We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [Romans 8: 37] Read this chapter again--the whole thing for best effect. When we feel like losers, losing hope, feeling defeated, overwhelmed by evil, we are reminded by the victory of Jesus and his love that we are WINNERS! We live in the courage and hope of that victory he has attained for us.
Not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are numbered. So do not be afraid--you are of more value than many sparrows. [Matthew 10: 29-31] Jesus often addressed our insecurities using the analogy of "lilies of the field" and "sparrows" -- fragile and temporary things that God provides for beauty or food. When we feel weak and insignificant, he encourages us to know that we are of infinite concern to our heavenly Father. At a time when understanding God as "Father" was not the norm, that phrase, so often used by God's own dear Son, provides assurance and encouragement to us in our frailty.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [Matthew 11: 28] If you are feeling like you are carrying a heavy load right now, you are not alone. Many are burdened by seeing the suffering, the uncertainty, the disconnectedness (not just our own, but with an empathetic heart for others). When we are used to carrying a lighter load (or, at least, it felt lighter), this becomes a heaviness that is hard to shake. But Jesus has already shared the load -- we are "yoked with him" (as a team of oxen or horses) and, actually, he (not I) is the One who hauls the entire load of the world. On his cross. Praise God.
The angel said to Mary, "For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. [Luke 1: 37-38] Like the virgin Mary, hearing but questioning the angel's announcement that she would be the bearer of our Savior Jesus, we, too, are often limited to our experience and our expectations, But we know the Almighty One is not bound to our petty thinking. So, like Mary, as people of faith, we yield ourselves as servants of the Most High and expect great blessings, no matter what strange turns those blessings might take. Faith trusts the heart of God shared with us in Jesus.
But Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible." [Matthew 19:26] The context is our salvation -- an impossibility considering the sinfulness of our hearts and the uncleanness of our words and actions. But, because God's mercy can rescue, cleanse, deliver and renew us, we are also assured that all other "impossible" problems are within God's power, within God's mercy, within God's compassion. So, what so-called impossible situation do we need to surrender to our Lord?
[Jesus said:] "And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?"[Luke 12: 25-26] Jesus knew that worry (anxiety) does us very little good. Today we understand that stress can, in fact, shorten our life by undermining even our physical health including the immune system. But beyond being counter-productive, worry is our way of denying how much God provides for us, for his people, for those who know him. Worry is about what I cannot do, what I cannot control, what I cannot solve, what I cannot handle. But God CAN and our LORD does.
[Jesus said:] "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." [John 16:33] Jesus assures his followers (including us) in the face of the troubles of "the world" in which we find ourselves that he has already conquered and overcome the world for us. As we take his victory to heart, we will also find peace in our troubled hearts.
Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. [Hebrews 10: 35-36] Tough times seem to shake our confidence. But only when our confidence is placed in the momentary situation or our own abilities. Our confidence and endurance is grounded in trusting the good and gracious will of the Lord and that is made clear in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Lord, give me a growing confidence based on you and not on myself.
No temptation (testing) has seized you except that which is common to all. And God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. When you are, he will provide a way out so you can stand up under it. [I Corinthians 10: 13] Feeling the weight of the world is on your shoulders? It isn't -- we really are sharing the struggle with all humankind. The troubles of this moment are not intended to lead us away from God, but to depend on him to provide "a way out." Jesus is the ultimate "way out..." But I can only bear the troubles and trials with his help--because I am not and never have been strong enough to handle much of life by myself. It is a humbling lesson but it can bless me. And all...
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people (holy ones/saints) [Revelation 13:10] The sometimes overwhelming realities Christ's people may experience while on earth can be frightening. Revelation warns of violence, faithlessness and persecution...realities for the 1st century readers. No matter what the details, God provides us patience, endurance, and faithfulness as we trust his word and promise. The Risen Lord is our confidence and our hope.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. [Romans 12: 12] Isn't it interesting that God's Word and direction for us connects faithful (confident) prayer with patience in affliction and with a joyful hope. It is our Lord who provides for us, yes, even in our afflictions. May he grant us patience as we wait and as we pray.
