Chapter 15 Meanings
The Dark Cloud
Only when Adam first crosses into the high country does he realize he has been in a dark cloud all his life. This depicts the spiritual darkness of the world. Unbelievers hate the light because it exposes their sin (John 3:19-20). The result is they live in the darkness and are blinded by that darkness (1 John 2:11).
Later, darkness descends on the group whenever someone in the group sins in secret. This illustrates how even believers can bring darkness upon themselves by imitating the way unbelievers live. This is why Scripture calls us to live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
The Weapons of the Wind
The weapons given by the wind represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I portray them as weapons in the story because spiritual gifts are the primary tools by which the Church carries out its work. And the Bible depicts the Church as being at war with the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18).
|“The lowlands are under a cloud. … You can’t see the cloud while you’re in it. It’s only visible from the light.” -p.123|
What is the significance of the terms “darkness” and “light” in describing the world and the kingdom of God? See Colossians 1:13; Romans 13:12; 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Light represents both righteousness and truth. Darkness stands for evil and deception/confusion. Light exposes reality; darkness hides it.
|“When people eat fruit, they prefer to do it in the dark. They value privacy above all because they believe it gives them freedom. The more people seek privacy, the more the atmosphere itself grants that privacy. Every year, the cloud in the lowlands grows darker. It’s one reason so few people ever escape the orchard. They hate the light.” -p.123|
What is currently hidden in darkness that Jesus will expose? See 1 Corinthians 4:5.
What is it about the darkness that results in ungodly actions? See Ephesians 5:8-14. 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8. In practical terms, what can a person do to walk in light rather than darkness?
When we live in darkness (privacy), so no one sees our actions, or we’re alone without accountability too much, sin flourishes.
|“Do not mistake ease for guidance,” Watson said. “The best path is seldom the smoothest.”-p.124|
If the best path isn’t always the smoothest (See Matthew 7:13-14), how does one discern God’s guidance? See Psalm 23:3. When is it okay to take the smoother path? Compare Acts 9:24-25 with Acts 21:12-13.
God guides us in paths of righteousness. When making decisions, any path that involves unrighteousness (whether it be in motives, attitudes, or actions), that is not the way God is guiding. If there is no unrighteousness involved, we can be assured we are in God’s will, regardless of the outcome.
Paul’s decision to escape those who were after him in ch.9 did not involve unrighteousness. But avoiding Jerusalem in ch.21 would have, because it would have meant he was putting his own safety ahead of his calling and the work of the gospel.
|“It still hurts, but I feel strong. Abigail was right about the cottage piece. The healing power in that thing is unbelievable.”-p.124|
How might one experience spiritual healing without any decrease in pain? See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
When God gives extra grace, it can result in Christ’s power resting upon you, resulting in joy and strength even as the pain continues.
|“Will my eyes ever recover”?
“It’s possible. The remedy for that is the same as for the wolf bites. When faith is damaged-whether by doubt or by believing wrong things, it is restored only through wrapping your hands as tightly around the cottage pieces as you can until you can get to the cottage and receive the cure.” -p.125
How does one cure the problem of faltering faith? See Romans 10:17.
Faith comes from hearing God’s Word (with the proper attitude—a submissive, eager, receptive heart that responds in obedience).
|“It’s different here,” Adam said.
Watson looked at him. “You mean on this side of the river?” –p.126
What are some ways the church is different from the world? See Matthew 5:47, 6:7-8; Mark 10:42-43; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.
Mt.5 – Christians love their enemies.
Mt.6 – Christians pray to God as our Father, rather than treating prayer as a ritual.
Mk.10 – We lead through servanthood, while in the world, people lord it over those they lead.
2 Cor.6 –
We are righteous; they are wicked.
We are light; they are darkness.
We serve Christ; they serve Satan.
We believe; they do not.
We are the temple of God, where he dwells; they are an idolatrous “temple.”
We are holy; they are unclean.
We are God’s children; they are not.
|“When you go through the cottage, you receive an assignment and a specialized weapon you’ll need to carry out that assignment. The weapon is unique-no one gets exactly the same as you.”-p.127|
What is the purpose of the spiritual gifts? See 1 Peter 4:10; 1 Corinthians 12:7. How might your gift be used for this purpose?
1 Pe.4 – to dispense God’s grace to his people.
1 Cor.12 – To edify the church.
My gifts are in the area of teaching. I’m striving to use them to build up the saints through teaching, preaching, counseling, writing, and encouraging the saints at church in the small groups I’m in.
|“Are you saying that’s your weapon-your smile?”
