2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
Stubborn, obstinate, driven, hardheaded, or persevering – you take your pick. I have been called them all. Through the peaks and valley of life, I guess I would call it survival. With a fiercely competitive nature, there is a careful balance between being all those qualities. In the flesh, they produce things like pride, arrogance, and other self-driven motivators. But in our spiritual life, it can be used to develop endurance. I guess it all depends if you use your powers for good or evil. For many years, I never realized how overbearing and unyielding my personality was. The Lord has dealt with me severely to recognize that people are my process above anything else. To serve the Lord with my whole heart and seek Him completely, I must recognize every single body along the way and find a way to love and care for them. Like a bull in a china shop, most of my life has been spent wrecking everything in my path just to find my way through. Now the Lord is teaching me patience and perseverance as I slowly make my way through this world being conscious of others as I go.
Taught from the earliest age that persistence pays off, those who learn “good” habits and develop “strong” character will be successful in this life. However, success in God’s Kingdom is on much different terms. No it is not doctrine or the traditional beliefs of the church. God looks through everything we say and do to our heart. It is the motivation and intentions of the heart that dictate the outcomes in our life. The Lord is looking for those who love Him. They are the ones who trust Him with their life – all who are in it and everything that they have. How can I know if Jesus lives in my heart? You are not going to like the answer any more than I do. The human heart expresses its contents under pressure.
I wish I could count the number of times some days that I throw in the towel to give up or say that I am not doing something anymore, only to press even harder. As a fighter and doer by nature, there is something inside me that refuses to give up. The bigger they are the harder they fall. When the pressures of life reach a breaking point, it is ugly. Those who know me become suspect because I am usually the one pushing, pulling and dragging them through refusing to allow them to give up or give in. When I am deflated, running on empty, exhausted and ready to just walk away, I hear these words – “My Grace is enough for you. It works best in your weakness.”
We are pressed on every side by troubles yet have God’s Promises to give us release. God does not want to relieve us of pressure but force us to pursue a release. The Light that lives inside of us must find its way out so our life will be fulfilled. We have treasure locked in fragile humanity. God’s Great Power lives in us and is looking for ways to manifest His Presence in our life. His Presence brings light to the dark places. It elevates us to achieve our purpose by exalting His Great Name. Not when things are good, but in the midst of all hell breaking loose in our life when we run out of human strength, patience and tact. What comes out of our mouth? What is our next move? How will we react or do we respond? The pressure felt in us is God’s Purpose fighting to get out of us. Do we quit? Give up? Or wait to see what’s really in us?
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
You are the Light of the World. Jesus did not fill you with the Light of His Love without purpose. Comfort and complacency is the fleshly response to pressure. Our stubborn heart digs in. It is relentless when it comes to change especially the kind that requires pushing and pressing or any exertion at all. Choosing not to read God’s Word or do things His Way, many so-called Christians grope in the dark calling out His Name without the slightest inclination to follow Jesus Christ. A city is on a hilltop. It is developed on a foundation. It is not a nomadic drift but a named place. A lamp is placed on a stand. It was never meant to be carried in one hand while traveling far from home. It is to be the center of our home. The Light in our life, Jesus, came to live in us so that we could live through Him. He said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”
Leviticus 24:1-3 (NLT) The Lord said to Moses, “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to keep the lamps burning continually. This is the lampstand that stands in the Tabernacle, in front of the inner curtain that shields the Ark of the Covenant. Aaron must keep the lamps burning in the Lord’s presence all night. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation.
Command the people to bring pure oil of pressed olives for light. To keep the lamps burning continually. This was a commandment for the Tabernacle to be placed right in front of the curtain that shielded the Ark of the Covenant representing the Presence of God. Reading a little bit further it says, “This is a permanent law for you and it must be observed from generation to generation. Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the law or do away with the commandments of God but to fulfill them. Every time we fall short, He applies His Grace and Power so we can still pursue God’s Blessing as we follow His Son. Therefore, the law still remains in effect that we are to keep lamps burning in the Lord’s Presence even though the dynamics have changed.
We now house God’s Presence and the Light of His Love in our very human heart. The pressures of life expose the contents of the heart allowing us to deal with those areas of our life that lack the fruit of His Spirit. The oil that is requested is the oil that is pressed. Not the superficial undertakings and tasks of religious fellowship or striving to be a good person, but allowing the Living God to express His Glory from our life. This did not change because Jesus died but now is fulfilled as we are His Temple to be filled with His Light until no darkness remains.
