“You have made Your people experience hardship; You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger. You have given a banner to those who fear You, That it may be displayed because of the truth.”
BY RAY DRUCKENMILLER
“Irony and disproportion are all God’s way. He keeps us off balance with his unpredictable connections. We think we know how to do something big, and God makes it small. We think that all we have is weak and small, and God makes it big1”
In the midst of times of hardships, real hardships, we rarely pause to consider that God might be orchestrating all these things precisely in order to hang a banner on our lives as a public display of truth. But this is exactly what the Psalmist is saying that God does. As God fashions the path of our lives, He has intentionally placed in the way of some of His beloved; hardships that are made merely for us to endure, or ask; “what lesson are you trying to teach me now, God?” Indeed, God may have planned, before your arrival into this world, that you or I should be the privileged recipients of a banner that heralds the message; “truth” through an age or time in life that is desperately void of any message of truth.
We may be familiar with the sufferings of Job and have sympathized with the severe afflictions, but few take time to notice that God had hung a banner of truth on Jobs life that was to be displayed before three miserable companions who had a serious problem with their theology. Job’s sufferings had multiple purposes, but it certainly served as an incredible opportunity for Job to speak on behalf of God and defend a correct view of God.
Throughout the history of the Christian church there have been periods in which severe persecution and martyrdom were the norm for many saints. Generally speaking, when the fires of opposition have risen up against the church of Christ Jesus, their effect has been only to fan the flames of expansion and dispersion of the gospel and Christ’s church. The book of Acts tells us in Acts 8:4; “Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” and in Acts 11:19; “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.” Both of these evangelistic events in the early church were initiated by persecutions that moved Christians into new areas of the globe. We seldom view these things as the goodness of God to hang upon His people the banner of truth through hardship.
But the Church has seen other manners in which God has struck those who fear Him with severe hardship in order that He might hang out a banner to that age that says; truth. Such examples must include John Bunyan. Bunyan, a tinker by trade, would spend 12 years in prison for the preaching of the gospel during the time in England when nonconformity was outlawed. During that time in prison, Bunyan would write on the back of milk bottle caps, what would become one of the most beloved Christian allegories of all time. “A Pilgrim’s Progress” would become the number two all-time best seller, second only to the Bible. But it would come at the cost of great hardship for both John and his wife and family. While in prison his second wife, Elizabeth would plead relentlessly for his release.
Certainly, we could relate many other stories of saints who have endured great hardship only to come to understand that it would be their hardships were the hand of God stretching a banner of truth across their lives for His glory and their gain. The imposing question remains for each of us as to how we shall address and view the hardships that we may be called upon to endure for the sake of truth. Though they may not be as dramatic as Bunyan’s, the question is still as saints how will we respond to hardship?
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.