As I stood at the bus stop with my Mickey Mouse school bus lunch box in hand all geared for the first grade, making my way to graduation was the furthest thing from my mind. My heart was too caught up in the moment to look that far ahead. Many questions filled my mind on that day. “Will my teacher be mean?” “What if I get lost in that huge school?” “Should I take my hood off once I’m on the bus and my mother cannot see me?” “Will I ever learn to write with this pencil that was as large as a cigar in my little hand?” Needless to say, I did not ask all the right questions to myself because I received at least one spanking every day my first week. Where were all the activist groups when I was growing up? I was convinced I would never make it out of the first grade. The days were so long and life was moving at the pace of a snail. However, after what seems like twelve blinks of an eye today, I walked across the stage receiving my high school diploma in what was probably more a parole than a graduation! Walking to the car, tears filled my eyes as I realized that season of my life had come to an end and I was left wishing it would continue forever.
When health issues clouded my mind and future with great uncertainty, I found myself taking a deep and thorough inventory of my life. The interesting observation I made was that my life had been built on many different seasons. Each season through which I have passed has been filled with unique people, places, particulars, and performances. There were some seasons I wished had never ceased and others I thought would never end. Looking back over it all, I was reminded of the passage in Daniel 2:21 which reads, “And He (God) changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings…” While God has appointed phases and periods in our lives, He has also determined fitting times for their culmination. Sarah may have lived with a barren womb, but “at the set time (season) God sent baby Isaac. Israel may have “dwelt in the wilderness a long season,” but God finally brought them to the land of promise. Paul may have “stayed in Asia for a season,” but God finally granted liberty to go into Macedonia. Henry David Thoreau said, “Live in each season as it passes…and resign yourself to the influences of each.” In life, death and taxes are not the only certain things. There is also change. Life is constantly in motion moving from one experience to the next. In order to face each new season of life confidently and courageously, there are some perspectives we must clearly understand.
We must remember spiritual progress is a fashionable thing. For forty days in the wilderness, Jesus faced the relentless assault of Satan. However, Luke 4:13 notes, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season.” As I read those words, two things immediately strike me. First, I am reminded of the limited nature of Satan’s attacks. Second, I am reminded Satan only relaxes in order to regroup his attacks. Spiritual progress is neither cheap nor easy. For every advancement we make in our life spiritually we are guaranteed to face a season of strategic obstacles and hindrances unique to our journey. However, like an athlete lifting weights, the struggle against the load only fashions us with greater strength and stamina. Satan put Job through the fire, but Job “came forth as gold.” Satan sifted Peter like a stalk of wheat, but Peter came forth as a pillar of influence. Satan was a thorn in the side of Paul, but Paul came forth with the grace of a blossomed rose. Seventeenth century minister William Secker wrote, “Suffering seasons have generally been sifting seasons in which the Christian has lost his chaff, and the hypocrite his courage.” Open doors of opportunity are but the welcome of an open season on our life. But, it is only those lives that are moving toward the goal that merit being caught in the crosshair of the enemy.
We must remember sinful pleasures are a fleeting thing. In Hebrews 11:25, Moses chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Moses was wise enough to know sin never delivers on all that it promises, and the pleasure of sin can never survive this world. The reason sin is so deceptive to us is because it usually begins as a lot of fun and excitement. If you were to happen upon a rattlesnake, it is easy to become captivated by what appears to sound like a baby rattler on its tail. However, that is not the end that will hurt you! It should never be our expectation to find honey where hornets rule the nest. The delight of sin will never be in equal proportion to the damage of sin. Abraham spent a season in Egypt, but took away a thorn (Hagar) which still troubles Israel to this day. Lot moved to Sodom for a season, but could never move Sodom out of his heart. David spent a season adoring the beauty of Bathsheba, but grief would fill his home the remainder of his life. Puritan preacher John Trapp wrote, “No place can be so pleasant but sin will lay it waste.” Sin may squirm about with the prospect of life, but the only thing sin has the ability to produce is death. You can rest assured that any road of sin we travel is but a detour in life that will ultimately lead into a swamp.
We must remember sorrowful pain is a fading thing. As Paul considered the many hurts he had faced, he writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment…” Amidst some very intense and painful experiences, Paul was saying in essence, “It is not a big deal and it won’t last forever.” The secret of Paul’s perspective was his ability to look at his hurts against the backdrop of eternity. Only with such a view are we able to see how limited our sorrows are in their reach. We have all faced hurts that cloud our vision and wounds we thought we could never overcome. However, with time, the sorrows we bear begin to fade in the light of the joy that still lies beyond us. Henry Ward Beecher said, “Tears are often the telescope by which men see far into heaven.” That explains how David could say, “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” That is also how the psalmist could say, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” When I was a child, my grandmother would fill three tables with food for our entire family on Sunday afternoons. I recall looking up on the table at the broccoli, green beans, and spinach; things no child ever desires. But, I knew if I could tough it through the rough stuff, my grandmother would wipe the table clean and bring out the good stuff. Life may serve us many a distasteful experience, but we must never forget our Father saves the best for last!
In Ecclesiastes 3:1, Solomon wrote, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Life is like a wheel in motion moving from one season to another. The Lord has ordained that no season will linger longer than its purpose. There has never been a winter in which spring decided to skip its turn. You may think you will never move beyond the first grade of your experiences, but before you know it you will be graduating with honors!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2012 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.