LIVING IN THE VALLEY OF LIFE
What do you do with your life after you have been to the moon?
Jesus took three of his disciples up on a mountain to pray and, suddenly, he was transfigured before them. They saw him covered in glory, talking to Moses and Elijah. Peter became so excited; he did not want to leave. He asked if they could make tabernacles on the mountain and stay there permanently.
But while it is our privilege as sons of God for our Father to take us up to the mountaintop and show us the glories of his kingdom, it is not his will in this dispensation for us to remain there.
Everything is wonderful on the mountaintop. On the mountain, we don’t live by faith: we live by knowledge. On the mountain, we behold the glory of God with open faces. On the mountain, we stretch forth our rods, and the Red Sea parts. We march and the walls of Jericho come crashing down. On the mountaintop, we can move mountains. But the problem with the mountain is not the going up, but the coming down.
It must have been exhilarating for Goodluck Jonathan to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But what does he do now for the rest of his life as a former President? Life must have been exciting for Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin when they were going to the moon. But after they got there they had to come back. What do you do with your life after you have been to the moon?
What happens after you get that Olympic gold medal or after you win the World Cup? How many times are you going to tell your friends the same story and show them the same old photographs? What is going to happen after you finally get married? What happens after you get that dream job, build that mansion or buy that sports car? What happens is that you have to live in the valley.
Valley of weeping
On the mountaintop, we behold the glory of God. But we don’t live for his glory there. We live for his glory in the valley. However, the valley is a place of humiliation, a place of turmoil and of the mundane. Peter wanted to die with Jesus. But Jesus is not looking for people to die with him. It is very easy to die for Jesus. It is much harder to live for him. When we die for Jesus, we die once and that is it. But when we live for him, we die daily. When we live for Jesus, we live in the valley; a place full of slime-pits and ditches.
Moreover, the valley is the home of Goliath. All the giants we are ever going to face, we never seem to face them on the mountaintop. We have to face them in the valley. “And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and they encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array against the Philistines. The Philistines stood on a mountain on one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.” (1 Samuel 17:2-3).
It is in the valley where our true worth to God is realised. It is in the valley where our genuine faithfulness to God is revealed. It is in the valley where we wait patiently for the salvation of God. It is in the valley where we are required to live in the knowledge of the glory of God, which was revealed to us on the mountaintop. It is in the harsh reality of the valley where we declare, against all the odds, that we know our redeemer lives. When God opened the eyes of Joel, he saw multitudes in the “valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14).
Which is real, the mountaintop or the valley? Can we face the challenges of the valley, in the knowledge of the reality of the mountaintop? That is the challenge of faith. Do the situations and circumstances in the valley panic us into faithless action, which deny the power of God? After every moment of exultation, after every revelation of his glory, we are brought back into the harsh reality of the humdrum and the mundane.
Jesus appeared to me once in a dream. I was sitting in a big theatre with lots of people. It might have been a church service, except there was no pulpit and no preacher. Then suddenly, a lion came out.
I expected there to be pandemonium, but everyone remained in their seat. I was wondering if I was the only one who could see it. I thought: “Why is no one else afraid?” Then the lion climbed off the stage, walked down the aisle and came to stand in front of me. I was mesmerized in my seat. Then just as amazingly, it started to play with me.
I could see that all eyes were on us, but I was most uncomfortable. How do you play with a lion? What if it suddenly remembers it is a lion and turns violent? I just could not take my mind off the fact that it was a lion playing with me. And then the lion did something even more puzzling. It showed me its claws. As it did, one of them grew out as if extended by some hidden hydraulics. Then it put the claw into my eye and used it to stroke my eyeball!
Contradictions of faith
I realised it was Jesus, “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” who had visited me, determined to tell me he is my friend. Nevertheless, that day of my dream turned out to be one of the worst days of my life. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. The devil attacked me ferociously, determined to negate what I had been shown on the mountaintop, and to force back into my consciousness the grim realities of the valley.
However, the intensity of our attacks in the valley is the strongest testament that we have been to the mountaintop and that we are indeed the sons of God. It was in the valley of the shadow of death that Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead.
Is your God a God of the hills? Let him also be a God of the valleys. The enemy loves to fight in the valley. Therefore: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” (1 Kings 20:28).
How do we live in the valley? We live in the valley in the sure knowledge that every affliction we go through is working in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17). We live in the valley confident that: “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:5-6).