“It’s the most powerful of all our weapons,” Watson said. “We all envy Abigail.” -p.127
Sometimes Christians consider virtues like faith, love, and self-control as especially important, while joy is relegated to “icing on the cake” status. How would you rate the importance of joy in light of Romans 14:17; Philippians 1:23-26; and 2 Corinthians 1:24? What is it that makes joy so important?
Joy is every bit as important as the more celebrated virtues. The reason it’s so crucial is that our most important task is to glorify God, and nothing glorifies him more than when we delight in him. As John Piper famously says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
|“… your smile? … how is that a weapon?”
“The only way the enemy can harm us is by corrupting our desires. … The more a person enjoys the Ruler and his delicacies, the more good desires are strengthened and the harder it is for the enemy to pervert them.” -p.127
What are some ways the Christian life would become easier if you had greater joy in the Lord?
|“And it’s a weapon that protects us all,” Kailyn added. “There have been plenty of times when my joy dried up but was rekindled just by being around Abigail.” -p.127|
In what ways have fellow believers helped increase your joy in the Lord? And can you think of anything the Lord might want you to do at this time to work for someone else’s joy?
The greatest way fellow believers have increased my joy is by walking with the Lord. I absolutely love it when I see righteousness. And it makes me especially happy when they make spiritual progress as a result of my ministry in some way.
Other ways people bring me joy is by encouraging me, instructing me, protecting me, and helping me draw nearer to God and walk in his ways more.
One thing I need to pay better attention to is expressing my joy. I think my natural disposition is such that it seems to others like I’m in a bad mood most of the time. I think I could help others have more joy if I were more expressive about my own. Very often I’m happy, but I do nothing to express it.
Chapter 16 Meanings
The Room of Delights
The Room of Delights illustrates the process of God teaching us to seek joy in him alone rather than through relief from our suffering. Jesus taught that even in times of mourning, we are blessed when we have his comfort (Matthew 5:4). Even amid persecution, we have cause to rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12). Even in times of weakness, we have strength in him (2 Corinthians 12:10).
The side of empty pleasure illustrates the unfulfilling pleasures of this world apart from God (see 1 Timothy 5:6; Ecclesiastes 2:1–11). The side of painful happiness illustrates the joy found in God’s presence even when circumstances are painful (see Habakkuk 3:17-18).
|“When you mentioned my smile, you looked at my scar. Let me tell you how I got both the smile and the scar. It happened in the room of delights … It has a series of stone barriers down the center. The left side is the path of empty pleasure; the right, the way of painful happiness.” -p.129|
The side of empty pleasure à the unfulfilling pleasures of this world apart from God (see 1 Timothy 5:6; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).
Can you think of instances in your life when you chose a pleasurable path that left you empty?
Too many to count. Mostly what comes to mind are instances of overindulgence. Especially with food. The pleasure of indulging isn’t a fraction the intensity of the agony of regret—especially when it’s an issue of immorality.
The side of painful happiness illustrates the truth of Habakkuk 3:17-19 and Psalm 4:7. What are some examples from your life of when you chose painful happiness over empty pleasure?
There have been times when I was irritated at my wife over some little thing and was tempted with the empty pleasure of expressing my irritation. When I have given in to that temptation, I’ve always regrated it. But in the times when I chose to overlook it and show her love, the rest of the day we enjoyed closeness and happiness—a million times more satisfying than voicing my irritation.
In those times when you had joy even in the midst of pain, what was the source of happiness? See Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, 5:19-20.
The source of all joy is God. Even when I enjoy a person or activity or something in the creation, it is an act of God that enables that enjoyment in that moment. Apart from that act of God, it would be impossible for me to enjoy anything.
|“It took several more times on both sides before I realized what was happening. Each time, no matter which side I chose, the Ruler stayed on the right side. When I went left, despair came because I wasn’t near him. So the pleasure didn’t matter. And when I went right, I was close to him, so the pain didn’t matter.” -p.132|
What is the relationship between the presence of God and human joy? See Psalm 89:15-16, 16:11, 21:6.
Causing joy in the human spirit is an attribute of God. Just as fire makes things hot, God’s presence makes the human spirit joyful. There is no possible case in which a human spirit could encounter God’s presence and not become joyful.
Contrast the effect suffering has on the happiness of shallow pleasure with the effect it has on the joy that comes from God’s presence. Compare Jonah 4:6-8 with Acts 5:40-41, 16:24-25. See also Ecclesiastes 2:10-11.
