You’ve heard me mention this before, that the devil has been trying to kill me for a long time now. And you might have thought to yourself, “that is just too fantastic.” But what I’ve said is neither an exaggeration nor a fantasy, my friend. It is but the simple truth.
As a child of God, I am assured of my Father’s protection. But this doesn’t stop the enemy from trying to destroy me: the near accidents while I’m driving, the nightmares I sometimes have, and even the continual spiritual attacks against my faith. You see, my friend, it is not necessary that I die physically; being permanently incapacitated because of doubts or by other concerns is enough. For as long as I could do nothing to upset his plans, the devil will be happy and content to let me be.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…. — John 10:10 ESV
The truth is, every Christian who is serious about fulfilling God’s call and will in his or her life is on the devil’s wanted list. I am no different. In fact, I believe that I’m not only on his wanted list, but also on his most-hated list.
I will not deny it, my friend, nor will I hide it from you, but ever since I fell in love with Jesus many years ago I’ve already known that he has great plans for me. I know that he will use me someday, in a global scale. My talents and my gifts, and the way my life has been, especially my time of preparation in the wilderness, have all confirmed this. Now, what those future plans exactly are I really cannot say, and I don’t like to think much about them anyway. All I know for sure, for now, is that for the next several years while I’m still here in my local church, I have to rebuild my life, become the best preacher I can be, and be involved in the various ministries that our church has, especially in Bible studies and outreaches. I also need to be prepare myself as a Christian writer for hire, because I am seeing that as my livelihood in the coming years.
I am telling you these things, my friend, not to boast about them, but to give you a picture of what the future holds for me. Because being chosen like this means that much is also being asked from me: I am going to spend much of life in spiritual warfare. There will be a bounty of blessings, yes, as a reward, but there will also be much sacrifices on my part and on those people who surround me (and will surround me). People like you, my friend.
This is the last letter of this series, and today I will talk about — not of the far and unclear future — but of the near and immediate future that we all can see and anticipate. I will also talk about hope, and I will give you one last peek into my recent trials. And then I’m going to leave you with this one charge: My friend, take care of my heart.
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There is no question about it: I’ve made a big leap in my spiritual growth these past several months because of the intensity of my trials — a change so significant that I now feel a completely different person. You also can tell that this is true, can’t you, my friend?
And yet, there is no reason to feel proud about this. God’s standards are so high, that whenever I measure myself against them I only see my need to grow up more. The truth is, my eyes are already set on those high mountains that I still need to climb, that I barely see where I am now or the things I’ve already accomplished. And I think that that is what God wants for me — to look ahead, to forge ahead, and to be not satisfied with who I am now and my situation — because these next few years of my life are so critical in the success of my future that I simply can’t afford to be at ease.
I won’t go into the details, my friend. I’ve already mentioned above my immediate goals, and you can already reason out the many things I need to do. There are a couple of things I want to emphasize though. First is that I need to get on track, as soon as possible, towards rebuilding my life. That is, I need to find a new job with enough salary; so that I’ll have the resources to serve God all the more, especially when I finally become involved in missions and outreaches; so that I’ll have the capital to set up my own business of freelance writing (if this is indeed God’s will for me); and so that I’ll be ready to provide for and to start my own family when the time comes.
The second is that I’ll be doing a lot of studying on my own, whenever I can find the time. Yes, there are programs already in place, and attending night classes for the next four years — coupled with practical training in actual church work — should already qualify me as a preacher in our church. However, my goal isn’t just to become a preacher, is it? And God’s plans for me are not just limited to preaching, are they?
Regardless of the plans that God has for me in the future, and regardless of whether or not writing will indeed become my livelihood, I need to prepare myself as a Christian writer — to further cultivate my achievements and my skills as a blogger — that is, to bring to its complete fullness what I’ve already been doing for God. This means strong foundations on both the Word and the doctrines, and a strong knowledge also on other areas like Christian history and apologetics.
