Timing and Alignments Under Pressure
Reconciling Answered Prayer and Tribulation
A few thoughts to pass on to all today coming out of some intense times for us personally. First, I want to thank many on this Circle for their continued prayers. Though times be hard, there is enough eternal life in all of us from which the Lord is able to express stabilizing instruction for maintaining faith on the journey. Somehow, we all “make it” despite what we have to pass through.
The word “tribulation” has been instructive of late. “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer – take heart – take courage – I have overcome the world.” But what is this word all about in relation to prayer and to promises of hope in this life? How do we reconcile concepts of answered prayer with tribulation conditions which seem to produce something quite beneath the elating “far above all we can ask or think” answers beyond our “wildest dreams”—if indeed we can find any answers at all? I have struggled with this question for a long time.
Before speaking further to this, I want to direct your attention to what to me is the best description of the meaning of tribulation I have read, especially in contrast to the wrath of God. It is found in the Leland Earls article “The First and the Last” which I highly encourage everyone to read if you never have.
The biblical word for tribulation is the word “thlipsis” which simply means “pressure.” It refers to stressful conditions, similar to what I wrote about previously in “Entering His Rest: Is it Worth the Stress?”
Answered Prayer v. Tribulation
But reconciling tribulation and answered prayer is very difficult. Truth reconciliation is a top passion of this teaching ministry. But this one is a beast. See, the problem is that most positive teaching about what God promises us is preached and believed absent any concept of tribulation. And vice versa. Our minds naturally compartmentalize these concepts. We have no way to embrace them together psychologically. But this needs to change, because tribulation is increasing in its intensity and what the Spirit is calling us to believe Him for is also increasing in specificity, creating a rather sizable spiritual powder keg. So if we don’t find a way to reconcile earthly tribulation and divine promise, we will abandon the faith.
We have to then have a way to maintain faith in answered prayer and fulfilled promise when our experience in tribulation is telling us the opposite: “God’s word is not true. God does not answer prayer, God has failed you,” etc. (Reminds me of the bumper sticker I recently saw that said, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer.”) The inability to make this reconciliation is the driving force behind the mushrooming philosophy of atheism today and for what Jesus predicted when He said the love of many would grow cold and people would betray the faith.
Prior to His prediction of tribulation at the Last Supper, Jesus had also promised fullness of answered prayer. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, I will do it…..If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it.” When you hear the words “I will do it,” does any concept of tribulation enter into your mind? Of course not. You just hear, “I will do it.” It is simple. That is all there is to it.
But that is not all there is to it. Behind the words “I will do it” is an untold story of process through tribulation which must be negotiated. You don’t read that into those words. But it is there. We know it is there because elsewhere Jesus made it absolutely clear that His disciples needed to ask and keep on asking, because answers would not come right away or as desired or as expected. Endurance was required in the asking and in the face of seeming delay, non-answer and disappointing answer from God. In the parable of the unjust judge and of the begging friend at midnight, we get glimpses into Jesus’ small attempt to reconcile the concepts of answered prayer and tribulation for us.
Taking the Cosmic View
Here is the truth we have to deal with and that we don’t get. God’s fulfillments of prayer, promises and personal prophecies do not occur irrelevant to everything else going on in the universe. And the fact is we are subject to macro forces and purposes being fought out in heavenly realms of which we have little awareness and no understanding. And I really do mean, no understanding. The only thing we are given to understand is that God has set forth the church as a basis by which He might make known His inscrutable wisdom to principalities and powers:
Ephesians 3:10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.
Are we seeing this? Are we getting it? See how the entire concept of tribulation is related to this cosmic struggle. When our faith is getting worn down to the point where it is seemingly hopeless to hold on to any more promises or expect any more answers, when our minds of faith and belief are becoming psychologically crushed under pressures that defy sanity, God is wanting to lift our vision to a new place of heavenly perspective to provide anchoring stability.
When there is no physical or psychological rest because of tribulation, there is still an inward heart rest in HIM within tribulation which we must enter at all costs. And when nothing else makes heads nor tails out of what is happening to us, we need to at least know that it has something to do with His getting His victory over His enemies relative to our existence. In that greater cosmic picture, it is not finally about us nor our answered prayer nor the truth of God’s word to us. None of that. It is beyond that. And if realizing that is all we have to hold on to for now, we need to hold on to it until the smoke clears however that will happen.