The happiness that comes from earthly pleasures is incredibly fragile. Jonah becoming suicidal when his shade plant dies is comical, but it’s an accurate picture of what earthly joy is like. Happiness based on money can be wiped out in a second if the money is lost. The same goes for every other example of earthly joy-givers. Even the greatest, most intense earthly pleasure wouldn’t keep a smile on your face for even ten seconds if you were being flogged like the Apostles, much less fill you with joy that made you want to sing.
|“The purpose of that room was to teach me that refuge is better than relief.” -p.133|
What is your analysis of the statement “refuge is better than relief” in light of Psalm 73:25-28 and Habakkuk 3:17-19?
Ps.73 – With God as his refuge, the psalmist has strength even as his heart fails. It’s better to have strength and be in pain than to have no pain, but no strength either. Imagine two men. One is a very healthy, strong young athlete. He’s working on his roof and takes a 15 ft. fall. It hurts, but he dusts himself off and walks away. The second man is old, frail, and weak. He stumbles on a rug in his carpeted living room, falls, and breaks his hip. Which man would you rather be—the one who suffered a far worse fall, but had strength, or the one who had only a very minor fall but lacked strength?
Hab.3 – The prophet is joyful, glad, and full of strength, even in the midst of catastrophic problems. I would rather be happy in the midst of a catastrophe than be empty and dry in the midst of plenty of wealth and food.
|“On the day you see what it is, you must decide. And it will be a hard decision. A painful one. That day will be the best day or the worst day of your life.” -p.134|
When a person chooses whether or not to follow Christ, one might expect the person to come away happy no matter what they decide, because they are free to choose whichever option they most desire. Yet some come away rejoicing and others grieving. Why is this? See Mark 10:17, 21-22; Luke 19:6-9.
Those who reject Christ are following their greatest desire, but it’s a Judas desire. It betrays them, and bars them from the path of blessing. The rich ruler was sad because he knew the benefits of following Jesus and he very much wanted those benefits. But he was unable to take hold of them because his love of money made it impossible.
Love of this world is a horrible task master. It won’t free us, even when we are desperate for something better.
Some see the decision to become a Christian as nothing more than agreeing to pray a prayer or raising a hand at a pastor’s invitation. How would you characterize the decision? See Luke 14:26-33.
The decision to become a Christian is a massive decision—bigger than whether to buy a house or who to marry. Much bigger. It involves giving up everything you have, including your very life. It involves humbling yourself—even crucifying your old self. Jesus told us to count the cost before making the decision because those who make it in a shallow way often don’t last. They are like the shallow soil in Mark 4, where the person hears the word and receives it with joy, but when he faces the heat of persecution, he quickly falls away.
|Abigail stopped and took Adam’s arm. “Listen. Don’t worry about the room of delights. For now, just think about the banquet hall. All you have to do there is sit, eat, and enjoy. Trust me-you’ll love it!” -p.135|
How is it that Christians tend to have such love for the Church even after they have been mistreated by people in churches? See Ephesians 5:25–26; Revelation 5:8; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5 1 Corinthians 3:16–17, 5:4; Ephesians 3:10.
The church is being made holy by Christ (Eph.5), their prayers are precious to God (Rev.5:8), it is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim.3), the people are a holy priesthood offering acceptable sacrifices (1 Pe.2:5), it’s the dwelling place of God (1 Cor.3), the power of God is present there (1 Cor.5), and the church makes God’s wisdom known to the authorities in the spiritual world (Eph.3),
Many Christians are satisfied if they can discipline themselves to read God’s Word regularly. Contrast that with the enthusiasm the psalmists had for God’s Word. See Psalm 119:20, 47-48. What do your feelings about God’s Word say about your relationship with God?
God’s words express his heart—who he is. It is impossible to love him without loving what he says because his words are the perfect expression of who he is. It may be possible to love the Bible without loving God (for example, someone may just really enjoy ancient literature), but it is not possible to love God without loving his Word.
Reading the Bible out of duty or guilt does little to bring one closer to God. But reading it the way you read a letter from someone you dearly love—reading it to enjoy a relational interaction with God—that draws you nearer to him.
Ch. 16, Q. 10 – When we’re passionately in love with someone, we want to spend as much time as possible with them and eagerly listen to everything they have to say.
If we take them for granted, we are lukewarm at best. After all, they’ll always be there, so there is no urgency to listen and spend time with them. I’ll do what I want to do first, and *then* I’ll get around to listening to you.
Sadly, when it comes to God, I fear I fall into second category much more often.
Ch. 16, Q. 9 – It seems Christians love the church because the church is a work of God, not a work of man, bought with Jesus’ own blood, so *He* protects and nurtures it, by ensuring that it won’t die out.
