Don Goulding - Blog

Stretched

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. (Romans 5:3, 4)

The Christian life stretches me to the breaking point. It’s a clothesline on pulleys. The wheel of Christ reels me toward the window, while the world pulls me into the raw elements. Back and forth I travel, sometimes near heaven’s music, other times flapping in temptation.

With my right hand, I clamp onto heaven’s promises. On the left, desires and fears yank my body, mind, and spirit. The strain between godliness and seduction increases. I feel wrenched, torn, even crucified.

While I’m splayed on the clothesline, something wonderful happens. Endurance, character, and hope form in me. We acquire these holy qualities on earth, and celebrate them in eternity. In heaven, these treasures will be like Roman coins—all the more valuable because they’re no longer minted in the new economy. Now is when I have access to the forge of hardship. Now is when I must cast the coinage of character.

All too soon, I’ll be unpinned and hauled through the window. For now, the tensions are necessary. They permit me to learn godliness amidst corruption. This present earth is the only place where I can experience the difference between the place for which I was bound and the place to which Jesus pulls me.

Prayer: Strengthen me, Lord Jesus, to be patient between the tensions.

Refuse to be Swallowed

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith… (1 Peter 5:8, 9)

In noisy Zimbabwean colors, the crowd rambled to the grassy lakeshore for baptisms. My wife served as a lookout for hippos and crocodiles, while a fellow missionary held his video camera at the ready. African brothers assisted me to lower souls back into the water, and up into new life.

As we pulled a dear woman out of the watery grave, she stiffened, and, with supernatural strength, twisted to get free of our grasp. A demon refused to release its hold on the terrorized lady. We fought to keep her out of deep water where the spirit tried to drown her.

“You no longer have rights on this woman. Come out in Jesus’s name,” I said.

After a longish struggle, the freed woman melted in limp relief.

Five additional encounters in three weeks made me launch an investigation for the Lord’s wisdom. I prayed, searched Scripture, read books, and asked the advice of longtime pastors and missionaries. I reviewed the baptism fight videos many times. 

I discovered that demons hate humans today as much as ever. In their efforts to steal, kill, and destroy, they adapt themselves to the culture in which they work. Like the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:7), I suffer spiritual attacks as heinous as any African. My demons manifest stealthily, as materialism, bitterness, and apathy.

I need the same weapons a foreign national must use— (1) Search my heart for demonic strongholds such as addictions, spiritism, fear, abandonment, and generational sins. (2) In the authority of Jesus, renounce every specific evil and command it away. (3) Most importantly, prevent reinfestation by living according to the Bible and meeting future attacks with on the spot worship of Jesus.

The memory of that poor woman thrashing about haunts me into remaining vigilant with the weapons of truth. I can’t let my heart be ensnared by demonic talons.

Prayer: Father of Lights, lay a holy might on my soul to resist the devil.

Intellectual Antlers

…what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalms 8:4, 5) (NIV)

A five point buck stood in our yard in the Sierra Nevada foothills. His butterscotch coat twitched in muscular readiness. No surprise would overtake this lordly creature. His head came up to precisely the right height. One inch lower would show him careless. One inch higher would reveal fear. He struck a majestic profile with his lifted chin and flared nostrils.

The antlers flowering from the buck’s head made me wonder about their usefulness. It seemed an excessive crown of authority. Nevertheless, by his stance, the stag declared an understanding of his anointing. He held himself in the perfect balance of defensiveness and courage.

The stag demonstrated that the beasts of the field know their place better than I know mine. Like the deer, man has a crown of authority that graces his head. It is our intellect. God bequeaths some of his own intelligence to his offspring, but it’s an unwieldy rack for spiritually frail beings.

Jesus cuts a statuesque model of where our intellect belongs. He is compassionate yet confident, accessible yet commanding, dependent yet fearless. In Jesus Christ, I have a demonstration of precisely how to carry my intellectual crown.

God commissioned us to operate between the physical and spiritual orders. We have dominion over both animals and ruined angels cast to earth. My success at this assignment will depend on how I carry my crown. Will I let my intellect drop into careless distractions? Will I pretend my rack is something it’s not, because deep inside, I’m afraid? Or instead, will I learn from the stag and, admitting my vulnerability, stand only in the might of God to mount my rightful place in the cosmos?

Prayer: Holy Father, fill me with humility before you, and courage before the world.