Preparing for Victory

Surrounding Darkness

By M.E. Townsend

A thin layer of ice covered the street as Clara pulled away from the curb. Ice crystals formed on the windshield as she reached to adjust the defrost control and light a cigarette.

Making her way slowly toward Baywood Bridge, Clara realized how tired she was. What was she thinking moving to the country? She had seen the lovely little cottage set amidst majestic trees and rolling hills on a lovely spring afternoon and it was love at first sight. Beautiful trees surrounded the property; flowers cascaded from pots and baskets on the porch, a garden filled with unimaginable beauty. The winding roads, the hour-long drive from the office to her little sanctuary seemed a small price to pay for the peace and tranquility that awaited her upon arrival. But now… spring had given way to winter, leaving in its wake a barren wasteland of fallen tree limbs, treacherously winding roads and the once beautiful garden now lay wrapped in a thin blanket of snow and ice.

Long ago memories of her grandmother and the snowy winter evenings spent listening to stories from the “Good Book” talking together, laughing at Grammy’s stories of old beaus named Pete and Charlie and dear Brother Willard Tuttle made Clara laugh even now.  Just as Grammy had laughingly shared childhood stories, so too Elizabeth Jackson taught her granddaughter to believe in the inherent goodness of people. Clara remembered Grammy’s words; “Just give people a change honey, you will see how good and kind people really are. Just give them a change and they will rise to their potential, standing for what is right and good.” Grammy often spoke about God. “God wants you to be happy Clara. God loves you and wants you to work hard, keep your hopes high and keep a good attitude.” Clara smiled as she pictured Grammy sitting in her recliner, her face reflecting the glow of the fireplace, an afghan over her lap, a cup of hot tea by her side, and her Bible. “In life Clara, you need to believe in yourself.”

The sound of ice crackling under the weight of the tires grew louder, the darkness more oppressive as snow began blowing across the road.  A rabbit darted from beneath the trees, disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. The glare of oncoming headlights went unnoticed as Clara remembered Grammy. Too late the blast of a horn broke through the silence.

A woman’s screams exploded through the silence of the night. The sound of twisting metal and shattering glass reverberated through the night sky as the car careened over the embankment, tumbling end over end, crashing through trees and shrubs to arrive at its final destination.

Silence returned.

Clara found herself lying in a heap on the cold wet floor – her journey ended, or had it just begun? Too terrified to move, her eyes squeezes tightly shut, the sound of her own heart pounding in her ears, Clara trembled in fear.

The screams had stopped and Grammy’s voice was silent.

Far in the distance, Clara heard the faint sound of a bell. The sound grew stronger, more distinct as she forced herself to sit up and open her eyes. A shadowy silhouette moved slowly, deliberately in her direction. As the figure drew closer, Clara saw the figure carried a candlelit lantern and a small book, a bell hung from a sash tied around the waist of a long flowing hooded robe. A smile crossed her face, all apprehension left as she struggled to stand. She could feel herself beginning to relax. Someone was coming to rescue her; she was not alone.

The ringing of the bell stopped. The candlelight illuminated the darkness. Wiping her hands on her skirt Clara prepared to welcome her saviour.

Lips formed the words, “Thank You.” With a broad smile, Clara adjusted her sweater, pushed her hair from her face and raised her head to greet this most welcome of strangers.  Anxiously she looked into the face of her salvation.

Her smile vanished, the pounding of her heart in her ears returned as the “thank you” shattered in mid air absorbed by the cold, damp hardness of the floor. An all-consuming blackness greeted Clara; her breathing became more labored as she struggled to remain standing.

Clara fell backward as the blackness of the eyes stared accusingly into the depth of her soul; binding her to its gaze. Wanting to turn, to run, to hide she had no choice but to

stare back into eyes filled with hopelessness, sadness and pain.

The deep-set black eyes reflected her past; the glow from the candlelight reflected her certain future.

A man’s voice broke the deathly silence – “Clara Jackson?”

Clara’s heart broke as she stared into the suffering eyes of the stranger.

Again the voice spoke - “What do you see?”

Terrified to speak, yet more terrified to remain silent Clara struggled to stand. With renewed strength, with a boldness and calm she did not feel Clara responded –

 “I see the face of God.”  The voice replied -“I am not God !”

An invisible river of pure evil flowed from the blackness of the deep-set black eyes.

Clara winced in pain, wrapping her arms around her head, shielding her eyes – “Sir,

If you are not God, who are you?”

Clara recoiled in disgust; horrifying reality seized every nerve in her body. Piercing black eyes reflected the blackness of her own soul; powerful eyes pulled her unwillingly into its blackness – the blackness of Clara Jackson’s past.

The voice spoke – “You stood in your own strength believing in yourself, in your own ability – you had no need of God. You did what was right in your own eyes without consideration of Sovereign LORD – hoping your good deeds would outweigh the bad and God would welcome you to an eternity with Him because of your goodness. You did what seemed good to you – you had no need of Him. Those who do not follow Sovereign LORD do not belong to Him.

    Yet hath not Sovereign LORD said of His creation –

All are like one who is unclean, all their righteous deeds are as filthy rags, all wither like a leaf, and their iniquities, their sins, like the wind, take them away.

You had neither time for nor interest in the things of God but felt well able to control your life, doing what pleased you, fulfilling your dreams, your desires. You measured your success and failure against others, never giving thought to your eternal destiny. You thought yourself not as bad as some – far better than most. You chose to please man – rather than to be obedient to God.

