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Wednesday, December 16

Feeling The Squeeze

Answering the question, "Where is God for those who are being squeezed by the pain and pressure of loneliness, confusion, and a fear of the future?"

This is supposed to be the most wonder-full time of the year, celebrating Christmas with everything we enjoy in our family and traditions. For many this year, it may not be so easy to sing along with beloved seasonal tunes such as "Joy to the World". This is understandable given the difficulty of the times we are in, for this is being written during the holiday season of one the toughest years the nation has faced in recent memory.


Many people are worried about the economy, about safety, and about the future. They are "feeling the squeeze" financially, morally, and across many aspects of life along physical and spiritual lines. In times like these that we are experiencing now, the veneer of civilization -- which is always very thin -- begins to wear away. At the extremes we have increasing suicides, murders, violent crimes, and robberies. More commonly though, people reveal their inner fears and feelings through anger, tears, and mixed expressions of frustration and anxiety. Above all of this, however, is one thought that might stay hidden, "Where is God in all of this?"
The fact is, "God is where He always is. He has not gone away nor has He turned His back on His people." When the pressure's on, when we're feeling the squeeze, God wants us to look to Him. Now, at first our motivation in turning to God is to have the pressure relieved. He desires that as well; But He wants more than that for us! God wants to use the circumstances around us to help us face the sinful reality that lurks in our hearts. It's not that He want to punish us, but He wants to cleanse our hearts so that we might know the true joy and happiness that Jesus came to bring to us.
Jesus, the Babe in the manger, grew up to be the Man who died on the Cross of Calvary so that we could receive forgiveness, both eternal and temporal, and cleansing from our sins in this life and in the life to come. The trials in our lives are meant to reveal the contents of our hearts, and God is not as interested in what we did during the trials as He is in what we do about what was revealed about us through those trials. This includes the words that come out of our mouths, because our words reveal what is in our hearts. For "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)."
While it is quite difficult to put trials in a positive light, God has promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him (read it in Romans 8:28). To see how He does this, consider gold. Unless gold has undergone the purification process it is impure, and if you want to purify gold, it must be subjected to periods of intense heat. This process forces the impurities that are embedded deep within the molecular makeup of the gold to rise to the top where they can be skimmed off and thrown away leaving behind only the pure gold. Without this process the gold would not be nearly as valuable. For exposing the impure gold to the intense heat of purification is why it becomes one of our planet's most sought after and valuable commodities. Even as natural heat purifies gold, the fiery trials purify our lives, but only if we will let them.
Consider also the amazing benefits of pressure. Have you ever given any thought to what it takes to produce a beautiful diamond? In case you do not already know, diamonds start out as mere chunks of carbon (for example, coal). In order to change carbon into a beautiful and very expensive diamond, it must first be exposed for many years to intense pressure. Simply put, it is the combination of exposing carbon to intense pressure for long periods of time that transforms it into beautiful and extremely valuable diamonds.
So many believers cut short the process of God's changing their lives for His glory when they succumb to the temptation to self medicate by running from the pain of the procedure. Running can be anything from picking up the phone and calling a friend when we are suffering instead of going to God first, distracting ourselves or attempting to subdue our pain with television programming, food, alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, shopping sprees, or any other of a long list of escape-isms. You must remember that as a Christian, the pain that brings transformation into your life is not only your ally but your friend, without which it would be impossible to become what God predestined and desires you to be.
You may remember a popular song that Steve Camp wrote and recorded in the 1980s where a particular line in the lyrics says, "And though the trials never end, I've learned to take them as my friends." Steve had apparently learned the liberating value of being subjected to the transforming pain of the heat and pressure that God so often uses to refine our lives. Can you see why trials and tribulations play such a key role in our becoming Christ like in nature? Pressure promotes growth and fire purifies when they are administered to those who diligently seek God to transform them into Christ's likeness. Such are beautiful and priceless in His sight!
So whenever we are confronted with pain, suffering, or unpleasant circumstances, the first thing we should do is turn to God. As James said, "Humble yourselves in the sight of The Lord, and He shall lift you up (James 4:10)." When we submit ourselves humbly to God, we can then resist the devil and he will flee from us. Even so, first things first is the rule here. We must submit to God, including accepting His correction in order that we may be changed more and more into His likeness.
Take joy in knowing that God loves you and that is why He is there, walking with you through the trial. Know also that the strength we receive from the joy of The Lord is essential for dealing with the trials of this life. For, contrary to what many wish fervently were not the case, suffering is a part of our mortal existence. Nevertheless, when we think God's thoughts and see things His way, we gain His perspective on trials and temptations. When we do, our happiness is preserved.

"But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (1 Peter 3:14)."

"Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of The Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of The Lord; that The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy (James 5:10-11)."
Whenever the trials of life come upon us, we would do well to remember the testimony of Job, because we have an advantage over Job. We know that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, that he goes about seeking whom he may destroy, and we also know that Satan can do nothing without God's permission. So in the midst of the trials we can remember that God's intention is that we receive His blessing in and through those trials, because "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)."

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4)."
Trials are a necessary part of being a child of God. The fact that our Father allows them should not make us sad or angry, because, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of The Almighty (Job 5:17)." While not all trials are The Lord's chastisement, both chastening and trials are used by God to work the character of Christ into our souls.
Significantly, the pleasures of sin are short-lasting and lead to long-term suffering, while the pain-filled trials of godliness are short-term and lead to everlasting happiness. As James wrote, "the trying of your faith worketh patience" but only if we "let patience have her perfect work." Why? When we let patience have her perfect (that is, complete) work, then we will be complete, wanting nothing (the word wanting means lacking).
Remember, when things seem like they cannot get any worse, when it feels like your whole world is crashing down around you, lift up your heads, lift up your hands and "Make a joyful noise to The Lord, all ye lands. Serve The Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing. Know ye that The Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanks-giving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name. For The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting; and His truth endureth to all generations (Psalm 100:1-5)."

"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful (Colossians 3:15)."
Times are tough, but God is nearer than we think. Let Him comfort you. Our deepest desire is that you have found some hope, encouragement, and motivation in this message. We also want to point out that much of this message is based upon material selected from Twelve Smooth Stones, the 5th and latest book from Toward The Mark. It is available for distribution. We praise God for your taking part with us by reading this blog message and other forms of our work, and we pray for you to seek and realize each and every one of His many Life blessings!
God promises that in every trial He will provide the way of escape. He also promises to never leave us or forsake us. We need to believe Him and we need to seek Him early, so that when we do find ourselves in trouble, He will open our eyes that we may truly see Him, right there with us... feelin' the squeeze!

For more on this topic, and many others, see "Toward The Mark website," now celebrating 40 Years of serving to bridge the gap between God and His beloved children.   


And remember... stay steadfast, immovable, and uncompromising in the faith of Jesus Christ, keeping true to your life's God-given vision. And, now more than ever, no matter what Keep PRESSIN' IN!
You might consider using our book  LETTERS FROM THE FRONT, the special collection of keys to defeating hindrances that have kept many of God's servants from walking with the confidence and authority that Jesus Christ died to provide for us! Twelve life-changing chapters include:

Sin Makes Ya Stewpit!
The Cart's Before the Horse
The Crisis of Eroding Integrity
The Fruit's on the End of the Limb
Too Quick to Compromise
The Rarest of All Breeds!
Please...Stop Stinkin'
Three Keys to God-Pleasing Faith
Let It Go
Understanding the Fear of The Lord
Into the Secret Place
Give to Give

 To help you further your fight to victory through the battles that confront every one of us in these turbulent times we live in, get your copy of our book, " LETTERS FROM THE FRONT." In this collection of 12 letters written from the front lines of battle fought in the spiritual, natural, and theater of the mind, Keith's Scripture messages will build your faith and help you reach God's full potential for your life.  "LETTERS FROM THE FRONT" available at TowardTheMark online.

We pray God uses this message, and all of our resources, to fan the flame in your heart for Christ Jesus, His wonder-full Ways, and His Plan and Purpose for you in this life. We are eternally grateful for our loving Toward The Mark Family of sponsors who make this blog, and all of our resources, possible by their faithful prayer and monthly financial support! If you have any questions about our work, or if you would like to make a special tax-deductible donation, place a special order for any of our books, magazines, or CDs, or to share a testimony or prayer request with us, please  e-mail us. Also feel free to write a letter and mail it to TOWARD THE MARK, P.O. Box 1152, Yorktown, VA 23692-1152.
With love we lift you to The Lord in our prayers, hopeful that you have determined to have JOY and REJOICE when you're "Feelin' the Squeeze". We appreciate you taking part in our work by downloading this Pressin'IN *TowardTheMark* Blog!
Your Servants in Christ Jesus,
To Show GOD BIG in a World that Sees Him small… 
sums up the reason Keith stepped out in faith to focus on reaching the lost and strengthening believers everywhere, through Toward The Mark, Inc.  Keith and Brenda's prayer is that you will be encouraged and edified by the Secrets from God's Word that Keith recounts in our written and recorded products.

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This blog message, along with the complete collection of original podcasts, music, blogs, books, CDs, and other Bible-based resources of Toward The Mark, Inc. is made possible by the faithful prayer and financial support of the TTM Sponsorship Family. We'd like to invite you to come on-board, to become a part of the TTM Family as well, by becoming a monthly financial partner. Your support will go toward fulfilling our God-given calling to help provide effective, contemporary outreach tools that are available to everyone, the churched and un-churched alike, all who desire to know more of the love, truth, and salvation of Jesus Christ. We invite you to partner with us, as we, "press Toward The Mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)

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