EIijah had prayed that it would not rain and, ultimately, it did not rain for three and a half years. So the dried-up brook was just an indication that the very thing he had prayed for was beginning to take place. He was living in the result of his own prayer.
Have you ever had that happen? “Lord, make me a godly man.” “Lord, mold me into a woman after your own heart.” Meanwhile, in your heart you’re thinking, but don’t let it hurt too much. “Lord, make me stable, long-suffering, and gracious,” but don’t remove too many of my creature comforts. “Lord, teach me faith, make me strong,” but don’t let me suffer. Have you ever bargained with God like that? We want instant maturity, not the kind that requires sacrifice or emotional pain or hardship. “Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it right now!”
God’s spiritual boot camp doesn’t work that way. It is designed for our development toward maturity, not for our comfort. But self-denial is not a popular virtue in today’s culture.
A short time before Robert E. Lee passed into his Lord’s presence, a young mother brought her tiny infant to him. With tenderness, Lee took the child and held him in his arms, looking deeply into the baby’s eyes. He then looked up at the mother and said, “Teach him he must deny himself.”
The seasoned veteran knew whereof he spoke. As Douglas Southall Freeman writes, “Had his [Lee’s] life been epitomized in one sentence of the Book he read so often, it would have been in the words, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ “1
Our God is relentless. He never ceases His training regimens. He shaves off our hair, He takes away our comfortable and secure lifestyle, He moves us into cramped and unfamiliar quarters, and He changes our circle of friends—it’s like we’re in a spiritual boot camp!
In the process, He strips us of all our pride! And then He begins to lay the foundation blocks of heroic courage, and a new kind of confidence, if you will—the kind that no longer defends us but defends Him. What a magnificent change that is. And how essential in our journey toward maturity! Again, it’s all part of being cut down to size.
- Douglas Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1947), 3:216.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.