How many of you know and have experienced the fact that life is not always easy? Have you ever faced hard times?
Sometimes the path is often rocky, periodically unstable, mostly not level, and certainly not stagnant.
If this sounds familiar, then take heart because God directs your steps if you are willing and obedient to follow Him.
The prophet Isaiah records these words:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;’ for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).
In the original context, God is saying that the children of Israel had paid the price for walking away from God.
The consequence of their walking away from God was going into captivity in Babylon for seventy years. But THIS Scripture–this Scripture is the promise of their return. 🙂
The ultimate fulfillment of this promise is that John the Baptist would herald the arrival of Jesus Christ. But, like all prophetic scripture, it has implications for us as believers even today.
In our daily walk with Jesus, we too face obstacles in life.
In our road map to success for the Christian life, there are four types of terrain we face:
- Valleys (low times);
- Mountains (high times);
- Crooked paths (uncertain times); and
- Rough or rocky terrain (unstable times).
I want to look at each type of terrain with you using examples from my own life and ministry.
But first, let’s look at the original promise to the children of Israel.
God, in His infinite mercy, is giving this word to the prophet Isaiah over a hundred years before its fulfillment. If you remember, Isaiah is one of the foremost prophets who warned Israel of their backsliding state and ultimate judgment to come.
In this instance, God is sharing that after they would go into captivity, they would surely return to the land of Israel. Doesn’t this prove the heart of Father God and His redemptive nature? He judges, but He also restores – all for our good.
Secondly, God is using Isaiah to foretell how John the Baptist would foretell the advent of Jesus, the Savior of mankind.
Luke records that John the Baptist “went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” just like it was written of Jesus in the book of Isaiah – then he quotes the above scripture. This verse is like a herald, ordering the roads to be repaired in preparation for the coming of a king.
Indeed, THE KING was coming. The King is and was the Lamb of God–who, in John’s words:
“is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).
Today, as we walk out our Christian faith, we do face challenges in life.
I have preached many times that, as Job said:
“man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (5:7).
Remember, Jesus Himself said to His closest disciples:
“In the world you will have tribulation (trouble, pressure); but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
So let’s look at these four pathways that we traverse.
Sooner or later, we will walk through valleys. We all face low times in life. We get discouraged, down, depressed or disheartened.
I remember one time in my life when I was so down. After my dad died, I moved back home to take care of my mom.
I knew I had a calling on my life, but I was going nowhere in ministry.
I still lived at home and was working at my local church. I went on a fast, calling out to God in desperation and crying. Then, I began to worship.
As I got deeper in worship, I saw a vision of various kinds of people groups that did not know the Lord. It was then that God spoke to me asking if I would go to the nations. I said YES, even though I wasn’t sure about leaving my mom.
When I arrived home, my mom came running out saying that she knew I was called to the nations. She said, “Go, baby!”
I soon returned to Lee College (now Lee University) and pursued the calling on my life. My “yes” to God brought me out of the valley. As I have often said, “when you are walking through the valley or through pure hell, don’t stop!”
Valleys also surround mountains.
Yes, there will be times when we are on the mountaintop with God like Moses. Praise God for those times when your faith is strong; when every need is met; when you are walking in obedience; and when you feel the presence of your Father!
Over the years, I have seen mountaintops.
I have seen miracles, spoken prophetic words that came to pass, raised two girls that are in ministry, and now we pastor a church. God has been, and still is, faithful!
Each mountaintop experience serves as a reminder that God is on the throne. Sometimes, in the valleys, we must remember our mountaintop experiences. They remind us that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Life also has crooked paths: ways that are uncertain.
In times when you are not sure of anything, stay in the Word. Remember, the Psalmist says;
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Jack Hayford says that the Word is a lamp, like a flashlight, showing the details for today–and also a light, like a spotlight, giving discernment for tomorrow. I love that!
Just as a compass always points to true north, God’s Word will always point to His pathway for our lives.
A pastor friend of mine tells people not to doubt in the dark what God has said in the light. Even in dark times, the Word admonishes us with a promise attached:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Lastly, we sometimes walk rough or rocky paths in life.
Believe me, as I have traveled across the globe, I have learned to wear the right kind of shoes when walking certain terrains. I know not to walk a cobblestone street in high heels. Plus, I now take extra caution when using steps.
A few years ago, I was coming off stage in a foreign country when I missed the step and fell.
Yes, I was hurt and had to seek medical care. It surely was a rocky pathway for a while in my life as I recovered. It reminds me of what Paul warned the Ephesians:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the ruler of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and HAVING SHOD YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL (THE WORD) OF PEACE;
above all taking the shield of faith with which you WILL be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:10-18, emphasis mine).
Walking with God can be challenging at times.
Imagine Joshua in the desert, leading the children in the Promise Land. I’m sure the terrain was neither smooth nor straight; it was uneven. Plus, they had to fight battles … but they persevered.
What was the result? Joshua kept walking in obedience and taking territory. Joshua 21:45 states that:
“Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”
PRAISE GOD! So, saint, keep walking the pathway of life in God’s kingdom.
You have the promise of God’s divine, mountain-moving excavation forces working on your behalf!
God’s promise to you is that:
- the valleys will be exalted;
- the mountains will be leveled;
- the crooked paths will straighten out; and
- the rough places will be made smooth.
So, church, let’s go forth with one foot in front of the other. Your Promise Land is inevitable!