Wednesday, 28 October 2015

When Heaven is shut

'And there appeared an angel unto Jesus from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.' (Luke 22:43-44, KJV)

All of us go through difficult times, circumstances that are hard to bear; often we have prayed and prayed, yet there seems to be no apparent improvement. The Apostle Paul faced similar feelings. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Paul repeatedly prayed that God would remove his 'thorn in the flesh', yet all God would say is, 'My grace is sufficient for thee'. In those hard times all you need to do is walk with Him one day at a time. It is for good reason that Jesus said, 'Take no thought for tomorrow' (Matthew 6:34, KJV). Don't worry about tomorrow's difficulties; His grace and mercy will carry you through today - and the good news is, there will be new mercies available to you tomorrow. Each day's mercies are tailored to that day's troubles.

When I was imprisoned for Bible smuggling I prayed each day that God would get me out. I imagined the various scenarios that God could use; I would tell God my latest idea; I would even 'plan' out the details. Yet that was not God's plan for me. After a few months of 'planning' I became disillusioned. We were always woken brutally, but this one morning, the appalling nature of what was happening finally hit me. The heavens were like brass. I had been praying for food parcels, but they were never allowed; I prayed for a visit from my wife, but there was none. I was praying to get out, but I was never released; in actual fact, I had been warned that the communist authorities were preparing a further case against me. I was in a depressed state. I was sitting on my stool, crying out to God: I can't pray! I said: If You don't answer me, what is the point in asking?!

I had done everything I could to get God's attention. I was in utter despair. The answer I got in my spirit was there came a time when the disciples had to turn to Jesus because of frustration over prayer. They said: Lord, teach us how to pray. Jesus replied: Say Our Father... As I remembered this, I began to argue: How can I say 'Our'?! Its me alone in here! It's 'my' Father! Suddenly I realised what I was saying: My Father! He is not just God, He is mine; the revelation of that relationship flooded my soul. For the first time I understood the reality of God's love; He loved His Son so dearly, yet He wanted to express His love for me. He sent His only Son to to go through what I was going through. The cross was Jesus identifying with me. In my utter despair, I realised I was loved. 

Suppose God had organised things 'extremely well' and got me out of prison on my timetable, I would not have the ministry I have today. The longer I stayed in prison, the bigger the miracle became. In the end it was the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who came to Czechoslovakia just to get me out! The whole miracle took one year to prepare. I didn't let go of God, even in the darkest days of despair, I knew, I believed, but it hurt and it was hard; the frustration of waiting for my answer even caused me to have a heart attack. 

Hold on. Don't let go of God! God WILL do it, even if it takes three months or three years. But in the waiting period don't become bitter and sour. Faith trusts God even when life doesn't make sense. The Bible says, 'The secret things belong to God' (Deuteronomy 29:29); not everything can be understood. The good news is, all things will be resolved and become apparent at the return of Christ. - At the moment we see through a glass darkly; but a day will come when we see in full (1 Corinthians 13:12). 

Be encouraged as you listen to this week's podcast: VICTORY