Ah, the sweet spot. I think you know which one– the thrilling period prior to and just after an outreach when the spiritual battle feels so palpable you consider picking up your battle gear, charging out and yelling, “FREEEEDOM!!!” These quickly vanishing days of maintaining the newsletters, social networks, and various responsibilities associated with running a non-profit or outreach ministry, are exhilarating and effortless. Stories ache to be told, inspiration runs high, and we feel almost giddy – anxious to share powerful snippets about what God accomplished through one night of ministry. Oh yes, those are the days!
For most of us, however, most of ministry is spent trudging through the “in-betweens”. Though not nearly as stimulating as zip-lining from mountain top to mountain top, the in-betweens, like many of the valleys mentioned in Scripture, can serve to cultivate and produce a rich, productive outreach. And since God always willingly participates in growing what He plants, let’s share the harvest from some of the Bible’s richest in-betweens, beginning in Numbers 13:23 with Moses and the Israelites:
When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol (which means “cluster”), because of the cluster of grapes the Israelite men cut there (NLT).
It seems not too long after setting out to explore the land of milk and honey promised by God, the Israelite scouts unexpectedly came upon a valley so abundant with fruit, they would have needed a 10,000-watt deluxe juicer to handle their booty. Unfortunately, days later in Numbers 32, we read about the Israelites discouragement and unwillingness to go up to the valley“the LORD was giving them.” Perhaps juicing is not your thing; apparently, the Israelites weren’t into it either, and the consequence of their defiance and lack of trust resulted in another long and boring 40-year trek around the desert.
Later, in Deuteronomy 8:7 and 11:11, after an entire generation of men, women, and children pass away, the Lord gives the Israelites another chance. Just listen to the way God’s Word describes these valleys:
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.
Difficult for even the Israelites to resist, this time thankfully, they move forward.
Valleys, or in-betweens, can also serve as intense battlegrounds. Easily forgotten is the reality that we are in a battle – not just when we go out to the clubs, but every day in-between.
In Genesis 14:1-16 an epic battle takes place in the Valley of Sidim between numerous kings from the region. Sometime during the chaos of combat, Abraham, the friend of God’s, nephew Lot was taken hostage. Lot did not live by the same values as his Uncle Abraham. Instead, he chose to live in an area ripe with sexual sin where he and his family were corrupted by the people they liked to hang with. The good news for Lot, is that mild-mannered, elderly Uncle Abraham knew how to put on a superhero spirit cape, and along with his team of superhero servants, chased out the bad guys and rescued Lot.
One righteous man, a representative of God, goes into the valley, fights the battle and rescues the sinner.
My sisters, today we are the righteous representatives of God equipped for such a time as this. Not only waging war when we walk into the clubs, but also in the valleys of our in-betweens by calling upon the Hosts of Heaven, acting as legitimate witnesses to the goodness of God, picking up our feet, walking in unity, seeking peace, equipping and shielding ourselves and those we serve by remaining in the Word of God.
So, what’s the bottom line?
We need to learn how and remember to engage the in-betweens. During this time, we can cultivate friendships, develop team unity, grow our financial resources, tend to hurting-women and plant hope by sending out care packages or encouragement cards. God doesn’t go away when outreach is over – He isn’t taking a siesta and resting up until the next one. If we are willing, God desires to use every one of our moments to make a dent in the darkness.
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)
Lord, help us to see You at work on the mountain-tops or the in-betweens, to trust you in those seasons and to be ready participants in joining You whenever and wherever You call us.