Dean Affleck - God's Strength - Maroota II, Australia Convention - 2017

I have spent three months in your beautiful country and it is reassuring that the work of God is the same in every place. We know it, but it is wonderful to feel it. I always hesitate to choose a hymn like the one we sang because I don’t feel discouraged, but I feel this hymn is the song of my heart.

 

“All the way His hand hath led us, Past each hindrance we have met,

Given us the pleasant places, Cheered us all the journey through;

Passing through the deepest waters, He hath blessed us hitherto.”

 

Someone was inspired to write that; they could look back and feel reassured that the Lord had helped them. David Saunders was here for the Workers’ meeting and he said, “The Lord has a way of surprising us.” We all have varied paths and we won’t always be discouraged. We go through times of strength and encouragement, times when we feel the load is less and maybe it helps to make our steps feel lighter. Then there are times when something is hindering us, and God gives us the pleasant places so we don’t look at the times when it felt like we were going through deep waters. We can draw strength from that.

 

It seems like every Convention you come to, you are back to square 1, and it reminded me of a visit we had a few years back with a couple. The man had left the way of Truth, married a girl and then they both came back together. We were in their field and they wanted us to visit. It was all totally new to them, so we came and they showed us our rooms: there was a bed, a lamp, and a chair just like in the Bible. Then we went downstairs for supper and our visit started. The next day, we went away, came back, and at the third meal, the wife said, “I have a confession to make. Before your visit, I wrote down some conversation topics in case we ran out of things to say. I know I can throw that paper in the garbage now; I don’t need it because we have so much in common.” I have a confession to make, too. I had a few things in my book that have been precious this past year, subjects of meditation that might be a source of inspiration, but I haven’t touched them because every time we sit quietly and open our ears, the Lord has things to say. I was just sitting here a few days ago and the thought came into my mind, “Tell them not to fear hard times.”

 

Job 38:22, “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?”  Isaiah 45:3, “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” I have been thinking about treasures that are not always because life has gone so well, but often we can say from personal experience that the times we have felt under pressure or in water way too deep for us, or captive to the enemy of our soul because of being captive to affections or other sentiments that aren’t in the will of God for us, in those times, it seems like the word of God is richer.

 

In those times, praying has more meaning, listening to people pray has more meaning, singing hymns has more meaning. It is richer, but not because things are going well. There is also the hymn,

 

“We thank Thee, Lord, for weary days, When desert spring were dry,

And first we knew what depth of need Thy love could satisfy.”

 

Sometimes it takes need for us to better understand how God can satisfy and keep. “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” Snow is something that people can be negative about. It is a bad day if it is snowing, but there is something very beautiful in snow. When you wake up and the whole countryside is covered in white and so quiet, it is difficult to imagine there is not one snowflake that is the same as another. There is so much beauty in snow, but I am not sure what God meant about the treasures in the snow.

 

In 1 Chronicles 11, there is a list of David’s mighty men. Verse 22, “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day.”  He was a very brave man, but he might have had a snowy day. I don’t know if it is the same writer who wrote Samuel and the Chronicles, but in any case, the snow is mentioned in both. Maybe it was just a very miserable day and this man went down into a pit and slew a lion-like man. He looked after his enemy once and for all. He was a man accustomed to slaying his enemies and he did it again. In that sense, maybe you can remember treasures in days when you looked after something once and for all, something that has done you no good, and you can look back and find encouragement even though it was not very nice, but necessary.

 

“Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” God used hail several times in His dealings with people and He will use it again. Joshua 10:10, “And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died; they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

 

It was an attack against Gibeon and they asked Joshua for help. It was also the day the sun and the moon stopped, just so they could finish their battle. Verse 14, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.” They began the battle as they normally would, but then the Lord fought for them. Later, they would look back on those hailstones and think it unbelievable that the Lord would help them in such a way, yet He did. Maybe we can look back on times when we felt so outnumbered, so incapable, yet in taking some vital steps the Lord has helped and it is like a treasure we can look back on and feel encouraged by it.