Specifically, it seems He does this by:
1) Eph 5 – Loving the church (we love because he first loved us)
2) Rev 5 – He hears, collects, and remembers our prayers
3) 1 Tim 3 – The church is the institution that upholds truth. So if one loves truth (which all believers do), one will love the church
4) 1 Pet 2 – God Himself is using the saints the build the church, so we are actually a part of it in a very special way. As actual spiritual stones, our hearts are uniquely invested.
5) 1 Cor 3 – God’s Spirit dwells in us, literally causing us to be invested in the success of the church, in a “mystical union” kind of way. Since the church is *God’s*, and since we are united with God through the Spirit, the church is ours as well.
6) 1 Cor 5 – The assembled church imparts power to believers.
7) Eph 3 – It’s where the wisdom of God is found and made known. Not only to us, but to Satan and his minions. When are part of the church, we are *actually* claiming spiritual ground in a heavenly battle.
Finally, I’ll just say, I believe the church helps separate false believers from true. Like you said, true believers *still* love the church even if they’ve been hurt by certain members. False believers often use that hurt as an excuse to *leave* the church.
Ch. 16, Q. 8 – I think my experience in coming to Christ may have been different than many.
Long story short, on one random night, he woke me up in the middle of the night. He had called me and I just knew I had to follow him.
There is no doubt that God changed my heart and my desires literally overnight, but that doesn’t mean that following him is easy.
The hard part for me is trying to put to death, daily, hourly sometimes, the flesh that still wants it’s way.
But even in those most painful moments of truth, when I *actually* have to slay my pride, another part of my heart is joyful because I know that this, right here, is tangible evidence of God sanctifying me.
Luke 9:23 fills me with dread, yet at the same times gives me courage, strength, comfort, and hope.
Ch 16, Q. 6 – Refuge is better than relief because the former is eternal, whereas the latter is temporal.
In Psalm 73, those that are far from God perish, so by contrast, the implication is that it’s good to be “near” God because then you *won’t* perish! In the same verse, being near to God is the same as making God your refuge.
So putting it all together, if you make God your refuge, that means you’re near to Him, which means you will never perish.
So how do you make yourself near to Him? By recognizing that He is your portion forever (v. 26). And this implies eternality.
In Numbers, when God assigns the tribes of Israel their portion of the promised land, he doesn’t give a portion to Levi, but says that “I will be your portion.” THIS IS WAY BETTER!
The Levites won’t have to rely on the land for their livelihood, because God promises to take care of them directly.
So to compare relief vs. refuge, relief is where God gives us food or shelter or protection, and refuse is where God *is* our food and shelter and protection. This way, we don’t have to worry about any external factors, because our help, our refuge, comes *directly* from God Himself.
So in Habakkuk, Habakkuk can rejoice even though all the external relief mechanisms fail, because he knows he doesn’t have to rely on any of those. Since God is his refuge, God Himself is still able to directly provide for all of his needs.
Even though the “land” fails, since *God* is his portion, the land failing has literally no bearing on his spiritual livelihood or joy or fulfillment.
Ch. 16, Q. 5 – Job, because he was rebelling against God, was in a miserable state. When lost even the feeblest of earthly pleasures, the plant, he literally wanted to die.
The apostles on the other hand, despite having *no* earthly pleasures, literally could not be stopped of their joy, because it came from a source independent of anything connected to this earth – God Himself
Ch. 16, Q. 3 – These Ecclesiastes verses are perfect.
Many years ago, my wife and I went through what was, for us, a VERY hard experience.
We were dealing with a lot of very severe stress and pain, and had NO money.
We were trying to scrape meals together for us and our two boys using only the most basic of food pantry ingredients and as much creativity as we could muster.
I actually think of those days with great fondness. As great as our pain was, God’s blessings and comfort to us were even greater.
The simplest of comforts – eating a meager meal – did indeed bring us joy, which was truly experienced as joy because we knew it was coming from God.
Q. 11 – Personally, I have a heart for men’s ministry. Pretty much every thing that goes wrong in this world, you can trace it’s origin back to some man acting like a knucklehead (and that’s putting it very politely) and not knowing what it means to truly be a man. I literally cry over the state of biblical masculinity in this world.
So when I see real, biblical men – men who take responsibility for God’s call on their life and live up to it – I am filled with joy and hope.
As for me, I think I need to work to increase my wife’s joy in the Lord. She carries some wounds from being hurt by the church (and me) in the past. I think, if I simply let God’s love overflow out of me, and I love her with *that* love, hopefully she’ll see and feel joy.
