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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Gathering Storm

Sunday, December 4, 2022
A Time of Wrestling
[Emphasis supplied throughout.]
Benjamin Thiel

Ever since the sad time when our first parents left their garden home, it has been the hope of every believer to see the day when sin, suffering and sorrow will be ended and we can return to our heavenly home at last. Life here in this world of sin has many struggles, trials and temptations with which every person must wrestle. Considering this Job wrote, “Manthat is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Later in history when facing many challenges David exclaimed, “For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave” (Psalm 88:3).

Men and women throughout history have wrestled with physical difficulties, financial struggles, problems in relationships, battles of the mind or the emotions, and struggles for health or survival. Yet in all these struggles, there is a blessed hope. Though sometimes the hand of faith may be weak, though sometimes we may wrestle with despair, doubt, or depression, yet somehow, even in the darkness, we can grasp hold of the wonderful promises of God.

“The powers of darkness gather about the soul and shut Jesus from our sight, and at times we can only wait in sorrow and amazement until the cloud passes over. These seasons are sometimes terrible. Hope seems to fail, and despair seizes upon us. In these dreadful hours we must learn to trust, to depend solely upon the merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. We shall never perish while we do this—never!”1

What a wonderful promise! Even in the darkest hour of trouble, even though we may have failed in our Christian walk, if we come to Him in all our unworthiness—then Jesus, who stands for us, our Saviour, our Intercessor, will not turn us away. He takes us as we are, in all our helpless unworthiness. He will never, ever leave us to perish because He forgives “all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” (Psalm 103:3)—even the terrible disease of sin.

Now at this late hour of earth’s history with storm clouds gathering around us, Jesus still stands to intercede for us. We can bring our case to Him and be sure that if we trust all to Him, He will be with us to the end.

“Our great need is itself an argument and pleads most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be sought unto to do these things for us. He says, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’ And ‘He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Matthew 7:7; Romans 8:32.”2

“The blood of Jesus is pleading with power and efficacy for those who are backslidden, for those who are rebellious, for those who sin against great light and love. Satan stands at our right hand to accuse us, and our Advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for us. He has never lost a case that has been committed to Him. We may trust in our Advocate; for He pleads His own merits in our behalf. Hear His prayer before His betrayal and trial. Listen to His prayer for us; for He had us in remembrance.”3

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

The time of trouble

There can be many difficulties when sailing on the open ocean. Often some of the greatest difficulties are faced when nearing the shore. Sometimes when traveling on vessels large or small, I have gotten very seasick and wished to be back on dry land. But as the land finally comes into view, the last part of the journey often becomes even more turbulent. The danger of breakers, currents and rocks may threaten death or destruction at any moment. In order to land in the right place and with safety, the course needs to be set and the ship or boat prepared well before landing to avoid being smashed on the shore. So, in our life’s journey, we may be sick and tired of this world of sin and suffering and long to be in heaven at last. As we look forward, it is with joy that we realize we are nearing the heavenly shore. But the last part of the journey has dangers for which preparation needs to be made well in advance. Our course and preparation will determine how we will manage in the time of wrestling just ahead. Are we ready for the final landing with all its turbulence? How shall we prepare?

Warning others

Today there is still opportunity for human beings to come to Jesus, the great High Priest, and experience the forgiveness and peace that He is freely offering. We can prepare for the time of wrestling by sharing the message of salvation with the world around us while probation lasts.

“There are many who are at ease, who are, as it were, asleep. They say, ‘If prophecy has foretold the enforcement of Sunday observance, the law will surely be enacted,’ and having come to this conclusion they sit down in calm expectation of the event, comforting themselves with the thought that God will protect His people in the day of trouble. But God will not save us if we make no effort to do the work He has committed to our charge. We must be found faithfully [doing our duty as] vigilant soldiers, lest Satan shall gain an advantage which it is our duty to prevent.

“We should diligently study the Word of God, and pray in faith that God will restrain the powers of darkness, for as yet the message has gone to comparatively few, and the world is to be lightened with its glory. The present truth—the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus—has not yet been sounded as it must be. There are many almost within the shadow of our own doors for whose salvation no personal effort has ever been made.

“We are not prepared for the time when our work must close. . . . The controversy for the Sabbath will open the subject to the people, and an opportunity will be given that the claims of the genuine Sabbath may be presented. . . .

“It is time for God’s people to work as never before, because of the increase of wickedness. The God-fearing, commandment-keeping people should be diligent, not only in prayer, but in action; and this will bring the truth before those who have never heard it. The world is overborne with falsehood and iniquity, and those whom God has made the depositaries of His law and of the pure religion of Jesus must be determined to let their light shine.”4

Habitually depending on God

It has been truly said that character is revealed in a crisis. To stand firm in the crisis ahead we need to make a habit of depending on God by faith each day. The natural human reaction to trouble is to worry, complain, fight, hide, or to run. Rather than do any of these things our oft repeated action or habit should be to get on our knees and wrestle with God in prayer by faith.

“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint, though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.

“Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of Satanic delusions and the decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the test, they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected, they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.”5

Having our sins forgiven!

The time is fast coming when Jesus will cast down the censor in the heavenly sanctuary and the following words will be uttered: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Revelation 22:11).

To stand during the time of wrestling, when Jesus is no longer interceding for each of us in the heavenly sanctuary, it is essential by God’s grace, to have our sins blotted out by the blood of the Lamb. “Blessedare they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).

