HYMN: ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIER
Victory awaits the believer who patiently goes through difficult times.
TEXT: Job 3:1-26, Matt. 11:1-6
Ordinarily, the journey of life is characterized by confrontations, unforeseen contingencies, disappointments, harassment and oppositions. For the believer there is an added dimension to these because we are the targets of the devil who does not desire us to serve the Almighty God. Thus, he goes all the way to place obstacles in the way of the believer.
The zero hour is that moment or situation of helplessness, hopelessness, despondency, despair, disgust, and utter confusion. These are the times of such remarks as “I am fed up”, “Life if not worth living”, “There is no use continuing”, “I am a failure”, etc. Amidst situations such as these, many contemplate all sorts of evil things such as visiting native doctors, joining occultic groups or even suicide. Some indulge in alcohol drinking and all manner of immorality and sin. Some believers too react negatively by backsliding and seeking false helps from unholy sources.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:44); he introduced Him to the people as the Lamb of God that will take away the sin of the world, (John 1:29) and he baptized Jesus in the river Jordan, (Matt. 3:11-15). However, at his zero hour when Herod imprisoned him, he needed assurance as to whether Jesus is the expected Messiah. In one of his dark moments Job cursed the day he was born and wished he was never born. This was a man that God testified “Hast thou considered my servant Job, there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil”?
No matter how holy and righteous we may be, we are not immune from the situation of the zero hour. It comes not to humiliate us or make us to turn away from God but to humble us. This lesson is meant to let us know that in such times we should direct our hearts on to God. These are not the times for giving up. The champions of faith never gave up despite all odds and they are our examples to follow.
The objectives of this study are:
1. To understand what it means to be at the zero hour
2. To know that it is a normal experience for believers
3. To know what to do at the zero hour
4. To know that being at the zero hour requires patience
5. To know that we must look up to God at such times
Q1. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AT THE ZERO HOUR?
The zero hour is that time or situation where one appears completely hopeless, helpless and devoid of any positive ideas. The individual draws blank and appears to have no human ideas on how to solve the pending problem. At the zero hour, the individual is almost overwhelmed by the situation. It is like a boxer who has been cornered by his opponent and helpless to fight back, thereby facing an imminent defeat. The Israelites faced the zero hour when they were leaving Egypt for the promised land (Exo. 14:5-12). With the Egyptians pursuing hard behind, and the Red Sea in front, there was no way they were going to escape capture by the strong Egyptian army.
One is at the zero hour when one has done everything that one knows to do including prayers and fasting and yet a particular situation remains apparently the same. It is a state of desperation when one feels completely drained of all energy and at the point of giving up. It is the time of loneliness when one feels abandoned by both God and man. It is the darkest part of the night and daylight looks like an eternity away. The question will be “when is this ever going to come to an end if ever it will?” Except there is external help, the individual is faced with imminent catastrophe. It is a state that marks the end of human efforts and ability. It is a state of real or absolute desperation.
Q2. WHY MAY IT BE NECESSAY FOR ONE TO EXPERIENCE SUCH MOMENTS?
The Apostle Paul remains one of the greatest champions of the Christian faith as most of God’s revelation to the church came through him. He was so devoted, inspired, and close to God that one is tempted to think and believe that he was immune from human suffering and weaknesses. But like every mortal that ever trod the surface of this earth, he was human after-all, despite the miracles that were performed through him. Though the handkerchiefs from his clothes were instruments of healing, he had a burden (a thorn in the flesh) against which he was completely helpless (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The response he got from God was “my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”.
According to Paul, this was to humble him and let him know that he (Paul) was still human after all. Without us experiencing a zero hour there could be the possibility of considering ourselves as superhumans. The zero hour is in this case meant to humble us and to let us know that we can do nothing of our own. It also increases our dependence on God so that we might grow in grace. The zero hour does not mean imminent defeat for the believer. The zero hour is meant to remind us that God is in control and we must depend on Him.
Q3. DISCUSS WHAT BELIEVERS ARE EXPECTED TO DO AT SUCH CRITICAL MOMENTS.
One thing we observe from all the biblical characters that faced such critical moments is that they all cried out to God for help. They expressed confidence and hope in God’s grace and goodness. With the Israelites at the Red Sea and the Egyptians pursuing, Moses stilled the fear of the people by declaring “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you today… The LORD shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace”.
(Exo 14:13-14). When Jehoshaphat faced imminent death from the hands of the Syrians who mistook him for Ahab, he cried out and the Lord helped him and God moved them to depart from him (2 Chron. 18:31). Paul during his own affliction besought the Lord thrice for it to be removed from him, (2 Cori. 12:8). Jesus on the cross cried “—My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”, (Matt. 27:46).
The important thing about all these is that they sought help only from God. The Psalmist declares “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth”, (Ps. 121:1-2). The most important and first thing to do at the zero hour is to look up to the Lord who is a very present help in times of troubles. (Ps. 46:1). When we cry to Him at such times, He will always hear us. We must look up to Him to come to our aid and lift us up at these critical times.
Zero hours are never times to seek help from other means except from God. There is no help from native doctors, occultism, self-styled prophets or any other such medium that may want to promise instant help. These are snares of the devil to capture men’s souls. It is also not a time to blame God or those around us. Job’s wife asked him to curse God and die but Job called her a foolish woman (Job 2:9-10). It is not a time for fault finding. Rather it is time of pulling resources together and facing the enemy, the devil. It is also not a time to complain, murmur or lose hope but rather a time to trust in God.
