Strong in the Valleys
By Aaron Manors
Not too long ago we did an extended teaching series called “Strong And Loving” in order to attempt to try to gain a better understanding of the heart of God utilizing David’s thoughts in Psalm 62. This led us to develop a message for the series called “Strong In The Valleys” where we looked at the value of depending on God during times of our lives when things are low and “less than perfect”. For the sake of the article, we will call them “valleys.”
Here is a great time to insert a well-placed “LOL”. “…Me? A minister, pastor, church leader having a difficult time? A valley experience? Are you kidding? Sometimes, I feel like I LIVE in the valley and am always looking up on someone else’s building project, record attendance, or extravagant conference. Yes, I know valleys.”
We can have valleys in ministry, relationally, emotionally and even financially. For my wife and I, possibly one of the greatest valleys in our lives was when our middle daughter Sarah, contracted viral meningitis at the age of three months. We watched her fever spike and rushed her to our local hospital where they quickly made the judgment call to get her over to Arnold Palmer’s Children’s Hospital in Orlando to receive state-of-the-art care. We remember hearing of all of the “potential” long-term challenges that she could possibly face like severe mental retardation, blindness, loss of hearing and a host of other issues associated with this sickness. Needless to say, we prayed and cried out to God like only a parent can do. Specifically, I remember receiving a late night phone call from my father who was away on a ministry trip. He was calling to pray with me and to speak words of faith into my life. I’m so thankful for the army of people that stuck with us on behalf of our daughter during that very difficult season.
Today, Sarah is seventeen and is a beautiful and active young lady who lights up any room with her smile!
Truth is, we all know times when we feel like the excitement of our last mountaintop experience has long since faded and we oftentimes feel alone and dejected in the valleys. My hope is to put together a few thoughts for you to help you glimpse into the way the enemy might think about us during these difficult times and how he might attempt to capitalize on our valley season. But, I also want to challenge you to remember the most simple of truths in that God has promised to be your help in times of trouble.
Join me in 1 Kings 20.
Granted this is not a story about a perfect man, or for that matter, even an honorable man. It’s a story about how the enemy thinks as he plans to attack us. He ventures to hit us when we are low, when we have suffered a loss or heartache. But, more about that later.
Ahab was the current king of Israel and was threatened by King Ben Hadad and 32 other kings and armies. (You remember Ahab; he married that sweet little number named Jezebel.) These kings say to him in 1 Kings 1:3-6, “…you are going to give us all of your money, your wives, your families…we will come and take anything from you that gives you pleasure…” What an intense threat!
It’s pretty easy to see that Ben Hadad can potentially represent a type of the enemy and can remind us of John 10:10, “…The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy…” As an outsider to the story, it is easy to see that the enemy had plans to violate or trespass into Ahab’s life and to lay claim to something that he had no right to. Furthermore, Ben Hadad sent messages to Ahab telling him just how bad he was going to rob him. This season, surely, must have been a bad one for Ahab as King of Israel.
Next we see that Ahab doesn’t initially put up a fight or resistance. That seems so odd that the king of God’s people wouldn’t rise up with a boldness but would actually take a compliant posture to these 33 armies of marauders. Why would he succumb to these threats? After all, his very wife and children were at stake. Luckily, he had some voices surrounding his life to counteract the negative messages he was receiving from the advancing kings…he had people who reminded him of what he needed to do in the difficult times. In 1 Kings 20:8, “…don’t listen to him or agree to his demands…” Or, another way to think of it is “…we can’t let you do this, too much is at stake!” You see, there is such great value in surrounding ourselves with people who will speak faith and courage into our lives even if things are difficult. These voices will help to counteract the voice of the enemy that is so prevalent in the valley seasons.
The story goes on to say that God spoke through the prophet and said that he would indeed deliver these thirty-three armies into his hands for one reason, that they “…would know that I am God”. God was careful to show Himself strong on Israel’s behalf even when the odds were against them and the enemy was advancing heavily. That day at noon, Ahab led his army against their enemies and defeated them causing them to flee.
Do you remember that I said that this isn’t s story about an honorable man, a great king, but it’s a story about the way that the enemy thinks? You see after that victory, the prophet returned to Ahab and told him to “…make ready, to prepare…” because that army is coming back and will attack again. Actually, the prophet told Ahab to “…strengthen your position…” He was reminding the king that God had saved him and given him the victory but his position was not as strong as it needed to be…it could be better, stronger, better prepared for the fight.
The next verse (1 Kings 20:23), is the punch line of this story, in my opinion. In their post-defeat strategy session, the enemy said, “…their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them in the valleys, surely we will be stronger than they.” In other words, they thought that ANYONE can win in the mountaintops, but if we get them in the valleys, we can surely wipe them out.
The enemy hopes that we will believe the lie of the valley. He hopes that we will believe that God was with us on the mountaintops while things were good and we were riding high but that God will abandon us in the valleys when we are being tested or are feeling low. Truth is though, He’s not just King of the hill but He’s the Lord of the valleys as well! Let’s not give up in the valleys but let’s believe that God has something wonderful for us on the other side of them. After all, it is continually a temptation to think like a loser and focus and fixate on what we might be going through, but winners and great leaders focus on what they are going to!
I believe that God uses all of our valleys to prove Himself on our behalf and to prepare us for our mountains. Could it be that each challenge, each valley experience actually helps prepare us for the leaders that God already sees in us?
Facts are, periodically attacks will happen but if we surround ourselves with right counsel and faith-filled voices and if we acknowledge God as our source and as our strength, we will exit each valley season with the understanding that “…He is the Lord…!”
Aaron is available for speaking engagements. His contact information is below, along with a link to one of his recent messages: