by Phil Enlow

Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, is often referred to as the wisest man who ever lived other than Jesus himself. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 he shared some wisdom that I believe is very relevant to the needs of God’s people today.

He wrote: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

As we look around our world from day to day, Solomon’s words seem rather obvious, almost pointless. Of course, everyone knows things change. What difference does that make? Why waste time even talking about it? Well, I believe it is very important!

Let me ask a simple question: do you believe that God is sovereign, that He is in charge, over all that happens on planet earth? I hope you do because He is! The ancient emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, was humbled and brought to a place where he acknowledged: “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” Dan. 4:34-35.

And do you believe that God has a purpose and a plan to carry out that purpose or is He simply sitting back reacting to earthly events? Of course He has a plan! In spite of how things often look down here, everything is proceeding according to that plan.  Take a fresh look at Ephesians 1:3-14. There is a day on God’s “calendar” when everything He has planned will come to its final conclusion – and nothing that anyone, not even the devil, can do will change that!

We know from numerous scriptures that in the outworking of all of God’s plans, His Son has been put in charge of carrying them out. The universe itself was created by and through the Son. Heb. 1:1-3, Col. 1:15-17. And, by the way, He is the One Who keeps everything running!

Jesus declared that He would build His church and the gates of Hades would not overcome it. Matt. 16:18. On the cross, Jesus declared, “It is finished,” and everything was set in motion, its destiny guaranteed! John 19:30. Eph. 3:11 speaks of God’s “eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That word “accomplished” is in the past tense! That simply means that in the heart and mind of God, His purpose has already happened. We see a “process” unfolding; He sees a purpose complete!

And our Lord was given all the authority He would ever need to fully carry out that purpose following His resurrection. Matt. 28:18-20 records the words of Jesus to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

1 Cor. 15:25-28 says, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

But what in the world does any of this have to do with “times” and “seasons”? Everything! That’s the way God designed our world to work. And the outworking of His kingdom purpose involves seasons that fulfill different aspects of that purpose.

Nature itself bears witness to this. In Gen. 1:14 we see God creating the sun and moon to mark day and night, days and years. Where most people on the earth live we are familiar with earth’s seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Even in the tropics we often see wet and dry seasons. It’s just how things work.

Clearly, that’s how earthly “life” works as well. We don’t plant a seed and expect an instant crop. We understand that the seed needs to germinate in good soil, break through the ground as a tender shoot, mature over time through sun and rain until a “crop” is produced depending on the type of plant.

Of course, animal and human life are much the same, growing through various stages of life and then dying. As much as we would sometimes like them to be, things don’t stay the same. That’s the way God designed it.

But God’s design applies to more than just nature; it also is true of His kingdom. And that’s something we need to understand. In John 4:35-38, Jesus spoke of His Father’s work in terms of a harvest. He declared that the “fields” were “ripe for harvest.” In verse 38, Jesus said, “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” That kind of “harvest” language is used in many places. Mark 9:37-38, Matt. 13:24-30, Rev. 14:14-16, for example.

I have heard a number of accounts of missionary work that demonstrate this principle. A missionary will go to a new remote area to preach the gospel, laboring, sometimes for years, in very difficult conditions only to see little apparent result. Sometimes the missionary will return home in seeming defeat. Then, often decades later, there will be a great harvest in that very area. The reality is that a seed was planted. The initial effort was not a defeat at all but rather a step towards a wonderful harvest that came in God’s time.

We can readily see different seasons in the early church. It began with an extraordinary period of miraculous power with thousands coming to faith and living in amazing unity. This was part of the harvest of which Jesus had spoken, the fruit of the ministry of the prophets and of Jesus and the disciples gathering a harvest from among the faithful Jewish remnant.

Then we see challenges begin to arise from within and from without. We see the judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 and the beginnings of persecution in chapter 6. Then, in chapters 7 and 8 we see open persecution breaking out with the stoning of Stephen. Still the church grew and began to reach out, first in Samaria as the Lord had foretold (Acts 1:8).

