Unlikely Things

 

Part 1

 

 

For those among us who grow increasingly weary with the things of this world, we find that our fellowship with the Lord is our only true source of rest and refreshment in this dry and thirsty land.  Psalm 42:1 reads, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so my soul longeth after Thee, O God.” Basic religious experiences alone, such as church attendance, spiritual music, and fellowship with other believers, do not fill that longing.  We crave to know God face to face with nothing else between.  We learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit of God to discover the spiritual refreshing that sustains our spiritual life and He brings us directly to the source of these blessings.

 

Paul wrote of these blessings in Ephesians 1:3 saying that we have been blessed with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”   It is in these heavenly places that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and where we are provisionally seated in Jesus (Ephesians 1:20 and 2:6). And it is through the church that God’s manifold wisdom is being made known unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). It is evident then that our gaze should indeed be, not upon this world, but upon the “heavenlies” (heavenly places).   For there we find the one true God, there we find our Savior, there we find our true purpose, and there we find the blessings with which we shall never grow weary. 

 

How is it that we learn such essential truths about the “heavenlies”?  How is it that we come to set our gaze beyond this world’s horizons and come to treasure this reality that lies beyond the vision of the natural eye and the understanding of the natural mind?  Though the Lord accomplishes this in different ways, we often come to discover them in what we could call the “unlikelies”. They are timely treasures tucked away in unlikely people, places, and circumstances that we would unknowingly pass by, but for the Spirit’s insistence. They are handfuls-on-purpose that are placed precisely in our path as the Spirit of Truth purposefully ministers to our spiritual growth, blessing us with the things of Jesus (John 16:15). They are gleanings from fields of labor that are not only unlikely, but are often undesirable and even painful, yet He orders them that we might receive the blessings of the heavenlies.

 

Pursuing these heavenly blessings in the “unlikelies” will win us no popularity contests with the world, our families, the Church, or even with our own bodies. Taking up our cross and following Jesus, putting off the old man with a once and for all determination, and buffeting our body into subjection to the leading of the Holy Spirit spells death for the old vessel. The world will begin to hate us even as it hated Jesus.  Our families may write us off as “having got religion” and will impatiently wait for our latest phase to pass.  Other Christians may label us as fanatics or radical, and encourage us to stay within the guidelines of established traditions and methods.  In following the Spirit into the “unlikelies”, we find ourselves being labeled as unlikely because we harmonize less and less with the world around us.

 

With the vision of the race set before our mind, we thirst for none other than the One who occupies the “heavenlies”.  We seek to worship Him in spirit and in truth, and care not that our lives run contrary to the course of this world.  Unlikely as we may seem, we have come to know the Almighty God and crave the glory of His Person however He may reveal Himself, even in the “unlikelies”.

 

 

Part 2

 

Many are the examples in the Bible to which we could point to demonstrate this fact, but let’s look briefly at the Word of the Lord to the church in Philadelphia. In Revelation 3 we read of this body of believers that are being encouraged by Jesus to stay their course toward triumph as they face one of the most discouraging of challenges; a long history of being deemed to be of little consequence.  Each promise of blessing that the Lord places before them in this letter seems to reflect upon what they did not possess in this world.  (This is a common theme in each of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3.)

 

Jesus set before them an open door when their history had been one of doors being closed to them.  They are said to have “a little strength”, which indicates that they had the least of what was most important.  The word “little” is the Greek word “mikros” (from which we get our word English word “micro”) which is frequently translated in the New Testament as “least”, “little”, and “small”.  The word “strength” is the familiar word “dunamis” which is regularly translated as “power”, “miracles”, and “mighty”. What an unlikely bunch they were! Their outward appearance manifested an abnormally small amount of what was essential and this was a disqualifying trait to the world around them.  Certainly they were to be little considered because they had so little to offer. They were to be likened to the weakling applying for a job requiring strength and endurance.

 

But Jesus did not say this about them in the negative, but the positive.  It was one of three qualifying factors listed in verse eight upon which He based the bestowment of the promise of “an open door that no man can shut.”  In being content with the sufficiency of His word and bold in their faithfulness to His name alone, they were demonstrating daily that theirs were not the ways of this world, but they were like the wind, driven and directed by the Spirit of God (John 3:8).  Their characteristic of having a little strength was exactly what the Lord had sought to establish in them, a contentedness with being weak in a worldly measure, but strong in Him.  It was how their spiritual thirst was satisfied.  Paul learned and manifested this truth as well (II Corinthians 12:9-10).