The bottom line, my friend, is that I have a lot of work to do in the next few years, starting right now. I have my life to rebuild, and I have my future to prepare for. And you can be sure that the enemy, the devil, won’t stand idly by while I do these things. He will do everything he can to stop me, to delay me, or to derail me. And you can be sure also that he will concentrate his attacks on where he can do the most damage: on these hopes that I hold in my heart.
My friend, you may remember what I said in one of my previous posts, that I’d come close to dying. This is what I said in that prayer:
“Because that is exactly what my trials had been: my hopes for a blessed life here on earth thrown into the fire.
“Because without those hopes — hopes that are based on my faith in you — I am as good as dead. A soldier emptied of belief. A fighter emptied of heart.
“My faith has been tested to the utmost! This is the truth. And I also nearly died, so close I was to falling into that chasm of broken faith and destroyed hopes.”
In the Bible, in the Book of Job, we have these two accounts where God had allowed Satan to test Job. In the first test, Job’s properties and children were taken away from him. And in the second test, Job was afflicted with horrible sores.
In my own life, there had been three separate trials where God had also allowed Satan to test me like he did with Job. The first one occurred in 2004, soon after I fell in love with Jesus. The second one happened in 2006, when I was in the process of surrendering my life to God for the first time: to serve him and to follow him wherever he leads me. And the third one encompassed my recent trials: when God was leading me and planting me in my church, and when I was making my service commitments, especially in becoming a preacher.
In all of these tests, the devil had only one goal: to utterly destroy my faith in God, with the last test resolutely focused on attacking my hopes for the future. Yes, and so you could say then, my friend — that is, if you do accept that God has great plans for me — that the fate of the entire world had hung in the balance during these trials of mine.
Mind-blowing, isn’t it? Especially if you consider the fact that God had been confident that I would pass these tests with flying colors.
O Lord God, O Father in heaven, who am I that you would entrust me with so much…?
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My friend, there is one thing I’d like you to remember: I had passed the first and second tests on my own, but I couldn’t have passed the third test without you — without you praying for me, listening to me, supporting me, and simply being my friend. And so I say again — thank you. Thank you very much.
Anyway, you know the hopes that I now hold in my heart. Hopes that I had given up. But hopes that have been given back to me in the end, and multiplied. Friends. Love. Family. A prosperous life while I serve our Lord. For God has promised blessings to all those who are faithful to him, and I am claiming that promise.
My friend, these hopes are the ones that give me the energy and the passion to pursue God’s will for my life. Yes, I can always set my eyes on my eternal rewards, but I also need these hopes, and I need them to come to pass in this lifetime. Like I told you, much is being asked from me, and I can’t imagine living the rest of my life toiling bereft of these blessings. Bereft of passion and power. Bereft of hope and joy. And I’m sure that God doesn’t want my life to be like that either.
But the enemy… but the devil wants my life to be like that. More, he wants me dead.
Prayerfully, I am hoping that there won’t be any more major battles any time soon. I am hoping that God would allow me to rebuild and settle my life before leading me into another direct confrontation with Satan. But I can’t trust in that. And so I need to be on my guard always. We need to be on our guard always.
My friend, I trust you. I trust you that you will resist the devil whenever he tries to get to me through you. For you are inside my defenses. You are inside that place in my heart where you can see up-close my hopes and my love for God burning brightly. And so you possess the power to hurt me, if you choose to do so. To hurt me so bad that I might never be able to stand up again. That is how you are to me, my friend.
And so I am giving you this charge: Take care of my heart. Take care of my hopes. For I’ve known what it’s like to have someone I trust shoot the very arrows that pierced my heart. That’s when I nearly died, except that you were there for me, my friend. You were there for me. You were there for me.
I am burying my past. And this is the last shovelful of dirt that I’m laying on top of it. This is goodbye. And this is forever.
But this isn’t a goodbye to you, my friend. Our journey together has only just begun. Our journey to forever.