In chapter 9 we see the miraculous conversion of Saul, who had been a leader in the efforts to persecute believers. In Acts 9:31 we come to a time of peace and strengthening for the churches together with more and more people being converted.

In time, Saul, who became known as Paul, was himself commissioned and sent out with a powerful ministry of carrying the gospel to the Gentile world. He experienced times of successful outreach as well as times of suffering and persecution. In chapter 19 we see Paul conducting daily discussions with disciples in the “lecture hall of Tyrannus” in Ephesus. This went on for two years. And yet many of Paul’s later years were spent in prison. We still have many of the letters he was inspired to write during those years.

Obviously we could speak of many scriptural examples of different times and seasons in the lives of God’s people. Heb. 11 lists many who navigated many challenging circumstances powered by faith. David spoke in Psalm 23 of the Lord being a Shepherd Who led him to green pastures and quiet waters. And yet that same Shepherd also led him through the valley of the shadow of death and also into the presence of enemies.

OK, so what is the point of all this? What does it have to do with us, now, today? Everything! We are creatures of habit. We want life to be predictable, comfortable, to have a sense that we somehow have a reasonable amount of control, that we know how life works and how to navigate it. In our hearts we know better but we’d sure like it to be that way as much possible!

And we tend to bring that way of thinking into the things of God. I believe with all my heart that God desires that we come to better understand His ways so we can have greater confidence and rest. Isn’t that what Jesus promised in Matt. 11:28-30?

We desire ease and comfort, yet the Lord anointed Paul to say, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22. And remember what Jesus said in John 16:33 — “In this world you will have trouble.” I’m sure glad that Jesus added, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In Matt, 18:20, we read, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” KJV. That is the simple picture of God’s plan for His church, a people gathered together by Christ Himself, where He is the active and present leader.

Of course, the devil is well aware of all this and so he has taken advantage of human nature to, in effect, turn what God intended into mere “religion” that outwardly professes to follow Christ. Often, a group will start out with a measure of real life and the presence of Christ, yet, over time, that turns into tradition and form. Following generations learn what to believe and how to “do church.” They, far too easily, become like the Laodicean church in Rev. 3:14-22. Their problem was not false doctrine or corrupt practices. Rather they had become “lukewarm” spiritually and Jesus was outside the door knocking to get in! They had preserved the form but were denying the power. 2 Tim. 3:5.

Sadly, there are countless denominations and sects, each believing that they have it “right,” that have fallen prey to the devil’s influence in this regard. Despite a true remnant scattered among them, the trend is away from spiritual reality and into mere form.

One result of that trend is that in many cases a generation will arise that feels the spiritual deadness and sets out to “fix it.” All too often the result is some form of human innovation that effectively compromises with the world and its ways. In one way or another they appeal to human nature to try and get people to “come to church,” believing that they can then get them “saved” and things will be OK. And spiritual “success” is typically equated with numbers and how fast a church is growing.

But both tradition and human innovation are dangerous spiritual “ditches” into which many sincere people have fallen. They spring from that all-to-human desire for that which is comfortable, predictable, and, in human terms, successful. People settle for human leadership and human effort in one form or another. “Serving Christ” becomes little more than a “lifestyle” that is supposed to lead to heaven. Read Matt. 7:21-23 to see how that turns out.

Hebrews 11 recounts the lives of those often referred to as “heroes of faith.” The beginning of the chapter gives several examples. Then in verses 13-16, we read, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

Other scriptures refer to God’s people in similar terms. Chapter 12 follows the faith chapter with the admonition to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Heb. 13:14 says, “… here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Phil. 3:20 reminds us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” In John 18:36, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

We are called to be a pilgrim people, passing through a temporary world to one that will never pass away. In this temporary world there is a “race marked out for us.” Heb. 12:1. There is One Who has gone before and yet also, by the Spirit, walks with us to lead us in that race.