The crushing of the mind is a terrible thing. But it is a necessary thing. We don’t realize it, but our own minds contain the serpent’s head that the foot of Jesus has to crush. As Richard Wurmbrand once observed in essence, Golgotha is not called the “place of the skull” for nothing. And that is why we have to go through the tribulation we do before we can ever get to the significant answered prayer and fulfilled promise on which we have staked our lives and our fortunes. The mind will never be allowed to take credit for what God finally reveals was done for us to His own glory. God will see to that. That is when it will be far above what we were able to “ask or think.”
Priority in Divine Promises
Back to these macro forces—Besides the inscrutable issues concerning contests between heavenly powers, there are timings and alignments that have to be worked out in the universal picture before individual prayers and promises can be brought to pass. As I said, these fulfillments do not come in a vacuum divorced from all the rest. They only come according to alignment with all the rest according to certain timings which (again) are beyond our comprehension.
Let me give you an example of this from a personal word of the Lord to me yesterday.
We had just come out of church having been exhorted to give yet the more financially into a certain worthy work of the Lord. I wanted to give more but had nothing to give. Yet I had for a long time led a life of giving. And of course the promise had been that if we would give to the max, we would have the more in abundance to give the more. But here I was with nothing to give to this worthy cause. So I’m talking to the Lord with the usual “why”?
The Lord directed me to another word of His many years ago when He had said to me, “I am going to deliver you from this system”—meaning this financial world system of satanic debt and credit and taxation on labor. He proceeded to say in essence:
There are priorities in my purposes for my promises, and my priority for you has been the promise of deliverance from this system, not to bless you within the system in fulfillment of my other promise to bless those who give all to me. To fulfill the one, I must needs have deferred the other, lest I reinforce you in that from which I am most intentioned and promised to deliver you.
What the Lord said to me may not mean a lot to you personally, but it helped me immensely and forms the basis for this writing. There are timings and alignments within “competing” promises for our lives necessitating short term deferrals and disappointments regarding some promises in order to accomplish longer term fulfillments and destinies regarding others. Such forces tribulation upon us when our actions in faith for the deferrals at the expense of other securities we could have kept appear to leave us “high and dry.”
God cannot and will not work against Himself to accomplish His prioritized purposes for our lives. Perhaps we have never given any thought to the concept of “prioritization” in God’s promises. But we must come to grips with this if we are to find solace in the short term disappointments—and by “short term” we can be talking decades on the human clock. And by “disappointments,” we can be talking serious heart-wrenching tragedies on the human plane. (Paul's word for short term disappointments is “light affliction.”)
The necessity of deferrals over “short term disappointments” in favor of long term intentions still over life’s horizon are God’s explanation for our tribulations in faith, and it is this explanation by which He would reconcile to us the incompatible thoughts of “I will do it” and “you shall have tribulation.”
Everything That Can Be Shaken Will Be Shaken
This too is a word that has surfaced recently. The instabilities discussed today over unseen heavenly conflict and divine prioritization differentials are occurring amidst epochal changes shaking every culture on earth. None is immune. So there is no place to escape in order to find respite from this change.
The change in recent generations technologically and morally makes it impossible to hold onto the hope of a vision according to the context of an initial time and generation in which we may have received it. The promises of words received in a move of God twenty or thirty or forty or more years ago cannot be fulfilled in their initial contexts of receiving. The changing of these contexts is also what crushes our minds and would cause us to lose faith that there is a God, never mind that what He has said to us is true. The changing of the times against the promises is the great shaking before us in our daily experience.
But the Lord puts forth this word today so that “you may not be soon shaken in mind,” as Paul said. If you are being severely psychologically tested over deferred rescue in your life situations, find anchor points in this word that can help you discover and remain in that place of inner rest until the smoke clears and the sovereign glory of God appears to justify His name over His words and your prayers.
Providentially, one of our Circle members sent me the poem below from Streams in the Desert after I had written this article. So it tells me this is a message for many today. I leave you with these thoughts…..
Blessings to all the Royal Priesthood,
I was crushed...so much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8, 9).
"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure by foes, and a pressure from friends.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.
"Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod.
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured."
The pressure of hard places makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and fits us to help and sympathize with them.
There is a shallow, superficial nature, that gets hold of a theory or a promise lightly, and talks very glibly about the distrust of those who shrink from every trial; but the man or woman who has suffered much never does this, but is very tender and gentle, and knows what suffering really means. This is what Paul meant when he said, "Death worketh in you."
Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and waves.
--A. B. Simpson
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
Page created May 26, 2015