If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not with him also give us everything else? [Romans 8: 31-32] My confidence in the providence and mercy of God is grounded not in my positive attitude or in wishful thinking, but in the Father's gift of Jesus Christ, the One given up for all. No enemy, nothing and no one, can conquer us. Ask me why I would trust my Lord and I will answer, the PROOF is Jesus Christ.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Corinthians 1: 3-4] We are not feeling comfortable, and yet, in our Savior, the Risen Lord, God does comfort us. He calms our troubled hearts, heals our wounded spirit, brings hope to our lives bogged down. And, as part of his healing, he provides us opportunity to comfort and console and bring some courage to another in their distress. It is good therapy for us to reach out to others! So whom can you reach today?
REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS...do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God...and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4: 4-7] When, and only when, it is "in the Lord," joy is not dictated by circumstances for those who celebrate the Risen Christ. On a practical level, we surrender our worries to the Lord -- in our prayers not only for ourselves, but for others -- but do that surrender much aware of and thankful for all that God continues to provide. It is easy to set aside our praise and thanksgiving because of our worries. This is a time to reaffirm -- God is good. ALL THE TIME. And with that comes the protection of his peace.
Fear not -- I am the first and the last, and the Living One. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and Hades. [Revelation 1: 17-18] To Christians around 100 AD living in uncertain and anguished times, wondering about their earthly life, God provides the vision to John which we call Revelation. It is a call simply to "endure" in light of the victory and power of the Living One, Jesus. The angel's message at our Lord's empty tomb was "Fear not!" because Jesus is risen from the dead, triumphant and sharing that triumph with us.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom. [Luke 12: 31-32] We are the "little flock" spooked by our incredible anxiety that can keep us from seeing the constant goodness and eternal grace of our Lord. Jesus calls us to keep our hearts focused on and to give first priority to what He is doing, bringing us the very reign, the kingdom of the Father. Even in calmer times, how easily we have forgotten to do so -- perhaps this is a wake-up moment for us to take refuge in his wonderful Word. The Father's pleasure is to provide for us -- forever!
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. [Joshua 1:9] Maybe circumstances lead us to feel like the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land -- but without any clear time line or road map. But this is a time to act on faith -- trusting confidence relying on the One who has already liberated us from the slavery of sin, death, and despair, much as he freed his people from their slavery in Egypt. After all, this is our Passover -- our time when the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and his resurrection victory lead us on our uncharted but certain journey to our Promised Land.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” [Isaiah 41: 10] How many times in Scripture does God (directly or through angel) tell folks "Fear not!"? The Easter Gospel (Matthew 28: 1-10) includes the phrase twice -- even as the women who had heard the resurrection message left the empty tomb "with fear and great joy" (both together). So it is with us--with our focus on the Risen Lord, our fears will be tempered by the joy of the victory of death overcome and of God's ongoing presence.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will exalt you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. [1 Peter 5: 6-9] Would you think that worry and anxiety (rather than immorality or obvious evil) are the tool that the evil one would use? Yes, because it draws our attention from the LORD and from concern for others. As we humble ourselves and look to the Lord, he will (in his perfect time) lift us up. So, we will thankfully affirm God's continuing care--even in our troubles.
All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28] Really? It is hard to grasp how anything good can come out of disease or any other disaster. But we know it does--sometimes bringing people to work together, in releasing generosity to meet human need, in making us appreciate our blessings including friends and family more than we had. Even the brutality and injustice of the cross, of our Savior's suffering and death became the tools of God's redeeming love -- so we can look for (and more easily discern and celebrate) the Lord's good will that ALL things "work together for good" for those who look to Jesus.
We walk by faith, not by sight. [2 Corinthians 5:7]
These are times when we know we cannot see how things will unfold, in spite of all "models" and "projections" about the pandemic or the economy or much of anything else. So "walking" on the journey for Christians becomes obviously a matter of faith, of trusting God, even for eternal life, something we perhaps should have known all along! Lord, when I can't see the way, lead and guide and protect me. Pastor Hugh
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. [Proverbs 3: 5-6]
This was the verse chosen by my pastor at my confirmation and it has served me in difficult moments through the years, especially in light of my usual need to analyze, understand, and plan. Instead, because I know my LORD through Jesus Christ, I can rely not on my abilities and insights, but on God's faithfulness. That is where my confidence and trust is grounded. And the Lord's promise is simply, "Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass..." [Psalm 37:5] always in his holy and perfect way. Pastor Hugh