Sheila Houlston - God’s Provision

During the week someone sent me an SMS quoting a verse in the Bible and I didn’t have time to look it up. I just thought to myself  ‘Well they must think I need this but I haven’t got time to look at it.’ So yesterday morning I did look at it and it was very beautiful to me. It was in Deuteronomy 31:8 and maybe I did need it. It says “The Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” Then I thought I would just read this in another version and I really enjoyed it. It said, “Don’t flinch, don’t have a broken spirit. Don’t be depressed or dismayed or unnerved with alarm.” You know, that is just how we are sometimes when we think of the future, when we think of what we’ve got to face or we think of the experience, or we think of the morrow. Sometimes we just feel dismayed and sometimes we just wonder ‘how are we going to come through it all.’ I never noticed  it before that it says He it is that goes before thee, and that is the word I liked, before. There is always something nice when someone goes in front of you. We always have a little thing before the meeting “You go first, no, you go first.” Silly isn’t it? But it is just something nice, to follow somebody in, rather than going in ahead yourself and it is just good to think that God has gone before us. These children of Israel were going into an unknown future but this message was to Joshua. God gave this message to Moses and Moses said this to Joshua to encourage him. “God is going to go before you so don’t be dismayed. Don’t be depressed and don’t be broken down in your spirit. You can do it.” I have often thought, when going through these mountain passes, ‘Who was the first one that went across this mountain? Who was the first person that went and found the way?’ He found that the way was possible but then someone made the way possible. Isn’t it wonderful to think that our Lord has gone before us? He has made the way possible. We might think that it is not possible. We might think ‘How are we going to go forward?’ But He’s gone before us and he is in front of us. In another place it says, and I have often read it, that He is with us, and that is also comforting, but that is very nice to me that He has gone before us. I have mentioned this often: a man that I know had a very difficult experience to face, very difficult. Maybe I can tell you. His wife worked in the prison. They were a faithful, middle-aged couple. They had responsibility and were well thought of but for some reason, I don’t know what went wrong, but she got involved with one of the criminals and when he came out of prison she went with him. That was terrible for all of us and it was terrible for him. But I remember him saying “I am not looking backwards because that’s not the way I’m going. I am looking forward because we are going forward.” Sometimes it’s not easy to face an experience. I think he must have felt ‘I can’t handle this and not get bitter and not get unforgiving.’ It must have been a horrible experience but he had made up his mind ‘I am not looking backwards but I am going forwards.’ It’s not easy to face an experience sometimes. We also need to have this purpose that ‘I am going forward.’ Moses knew, and God knew that going into this promised land across the Jordan , that there were giants there. There was an enemy there that was bigger than they were, that was stronger than they were and they were no match for them. So we are bound to feel ‘how can we go forward?’ We have an enemy that we are no match for, and some of the experiences that come across our lives, we are no match for them. That is why that hymn was on my mind this morning when I woke up ‘God is faithful to His chosen in His dealings every day.’ I enjoyed that one verse that says ‘He gives us strength to suffer in temptations hard to bear.’ Once there was something that I felt was unbearable and this person was saying to me “I am praying for you.” And it went on and on every time they spoke to me “I am praying for you.” Anyway it was hard to bear. You know, I came through that and I began to understand that it doesn’t mean that if God hears you that the suffering goes out of the experience. It doesn’t. The suffering doesn’t go out of the experience but He enables us to bear it. Maybe I had it in my mind that if someone is praying for me and I am praying desperately for myself that I would just get through this quickly. There is still suffering in it, and it might seem as if you can’t bear that pain, but the Lord is faithful and He gives the strength to bear it and to suffer. Here the Lord was just promising ‘I won’t fail you, I won’t let you down. You can go forward.’ We heard about trust this morning and we heard about faith and about peace. If we have this faith, we’ve got to go forward. They weren’t even equipped to fight an enemy. They weren’t soldiers, they had been servants and they’d been coming through this wilderness and now they must go and face the giants. The Lord helps us and we mustn’t be dismayed about it. Somebody mentioned it in the meeting and it reminded me of what I’d heard about God being our shield. I don’t know if it was Ernest that mentioned it, that the fiery darts come but God is our shield. We know that a man in the army has a shield to protect him from those darts. If a dart comes through it could be fatal, couldn’t it? But God is our shield. I think it was Ernest and he said if the dart comes through the shield, an experience comes but you can rest assured that it has first passed through the hands or the eyes of God. He has looked at this experience and He has decided ‘Yes, she can manage it. She’ll be able to get through. It might not be easy but she can manage it.’ Maybe other darts had come and He felt ‘No, that is too much.’ So we can rest assured that the experiences that come are because God has allowed it. He has allowed it to come through the shield and He knows that we can make it. We can make it because He is with us and if we can just trust Him then He’ll help us. I was just reading the chapter about Peter and the Lord said “Satan has desired you.” One version said “He’s asking for you.” I also thought about Job and you remember how Satan spoke to God and asked for Job. You just give me Job. Let me at him, and now he was asking for Peter. I like to think that Jesus said “I have prayed for you.” He had gone before. He had gone before and He was already interceding for Peter, even before the experience came. Before that time came, Jesus had prayed for him. Jesus is going before us and He’s praying for us. When I thought of the provision of God and reading some verses in this book, God’s provision is marvellous  to me. We’ve read about His provision with the water in the desert and it is always marvelous to me when He said. “Forty years you have been in this wilderness and your clothes haven’t worn out.” Forty years…how long do your clothes last you? He also said “Your shoes hadn’t worn out.” They had come through that and they were still fully clothed. They weren’t in rags and they weren’t bare footed. The Lord had provided. Isn’t it marvelous? It is absolutely marvelous to me. Andy told us the other day “You know, I go through a pair of shoes every year. They must have been some shoes to last for 40 years. That is God’s provision and He is able to provide. It is marvelous to me when I read these chapters and this wonderful God that looks after His people, He is my God. He is my God and He is your God - the same God that we read about. He cared for them, provided for them, strove with them, was patient with them, was merciful with them and corrected them. He provided for them and He kept them, and He is my God and He is your God. He is still the same and He is our Father and He is faithful to us. I mentioned this last week and I often enjoy the thought that God’s provision doesn’t come in advance. It only comes when we need it. When those people were at the river Jordan it was in flood; it wasn’t just the normal little Jordan , it was a MASS of water, it was in FLOOD, and that is the time when the Lord wanted them to cross. It was the most impossible time, the most difficult time. How can it be? Why did the Lord choose now? Why couldn’t it be..? NO…when it was the most impossible and the most difficult then He could show them what He could do. When it is the hardest thing, that’s when we see the power of God. He didn’t show them what was going to happen. He didn’t open the waters and say “Look I am going to make a way through so that you can go through and see how it’s going to be done.” He said “You go forward” and it was only when the priests put the tip of their feet into the water, THEN only did the water clear, and that was wonderful to me…not a moment before we need it. That is where our faith comes in, to take a step believing that there is a way, believing that the Lord will open those waters, believing that the Lord will get us through it. I think it is wonderful, it is absolutely marvelous. All through the years I am learning slowly, but I am learning just what God can do. When you look back over the years of your life then you realize just how wonderful it is that God has helped you. Maybe there are times when you didn’t appreciate it and times when you didn’t just see it, but now looking back you can see how God is in control and how God guided, how God made a way where there was no way. No matter how the experience seemed to be too hard and too great, He went before and He made it possible. As I said, this God that we read of in this Bible is my God and He is your God. I am so grateful for the Lord who has gone before and made the way possible. We see it in the life of Jesus. He was just a man; He was flesh and blood and yet He was able to face a bigger Jordan than we would. His whole life was just across the will of nature. His whole life was persecution, and it was humiliation, and we know there was also suffering, not always physical suffering, but it was suffering to the human nature. Then the final suffering…I often marvel and think, ‘How could He do that?’ How could He do this for anyone let alone for people that don’t even love Him…to suffer like that. I have thought that more and more in the latter years. We love, don’t we, and when we love we will do anything for the person we love, but I don’t know how many of us would die for the person we love. Then Jesus died in that horrible way for a world that didn’t love Him and a world that rejected Him. I am just so grateful for that love. I don’t know how many years, but I still pray that the only way that I could fit into the will of God is if I love Him. I always pray ’Help me to love so that it will help me to do.’ That is what is going to get us through, to love God, and if we love Him, we will WANT to please Him and we will WANT to do His will. Faith helps us to believe that He will do it and it helps us to go forward. It doesn’t matter if we go forward slowly but we must look forward because that’s the way we’re going. We mustn’t ever think of looking backwards because that is not the way we’re going. We are going forward and our God is with us and He will never leave us and He will never forsake us. So we don’t have to despair and we don’t have to be broken in spirit. Sometimes we feel broken in spirit, but we don’t have to because we can have this peace and know that our Lord is just ahead.