Americans love to use metaphoric cliche`s when talking. Perhaps you have heard “make a mountain out of a molehill”, “pull the wool over his eyes”, “on his last leg”, “bite the dust”, “stretch the truth”, “hold your horses”, “turn over a new leaf”, “kick the bucket”, “lost your marbles”, “beat the bushes”, “when it rains it pours”, or “eyes of a hawk”. Recently, I was reading the origins of many of those sayings and came across an interesting story. In the ancient sport of falconry, trained hawks were used in the pursuit of wild game. However, the hawks would fly so high that they could not be seen with the human eye. So, in order to tell where his hawk was located, the hunter carried a small caged bird known as the shrike. The shrike was turned loose to fly but was instinctively terrified of the hawk. The terror caused the shrike to fly with its head cocked to keep the hawk in view. As cruel as it sounds to place a creature in such a terrifying predicament, by watching the antics of the shrike the hunter ensured he never lost his trained hawk or his prized catch.
If ever anyone must have felt like the shrike it had to be Job. Having already lost everything of physical value in his life, Job 2:6 records some words that take my breath away. “And the Lord said unto Satan, behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” Who can even fathom the Lord stepping back and allowing the enemy to attack and abuse one of His own without restraint? It must be a feeling of abandonment like Uriah felt running to the front line of the battle only to discover everyone else was retreating. It must conjure up images of Samson startled awake from sleep to discover he was surrounded by the Philistines. It must be like the panic Joab sensed when he discovered even grabbing the horns of the altar was not enough to protect him. Job gave this commentary in Job 16:12 as to how he felt, “…He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for His mark.” His life was used for target practice! No one ever likes to feel “like a sitting duck,” but in those moments the Lord may be producing something in our character that we could not gain otherwise. Just why does the Lord often permit our enemy to relentlessly assault our lives without restraint?
It adds confidence to our witness. In Luke 22:31, Jesus alerts Peter, “…behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” Satan literally begged for the chance to rip Peter apart, but what adds intrigue to the story is the fact Jesus agreed to let it happen! In verse 32, Jesus said, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted [returned], strengthen thy brethren.” Peterʼs sifting may have “taken the wind out of his sails”, but would not only be for his effectiveness, but for the encouragement of others. Others find strength from our lives when they know we have been where they are and we survived. After David defeated the giant Goliath, he returned to Jerusalem with Goliathʼs head and armor. Goliathʼs armor was proof of the battle, but Goliathʼs head was evidence of the victory! Victorious living is never secured by formulas and theories, but rather by faithfulness and tenacity. Triumphant testimonies are medals that can only be won on the battlefields of life. Looking back at the difficult road he had traveled, Joseph summed it up best in Genesis 50:20, “but as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good…”
It adds composure to our walk. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul writes, “…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me…” The word “buffet” means to strike violently with the fist, and to punish insultingly. What is amazing is Paul seems to imply this had been going on for fourteen years! Paul was “fit to be tied” but had learned how to take a punch and keep on walking. During the days when I played basketball, I used to work out wearing ankle weights. The added weight made my feet slow and my jump short. However, after a few days, I removed the weights and discovered my body was performing at a level I did not naturally possess. Moses was able to carry a nation through the wilderness because he was accustomed to carrying sheep in a desert. David was able to withstand the sword of Shimeiʼs tongue because he had learned how to dodge the javelins of Saul. Grace will always provide the strength to carry what you never thought you could carry, to walk further than you thought you could walk, and to do what you never thought could be done.
It adds credibility to our worth. While on the cross, Jesus cried out in Mark 15:34, “…My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” All of hell had been unleashed against Jesus and His friends had forsaken Him, the church was against Him, and God Himself had turned the light of His eyes away. What was it God had in mind during Christʼs incredible suffering? He knew that amidst the darkness “the light at the end of the tunnel” was the glory of the resurrection! There will never be glory without first passing through Gethsemane, and there will never be a crown until you have carried a cross. It is not until the lump of coal has been pressed and stressed beyond measure does a diamond come forth. It is not until the oyster has been wounded is a pearl produced. Job noted, “…when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Peter discovered if you are a “…partaker of Christʼs sufferings…His glory shall be revealed…” Paul joyfully took “…glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The devil always strikes the first blow, but the Lord always saves the best till last!
There are moments and seasons in our life that “knock our socks off.” Such times call for us to “stand and face the music.” Once Job gained this full perspective of his life and circumstances, he said in Job 23:14, “for He performeth the thing that is appointed for me…” Life is not a set of accidents but a series of appointments. So, the next time circumstances leave you overwhelmed and terror-stricken, take heart, the loving Lord may have just “thrown you to the wolves.”
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2008 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.