After These Things :: Alan Stewart
When I was eight years old, I saw something that I could not discern whether serious or comical. I was with my father who was helping a friend clear some property in order to build a house. This man was a hunter and raised beagles. Although I had grown accustomed to their constant howls and barks, nothing could have prepared me for the scene that was about to unfold. It was a rather warm day, and I had fallen asleep in the shade of an oak tree. Suddenly, I was awakened by the sound of one of his beagles yelping and rolling in the dirt. My fears were telling me that either this dog had rabies, or it had been bitten by a snake. I was not sure if I should try and help the dog or do my best to run away as fast as I could. However, once the dog came to his senses and the dust cloud he had created had settled down, it was clear what the problem was. The poor dog had been sprayed by a skunk! Sometimes, it is not until the dust settles that you can see the real picture.
There are some words found in John 3:22 that arrested my attention recently, "After these things came Jesus..." What a precious thought! What a precious promise! In those words, I am reminded that no matter what I may encounter on my journey in life, once the dust has settled, perspective will always be clearer, and peace will always be closer. In the lives of several spiritual giants of Scripture, there is a key phrase written at a critical juncture of their life that may hold the secret to their greatness; "and it came to pass after these things." They stayed, endured, and persevered until the dust settled!
Sometimes in life, our circumstances will create panic that calls for our resignation and begs for our surrender. To reach a spiritual plateau where few will ever rise will require you to stay put amidst trying circumstances until the dust has settled. No matter what your life is facing today, rest assured there is coming an "after these things." What will it mean for your life to stand fast and firm until the dust settles?
It will be a life prepared for trust. In Genesis 22, the chapter begins, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." Leading up to these words, the "these things" was over sixty years of testing and preparation for usage. Abraham had faced one test and one temptation after another to prepare him for the culmination of his faith in offering his son Isaac. These words, "after these things", signify in the life of Abraham, "he's now ready." It is interesting to note, the Lord did not find him ready "before these things" or even "during these things." Had his moment come any sooner than "after these things," Abraham was not only unprepared, but would have been a failure! What was this whole process about? It was about conforming Abraham to the image of God. Everything we face in life has a purpose. Like Abraham, we may face seasons of famine, deep thirst, cruel temptation, and severe trials of our faith, but we will never be trusted with deeper service until our life is fashioned into the image of Jesus.
It will be a life patient in timing. In Genesis 41, the chapter begins, "And it came to pass at the end of two full years…" Joseph loved God and had been steadfast and faithful to Him. What was his fruit and reward? He was hated by his brothers and sold as a slave. He was imprisoned because of false accusations and forgotten in the obscurity of the prison basement. However, there was a secret few would have recognized on the surface. Genesis 39:21 records this secret, "But the Lord was with Joseph." It came to pass in the perfect economy of God's timing that Joseph was only being positioned for a Divine appointment. Have you noticed how the Lord is able to transform apparent defeats into glorious victories for Himself? Haman was headed for the gallows, but the Lord destined him for honor. Samson was blinded, but the Lord still gave him "vision." Job was written off, but the Lord wrote him down. "After these things" means the Lord still has a few surprises to reveal to those who wait.
It will be a life presented for triumph. Joshua 24:29 reads, "And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua...died." After all the battles he fought, temptations he faced, and valleys he walked, he was still standing tall and strong to the end. A tightrope walker was once asked the secret of his success. He answered, "I keep my eyes fixed on my steps and my heart fixed on my goal." That's great counsel! Sometimes, amidst the tears, trials, and temptations, our flesh is prone to ask, "Is it all really worth it?" May I remind you, Scriptural miracles never occurred outside an atmosphere of distress, defeat, and discouragement! Whether it was the bitterness of Egyptian bondage or the barrenness of wilderness wandering, Joshua knew that beyond the cloud of dust was the Lord who created the dust! Few will make it to the finish line stronger than they started simply because the dust will blind them from trusting what waits "after these things."
Life can be so confusing and complicated. One minute we are standing against a sun-filled blue sky, but in the turn of a moment we are swirling inside a funnel cloud. When the dust has kicked up, keep in mind, there will be an "after these things." Often, our teardrops become the rain which settles the dust, while at other times it is just a God-sent calm. But the dust will settle, and "after these things," your life will be left with a fragrance you cannot shake off!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2006 Alan Stewart