Q4. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PATIENCE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE?
We must patiently wait for Him. This is because, “-the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy” (Ps. 33:18). The fact of the matter is that the believer is not out of His sight. What He has done is to set a day for your deliverance because He has heard us in the acceptable time (Isa. 49:8). Furthermore, He will preserve us as we are His covenant children. Habakkuk also says that “… the vision is yet for an appointed time, … though it tarry, wait for it because it will surely come” (Hab. 2:3). In 1 Cor. 10:13, we find that the Lord will always make a way of escape for us in times of trials.
The LORD will never allow us to be overwhelmed by the troubles we are facing today. It may look as though we have come to an end, but remember that the Lord Himself is in control and that He is very much concerned about us as individuals. We must be patient with the plan of God. Only God determines the time of fulfillment. In the meantime we are before Him daily and He will never allow us to be humiliated. Patience will enable us to receive that which He has in stock for His people. Patience identifies us with His character and demonstrates our confidence in Him. Patience ensures that we will not make a mistake and guarantees our victory. The Scripture declares that salvation is only for those who endure to the end and not the starters or those who drop off by the wayside. While the storm is raging, we must never lose our focus.
Q5. HOW CAN BELIEVERS BE A SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO THOSE PASSING THROUGH HARD TIMES?
The first thing that we must realize is that no individual is immune to hard times. If we are not there already, it will surely come. However, let us also say that the intensity may differ. Also the way we react in such critical times may not be the same. The Scripture encourages that “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness: considering thyself, lest thou be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, … (Gal. 6:1-2). The emphasis here is in the “restore”, “meekness” and “bear”.
We should never gossip or spread wrong rumors about other people’s difficulties or blame them, even if there is ground for that. Let us not be like Job’s three friends who took turns to explain that Job’s sufferings were due to his sins. What is required is our understanding and empathizing spirit. Let us assist in finding the way of escape rather than increasing the burden and pain. This we can do by simple words of encouragement which is capable of giving spiritual strength to the individual. Kind and encouraging words have great healing in them. Another practical thing we do is to visit and pray for such individuals. In fact, what that person needs most are our prayers. Thus, we uphold each other in prayers. There is no substitute for this. Let us intensify our prayers on behalf of those who are displaced due to war or other ethnic clashes. Further, we can assist in kind, especially if we know that such can be the lasting solution. Whatever we do, however, must be done in love and in spirit and in truth. In fact, we should be “burden bearers” to fellow believers. Rather than destroying one another let us try to build confidence in each other.
Q6. WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF GIVING UP?
There are a number of dangers in not holding on to the end. Remember that you have not failed until you give up. The Bible says that we have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. We must hold on to our faith and confidence in God even with the last breath in us. To lose the pleasure and goodwill of God is not something that anyone should contemplate. That is condemning oneself to eternal pain and suffering.
Anyone who wants to sing a song of victory must not give up. No battle is easy but joy comes at the end when we are victorious. There will certainly be scars but these cannot be compared to sweet songs of victory.
If we quit, then we have no sweet testimony to give and also, we cannot be an encouragement to others. Paul speaks of they being comforted in the comfort of others, (2 Cor. 7:13). We cannot be a comforter to other believers who might be in similar circumstances. In other words that person will be barren and unfruitful, like the fig tree that was cursed by the Lord.
If we give up, we will never attain the heights that the Lord has for us. We will not grow into Christian maturity and therefore will not enjoy the full benefits of our salvation in Christ. Hence, that believer will always remain a baby that is malnourished and will soon die if no changes occur. We must hold on for, victory is sure as long as the LORD almighty is on the throne.
DAILY LIVING APPLICATION
The zero hour as has been pointed out is that period of our lives when we experience helplessness, hopelessness, despair, and confusion. Zero hour may not necessarily be due to a careless lifestyle. All experience it. They are not meant to humiliate or destroy the believer but to humble him before the presence of God so that He might have pre-eminence over that life. In such a case it becomes very necessary for our Christian growth and development. However, if it is due to a sin, then it is and meant to draw us back to Him. The believer must repent and return to God. The zero hour is not the time to forsake God and seek other unholy ways. It is not the time to give up on our following the Lord but we should go closer to Him and He will surely see us through.
At zero hours, like the champions of faith of old, believers must have the right attitude that focuses on God’s mercy and faithfulness. He will not allow us to be tempted above our faith and ability, as He will always make a way of escape for us. We must be encouraged not to faint or give up no matter the pressure. He will certainly come to our aid. He did not promise us that there will be no fire or floods but that in every situation, He will be there to see us through (Isa. 43:2).
Are you passing through a zero hour at this moment? Maybe you are even contemplating backsliding or even ending it all (suicide). It looks as if life has not been fair to you. Our only message to you is that there is hope in Jesus Christ. He says “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Remember you have not failed until you quit. Try Jesus and He will not fail you.
Psalm 34: 19
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all”.
DAILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
Monday: Experiencing zero hour
Tuesday: It is to humble the individual
Job 1:21, 2 Cor. 12:7-10
Wednesday: Reacting at the zero hour.
Exo. 14:13-14, Job 2:9-10, Ps. 121:1-2, Isa. 48:15-16
Thursday: Help comes only from God.
Ps. 34:15, 121:3-4, Isa. 43:2
Friday: Patience is both essential and necessary at the zero hour.
Isa. 49:8, Hab. 2:3, 1 Cor. 10:13
Saturday: Assisting those at the zero hour.
Gal. 6:1-2, 1 Cor. 9:22, Rom. 15:1