PASSING THROUGH THE "VALLEY
OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH"

By: SR Shearer
April 7, 2012

"Christian on the Borders of the 'Valley of the Shadow of Death',"

Frederic Edwin Church - 1847 (Pilgrim's Progress)

INTRODUCTION

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Mookie, Seamus and the Leo Zephyr

During the last month Lucy, Jack and I have been passing through the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" - and not just figuratively, but in reality. It seems that every member of our "little pod" has been threatened with death, and not just the three of us, but our beloved "animal companions" as well - Mookie, Seamus and the Leo Zephr.

Not only that, we have been subjected to a vicious attack on our finances, and generally on the whole of our psyches - a cruel attack that has been unrelenting and very, very fierce.

Needless to say, we have been left physically exhausted and mentally depleted - and we continue to suffer as the result of these attacks. It is for this reason that you have not heard much from us during the month of March and now early April.

We have been left physically exhausted and mentally depleted.

Painting By: Josť Luis Fuentetaja

And more than all of that, I have received numerous indications that many of you have been having your own "Valley of the Shadow of Death" experiences. It seems that we are all coming to realize what the Apostle Paul meant when he said:

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12)

- for nothing else can explain the vicious and unrelenting nature of these attacks - except that they are being directed by Satan (and this is a charge that I very rarely make).

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood ... but against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Painting By: Loren Ries

I WISH I COULD SAY ...

I wish I could say - not only for my sake, but for your sakes as well - that, given time, all this will pass. But it won't - at least not in this life. As the painting by Frederic Edwin Church - "Christian on the Borders of the Shadow of Death" - indicates, we are only at the border (edge) of a great tribulation that awaits us as the "end of the age" (i.e., the "Tribulation Period") draws near; we have not yet really entered into all of our sufferings. Our journey into this valley has only just begun - and just how many of us will be able to say with the prophet Habakkuk,

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation ..." (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

- is yet to be determined; after all, it's not what we say that counts, but what we do.

Habakkuk gazing on his drought-stricken fields of wheat

WE ARE ALL BEING TESTED ...

Clearly, we are being tested; that's what "TRIBULATION" means; it means a "time of testing."

The "test" revolves around this question: Do you (we) love God? Do you (we) REALLY love God?

A Roman tribune (judge)

NOTE: The word, "Tribulation," means "test." It is derived from the Latin word, Tribulum, which means to press and subject to stress as in a test. But the word means more - it means to SEVERELY test; to press to the point of ANGUISH - much as a test pilot tests an experimental plane and presses it to its very limits of toleration.

The Roman word, Tribune, is also derived from the Latin word Tribulum. A Tribune in ancient Rome was a magistrate or judge appointed to hear civil and criminal proceedings. It is the word from which our modern English word, "Tribunal," is derived - which means a seat of judgment. In all these instances, the word Tribulum [from which, once again, the English word "Tribulation" is derived] had a legal sense attached to it. It meant [in the sense that is appropriate here] pressure and stress applied to an object in order to test it.

This is the exact sense that the translators of the King James version of the Bible were trying to convey when they translated the Greek word, Thlipsis, as Tribulation in Revelation 7:14. As with the Latin word, Tribulum, the Greek word, Thlipsis, means pressure and stress applied to an object for the purpose of testing.

It is this sense, then, of the word, "Tribulation," which the translators of the King James version of the Bible wished to convey to the readers - A TIME OF TESTING!! This is substantiated by Revelation 3:10 when Jesus referred to the Tribulation as "the hour of testing."

SATAN'S CHARGE AGAINST THE PEOPLE OF GOD

The charge that Satan makes against the people of God is this: That He (God) is loved by them (those who claim to be His followers) only because of the "things" He bestows upon them. What a terrible thing to say. It is the curse of wealth. How does a rich man ever know that he is truly loved? The sad truth is, he doesn't so long as he retains his wealth. But should he lose it, then he will find out.

The charge that Satan makes against the people of God is that He is loved by them only because of the "things" He bestows upon those who follow Him.

Great crowds of people followed Jesus so long as he fed them and healed them of their diseases. But when tribulation arose because of the Word He spoke, the crowds disappeared. Oh, to be loved because of who you are, and not just because of the "things" you have! This is the love that God desires from those who follow Him. It is the love that Ruth gave to Naomi, and this even after Naomi had asked Ruth to depart from her because she (Naomi) had nothing further to give Ruth - she no longer possessed any "things" with which to "purchase" Ruth's love:

"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. "'Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me'." (Ruth 1:16-17)

"But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me'." (Ruth 1:16-17)

THE LORD IS SEEKING SUCH PEOPLE ...

The Lord is seeking such to follow Him - those who will follow Him long after the "things" are gone, the crowds have left, the popularity faded; when the clothes are tattered and torn, there is no food on the table, and persecution rages all around.

