“What I feared has
come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). Job, a
magnificent man of faith, allowed one particular fear pertaining to his
children to consume his thought process. Job was extremely devoted to the Lord,
and his faith (as we would later learn while hearing his story) was steadfast
and solid. However, even with his unwavering faith in God, Job allowed a fear
(the behavior of his children when not in his presence) to fester in his mind
to the point where he thought of the consequence that would be bestowed upon
him by God had these fears been actuality. When calamity struck in his life,
Job conceded that his initial unnecessary fear was what brought tragic turmoil
in his life. The God of the universe never promises that our lives will be
without obstacles and extreme circumstances. The Bible actually states that on
Christ’s behalf we are to “not only
believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Philippians 1:29). All must
understand that there is a distinct difference between suffering and fear.
These two often seem to be confused. Major aspects of suffering for Christ have
to do with sacrifice and denial of our inherited sinful nature as well as
dealing with the rest of the world’s reaction to us as we express our Christian
faith. Fear is derived from either internal or external influences. Fear is the
exact opposite of peace, and peace of mind and spirit is one of the qualities
that Jesus promises for all of His followers. Upon seeing their Savior for the
first time after His resurrection, the disciples were experiencing a mixture of
emotions—awe, confusion and earthly fear. Jesus responded to them (as the angel
said to the women at the tomb), “Do not
be afraid” (Matthew 28:10). Difficulties in life happen. The stance of our mind and spirit before,
during, and after the difficulties should be what separates us as Christians
from the rest of society. Our responsibility is to entice the rest of the world
by how we respond to every situation while rebuking fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer
and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4).
God kept His promise! The prophets clearly predicted the coming of the Messiah, the One who would do amazing works and save His people from their sins. But much time had passed after the last prophet, Malachi, and many became restless and discouraged. The promise seemed like a distant memory. Will God remember? Will He act? But we must remind ourselves, God is not a man that He should lie or “conveniently” forget His promises. What God says, He will do. It is wise for us to exercise patience and wait for God. He promised to come back. We know it has been a long time since His promise to return. But He is the same God who sent Jesus the first time, and He spoke through the angel, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back…” (Acts 1:11). We live in a world where people lie and easily back out of their promises. Not God! He has great plans for all who put their faith in Him. You can trust Him to be the ultimate promise keeper! He came and He’s coming back. Count on it!
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it….” So wrote the songwriter long ago. In my years of ministry, I have never witnessed someone abandon the faith “instantly.” Usually, the process involves a gradual decline, where love for God and His people seems to cool like room temperature when the heat is turned off. Before we are too critical or self-righteous about this, Isaiah reminds us that we are all guilty. No one has followed the Shepherd perfectly, and we must guard the downward tendencies of our own deceitful heart. But there is good news in the struggle. Jesus is greater than our heart! Because He loves us so much, He is willing to forgive our wanderings…and keep us by His power. His grace is truly amazing toward us! Yet, as followers of Christ, it is not enough to be content in the enjoyment of our relationship with the Shepherd. We have a responsibility to others. This involves helping brothers and sisters who have lost their way to find the path back to Him. In my devotions, I am reading (and re-reading) the Book of James. Here is how James ends: “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sin” (James 5:19-20). This Christmas season, you will probably meet several people who once lived close to Jesus but are now in “a far country.” Would you pray for them and be available to the Lord to say a word of encouragement or challenge…as the Holy Spirit directs you? If you were in their shoes, you would want someone to reach out to you. Be the one to help turn them from the error of their way, saving them from death and covering over a multitude of sins!
Today marks a special day on the calendar: the midpoint between Thanksgiving and Christmas. What a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for!
Two weeks ago, on Thanksgiving Day, we had an opportunity to look back over the year and remember the faithfulness of God’s provision. We gave God thanks, as the pilgrims did on that first Thanksgiving, for the blessings that sustained us throughout the year. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that God pours out those blessings on us so that we, in turn, will be able to bless others:
“Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11).
Two weeks from now, on Christmas Day, we can reflect on the fact that God has even greater, eternal blessings in store for us. His greatest gift, the gift of His Son, goes beyond the sustaining provision and grace which we experience in this world, ushering us into an abundant inheritance and life with Him in eternity:
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4-5).
That’s reason to celebrate! God has given us so many reasons to be grateful. May we never let go of the spirit of gratitude.