 

If you ever want to read a very affirmative chapter, Isaiah 45 is a good one. The Children of Israel had been captive in Babylon for 70 years. Cyrus had nothing to do with the children of God but he was the king when the Lord spoke to him. Verse 1, “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, 'To Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.'"  Verse 5, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me; I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.”  It seemed so hopeless, the children of Israel were in captivity and living in a strange land, living under restrictions, Daniel and other faithful people included. Yet, from such an impossible direction, the Lord brought them liberty. “I am the LORD . . there is none beside Me.” That would have been just like a treasure to them.

 

Another time, the Lord used darkness. Exodus 10:21, “And the LORD said unto Moses, 'Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.'” It was darkness that could be felt, and although the Children of Israel were spectators to this plague, in one way, they weren’t affected but in another way, they were. There was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. Moses was a human like any one of us, but the Lord used him to just stretch forth his hand, nothing impossible. In the homes of the Children of Israel, there would have been light and fellowship, but outside was total darkness. We heard at another Convention that during that plague, they would have known where their children were; they were in the house. They would also have had the lamb in the house, in a country that hated the lamb.

 

Exodus 11:7, “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast, that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” That was a very special time that would have encouraged the children of Israel, to see that the God they served brought a difference into their homes. Maybe during those years, they could have felt oppressed but the Lord was keeping them all the time.

 

Exodus 14:13, “And Moses said unto the people, 'Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will shew to you to day, for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.'” The Lord used darkness again. The Children of Israel had to stop at the Red Sea and the army of Egypt came behind them, so you can understand their panic. Then the Lord took a pillar of fire and set it right in between the two camps. Verse 20, “And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these so that the one came not near the other all the night.” I am sure they would remember that experience; they would look back and remember the darkness and their fears, an impossible situation and then Moses stretched forth his hand and the sea opened, making a way where there was no way, making something possible for them that was impossible. They could never have thought of such a thing.

 

Joshua 3:15, “And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest), That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off and the people passed over right against Jericho.” There was another crossing and the first that needed to go were the priests who bore the ark.


There is an expression in French: somebody who is not afraid to wet his feet is somebody who has courage to just go forth and get involved. When the soles of the feet of the priests touched the water, the water piled up. When they did the little they could do to obey the voice of Joshua, and it really was the voice of God to them, it was a wonderful thing. So, it was the priests who went first and they stood in the middle of the riverbed. It would have given all the people courage to see somebody else had courage to just go and stand there, not afraid to be involved. They were bearing the ark, the presence of God; they were finding joy in what they were doing. We have each other and the Lord has always put forth His Ministry as an example. It is wonderful when all that look upon them can see them as happy and willing to get their feet wet, so that others can follow and have courage.

 

Joshua set twelve stones in the midst of Jordan in the place where the priests had stood. In a sense, maybe it is like a treasure of darkness where nobody sees it, but they would remember it and remember how the Lord kept them even in secret. Whenever the children would ask about the other stones on the shore, they would hear the story from their parents or grandparents of how the Lord helped them. It is wonderful to be able to share such stories. In a previous Convention, somebody told us that when they were small, one of their bedtime stories was to hear how the Gospel came to their parents or grandparents. It was something that was precious that they were passing on, like those stones that came out of the river Jordan.

 

Matthew 27, this was as dark a time for Heaven as it was for earth when Jesus was on the cross. Verse 45, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is to say, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'” There was darkness, and really, we are thankful for that darkness and the sacrifice that was made on our behalf. We are thankful also that Heaven was willing, in a sense, for that darkness and Jesus was willing for that experience to be outside the presence of God for a little while for our sakes.

 

II Samuel 23:3, “The God of Israel said, 'The Rock of Israel spake to me, "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."'” That is a morning that is coming.


There is another morning mentioned in Malachi 4:2, “But unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” That will be the end of all night, a morning without clouds, the beginning of an eternal day. There will be no more night, no more darkness, no more sorrow and pain and crying. I am thankful that in the meantime, even if there may be weary or dark days, it doesn’t mean it is impossible to continue serving God. It just means it is an opportunity for God to show that He is the Lord and there is no other God besides Him, and we can keep confidence in Him.