The Lord is seeking such to follow Him - those who will follow Him long after the "things" are gone, the crowds have left, the popularity faded; when the clothes are tattered and torn, there is no food on the table, and persecution rages all around.

These are the disciples of Jesus - with such people one can repose trust and friendship, true love is here to be found!

The question before us all is this: Is this the kind of love we possess towards God? - OR is the love we have for God merely the frivolous, superficial, silly and trifling kind of love embraced by Atlanta preacher Bruce Wilkinson in his book, The Prayer of Jabez; a book so inane and foolish - even CHILDISH - that it fairly boggles the mind; a book that celebrates GREED as a guiding principle in the Christian life, and presents God as nothing more than a "SUGAR-DADDY" whose sole object in life is to make Christians happy. For example, Wilkinson writes:

"If you didn't ask God for a blessing yesterday, you didn't get all that you were supposed to have. And be sure to ask EXTRAVAGANTLY, for you nothing but God's fullest blessings (meaning, of course, MATERIAL blessings) will do. Don't worry about coming across as selfish, for this is exactly the kind of request our Father longs to hear ... you will be so overwhelmed ... that you will find yourself saying, 'It's too much! Hold some of your blessings back'."

SEPARATING THE TRUE FROM THE FALSE ...

Thus it can be said, the work of tribulation is first and foremost a SEPARATING work. Specifically, it separates those who merely profess Christianity from those who truly believe. This is important. The work of tribulation - in the first instance - is a work directed not at separating the atheist from the believer, or the idolater from those who worship the one true God [idolaters and atheists are people who obviously and openly are not Christians], or any other such thing; but rather it is a work SPECIFICALLY directed at separating those who claim to be Christian [out of convention or advantage] from those who truly are. And this is precisely the work of tribulation in the Parable of the Sower. Concerning those who accept Christianity and profess it superficially for material advantage, Jesus had this to say:

"But he who received the seed [Gospel] on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

"Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when TRIBULATION or PERSECUTION arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (other translations say "wither away")." (Matthew 13:20-21)

"But he who received the seed [Gospel] on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; Yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when TRIBULATION or PERSECUTION arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles (other translations say "wither away")." (Matthew 13:20-21)

TRIBULATION: A WORK OF TRANSFORMATION
IN THE BELIEVER'S HEART

Yes, tribulation SEPARATES, but there is another more sublime work of tribulation; and this work of tribulation is not a separating work, but a PURIFYING work directed not at the hypocrite, but at the believer. This work elevates, ennobles, glorifies, and transforms the believer. Paul says:

"... but we also EXULT in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

Tribulation is the gate through which all true believers must pass into the kingdom of heaven.

Indeed, tribulation is the gate through which all true believers must pass into the kingdom of heaven; transformation is impossible without it. The Bible says:

"And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God'." (Acts 14:21-22)

Again, the Bible - speaking of those saints who through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (during the Great Tribulation) have been translated to the very throne of God - says:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands ...

"Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?

"And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me, THESE ARE THE ONES WHO COME OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9,13-14)

"THESE ARE THE ONES WHO COME OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

AND SO IT IS ...

And so it is that I take up the calling once again to which the Lord has called me: AND THAT IS TO IMPART TO YOU THE THINGS THAT GOD HAS IMPARTED TO ME; TO EQUIP YOU FOR THE SUFFERINGS THAT ARE TO COME. The pain I and the other members of my immediate "pod" suffer is still here; the attacks continue, but we have no choice but to carry on.

AND THIS IS MY HOPE FOR YOU AS WELL - THAT DESPITE YOUR VERY EVIDENT SUFFERINGS, YOU TOO WILL FIND THE GRACE TO CARRY ON.

After all, we are not the first to suffer in this manner; the Apostle Paul writes that -

"... there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me ... [think about that: God allowed a "messenger from Satan" to trouble and vex Paul - pretty heavy, huh]

Paul continued:

"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

"And he said unto me, MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

PLAINLY, THE LORD IS SEEKING SUCH PEOPLE ...

The Lord is seeking the kind of people who like the Apostle Paul find it satisfactory for the Lord to say:

"MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR THEE"

- again, these are the kind of people who will follow Him long after the "things" are gone, the crowds have left, the popularity faded; when the clothes are tattered and torn, there is no food on the table, and persecution rages all around. These are the disciples of Jesus - with such people one can repose trust and friendship, true love is here to be found!

More next time! - especially as it pertains to YOUR ability to find such people to help you in time of trouble; after all, that's what the church (i.e., the "commune" of God) is all about.

Until then, I call upon you all to remember these words from the 23rd Psalm:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)

God bless you all.

SR Shearer,
Antipas Ministries

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