Continued from the FAQ main page...
" Even though I walk (not run) through the
valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
(Why?) for Thou art with with me; Thy rod and
Thy staff, they comfort me. (Ultimately)... I will
live in the house of the Lord forever."
-Pslams 23: 4, 6 NASB/italics mine.
Being in the "shadow ' of something requires that one be in the immediate vicinity or under the object casting the shadow. In this case, the Psalmist speaks of being under circumstances in which the end result could very well be physical death.
The shadow that death is found in any situation or circumstances in which the likelihood of physical death could be present, approaching, or immanent. I have been in that valley more than once in the course of my time here on Earth, but obviously the end result of these valley experiences ultimately revealed that my appointed time of departure had not come. God still had more work for me to do.
A spiritually mature believer will not desire to depart this world until all the work that God has ordained for him/her has been accomplished. At the same time, the spiritually mature believer will not desire to remain here any longer once the work has been finished (Phil. 1: 23).
I believe that all of us have come a lot closer to death than what we are ever aware. God, directly or working through His angels behind the scenes has quitely intervened in the developing circumstances and situations that otherwise would have taken our lives. In many cases, the devil will counter-attack by trying to encourage survivors' guilt. The truth is that NO ONE dies before his appointed time, and no one lives beyond it. Even the sins of attempted homicide or suicide can succeed unless the permissive will of God allows for it. In neither case does the soul come to an end.
What, at the time, many have seemed to be an annoying delay like a dead battery, last minute phone call, flat tire along the way, etc., may have very well saved us from being in the right place at the wrong time resulting in physical injury or death. Sometimes it comes down to a matter of only a few seconds or the slightest movement (or delay) of bodily movement that determines the avoidance or the encounter with a fatal event. We hear of such reports following horrific incidents such as the 911 tower event in New York, but I believe such things take place on an individual basis many more times that we are ever aware.
Death does not always involve a preceding valley event. It can manifest itself so suddenly that the departed soul never sees it coming and passes away within seconds of the trauma that proved to be fatal. In many cases, one's earthly departure can involve a long, drawn out, period of physical and or mental decline as the departing soul goes through the valley of the shadow of death waiting the end to come. Whichever extreme or middle of the road experience that any one soul encounters, it is a part of the plan that God ordained for that individual when He authored the Divine Decree.
Although I would not wish such things as a diagnosis of cancer on anyone, I can tell you from personal experience that going through such an ordeal can afford an advancing disciple a trip though the valley of the shadow of death that will clearly reveal to oneself (and others) where he truly is in his/her walk with Lord.
Note that I said, "walk". This walk involves one's day to day personal and intimate relationship with the Lord that should be a continuing work in progress throughout the course of one's post (after) salvation spiritual life. Death is NOT the end of the relationship, only a change in location and bodily form leaving our physical bodies, our earthly trials, and the finally the old sin nature behind as we depart.
Perhaps in no greater time is there the need for one to have an edified (past tense) soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27) than IF/when one should find him/self suddenly in the valley of the shadow of death. When a tornado strikes is NOT the time for one to start building a storm shelter. Just as in the natural realm there are many different types of storms with different levels of intensity and potential danger, so it is in the "storms" cited in Matt. 7: 24-27. For those without having ALREADY built an edified soul structure, the "storm" associated with the valley of the shadow of death can be one of the greatest challenges to what one claims to be believe.
Being a Christian disciple is easy when everything is going "our" way. It is in the midst of adversity that we one's faithfulness (not his salvation) is tested. The greater the adversity, the greater the opportunity to glorify God or to be defeated by the devil. One (God) or the other (Satan) will be honored by what we think, do, and say.
It has been a long time contention of the devil that if enough adversity it placed on a human soul, the person will eventually curse God to His face (Job 1: 11). The devil was proven wrong in the case of Job, but many who claim to be Christians would not do as well.
The TRUE post salvation spiritual life does NOT at all mean that the advancing disciple is immune to all of the adversity common to Man, here in the devil's world. In fact, taking a look at such passages found in the Book of Job and applying the persecution factor of (2 Timothy 3: 12), one can see that identifying and executing the TRUE post salvation spiritual life is what brings on more adversity than what one would otherwise experience.
The devil does not waste ammunition firing at the live of "Christians" that pose no threat to his agenda. Never being the target of satanic attack should make one wonder why the devil does not see one worth or bullet, or worse, wonder what the devil is promoting all that one does (or doesn't do) in the spiritual realm. In so many cases, the devil already has us right where he wants us and has no reason to rattle our cages.
