Now, Lord, thy feeble worm prepare!
For strife with earth and hell begins;
Confirm and guard me for the war;
They hate the soul that hates his sins.
Let them in horrid league agree!
They may assault, they may distress;
But cannot quench thy love to me,
Nor rob me of the Lord, my peace.
“There is a character which can only be obtained by choice of right, struggle against sin and for right, and victory. Even Christ submitted to this process.”
“And Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” (Luke 4:1, NIV)
First, we are told that Jesus was full of the Spirit. Next, we are told that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Later, when he was won victory over his enemy, he goes in the power of the Spirit. He did not learn the power of the Spirit by ministry with men, but by winning in solitude against the enemy of his soul.
We pray that God will give us a comfortable ride, but Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to face the devil in battle. We pray that God will bring us money, but Jesus was indigent and homeless. We pray that God will give us prominence in ministry, but Jesus’ ministry ended in crucifixion. What else are we praying for that is not in line with Jesus’ life? Shouldn’t we pray instead for God’s heart and likeness to be formed within us, whatever the cost?
Leonard Ravenhill said in a sermon that people often came to him to ask for prayer for deliverance from trials that God had led them into so that they would learn to trust him. Granted, that is not the case in every trial, but sometimes it is obviously the case. Do we give people a pat on the back and tell them it will be okay, or do we point them to trust in Jesus?
Some fishermen used to put their in a holding tank while gathering enough to go to market. But they found that the fish, who were lithe and muscular in the sea, would grow weak in the holding tank. The meat would lose its quality, and sell for less.
The solution was simple. They put a bigger fish in the tank who would eat the smaller ones. They would lose a few fish, but they found that the fish who lived were fresh and fit for the market. Conflict strengthened them. Rather than languishing, they arrived at the market as if straight from the sea.
Conflict strengthens us too. “Thus, God leads us into conflict with temptation, that our virtue may come forth victorious.” Ultimately, we will give the Holy Spirit permission to lead us, not only beside still waters, but even in the valley of the shadow. We will learn that trials are exercise for our wilting souls, and our spirits will stand tall when we have both someone to stand for and something to stand against.
Father, thank you that you lead us even in times of controversy and conflict. Strengthen me against the temptations I am facing, so that when I come through the other side, I will be not only full of your Spirit, and led by your Spirit, but empowered by your Spirit.