    Yet hath not Sovereign LORD said of His creation – All the ways of man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives.”

Shocked disbelief quickly turned to raging anger. In haughty defense of her past, fighting

for her future, Clara jumped to her feet and screamed – “No! You are wrong. You are so

wrong; I was – I am a very good person.” Words, phrases, incoherent thoughts, jumbled

together, stumbling over each other: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I am a    

volunteer at the hospital – every month, well, almost every month. I go to church with my

cousin every Christmas eve, I love the Christmas story – I give to charity, I give to the

United Way, I help the poor with my donation of used clothes, I do not steal, I am very

honest - this is not the way it was - uh is. Grammy told me - I did everything she told me,

I listened, I learned, I believed everything Grammy told me; it is all in her Bible. I work 

hard, I do good things. This is not right - this is not fair, I am a good person.”

 “You call me a liar?

    Yet hath not Sovereign LORD said of His creation – The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it.  For - All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them, because friendship  

with the world is hatred toward G-D.

Not everyone who says LORD-LORD will enter into the kingdom of Heaven,

But only those who do the will of Sovereign LORD in Heaven.

           If any say, they have no sin, they deceive themselves, and the truth is not to be

           found in them.”

For what seemed an eternity Clara stood in oppressive silence. Then - in the distance, voices, voices imploring her to come.

Turning in the direction of the voices her feet propelled her to follow. Moving slowly at first – then more quickly she became acutely aware of the stygian darkness accompanying her as she made her way. Without warning, to the front, the sides, fire erupted from deep within the cavernous darkness. Clara’s muscles began to quiver – her throat, her eyes burned from the stench of sulfur. Throwing her hands up wildly, tearing at her hair, gnawing her tongue - Clara stood horrified as she watched the lost going into hell. Men and women the old and the young walked, unaware, into the lake of fire. Lost souls without hope. Taunting, jeering, accusing forces of satanic evil watched as scores  of people, bound tightly, chained by the sins that had so easily entangled them, fell headlong into the inferno. Demonic host waited below beckoning all to come. Some, by an unseen force, were being pushed, pulled, and hurled into the flames. When the fire abated and the smoke settled, the moans of the miserably lost could be heard.

When the fire at intervals increased in intensity and thick smoke filled the cavernous expanse of blackness, the shrieks, the wails of agony thundered in Clara’s ears.

The voice spoke –   “Yet hath not Sovereign LORD said of His creation –

It is appointed for man to die once and after this comes judgment.”

Covering her ears, Clara willed her mind to block out the final tormenting sounds of those bound for an eternity of unimaginable horror, separated from goodness, without hope, without love, without God.

“I do not understand. What horribly wickedly things have these done to deserve such punishment? If God loves everyone, why have these been condemned to the fires of hell?  How could He allow this? How could a loving God do this?”

The voice spoke – “The choice is not Sovereign LORD’, but man’s to make –

    Yet hath not Sovereign LORD said of His creation – If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved - for with the heart one believes to righteousness and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

Not everyone who says to Sovereign LORD – LORD, LORD, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father in heaven.

Sovereign LORD – the Holy One - demands His creation walk holy, in purity before Him. Knowing this was not possible; Sovereign LORD through Jesus the Christ came to stand for His creation, in holiness and purity, satisfying the demands of Sovereign LORD. Your acceptance – in your heart - of the great price Jesus the Christ paid, your obedience to His Word, to love, to serve Him, to learn His ways shows Sovereign LORD a heart of gratitude, a heart of love, a heart of repentance and change.

This - you have not done.

Many trust in their own strength, living as it please them, without thought of Sovereign LORD – many see themselves as honest, hardworking moral people, trusting in their own goodness, without sin-without need of forgiveness or Salvation. Many believe good works gain God’s favor. In their head, they know about Jesus the Christ, yet their hearts remain cold and disobedient.

This - you have done.

If, while these lived but a brief time on earth, they had no interest nor need to know or

learn the ways of Sovereign LORD –why would they choose to spend eternity with Him?

Choices condemn the souls of men not Sovereign LORD. Your life was never about you – it was always about Him -Your life was never your own to manage.”


Clara forced herself to look into the blackness of her past:


For the first time she saw her sin – her rejection of Jesus the Christ – her own dependence on self. Clara remembered a John Newton quote read many years ago – she had not understood it at the time, but now…


‘My conscience felt and owned its guilt, and plunged me in despair:

I saw my sins His blood had spilt

I helped to nail Him there’ –               


“Is there no hope; is there no second chance for me?” Screaming in terror, begging for mercy, Clara, too late, cried out to God.


“Sovereign LORD, Jesus the Messiah, have mercy upon my tormented soul this night - sinking into hell. O Sovereign LORD have You no mercy for me?”    


“And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this – the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27




“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.  And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” ~ John 5:25-29


Will you be judged for your good works, judged as the redeemed of the LORD?  Will you bow before the Holy God and be rewarded for your faithful service done in His Name while on earth or will you stand before Him condemned, too late crying for mercy. There is judgment awaiting those who reject the Son of God. There is punishment for those who choose to walk in their own strength, relying on their own “good deeds” instead of the Cross to save?


“For it is written, ‘AS I LIVE SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO God,’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”  Romans 14:11-12  


“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.

So choose life in order that you may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19


Judgment awaits each of us. Which judgment awaits you?

The choice is yours to make.

Home |  Victory | Armor | Persecution