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Friday, March 29, 2013

"The God Who Walks Beside Us" (David Roper)

TITLE: The God Who Walks Beside Us
AUTHOR: David Roper
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 2012, (136 pages).

Suffering is not an option. In fact, for anyone desiring to follow God, suffering is part and parcel of that obedience. Using biblical examples of faith during times of doubt and disappointment, Roper shows us that for every struggle that tries to hem us down, there is an overcoming that will lift us up. For every occurrence of suffering and pain, there is a promise and assurance of comfort and companionship. It is exactly this. We sense the presence of God who walks beside us, not so much during our bubbly, jovial mood, but often during times of stress and distress.

Based on the character of Jacob, this book is formerly published as "Jacob: The Fools God Chooses." Roper studies the person of Jacob, whose name essentially means "he deceives."

The biblical Jacob went through many different kinds of struggles. First, he had to endure sibling rivalry.  At first looks, Jacob seemed to be one who was cunning to deceive his elder brother Esau to give up his birthright.  The incident turned Esau from a close brother to an enemy who hunted him down. Forced to flee, Jacob discovered the presence of God who continued to walk with him, and to manifest his presence. Secondly, Jacob also had trouble marrying Rachel.  Wanting to marry Rachel, he was forced to marry the elder Leah, and had to work many years just to gain Rachel's hand in marriage. Somehow, God made Jacob wait, and in the process tested Jacob's sincerity. Thirdly, Jacob had work trouble, and pocketed nothing even after 14 years of hard labour for his uncle Laban. Fourthly, Jacob thought that he could wrestle the Lord, only to be spared. After that experience, Jacob was a changed man. Fifth, Jacob was asked to go back to Esau and be reconciled. It was the willingness to obey that demonstrated the inner quality of the man of God.

These and many more are some of the powerful insights the author has of Jacob. Filled with quotes and notable writings from Reformers like Martin Luther, converts like John Newton, spiritual writers like Henri Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and many more, Roper shows readers that suffering is not altogether a bad thing, especially if it is something that is done out of our obedience to God. In fact, with each suffering, with each trial, believers going through the hard times will get a special opportunity to experience God's grace and deliverance. Not only that, there are powerful spiritual lessons that can only be learned through the school of hard knocks.  Roper observes:
"God will use anything to get our attention. It may be, as it was with Jacob, a change affecting a relationship—a much-loved child turning away from us, a long-term marriage unraveling, an old friendship fading away. It may be some prize we attain that leaves us feeling dissatisfied and empty, or something we lose that leaves us brokenhearted. It may be a change we cannot avert or a circumstance we cannot change. But whatever comes our way, we can be sure God’s love is behind it, helping to pry our fingers loose from this decaying earth and drawing us toward Him and our eternal home. When our hearts respond to God’s call, however, we can be sure of opposition."
With God's call, there will be opposition as the believer obeys. Yet, the presence of hostility and trial guarantees something far more precious: God's presence. This is something that Jacob experiences over and over again. Toward the end of the book, Roper becomes even more reflective of our modern world and his own experiences. He encourages readers to learn to accept trials graciously, putting bitterness aside. Take small steps forward. Resent not. Complain little. Trust God. Above all, if believers can learn to look beyond the suffering, see the bigger picture of faith, wear the lens of hope at all times, and most importantly, to sense the presence of God, they will be most blessed. As I read this book, I am reminded too of Jesus' words about how blessed we will be when we are persecuted for righteousness sake, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of Christ, for we will be comforted. Comforted with God's presence.

Today is Good Friday. This book is an apt reminder of Jesus, who did not get the benefit like us. God the Father turned his face away in his deepest hour of need. All for the love of us. It is because of this sacrifice, God raised Jesus from the dead, and we as believers, will get to experience always, the presence of God who walks with us, whether we know it or not.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Discovery House Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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