Nothing Grows On The Mountaintop

I remember that day in the coffee house as if it was yesterday. My friend Lenny was going through a dry patch. Maybe you’ve been there. God seems distanct, even absent. You talk to Him but you don’t hear anything back . . . only silence. We Christians refer to it as the desert experience, or we may call it the valley experience.

Lenny was having one of those. He was a little grumpy that day. He had been in the valley where God seemed very distant. When we get there, we always wonder why? What did I do? Did I do something to offend God? Where has He gone? He doesn’t talk to me. Why is He silent?

The short answer is that we keep on trusting and we keep on everyday putting one foot in front of the other. Sooner or later, He’ll come back. Sooner or later we’ll come out of the valley . . . and we’ll be better for it.

Still it is hard. Still it is confusing. Where is God? Why has He left me here alone?

I felt bad for my friend, Lenny that day. I wanted to help. So, I said, “Well, you know the saying, ‘Nothing grows on the mountaintop. It all grows in the valley.'”

“If one more person tells me that, I’m going to slap him,” he spat out in disgust.

Yeah, well I had tried to help. Sometimes it is better to just listen when a friend is talking about his distress, than to say something glib. Sometimes a friend in need just needs to be listened to.

It has troubled me that some national evangelists talk only about positive things, and never about suffering. I have nothing against positive messages. Sometimes they are just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes, you need a lift in your soul, and you need the words of a speaker that turns every difficult thing that happens in our lives, somehow into a blessing. They are all smiles and happy talk all through their message. Sometimes, it’s just what you need.

When I really need a lift, I pull up a sermon by Joel Osteen. He’s entirely positive and it usually helps to put me in a positive frame of mind.

Still, we are to rightly divide the word of truth, the gospel message. Once, at a small church, the guest speakers announced her sermon topic for the day. “I’m going to talk to you today about suffereing.”

What? Suffering? Did I hear you right? You are going to talk about suffering?

Well, that sermon was one of the best I have heard, full of solid meat, plenty to think about.

Suffering is one of the main themes of the Bible. Whole books have been written about suffering.

If you open a Strong’s Concordence to the word “suffer,” you will find 90 entries. There are a bunch more for “suffered” and “suffering.”

That’s enough entries to indicate that the concept of suffering is important.

Some Christians want to do away with the idea of suffering . . . never acknowledge it, or talk about it. Some teacher’s of the Bible seem to indicate that if you are suffering, you are out of the will of God, that you have sinned, or you wouldn’t be suffering. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Honestly, when I fell on hard times and some days didn’t have enough money in my pocket to buy a cup of coffee, some people would suggest that I must have sinned, or I wouldn’t be in such circumstances.

That was an easy one. I began to respond with Paul’s description of his circumstances in 1 Corinthians 4:11, “We are hungry, homeless, and dressed in rags.”

“So, what do you think?” I would challenge my accusers. “Do you think Paul was in this condition because he sinned?”

That would quiet them real quick. The idea that Paul was in this situation because he had sinned is utterly ridiculous. He was there because he had laid everything on the line to preach the gospel.

The effective Christian life, is not smooth as silk, with no problems or hardship, where you go around singing, “Sunshine In My Soul” all day.

When you obey the call of the Lord, many if not most days will be difficult. Advancing the gospel can be messy, real messy.

You’ll find that if you are in the will of the Lord, “in the trenches,” so to speak, people will constantly judge you. One pastor’s wife said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, they will criticize and judge you.”

Well, a servant isn’t above his master. The pharisees were constantly going after Jesus, criticizing and accusing Him of all sorts of things. If you have chosen to serve the Lord without reservation, get used to it!

What does the Bible say about hard times? Probably, James says it best:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 NKJV

When you’re going through it, it’s not easy to “count it all joy,” and sometimes we find ourselves asking, “Why does God put me through this stuff?”

The goal of the American Dream that has shaped our culture for many decades is prosperity. However, prosperity does little for the development of character. I have met many rich men who obviously could use more character. Character, or the development of the fruits of the spirit, is God’s ultimate goal for Christians. Nothing shapes character as much as suffering or adversity.

Francis Bacon, one of our American fathers, sheds profound light on the subject. Prosperity, he says, is the blessing of the Old Testament which does very little for the character of the person. His only comment is that it requires temperance. In other words, if one has a lot of money, he needs to manage it and show restraint in spending it.

Adversity, the blessing of the New Testament, on the other hand is a blessing, according to Bacon. Adversity produces fortitude. Fortitude is a great benefit to the character of any person.

So, I leave you with Francis Bacon’s words of wisdom:

Adversity is a Blessing.

If we believe that, it will greatly change our outlook on life and the quality of our walk with Jesus.

If this teaching has blessed you, please sow a financial seed into our ministry. Your financial gift helps us to continue to serve you. Thank you.

Photo taken by Lorraine