 

Before such unlikely ones the Lord set an open door that no man could shut. Every blessing available to the child of God was theirs to pursue.  Like Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz, handfuls of blessing were left in their path as they made their way through their everyday lives.  Ruth had found favor in the sight of Boaz for her faithfulness to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and Boaz rewarded her admirable behavior both openly and secretly.  As she continued to glean with the others who labored in their poverty, one could hardly imagine that she would soon enter into marriage with Boaz and into the lineage of the Messiah.  Why not one of the daughters of Israel rather than this Moabitess?  Wouldn’t it seem more likely that one of them would have this honor rather than this unlikely widow?  But what the Lord opens, none can shut.

 

 

Part 3

 

As we follow the Spirit’s leading, we must become satisfied with not only being “unlikely” in the estimation of others, but with laboring in “unlikely” things. Again, the scripture is filled with examples from which we can draw this lesson, but let’s look to Proverbs 30:24-28 where we read of four things that are little (least, less, small) upon the earth, but are “exceeding wise”.  How unlikely it is that great spiritual wisdom can be learned from four common and lowly creatures, yet, where there is divine wisdom to be gleaned, there will we find those who thirst for it. 

 

First, we are asked to consider the ant, a tiny, nondescript creature that bears no recognizable difference from the multitude of others with which it labors. But what the ant accomplishes is this; it takes advantage those things that are in season that it may have sufficiency and life when they are out of season.  It harvests today what the day provides.  Each day our Lord sets before us life in Christ with all the sufficiency of His grace for our every need.  “Give us this day our daily bread.” spoke Jesus as He taught the disciples the proper manner of prayer.  He also rebuked the devil stating that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”  We may not be known as out-spoken evangelists, or have the opportunity to preach before large gatherings, but we can feed upon the daily provision of God’s holy Word and store it in the depths of our heart.  In this, like the ant, we can triumph in life by harvesting each morsel of truth our Lord places before us.

 

Second, our attention is turned to the conies (rabbits), which are never known for their strength or courage.  What they are known for is their speed in rushing to cover, which then becomes their strength.  In this case, they dwell in the rocks that are impenetrable to their enemies and they flourish.  If we would attempt to wrestle the “principalities”,  powers”, and “spiritual wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12) without the armor of God as our strength, we would be easy prey.  But we are to be satisfied with running to the Rock of our salvation as our strength and are wise in turning quickly to Him in time of need.

 

Third, we are to look at the leaderless locust that triumphs like a well-organized army.  Throughout history they have demonstrated that they can rise up seemingly out or nowhere and devour a nation’s harvest.  Exodus 10:12-15 gives us a good description of the voracious appetite had by these creatures.  In the time of Gideon, the Midianites were compared to locusts because God amassed them in great number against Israel as a means of judgement and they devoured their crops.  In both instances the “devourers” came without the organizational skills of a great earthly leader, they did so in obedience to the moving of God.  Christian history is replete with examples of the power of God being manifested by the obedience of His children. They have quietly and prayerfully followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and carried the gospel around the globe as a result.  As each individual Christian responds to the Shepherd’s leading, the many go forth as a single, powerful body and accomplish mighty things.

 

Fourth, the unwelcome spider (known forit’s poisonous attributes), though feared and despised within the household, is able to find refuge even in the presence of kings.  By simply taking hold with its hands what is available to it, the spider can move from pigpens to palaces.  Even so, the human that is born an enemy of God through sin is enabled by the Holy Spirit to apprehend the glorious riches of the kingdom of God. This is accomplished by laying hold of the promises of God in Christ with the hand of faith, trusting in the faithfulness of the Lord to honor His Word to those who believe.  The great mercy of God places eternal treasures within the reach of hopeless, unlikely sinners and makes provision for them to dwell in His presence both now and forever.

 

The great wisdom demonstrated through these creatures unmasks a glorious reality in regards to the life that we are called to experience.  As with the church in Philadelphia, the “heavenlies” are found to be attainable by “unlikelies” such as you and I.  In unlikely lives, lived by unlikely people, the heavenly store of God’s graciousness is being discovered in unlikely situations, and, unbeknownst to the world, the bride of the Lamb quietly makes herself ready. 

 

 

 

Back to More Resources               Home