Contrary to what the "name it and claim it" and "prosperity" preachers would have us believe, the TRUE post salvation spiritual life offers very little of what earthly minded believers desire to experience here in the devil's world. The devil (Luke 4: 6) has the ability and willingness to "bless" any one who is willing to knowingly or unwittingly do the devil's bidding.
As it was stated by the Apostle Paul, "If we (believers) have hoped (placed the outcome of our future) in Christ (for what we can get out of) in this life only, we are of all men to be pitied (1 Cor. 15: 9 NASB/italics mine."
"Death bed" conversions (for salvation) do take place (Luke 23: 40-42), but no one is given ANY guarantee that he/she is going to be afforded that opportunity. There a thousands of souls who will leave this Earth today, whose departure was the last thing that they or many who knew them had expected!
We can choose to be "religious" and/or to live relatively moral lifestyles at any time for a variety of self-centered reasons. Never the less, being "religious" saves NO ONE! We do not choose when God the Holy Spirit will arrange for us to hear the Gospel and be provided with the God-given enabling power to understand the information being presented. An evangelist can communicate the Gospel and a pastor-teacher can communicate post-salvation doctrine, but unless GOD the Holy spirit is ministering to the soul at that time, NOTHING is going to be accomplished (John 15: 5).
Evangelists and pastors see this all the time. People will respond to a presentation of the TRUE Gospel or a principle of post salvation doctrine as if it were the first time they ever heard it, but has been communicated to them many times in the past, but fell on spiritually deaf ears.
The principles of (Luke 8: 5-8) can be a very frustrating reality to the one who ministers. At the same time, there is no greater joy or privilege (outside of his own salvation/edification) that an advancing disciple can experience here on Earth, than to be made aware by the fruit produced that he was used of God to communicate the TRUE Gospel or post salvation doctrine that resulted in either the salvation or edification of another soul.
Being "saved" (born again John 3: 3, 7) assures the believer of a home in Heaven when death comes. However, being saved ( saved = a recipient of eternal life) does NOT , by itself , mean that one is going to have the spiritual maturity to experience the peace that surpasses all (human) understanding (Phil. 4: 6, 7) or to glorify God (Luke 6: 45) if/when one is called to endure a long and drawn out physical and spiritual battle in valley of the shadow of death.
I am not speaking against evangelizing a dying person. netter to be saved and go to Heaven without reward (1 Cor. 3: 15) that to go to Hell! What I am pointing out is that being saved and experiencing the post salvation life of a spiritually mature believer is not the same thing.
All saved souls will go to Heaven. Some with great rewards and privileges awaiting them, others will little or none. Success or failure in any part of the post salvation spiritual life (including the departing phase) can either increase nor can it decrease the integrity of one's salvation, but success or failure WILL impact the rewards and privileges received or forfeited (1 Cor. 3: 12-15).
The focus of attention of this presentation is the vastly different experiences that can take place in the valley of the shadow of death between spiritually mature and spiritually believers BEFORE and as they depart this Earth.
A physically painful and horrific departure or process does NOT mean that the person involved is outside of the will of God. All one has to do is look at what took place leading up to and on the cross to see that!
The devil can do nothing about where the soul of a born again believer is going once the moment of death has arrived, but he can do much to destroy what could have been the most meaningful testimony of faith that he/she might leave behind! The devil attempts to do destroy the testimony of a believer by distracting the believer throughout the course of one's post salvation spiritual life from growing in God's grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3: 18).
These "distractions" can come in the form of both overt "prosperity" (Luke 4: 6) and or internal adversity (Matt. 7: 24-2).
If one's health,bodily functions, and mobility deteriorates, one can be medically sedated and cared for resulting in being relieved of much physical pain and suffering. One can receive anti-anxiety medication. One can receive the hygienic and practical services of health care professionals. One can benefit psychologically by death counselors. As long as one remains conscious, he/she can benefit by the presence and general conversation of with other people, especially if the one afflicted is a "people" person.
As great as these forms of human good can be, they can do nothing for the spiritual benefit of the soul!
Each human soul has its own areas of strengths and weaknesses. This is true of both the one in the valley of the shadow of death, and those who interact with him/her. Unresolved, and especially deep-rooted, inter-personal issues and conflicts do NOT go away unless ALL of the souls involved are willing to address them. Accordingly, there are times that all one can do is to resolve them in one's own soul, and move on by extending forgiveness to the one's who choose to commit the sin of refusing to forgive others.
Keep on mind that although our sin and the sins of others hurt ourselves and others, it is against God that we and they have sinned. Forgiving one another (or refusing to do so) is an act of either obedience or disobedience that WE choose make, receiving either the blessings or the consequences of that decision. If the "other half" of the scenario wishes to continue on with the conflict, don't be pulled back into it.
