Saturday, November 14, 2015

Finding Strength for the Day of Distress

“If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited” (Proverbs 24:10).

It is simply too late to hope for strength to endure the day of distress if we are not prepared for it in advance.  If we knew, for example, that we were going to box a skilled fighter in three months from now, and we did no physical exercise and mental preparation in anticipation of that fight, then our strength will indeed be limited and our defeat will be a near certainty.  Likewise, in the arena of spiritual warfare, if we are not disciplined and exercised, if we are indeed “slack in the day of distress,” the limited strength we have to draw from will run out before the day is over.

Unfortunately, for many, that day of distress is here, and regrettably, not enough preparation has been made to endure it.  It is now too late to take Solomon’s advice, to “Remember...your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  Yes, the day of distress is here in all her glory, and sadly, there is little faith on the earth.  It is too late, for example, to pray and not lose heart; or is it?

Vain repetitions in prayer are forbidden, but desperate repetitions are encouraged.  To be exercised in prayer is to be strengthened in your prayer life to handle a day of distress.  “And he [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.   And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.”  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”  And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8).

The ultimate question is asked: “Will he find faith on earth?”  It is assumed that anyone who cries out to God day and night has faith; it is assumed—I surmise—because the background in which these perpetual cries are made is black with hopelessness.  The looming day of distress is breaking, and time to prepare for it is evaporating.  But “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), and like that persistent and desperate widow, who seemingly made no progress in overturning injustice, we must pray and not faint until “justice prevails throughout the earth” (Isaiah 42:4).
“Look at my chosen one, who pleases me.  He will bring justice to the nations.  He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.  He will not falter or lose heart until justice prevails throughout the earth” (Isaiah 42:1, 3-4).  Indeed, let us “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).  Ultimately, justice is God’s business, mercy ours.  “Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1).