RANDALL J. BREWER
It has been said that if we had no problems then we’d never know God could solve them. How true this is. It is also true that most people can handle and solve those basic, mundane problems that come up in day to day living. Let’s face it, you don’t need chapter and verse to fix a flat tire of a leaking faucet. Suffice it to say, a little knowledge and some elbow grease will solve such problems.
There are times, however, when most severe problems occur and seem to come upon us all at once. More times than not they come suddenly and unexpectedly and for a moment we may be caught off guard not knowing what to do or where to turn. At first it may appear that our lifelong dreams have been shattered and no relief is in sight. Often times our first response is to cry out in desperation while we ask the age old question, “Why me, Lord?”
All is lost or so it appears. Yes, the Bible says God will lead us to triumph, but for some reason the timing of this manifestation is almost always different from what we’d like. Most times we feel stretched to the limit and we are at a point where we don’t think we can take any more. It is at times like this when we all need a word of encouragement that will boost our faith in God to a higher level and cause us to remain strong during the storm. Some time ago I received such a word and the impact of what was said remains with me today.
The details of our situation are not important. Let’s just say that an array of strenuous burdens had come into our lives to begin what was to become a multiyear season of heavy testing. Our strength, our endurance, and most of all our faith were being attacked nonstop. Any servant of God comes to expect adversity from the devil, but never had we encountered anything to the degree that we were now experiencing.
A noted evangelist described adversity as your enemy’s reaction to your progress. Yes, much progress had been made in our lives and marriage and in a way these burdens brought an inward joy because we knew we were successfully invading the devil’s kingdom. Good things were happening and being accomplished and we knew the enemy didn’t like it. Despite the many setbacks Anne and I had been facing we knew we had to keep going forward.
The Christian life is more like a marathon race than a hundred-yard dash. Endurance is needed and it is only those who stay strong to the finish that are rewarded. Anybody can begin a marathon, but only champions finish them. This is why the Bible says that many are called, but few are chosen.
The time came when the burdens began to increase more regularly and at a higher level of intensity than we’d ever experienced before. In truth, our world seemed to be crashing down around us right before our very eyes. Dreams and goals were being shattered and all our plans were being interrupted one right after the other. I knew we were in a war and I took none of this laying down.
I continued to remain strong in my faith and Jesus was the “Rock” on which Anne and I stood. I was diligently fighting the good fight of faith and all the pieces of the puzzle seemed to be in order. All, that is, except one. This missing piece was bringing much hardship to my life and I knew I had to devote all my time and energy to finding that one missing piece.
Just what was that missing piece? It’s what I call a “word of encouragement.” A word of encouragement is like the final cup of water someone gives a marathon runner toward the end of the race. This final burst of energy gives him the added strength he needs to reach the finish line before all the others, even though every bone and muscle in his body is hurting. It relays the message to keep going and don’t give up. The Bible says, “a word spoken in due season, how sweet it is” (Prov. 15:23b). So the search began. Somehow, somewhere, I needed to hear a “word of encouragement.” Little did I know where I would find it.
As is the case with so many believers, one area where Anne and I began to come under attack was in the realm of finances. I had enjoyed a rich, full season of prosperity for a couple of years until a major layoff at my place of employment sent eight hundred people to the unemployment line. I eventually found work, but was not even making half of what I had made previously. The pressure of never having enough to make ends meet can have a domino effect and cause negative things to happen in every area of your life. The rope around my financial neck was being pulled tighter and tighter so the search for other income began.
I was working third shift so in the middle of the night on my lunch break, I would go to a nearby gas station to get some coffee and the morning newspaper with all the current want ads. The attendant was a sweet lady named Denise and all her customers were greeted with a warm, friendly smile. One night I went there as I normally did only to find that the place was full of police officers. I quickly found out that a few minutes prior to my arrival there had been an armed robbery attempt. Denise seemed to be holding up pretty well, but with all the commotion that was going on I quickly got my paper and left. I saw her the next night and she still seemed to be doing well, although you could easily tell that she was in a battle to keep her composure. It was a battle she appeared to be winning.
The next night she was doing a whole lot better and was back to her normal, friendly self. She talked more openly about what had happened and I asked her if she felt compelled to quit her job. “No,” she said. “I will not let them run me off.” This little giant of a lady then looked at me with a look of determination in her eye and said, “You know, we can’t let the bad guys win.” There it was!! There was the missing piece to the puzzle that I was searching for. Unknown to her, Denise had just changed my life for she had given me the “word of encouragement” that I so desperately needed to hear.
I do not know what her spiritual convictions are but I do know that Denise is a woman of character and that is the highest compliment one person can give to another. Those words changed my outlook on life. The devil is the “bad guy” and Anne and I determined in our heart that we will not let him run us off. Since then, many battles have been fought and won because we now have the strength and determination to rise up and take hold of the victory that Jesus died to give each of us. Today our heads are held high and we can go forward with no fear of what obstacles we may face. And why is that? Because God used a sweet, precious lady to tell me “we can’t let the bad guys win.” No we can’t. No we won’t.