I believe there is room and the need for forgiveness in virtually ever scenario of life, but there are many who will choose to NEVER address the deep rooted and accumulated disappointments, bitterness, vindictiveness, meanness, ignorance, arrogance that dominated most of their time, here on Earth. Some will choose to play God, by going as far as to reward the one's he/she judges worthy and punish those who failed to measure up, expressed in the final arrangements he/she makes.
The wise soul will see the clouds gathering and prepare him/herself for the impending storm, be it in the capacity of the one in the valley or one who will interact with ones who are.
In order for an advancing disciple to reap many of the divine blessings, such as the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil.4: 7) that can be his/hers while in the valley of the shadow of death, he/she must be in fellowship (2 Cor. 13: 14) with God.
One cannot be entertaining any current sin or sinful lifestyle or be harboring ANY past sin that has not been confessed (1 John 1: 9) and/or forsaken (John 8: 11), including but not limited to the sin of refusing to forgive others, the sin of guilt, the sin of bitterness, etc., etc., etc, and be in fellowship with God at the same time.
Note that I did NOT say that one cannot either be saved (if one is an unbeliever) or that he/she will not remain saved (if he/she is a born again believer). What I said that was in order for one to experience the blessing of God throughout life and especially while in the valley of the shadow of death, he/she must be in fellowship with God. Fellowship with God BEGINS at the moment of salvation, but fellowship (not salvation) must be maintained through the 1 John 1 : 9 process whenever we engage in ANY post (after) salvation sin.
Unresolved issues can easily become more intensified when in the valley of the shadow of death. There is a divine solution (tolerance, forgiveness, etc.) for each one of the them, but the weaknesses and natural tendencies of the fallen nature in ALL of us may (or may not) be restrained, and are more likely to manifest themselves when one is pushed beyond his/her individual level of human capacity to handle the present circumstances.
Contrary to what how many believers are taught or interpret (1 Cor. 10: 13), believers are NOT promised that they will not find themselves in situations beyond their HUMAN ability to handle. This false application is the result of only reading the first part of the passage, and ignoring tbe "but...." part!
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common
to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted
beyond what you are able (to handle), but WITH THE
TEMPTATION will provide the way of escape, also, that
you will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10: 13 NASB italics mine)."
What (1 Cor/ 10: 13) says is that believers will not find himself in such a situation without having had the opportunity (Matt. 7: 24-27) and means (John 15: 5) to make use of the divine solutions to have avoided or to handle the situation with divine power! The means of avoidance, escape, or endurance are the principles that one should have ALREADY made a part of his/her edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27) BEFORE the storm struck. The battle is won with the divine power of John 15: 5 available to those is fellowship (2 Cor. 13: 14) in God at the time, not with our own HUMAN power or ability. How one is to handle a trip to or through the valley of the shadow of death is the same!
Choosing to be out of fellowship with God; or choosing to be willfully ignorant of the applicable doctrines, and/or choosing to apply the doctrines that one has in his/her soul structure will almost guarantee one's failure when the storms of adversity strike! Not only does GOd not spare us of such adversity, but may be ONE who sends/allows such things as warnings and teaching aids to reveal to us the need to conduct 2COr.1 3: 15 examinations and to make the necessary adjustments. If we choose not to do so, we are only setting the stage for repeating the same form of adversity with more intensity and frequency, often times reaching its full force in the valley of the shadow of death.
Having unresolved issues with either God or other people is foolish. ALL unresolved issues with God can be settled with having an edified soul structure and making use of it when the situation call for it. Unresolved issues with other people CAN be resolved by applying the appropriate doctrine, but ONLY f all parties concerned wish to resolve them. It akes TWO to fight (or to continue to fight) and it takes all parties involved to end it!
When an issue is settled with God, HE never raises the issue again (Psalms 103: 12). The 1 Cor. 3: 12-15 judgment (of believers) is not for the purpose of addressing ANY sin. It is for purpose of the evaluation, receiving, or forfeiture of rewards, NOT salvation (1 Cor. 3: 15). The judgment of unbelievers (Rev. 20: 13, 15) is for the judgment of ONE sin (the sin of disbelief), as it is for this ONE sin and ONE sin only that unbelievers are cast forever into the lake of fire. ALL other sins were paid for in full by the atoning Work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here on Earth, the secular systems for the administration of justice, the devil, the pride/fear of our own fallen nature, or other people are not so forgiving, and often WILL hold us accountable for the offenses and hurt our actions cause.