Q. 10 – I immediately think of Heb 12:2. Because of the joy that was set before him, Jesus was able to endure *the cross*! What joy that must be to be able to endure such pain.
Therefore, the more joy I have, the more painful encounters in this life I’m able to respond righteously to. If I have enough joy, I won’t lose hope or respond sinfully to trials.
I’m reminded of the teaching I’ve heard you give of joy and pain being like two volume dials. As long as the joy dial is turned up higher than the pain dial, you’ll always have joy. So the key isn’t to turn down the pain (we often have no control over that anyway), but to turn up the joy (which we do have control over!).
Q. 9 – We hear over and over in the Bible that love is everything. It’s the sum of the law and prophets (Matt 22:40), it’s greater than even the greatest gift (1 Cor 12:31-13:1), it binds everything together (Col 3:14), it covers sin (1 Pet 4:8), it’s consistently listed as “higher” and “over” other virtues; and I could go on.
So, like you said, love is often held up as the pinnacle of the Christian life.
So in light of all this, John 15:10-12 is absolutely astonishing.
Jesus says that we love *so that* our JOY may be full!!
Whaaaaaat?! Love isn’t
the highest goal, but a means to some other, higher, goal?!
And that goal is JOY?!
So yes, how important indeed is joy!
Q. 8 – The purpose of spiritual gifts is to nurture and feed the body, the church, so each member gets all the spiritual “nourishment” they need to grow.
I think it was in your Wise Counsel book that I first heard you describe something like a liver just sitting on a table. Obviously that liver isn’t serving it’s function, so unless it goes back into the body, not only will it die, but the body will eventually die because a key function is not being performed.
This is a concept I try to be consciously aware of when I’m at Bible study. I like to try to pinpoint and remember the wonder spiritual blessings I get from different guys who say or do different things. Then I like to thank them for being there, because otherwise, I would have missed out on those nutrients they just gave me.
Q. 6 – Faith is restored by reading, hearing, and loving the word of God!
On a side note, I like how you mention that we hold tightly to the pieces until we can get to the cottage itself.
Just memorizing and a few verses by itself isn’t enough. Sure, it’s much better than nothing, and very well may save your life in an emergency, but the *real* cure is the whole of God’s word.
Amen. The pieces by themselves, apart from the whole, can be used against us. That’s how Satan went after Jesus in Mt.4.
Q. 5 – What comes to mind is the famous Galatians 5:22-24:
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
In particular, I want to zero-in on “patience,” or long-suffering. The bible often talks about one of the marks of Christian character is the ability to “patiently endure evil,” which I think is another way of saying long-suffering.
Because long-suffering is one of the fruits of the Spirit, by definition it means that when these fruits are found in us, we *are* experiencing spiritual healing.
But, also by definition, long-suffering is PAINFUL! “Enduring suffering”?! Uh, no thanks, not if I can help it. But that’s my flesh talking. When I find myself actually able to patiently endure suffering, I should rejoice! Because though there has been no decrease in pain (and very likely an *increase*), I have tangible evidence that God’s promised work is being done in my heart!!
Q. 4 – The arbiter appears to be what’s best for “His name’s sake.”
In the first instance, Paul was still Saul and his true ministry hadn’t yet begun. So in order to further his ministry, the right path to take in that moment was the “easier” one.
But in the second example, Paul knew that the fulfillment of his ministry was ultimately by way of Jerusalem, so in this case, it was the harder path that most glorified God’s name.
Q. 3 – I think darkness tempts us towards unrighteousness because we think we’re hidden and nobody will know anyway. Darkness provides the condition under which sin flourishes.
Just like fungus growing under dung (sorry to be graphic), darkness is like fertilizer for the evil desires of our heart.
Practically how can we combat this? Accountability partners, regular prayer and Bible readings, “cut off our hand” by excising those things from our life that tempt us towards evil, knowing the “escape route” ahead of time, etc.
Q. 1 – Darkness represents sin and death and the way destruction. Light represents forgiveness and life and the way of redemption.
I think this illustration is especially profound because light and darkness literally cannot coexist in the same space.
And to your point, only those living in the light can even really recognize the darkness. You don’t know what darkness is when you’re living in it, you just know you hate the light.
And thankfully, when you’re a child of the light, you hate the darkness and are never able to stay comfortable as long as there is a cloud overhead
Q. 2 – God will expose the hidden motives of our heart. We often judge by actions or words, but God judges by *motives,* and it’s those by which we’ll be judged.