Streams in the Desert - Jun 29

by L. B. E. Cowman and Jim Reimann

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There we saw the giants. (Numbers 13: 33 KJV)

Yes, the Israeli spies saw giants, but Joshua and Caleb saw God! Those who doubt still say today, “We can’t attack . . .; they are stronger than we are” (v. 31). Yet those who believe say, “We should go up and take possession . . . , for we can certainly do it” (v. 30).

Giants represent great difficulties, and they stalk us everywhere. They are in our families, our churches, our social life, and even our own hearts. We must overcome them or they will devour us, just as the ancient Israelites, fearing those in Canaan, said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size” (v. 32). We should exhibit faith as did Joshua and Caleb, who said, “Do not be afraid . . . , because we will swallow them up” (Num. 14: 9). In effect, they told the others, “We will be stronger by overcoming them than if there had been no giants to defeat.”

In fact, unless we have overcoming faith, we will be swallowed up— consumed by the giants who block our path. “With that same spirit of faith” (2 Cor. 4: 13) that Joshua and Caleb had, let us look to God, and He will take care of the difficulties.

We encounter giants only when we are serving God and following Him. It was when Israel was going forward that the giants appeared, for when they turned back into the wilderness, they found none.

Many people believe that the power of God in a person’s life should keep him from all trials and conflicts. However, the power of God actually brings conflict and struggles. You would think that Paul, during his great missionary journey to Rome, would have been kept by God’s sovereignty from the power of violent storms and of his enemies. Yet just the opposite was true. He endured one long, difficult struggle with the Jews who were persecuting him. He faced fierce winds, poisonous snakes, and all the powers of earth and of hell. And finally, he narrowly escaped drowning, by swimming to shore at Malta after a shipwreck nearly sent him to a watery grave.

Does this sound like a God of infinite power? Yes, it is just like Him. And that is why Paul told us that once he took the Lord Jesus Christ as his life in his body, a severe conflict immediately arose. In fact, the conflict never ended. The pressure on Paul was persistent, but from the conflict he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.

Paul described this in quite vivid language: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4: 8– 10).

What a ceaseless and strenuous struggle he related! It is nearly impossible to express in English the impact of the original language. Paul gives us five different images in succession. In the first, he has us picture enemies completely surrounding and pressuring but not crushing him, because the heavenly “police” have protected him and cleared a path just wide enough for him to escape. The literal meaning is, “We are crowded from all sides, but not defeated.”

The second image is that of someone whose way is completely blocked or thwarted by the enemy. Yet he has persevered, for there is just enough light for him to see the next step. Paul said, “Perplexed, but not in despair,” or as one literal translation put it, “Without a road, but not without a ‘side road’ of escape.”

The third picture, “Persecuted, but not abandoned,” is one of the enemy in hot pursuit of him while the divine Defender stands nearby. He is pursued, but not left alone.

The fourth is even more vivid and dramatic. The enemy has overtaken him, struck him, and knocked him down. But it is not a fatal blow— he is able to rise again. He has been “struck down, but not destroyed,” or literally, “overthrown, but not overcome.”

In the fifth and final image, Paul advances the thought still further, giving us a picture that appears to be one of death itself: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus.” Yet he does not die, for “the life of Jesus” comes to his aid, and he lives through Christ’s life until his lifework is complete.

The reason so many people fail to experience this divine principle is that they expect to receive it all without a struggle. When conflict comes and the battle rages on, they become discouraged and surrender. God has nothing worth having that is easily gained, for there are no cheap goods on the heavenly market. The cost of our redemption was everything God had to give, and anything worth having is expensive. Difficult times and places are our schools of faith and character. If we are ever to rise above mere human strength, and experience the power of the life of Christ in our mortal bodies, it will be through the process of conflict that could very well be called the “labor pains” of the new life. It is like the story of Moses, who “saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (Ex. 3: 2); although Satan’s demons tried to extinguish the flame in Moses’ life by continually pouring water on his plans, they could not, because God’s angels were ever vigilant, pouring oil on the flame to keep it burning brightly.

Dear child of God, you may be suffering, but you cannot fail if you will only dare to believe, stand firm, and refuse to be overcome.
~from a tract


Cowman, L. B. E.; Reimann, Jim (2008-09-09). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (pp. 253-255). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Categories: spiritual