Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When God lets the Pressure Mount

Pressure in life is to be expected. Especially amidst the hectic lives we lead in a fast-paced society. But sometimes, pressures can become overwhelming, and while I was in Sudan last month, God helped me in how I view such situations. From our very first day in Sudan, we were faced with the pressures of unexpected expenses and big uncertainties about our tomorrows. We were flying into a town packed with displaced people due to flooding in the surrounding areas, where hotel rates were set at NGO-levels of $150-per-person-per-night, and where we had no one to pick us up at the airport and no affordable accommodations arranged. For our first eight hours in that town, I had no idea where we would actually spend the night as we shuffled from one shady spot to another in search of something affordable. But God spoke to me on the very flight that took us to that town, and He assured me that whatever happened on this trip… it was Him. Yes, that’s what I felt He actually said: “Whatever happens on this trip is of My making.” That gave me a whole lot of peace amidst a whole lot of uncertainty for much of our time there.

Not long after leaving Sudan, I wondered why I didn’t always seem to live with that same sense of peace amidst pressures in Winnipeg. And I remembered something God had shown me from King Saul’s life just a few months ago. I’m thinking of the story in 1 Samuel 13 in which Samuel tells Saul that the kingdom will be taken from him due to Saul’s disobedience. I realize that King Saul got things all wrong in that story, but I find it so easy to relate to Saul’s earth-bound insecurities. I feel for him, in a way.

It had not been a very long time since Saul had been yanked from a life of peaceful obscurity, chosen to be king of a fledgling nation. Now he’s facing enemies of great numbers, and his people are without swords or spears and have inferior numbers, and all the people expect him to do something kingly to deliver them all. Talk about pressure. It says in 1 Samuel 13:2 that Saul had 3,000 men and in 13:4 it says that “the people were then summoned.” Whether that speaks of the 3,000 or to others in addition to them is almost irrelevant, for 13:6-7 describes them as so fearful that they were hiding in caves or high-tailing it across the Jordan.

Meanwhile, the Philistines have gathered for battle with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horseman and soldiers as numerous as the sands on the seashore (13:5)! And now Saul is expected to wait! When Samuel had anointed Saul as king, he had instructed Saul to wait seven days at Gilgal for Samuel to come offer burnt offerings to God (10:8). But every day that he waits, more soldiers desert. Every long day, Saul’s numbers were reduced while he waited for Samuel (13:8). So what does Saul do? He’s the king, so he takes charge – he makes an executive decision. He literally takes the bull by the horns and presents the burnt offerings himself. Saul was down to 600 men at that point. I’m sure he felt understandably desperate. I think I would have too.

But Saul’s disobedience to God’s servant Samuel reflected Saul’s lack of trust in God. His eyes were on earthly pressures rather than on the God who is Lord of our circumstances. Even though that’s probably because God seemed as far away as the troops who had scattered, things were not as they appeared. God was there watching as Saul was tested – as Saul failed to trust God as the pressures mounted. Interestingly, in Judges 7, Gideon was down to 300 against “innumerable hordes” and he won a victory. But Saul lost the battle and the kingdom because he allowed the persistence of life’s pressures to rob him of perspective. In the end, he tried to rush God rather than waiting for God's way in God's timing.

In Sudan, I had to trust God amidst many pressures that left me wanting to get aggressive and make something happen! And God then worked things out way beyond my expectations. I hope I can remember that here in Winnipeg. That way, I can live amidst life’s pressures with peace rather than panic, trusting that the sovereign God will work out His will in my life in ways that only He can do!

© 2008 by Ken Peters

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