Divine forgiveness does NOT immune us to answering to the law(s) of Man (Romans 13). In the valley of the shadow of death, there is little that administration of secular justice can do. In many jurisdictions, capital punishment will not be imposed, and in some case, being in valley of the shadow of death may even result in one being released form prison.
As for the devil, he will use the sin of guilt to encourage us to doubt the forgiveness of God. The arrogance, fear, and false pride of the fallen nature within us will pressure us in the same way in an attempt to destroy our fellowship with God and the potential of producing a great testimony of faith.
As for people, there are some people who will never let by gones be by gones, often to solicit the pity, attention, and aid of others. Such sin (refusing to forgive others) can result in Earthly divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) for believers.
The bottom line, I believe, is NOT to have over expectations of either the one afflicted or oneself, and be not guilted or manipulated into action(s) that is beyond one's level of capacity or responsibility.
Medical, social, and psychological remedies do NOT address the spiritual needs of the soul. Human solutions, to some degree, can only at best, address the symptoms but not the disease. What (bitterness vs. contentment/peace vs. anxiety, etc.) comes out of the mouth (Matt. 15: 18/James 3: 9, 10), or is communicated by body language speaks volumes about what is really going on in one's soul structure at any given time.
"But the (good or bad) things that proceed out of the mouth
come from the heart (soul structure), and those (bad things)
defile (render useless for the purposes of God) the man."
-Matt. 15: 18 NASB/italics mine.
"With it (our tongues) we (born again believers) bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God; from
the same mouth come both blessings and cursing.....".
-James 3: 9, 10 NASB/italics mine.
What comes out (or is restrained from coming) out of the mouths of a human being is based on one of two sources of influence, determined by what power source has the reigns of the soul at any given moment.
Power source # 1 = Human nature. The human nature in ALL of us, believers and unbelievers alike
and is capable of producing both human good and EVIL It produces good human
deeds for a variety of reasons. It produce evil when it hands the control over to the
evil influence of the fallen nature.
Power source #2 = Divine power (John 15: 5). Divine power is comes from God. Here is the Church
Age it is available to believers as of the moment of salvation, and remains available as long as fellowship
with God is in place. Fellowship (not salvation) is suspended as a result of post salvation sin, but is restored
and maintained via the 1 John 1: 9 confession and John 8: 11 forsaking of the same sin. Without divine
power, divine good can NOT be produced, making the TRUE post salvation spiritual life an impossibility to
Some say that illness, alcohol, and drugs can make a person mean, when in fact the meanness (or any other negative personality trait) being exhibited or expressed was ALWAYS a part of that soul structure, but is no longer being restrained. It is what we are at our worse moments that reveals the darkest part of the dark side of the fallen nature within all of us (Romans 7).
Like ANY other phase in one's post salvation spiritual life, the divine purpose of one's departing event or process is for the believer to conduct himself, in thought and action, in a manner that brings glory to God. As was (or should have been) the case during the course of one's entire post salvation spiritual life, a Church Age believer glorifies God by learning and executing the TRUE post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. The fact that one finds himself in the valley of the shadow of death does NOT change the divine purpose for his/her purpose, here on Earth.
"...Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" -Job 2: 10 NASB
As in the case of Job, it is NOT unusual for a spiritually mature believer to be the one who ministers to the well-intending, but spiritually immature visitors that come to offer "consolation"t to the one in the valley of shadow of death. In some cases, GOD arranges the departing circumstances of a spiritual mature believer to be what they are. This is one scenario that can be an exception to the principle of (Mark 6: 4).
"And Jesus said to them, "A prophet (spokesperson for God) is not
without honor except in his own town and among his own relatives
and in his own household (Mark 6: 6 NASB italics mine)."
As was in case is every phase of one's post salvation spiritual life, there will be moments of both victory and failure on the part of the believer. What will determine the overall success or failure will be the percentage of time he/she is in fellowship with God.
What one thinks about death and/or the process of dying speaks volumes about what he/she truly believes and has confidence in and what he/she has doubts and fears over,or as he faces the ultimate test of walking the walk and well as talking the talk when one if one finds himself in the valley of the shadow of death.
The comfort (peace/security) that a spiritually mature believer experiences in the valley of shadow of death comes from the same shepherd's rod and staff that (should have) guided, directed, and corrected his ways throughout the course of one's post salvation spiritual life. Each spiritual battle along the way was what (should have) prepared the believer to engage in the final round of spiritual warfare associated with the valley of the shadow of death, if that is what God's plan for that individual has been ordained to be.
Well, exactly rod and staff being spoken of in Psalms 23?