Hosea 6:1-3 (NLT) “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”
Though our relationship with God has dramatically changed since Jesus died on the Cross, it didn’t change His Mind about us, who we are and what we are called to do. The Lord invites us to return to Him. He wants to heal us. He wants to restore us. God can only take as much as we are willing to surrender. Submission to His Power and Authority is a personal choice lived day by day and moment by moment. I was sharing with a friend the other day that it had been one of those days. The kind of day that feels like exercise at that point when you cannot take another step or maybe lift another weight. The distance is too far but turning back is not an option. Broken and empty – you fight the urge to just sit down and cry. I have felt this way when exercising and pushed through. I have felt the same way right before delivering each one of my children. I actually told the midwife that fourth time around that I was done and leaving. She just laughed and waited for my tantrum and tirade to end. It was about that time my baby girl was born. My promise handed over to me. God is doing His Part to release His Blessing in our life. Are we doing our part?
Luke 8:44-46 (NLT) Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.”
“For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28) When I read this familiar story today, I cannot help but wonder, “Did Jesus really not know who touched Him?” I mean really. Of course, He did, but His Disciples missed it. I am just going to pause right here and let you think about that for a minute, too. (Selah)
Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” Peter was trying to manage crowd control and keep His Lord from being crushed beneath the weight of the desperate and dying. Jesus was looking for faith in the heart of each one. The women had deliberate faith that when pressed produced determination in her heart. She would not stop until she found Jesus. She would not be dissuaded until she reached out and touched Him. She was convinced that Jesus had what she needed and would give it to her. Do you believe? Do you believe enough to be persistent under pressure? To ignore the insults and offenses of others to let the Light of His Love shine through you?
The disciples were more concerned with their mission and mandate rather than ministering to those around them. When pressed they conformed to natural thinking rather than supernatural believing. When Jesus’ Power left Him, He was consciously aware of its release. You have been called to be the Light of the world. The Light does not “do” anything other than to shine for all men to see. It is the city on a hill well-established by faith in the foundation of Jesus Christ. We can do nothing to earn God’s Love, Grace and Unmerited Favor other than to love Him enough to trust Him and never give up until we see His Glory come out. People will always be the priority in our life. What profits a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? None.
The Lord knows you are pressed, but you will not be crushed. He sees the persecution coming at you from all sides, you must persevere. He knows life can be perplexing so God has given us the Mind of Christ and His Spirit lives in us. We are not abandoned but adopted. Though the enemy pursues us relentless, God is before us and behind us with His Hand of Blessing on our head. Every time God’s People are knocked down, grace meets them to help them up. His Glory is expressed when we decide to bring others with us.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NLT) Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
Freedom allows each “farmer” to decide how much seed will be put in the ground. From the days of Noah until Jesus returns, we live in the constant cycle of seedtime and harvest. You will reap what you sow. The amount of “seed” that you sow is decided completely by you. It only takes a spark to start a forest fire if the conditions are favorable. Just as the seeds we plant for produce to feed us naturally, the same is true spiritually. The Lord will never rip seed from your hand (or heart) forcing us to stick it in the ground.
The decision to give our life to Jesus is often facilitating by the pressure applied to our life. Many will not read the Word until they need something from it. They do not seek the Spirit of God for Instructions until they have completely lost their way. We do not go to church but we are the church. God expects us to sow and reap His Promises every day and provides them as such. We do not want the pressure. Well, I have news for you. You are contents under pressure and the Lord will not relent. He will not revoke His Command to bless you but freedom will not allow His Love to be forced. So there is pressure and more pressure until it can be expressed in our life.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
My life is a pressure cooker currently. Yesterday was especially difficult with family, work, church and moving next week. I went into overload. Family scattered for the moment. Work filled with deadlines. Church still an hour away. The Call of God constantly pressing on my heart. Add selling one house, buying another and moving to the mix and yes, I am physically and emotionally exhausted right now. So, when it was time to head out for the midweek service at church, I had a million excuses. The first and most pressing was packing. When I pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car, it was all I could do not to crawl through the doors down the hallway into the sanctuary.
When the first note of worship began, the weight of the world fell from my shoulders. It is not about me. It is all about Him. As I decrease, His Power increases to meet its full potential. Though the pressure did not change at all, the feeling that it’s going to be worth it all overshadowed any other human emotion. See God didn’t say that there would not be pressure in this life. In fact, He warned us that it would be the opposite. I will fall down, get knocked down and lay down many times in my lifetime. It is what I do when I get back up that matters. First that I choose to use His Grace and get back in the good fight of faith. It also matters that I am conscious of others and consciously bring them up with me win each ascent. The Lord promises that as the oil of our life is pressed out to Light the Word for Jesus that it will be worth it every single time.
Proverbs 24:10 (NLT) If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.