“They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their many sins, and pleading the Saviour’s promise: ‘Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.’ [Isaiah 27:5.] Their faith does not fail because their prayers are not immediately answered. Though suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and distress, they do not cease their intercessions. They lay hold of the strength of God as Jacob laid hold of the Angel; and the language of their souls is: ‘I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.’

“Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud, God would not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life. So, in the time of trouble, if the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to reveal. Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment and have been blotted out, and they cannot bring them to remembrance.

“All who endeavor to excuse or conceal their sins, and permit them to remain upon the books of heaven, unconfessed and unforgiven, will be overcome by Satan. . . . Those who delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the time of trouble or at any subsequent time. The case of all such is hopeless.

“Those professed Christians who come up to that last fearful conflict unprepared will, in their despair, confess their sins in words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their distress. These confessions are of the same character as was that of Esau or of Judas. Those who make them, lament the result of transgression, but not its guilt. They feel no true contrition, no abhorrence of evil. They acknowledge their sin, through fear of punishment; but, like Pharaoh of old, they would return to their defiance of Heaven should the judgments be removed.”6

“Jacob would not be turned away. He knew that God was merciful, and he appealed to His mercy. He pointed back to his past sorrow and repentance of his wrongs, and urged his petition for deliverance from the hand of Esau. Thus his importuning continued all night. As he reviewed his past wrongs, he was driven almost to despair. But he knew that he must have help from God or perish. He held fast the angel, and urged his petition with agonizing, earnest cries, until he prevailed. Thus will it be with the righteous. As they review the events of their past life, their hopes will almost sink. But as they realize that it is a case of life or death, they will earnestly cry unto God, and appeal to Him in regard to their past sorrow and humble repentance of their many sins. . . . Thus will their earnest petitions be offered to God day and night.”7

Now is the time to make peace with God and to ask forgiveness for our sins. Now is the time to forsake the things that stop us from making a full surrender to God.

Losing our earthliness

During the last time of wrestling, all earthliness—any last attachment to this earth—will be consumed. In our daily Christian walk as we look to Jesus, our Friend, our Elder Brother, our Intercessor, our all-in-all, we too lose our attachment to earthly things. The things we have here, are just tools to serve our needs, the needs of others and the cause of truth. We look for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Though this is to be our life-long focus during the time of wrestling, any last physical attachment to this world will disappear.

“Those who are colaborers with God will have no disposition to engage in the various expedients for amusement; they will not be seeking after happiness and enjoyment. . . . The great work of redemption will be their first consideration. Eating and drinking and dressing, houses and lands, will be secondary matters.”8

“Houses and lands will be of no use to the saints in the time of trouble, for they will then have to flee before infuriated mobs, and at that time their possessions cannot be disposed of to advance the cause of present truth. I was shown that it is the will of God that the saints should cut loose from every encumbrance before the time of trouble comes, and make a covenant with God through sacrifice. If they have their property on the altar and earnestly inquire of God for duty, He will teach them when to dispose of these things. Then they will be free in the time of trouble and have no clogs to weigh them down.”9

“We should now acquaint ourselves with God by proving His promises. Angels record every prayer that is earnest and sincere. We should rather dispense with selfish gratifications than neglect communion with God.10

“Jacob’s history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived, and tempted, and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord’s eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God’s love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace fire; their earthliness must be consumed that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.” 11

The time of wrestling ended

Thank God that the time of wrestling will come to an end with a wonderful assurance from God Himself. As “the righteous in their mental anguish . . . cry to God day and night for deliverance from the hand of the wicked who surround them,”12God hears their prayer and pleading, and the voice of God like many waters shakes the heavens and the earth. Buildings are shaken and destroyed. “The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spoke the time, He poured upon us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God, as Moses’ did when he came down from Mount Sinai.”13

The Lord’s messenger further describes: “I then heard a triumphant shout of victory, loud, musical, and clear. I looked upon the company who, a short time before, were in such distress and bondage. Their captivity was turned. A glorious light shone upon them. How beautiful they then looked! All marks of care and weariness were gone, and health and beauty were seen in every countenance. Their enemies, the heathen around them, fell like dead men; they could not endure the light that shone upon the delivered, holy ones. This light and glory remained upon them, until Jesus was seen in the clouds of heaven, and the faithful, tried company were changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, from glory to glory. And the graves were opened, and the saints came forth, clothed with immortality, crying, ‘Victory over death and the grave;’ and together with the living saints they were caught up to meet their Lord in the air, while rich, musical shouts of glory and victory were upon every immortal tongue.”14

Brothers and sisters, a wonderful future is before us—but it is high time to prepare for the tempest and time of wrestling before the final approach to the heavenly shore. As we examine our life, are we prepared to face this time just ahead of us? In love for the souls around us, are we earnestly giving the final warning to the people as we should? Is it our habit to depend completely on God or are we relying on some earthly props? We may feel utterly unworthy but should not remain unforgiven; Jesus’ blood will blot out our sins. This and every moment have you been to Jesus? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Let us follow the Lamb, and as we turn our eyes on Jesus, our attachment to earthly things, the things so soon to pass, will fade into insignificance. May God help us to make this preparation for the time of wrestling!

References:
1 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 309, 310.
2 Steps to Christ, p. 95.
3 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 948.
4 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 502, 503.
5 The Great Controversy (1888), pp. 621, 622.
6 Ibid., pp.619, 620.
7 Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 133.
8 Daughters of God, p. 16.
9 Early Writings, pp. 56, 57.
10 The Great Controversy (1888), p. 622.
11 Ibid., p.621.
12 The Story of Redemption, p. 97.
13 Early Writings, p. 14.
14 Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p. 178.