Friday, March 18, 2011

You've Got to Squeeze the Orange to Get the Juice!

     Our son and daughter in law live in a lovely home not too far away from our community.  They are blessed to have several orange trees growing on their property, so about a month ago they brought us fresh squeezed orange juice. There is just nothing to describe how delicious this juice is to the taste buds!  We relished every sip until we had finished off the container.  What a treat it was for us, but I got to thinking about it.  In order to get the juice for us to enjoy, those oranges had to be squeezed to extract that golden liquid.  There is no other way to process that orange other than to put pressure on it.  The same is true in our lives as well.  When we are under pressure, what is inside our hearts comes out in the open, and God often uses difficulties to make us sweet in spirit.
     As I reviewed my life, I thought about the hard times:  going through polio;  losing my dad when he was only 63; watching my mother lose her ten year battle with Alzheimer's among other difficult places.  However, God used those times of heartache and challenge to teach me His abiding love and presence.  I ran to the Bible when confronted with emotional and physical pain.  I prayed like there was no tomorrow because I knew that only God could help me through my difficulties.  He took what Satan meant for evil and turned it to good.  I can look back now and see that.  
     There is a saying down here in the South:  "When you are up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember the original objective was to drain the swamp" (adage from unknown source).  Sometimes this is how we feel in life.  Things are sailing along just fine, and suddenly an unexpected or painful circumstance arises.  It is how we look at it and what we do with it that will either make us better or it will make us a bitter person.  I believe that God allows these trials to bring about our greater dependence on Him for the answers.  He is the one allowing us to be squeezed so that we will produce a sweet spirit that is a blessing to others and a glory to Him.
     In his letter to the believers at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote these words:  "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.....Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:7-10;16-18).
     Paul knew something about being under pressure and enduring hard times.  He nearly died from stoning, he was shipwrecked, bitten by a poisonous snake but survived, and was taken prisoner by Rome.  Yet, he did his greatest work for he wrote many of the epistles of the New Testament by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while he was a prisoner.  God knew just what pressure to allow in Paul's life that would produce the sweet testimony that would bring glory to His name.
     I do not know what challenges you may be facing today.  First, I want you to know that you are not alone.  All too often, the enemy of our souls wants us to think that no one else has had to face what we are facing.  This is simply not true.  Suffering is common to all men and women.  For the Christian, however, it is an opportunity to run to God for His comfort, direction, and guidance.  He is able to make sense of it even when we cannot.
     He has further promised in Romans 8:28 "that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  We may not have any idea why we are going through a difficulty, but if we know God, we can trust that as our Sovereign Lord He will work for our good.  After all, He has made us and established all the days of our life, so He knows the plans He has for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)
     I know for a fact that all the places of pain and loss in my own life have given me a greater compassion and understanding for others when they face trials in their lives.  It has drawn me closer to God and caused me to trust in Him knowing I cannot change my own circumstances...only He can.
     I challenge you today to allow God to use those difficult places in your life.  Seek His face and ask Him what He wants you to learn from them.  Embrace the difficulties knowing that God is attempting to bring out a stronger, sweeter faith in your life.  Above all, remember the orange.  You've got to squeeze the fruit to get the sweet juice out!  I would rather be squeezed by God's hands than avoid the pressure and miss the blessings that come from being used by the Lord.  Selah!

Father, life hurts at times.  The pressure we undergo sometimes makes us wonder where You are, but we know that You promise to bring good out of the circumstances we encounter.  Help us to trust You more each day and not lean on our own understanding.  Thank You for loving us enough to mold us in the image of Your Son our Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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