The 23rd Psalm draws on the analogy of the symbolic shepherd. The rod and staff of the shepherd were tools of the trade that were used to protect and to guide the flock of sheep. Here in the Church Age, the "Shepherd" is the Lord and the rod and staff are the principles found in the Word of God. Without the guidance, protection, and discipline of the shepherd, the flock would wander and often times fall prey to its natural enemies.
Here in the Church Age, the believer who does not submit himself to the discipline and the guidance of the Word of God is likewise an easy target for the devil (and/or his agents ) who prowl around looking for someone to destroy (1 Pet. 5: 8).
The salvation of a born again believer is NEVER is jeopardy, but his ability to identify, execute, and maintain a productive post salvation spiritual life is on the line, moment to moment, each and every day! Keep in mind that if and when God so wills, the valley of the shadow of death is just as much a part of one's post salvation spiritual life as the parts and seasons that we (should have) enjoyed along the way. Again the words of Job; "Are we to accept good from God and not accept adversity?
Job's "friends", although probably acting in the best of interests offered Job NOTHING of value.
If a prosperous life and an easy departure were always the end result of living for God, then the Lord Jesus Christ and many of the apsotles and martyrs of the Church Age would have many issues with God the Father. God is NOT interested in self-imposed lifestyles of deprivation or a self-imposed horrific departure, but He is greatly glorified by those who endure much suffering when the suffering is part of plan that He endorsed for any given soul.
This brings us to the concluding point as we answer the FAQ at hand.
Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. The more one as of either one, the less he has of the other.
Look at a jar that containing no more and no less than 100 red and blue marbles of a certain size when filled to capacity. The total amount of marbles can not be changed, but the ratio of blue to red can be altered. The more one has of EITHER one, the less the same person has of the other. The total jar represents the entire soul stucture, containing both good and bad elements that can encourage faith and/or generate fear. As faith is increased, fear is decreased. The more fear is increased, the more more faith in decreased.
Possessing information and faith in the information one possesses is NOT necessarily the same thing. There are many scholars that can quote the Bible from cover to cover, but do NOT have the wisdom to discern its accurate interpretation nor the faith to apply it! Many "Christians" attend Church and become frequent hearers of the Word, but often fail to be doers of the Word (James 1: 22). When a born again believer is not a doer of the Word throughout the course of his/her post salvation spiritual life, it is very unlikely that he/she will develop the spiritual maturity needed to be successful at glorifying God if he/she finds him/herself in the valley of the shadow of death.
"....prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who
delude themselves (James 1: 22 NASB)."
Faith is a two-side coin. Faith consists of both a noun and a verb. Faith is WHAT we believe, and is the ACTION of applying WHAT we claim to believe to how we think. There is a difference between what we KNOW factually, and what we BELIEVE. When sharing a principle of the Word of God, the recipient may respond with, "I know that.", but may fail to see where he/she is not applying it to his/her circumstances.
What we think is what we are, as it impacts ALL that we do and say. If one is to experience the benefits (peace/assurance) of faith while going through the valley of the shadow of death, he/she must have ALREADY (Matt. 7: 24-27) obtained the correct information pertaining to what God has said concerning it, and then APPLY it to his/her individual situation.
With the free will that God has given to each one of us, we have many, many choices impacting much about what we will or will not go through during our time here on Earth. There are some things, however, that we will be given NO choice over. God did NOT consult us concerning the timing and circumstances of our birth and is not going to consult us concerning the timing and circumstances of our departure. In the meantime, we can make many choices that can contribute to (or destroy) the quality of the environments that we experience here on Earth.
When dealing with the things that we have NO choice over, there is still the choice of HOW we will fact such challenges.
Experiencing fear, anxiety, and insecurity, as far as s-p-i-r-i-t-u-a-l issues are concerned, reveals that the one so afflicted is in the grip of slavery of the devil (Heb. 2: 15). Sad to say, but much of pressure of the devil's bondage is supported by the "religious" world. The devil knows the pressure that the religous world can generate. The devil takes full advantage of the willful ignorance and the lack of knowledge (Hosea 4: 6) in the soul structures of many to claim to be Christians.
Spiritual ignorance is a CHOICE that we make and the negative consequences are self-induced misery!
To whatever extent one has ANY fear or anxiety in his/her soul structure concerning God and/or the things of God, these are the issues that one must resolve BEFORE (Matt. 7: 24-27) the time of one's departure (or the process leading up to one's departure) arrives. THIS is what is required if one is to experience no fear in the valley of the shadow of death if such a trek is to be a part of the walk with God that He has ordained for any one of us.
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