Sadly, much of Christ’s body today resembles a modern-day Valley of Dry Bones (see Ezekiel 37:1-14). It is a wilderness filled with the bleached skeletons of fallen Christians. Ministers and other devoted believers have flamed out because of a besetting sin. Now they are filled with shame, hiding out in caves of their own making. Like Jeremiah, they have convinced themselves, “I will not make mention of [the Lord], nor speak anymore in His name” (Jeremiah 20:9, NKJV).
God is still asking the same question he asked Ezekiel: “Can these dry bones live again?” The answer to this question is an absolute “Yes!” How? It happens by the renewing of our faith in God’s Word.
The Word of the Lord is a consuming fire. Indeed, it’s the only true light that we have during our dark nights of despair. It’s our only defense against the enemy’s lies when he whispers, “It’s all over. You’ve lost the fire, and you’re never going to get it back.”
The only thing that will bring us out of our darkness is faith, and faith comes by hearing God’s Word. We simply have to cling to the Word that has been implanted in us. The Lord has promised, “I will not let you go down; therefore, you have no reason to despair. There’s no cause for quitting. Rest in my Word.”
You may think, “But this dark night is worse than anything I’ve ever known. I’ve heard a thousand sermons on God’s Word, but none of it seems of any value to me now.” Don’t fret; God’s fire still burns in you, even if you can’t see it. You’re to pour onto that fire the fuel of faith. You do this by trusting the Lord. When you do, you’ll see all your doubts and lusts consumed.
God’s Spirit is breathing life again into every set of dry bones. He’s reminding them of the Word he implanted in them. Those who once lay dead are being revived, and they’re crying as Jeremiah did, “God’s fire has been shut up in me for too long. I simply can’t hold it any longer. I can feel the Lord’s power raising me up. He’s putting life in me, and I’m going to speak the Word he gave me. I’m going to proclaim his mercy and healing power.”
The Bible tells us that Jacob received an incredible revelation through a face-to-face encounter with God: “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30, NKJV). What was the circumstance surrounding this revelation? It was the lowest, scariest point in Jacob’s life. At the time, Jacob was caught between two powerful forces: his angry father-in-law, Laban, and his estranged brother, Esau.
Jacob had labored over twenty years for Laban who’d cheated him time after time. Finally, Jacob had had enough, so he took his family and fled without telling Laban.
Laban gave chase from the east with a small army, ready to kill Jacob. Only when God warned Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob did this man let his son-in-law go. No sooner was Laban out of the picture, however, than Esau came from the west. He too led a small army of some 400 men, seemingly ready to kill his brother for stealing his birthright.
Jacob faced total calamity, convinced that he was about to lose everything. The situation looked hopeless; yet in that dark hour, Jacob had an encounter with God as never before. He wrestled with an angel that scholars believe was the Lord himself.
Now, think about Job. In Job’s darkest hour, God appeared to him in a whirlwind, and the Lord gave this man one of the greatest revelations about himself ever granted to any human being.
God described the mysteries of the natural world from the cosmos down to the depths of the sea. He pointed to the secrets of creation. Job was shown the utter glory and majesty of God, and he emerged from that experience praising God, saying, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You…. Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:2-3, 5).
Something marvelous happens when we simply trust our Lord. A peace comes over us, enabling us to say, “It doesn’t matter what comes out of this ordeal. My God has everything under control. I have nothing to fear.”
Throughout scripture, the greatest revelations of God’s goodness came to people in their times of trouble, calamity, isolation and hardship. We find an example of this in the life of John. For three years, this disciple was “in Jesus’ bosom.” It was a time of rest, peace and joy with few troubles or trials. He knew Jesus only as the Son of Man. So when did he receive his revelation of Christ in all his glory?
It happened only after John was dragged from Ephesus in chains. He was exiled to the Isle of Patmos where he was sentenced to hard labor. He had no fellowship, family or friends to comfort him. It must have been a time of utter despair, the lowest point in his life.
That’s when John received the revelation of his Lord that would become the final element of scripture: the Book of Revelation. In the midst of that dark hour, the light of the Holy Ghost came to him, and John saw Jesus as he’d never seen him before. He literally saw Christ as the Son of God.
John did not receive this revelation during Jesus’ days on earth or even while he was working alongside the other apostles. No, it was in his darkest hour that John saw Christ in all his glory. This incredible revelation put John on his face, but Jesus put his hand on John and reassured him, declaring, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18, NKJV).
I believe this revelation comes to every praying, hurting servant in his or her time of need. The Holy Spirit says, “Jesus holds all the keys to life and death, so everyone’s departure rests in his hands.” This revelation is meant to bring peace to our hearts. Like John, we are to envision Jesus standing before us, holding the keys to life and death, assuring us, “Don’t be afraid. I hold all the keys.”
What is our response to be? Like Job, we are to say in faith, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
In the days of the early church, this is what the body of believers said, “They lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord…who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed”’” (Acts 4:24-26, ESV).
The church back then wasn’t talking about people who just feel a little bit disgruntled around the Christian philosophy and the Christian worldview. We’re beginning to see a similar move toward rage and intense antagonism toward the Christian faith today.
However, these individuals are plotting in vain. That gives us hope, doesn’t it? This is part of what the Lord is saying in Isaiah, “Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 54:16-17).
The plots of man, the disruptions, the fierceness that might come against us even in the last days, these plots are in vain. Our enemy is forging these torments in a fiery furnace, but the Bible tells us that the devil and the people he drives plot in vain; their weapons will have no effect.
When you’re being tested, when you’re being tried, when the enemy comes in like a flood, what happens? When people or the devil comes against you, they’re really coming against the Lord himself and against his anointed. God raises up a standard against this attack for his own glory and as a testament to his goodness in the lives of his children!
He’s anointed you. If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you were given an anointing. You were given grace. You were given power.
Several studies in sociology and other educational sciences demonstrate that an overprotected child who has been spared everything, having known only victories, will find himself at a disadvantage, even perhaps in serious danger when the great trials of life hit him or her.
It’s natural to want to shelter our children, but one of the most extraordinary skills that we are called to develop for our families is a healthy, biblical view of how to go through trials.
Let’s not be afraid. Do not despair in the face of failures, trials, handicaps, delays or deserts that we are going through. They are powerful tools in the hands of God to speak to the hearts of our children and to shape us, to transform us. Your family today needs to hear the voice of God who says, “I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5), “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 22:13), and “I am still working! My mercies never come to an end; they are renewed every morning” (see Lamentations 3.23). “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).
Let's not limit our God. Instead let's look at how many men and women in the Bible — Abraham, Moses, David, Gideon, Joseph, Peter, Paul, Mary, Sarah, Esther — were shaped, comforted, transformed and used by God despite the life strewn with trials and failures from which they recovered.
“My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous; do no violence to his home; for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverbs 24:13-16).
This week, remember that regardless of how many times your knee bends, God will lift you up. In suffering lies great good for us and our children, both now and in the future.
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.