, in a place where I was vulnerable to the devil working through me to building up pride, whatever the issue is. He saw me in that place, and He engineered a place in my journey that was gonna deal with that.
And I know why He did, because He wants me to be like Him. And He’s gonna do what it takes. He’s going to be faithful even when I’m not. He’s gonna do things that I will not understand at the time. But I’ll tell you, He wants to bring me to a place of understanding.
As David said, He doesn’t want me to be like a horse or a mule. How many of you are like that? God’s got to wop you upside the head to make you do something. And so, all you’re concerned with is, what do You want me to do? Just tell me. God doesn’t want that kind of relationship with us. He wants us to understand His heart. He wants us to be on board with what He wants.
So, we need knowledge. We need wisdom to know how to apply that to our lives, and we need the understanding of where God’s heart would take us.
And I’ll tell you, there’s a…I don’t know what else needs to be said. There are so many thoughts I’ve had that you could bring into this, and I don’t want to just drag it out. But how many of you believe that this is something that’s real? When faith is all you have...how many think that’s a bad thing? That’s a wonderful thing even when it doesn’t feel like it, even when circumstances are at the bottom. And you think, how could they get any worse?
I mean, how could they get any worse for the three Hebrew children standing there with a roaring fire over there and a king who says, bow or burn? Choices to be made! What am I gonna do? And yet they stood…I’m sure they didn’t have any euphoric emotions at the time. You think they did? Man, I just feel the power! Oh boy! I’ll tell you, the kinds of choices that the heroes of faith, as we call them that…it’s really God’s work in somebody’s heart that’s manifest…manifests His heart. He’s the hero.
( congregational response ).
But if we read about the heroes of faith, I’ll guarantee the choices they made that made the earthshaking difference in their lives and the lives of many others were not made in the heat of euphoric emotion.
See, that’s a mistake that we make when we talk about faith. Faith almost becomes a thing in itself. And if we’re gonna try to put faith under a microscope…do I have it, don’t I have it? You know, if I had it, how would I feel? What about my faith?
Faith is not the object! It’s the ‘object’ of the faith we need to be concerned about. Faith is simply putting confidence in Him! It isn’t putting confidence in our confidence! But we do that. You know, we tend to get very introspective when things aren’t going the way that we think they ought to go. Oh, I’m gonna look inside. What’s wrong? How do I fix it? How do I understand it? How do I wrap my brain around what’s going on and what I’m feeling right now?
Oh, I know I’m supposed to have faith. Okay…we try to work up emotions that go with it and figure, okay, now I’ve got it. I feel a certain thing. I’ll tell you, faith starts as a choice. But faith is not focused on the faith. It’s focused on the object of the faith.
We serve a God, like we said, who cannot lie. His purpose is fixed. His Word is true. And so, the choice becomes am I gonna believe these circumstances, or am I gonna believe that kind of a God? And I am going to make a raw choice to believe in Him.
I’ll tell you, God wants to take every single one of us to a higher place. Joseph was put through places where faith was all he had. What was in God’s heart for him? Bringing him to a throne? Do you think his character would have been formed in such a way that he could have occupied that place of authority and forgiveness of his brothers if God had not put him through all that?
Do you think David would have been the king that he was without going through all this process of having to trust God when it didn’t look like it made any sense? Abraham, everybody…Jesus, who learned, “…obedience by the things which he suffered.” (KJV). He was tempted in every point like as we are.
I just pray that if you’re in that place, or when you’re in that place…we have every reason, instead of examining the circumstances, examining our feelings, to lift up our eyes and say, Lord, I thank You. Lord, I praise You. I want to offer the sacrifice of praise. It means I have to die to do it. It’s a sacrifice for me to say thank You, to praise You, to acknowledge that You are true.
And I’m not gonna do it and sit here and just…okay, I’ve done it for three minutes, and I don’t feel anything. I’m not focused on how I feel about it. I’m just focused on His truthfulness and the fact that I’m trusting Him. And I know that right now, He is there. He’s there because He promised. I don’t care if I feel it--if I ever feel it. I know He’s there. I know He’s real. I’m gonna lean upon that with every bit of my being--every fiber of my being is gonna lean on Him right now!
That’s when God does the work that gets us the place where we can be worth something to Him in the kingdom of God in this world. If you’re one that’s got to have…one that Jesus has got to lean down over you and put His arm around you and whisper in your ear and just constantly give you feedback, He’s not gonna be able to use you very much, is He?
But I’ll tell you, when we become faithful in little, He will entrust more to us. Faithfulness in a little means, among other things, it means doing what’s right. It means trusting God when faith is all we have. And I’ll tell you, there’s a God who looks at that and says, that’s building character in my child! Here is somebody that I can put something in their hands to do and they’ll handle because they’re looking to me and not themselves.
I’ll tell you, we have a God who is faithful. If you’re in that place today, or if you find yourself in that place in the future, and you will if you’re serving God, your emotions will not always support you. But there is a God who has promised never to leave you, never to forsake you.
And so we have the privilege of standing upon something that cannot change. His Word is true. And He will bring us through every valley like that. Even when faith is all we have, we’ll find out it’s all we need, because He is faithful. The Object of that faith is faithful. To Him be the glory. Praise God!