And we will never outgrow our need for Christ’s active leadership during this pilgrim journey. In many ways we are like the Israelites in the wilderness. They needed the cloud by day and the fire by night, representing the Lord’s presence, to lead them. When the cloud stayed in one place, they stayed. When the cloud moved they moved. Does not their journey plainly picture different “seasons” in the overall journey? I’m sure that there were times when they felt “settled” in one place only to have the cloud move on. No doubt there were other times when they were ready for a change yet the cloud stood still.

And situations changed from place to place. In one place there was plenty of water and in another they needed a miracle to bring water out of a rock. Of course, that also illustrates our need for the Lord’s present-tense provision.

And not only did the Lord provide for particular needs in different situations, He also provided the manna during the whole journey. And that was meant to teach them the need to live, not by bread alone, but by “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deut. 8:3. Note that the verb “comes” is present tense. We need more than just things God “said” in the past; we need what He is saying NOW.

Of course, that does NOT mean adding to the Bible. Rather we need the Lord to breathe present-tense life into its words as they apply to the present need and season. And yet in how many places are the words of the Bible expounded with merely human ability and the Lord is not involved. Teachings are simply conveyed from one mind to another.

Paul knew better than to rely on his own ability. He knew His hearers needed God’s presence and power. 1 Cor. 2:1-5. Peter, in 1 Peter 4:10, instructs his readers to be “faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” That clearly includes those who preach. Isn’t that how Jesus operated in the days of His flesh? In John 14:10, He said, “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” That sounds like a very “present tense” thing to me!

History is the unfolding of God’s eternal purpose. That has necessarily involved many different seasons. God never meant for His people to “build four walls” around any earthly expression of His kingdom. How many times have men done that and then the “cloud” has moved on?

In various times and places the Lord “breaks out” with a season of outward visitation. Many are drawn to the Lord and there is great rejoicing. People “feel” His presence. How easy is it for people to believe that is how it is supposed to be all the time and if it isn’t something is wrong! Armed with that belief they try, when they gather, to work up those feelings on a merely emotional level.

But why would God deal with His people in such different ways? Why would there be outward blessing at times and hardship and dryness at others? We see a very good example in His dealings with Israel. He brought them out of Egyptian bondage with great signs and wonders, openly demonstrating His power.

But God sees the heart. He knew that people often respond to outward demonstrations of power out of earthly self interest and not real heart faith. Several scriptures highlight the fact that God used the wilderness to test and prove those who professed to serve Him. Jude 5 includes the words, “I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” See also the beginning of 1 Cor. 10 and from the middle of Hebrews 3 to the middle of chapter 4.

God is looking for a people who understand the pilgrim nature of His kingdom in this world, who have their hearts set on seeking Him regardless of the season. They learn to trust Him in seasons of refreshing, persecution, seeming dryness where faith is tested, seasons of planting, seasons of reaping, and so forth. They understand that true believers live by faith and not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:7.

In Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, we read letters to seven different churches, each with its own particular situation and needs. But there is one thing they have in common. In every one we read, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 2:7, for example.) Again, note the present tense in that! They needed to hear something for their particular need in their particular situation. So do we!

God is looking for people with “ears.” They are tuned in at the heart level to hear whatever God says at any particular time. AND, they also are well aware of their need for God’s help to discern the devil’s attempts to deceive. Only the Lord can bring us through. And He will!

Where is our hope, our trust? Do we trust in our “tradition”? our human ability? a charismatic leader? Or do we have our hearts set on staying tuned to the only One Who has promised to build a church that the gates of hell cannot withstand? Can we change when change is in order? Is there room for our understanding of spiritual things to grow as God reveals His Word or do we think we have it all figured out?

In the big picture, we are rapidly approaching the climax of the ages. That is the “season” we are in. During the process our Lord will lead us through different seasons, individually, and as fellowships of believers He brings together. We need the gifts He chooses to give. We need each other. And above all, we need Christ’s active presence and leadership. Is that what you want?

Return to Midnight Cry Messenger

Return to Library of Articles