Have you ever noticed that things don’t always go according to plan? Well, that may be true for our plans anyway. We all suffer or go through trials for one reason or another. It is the nature of our humanity. I Peter 1:7 tells us that there is value in our suffering, more than we could probably imagine. Suffering produces endurance, endurance, character and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-5)
Where is your focus? Do you dwell on the problems of the past, lament your current struggles or look with hope to the future. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul encourages us to press on towards our goal, the prize, which is the heavenly calling of God. Our time of struggle is temporary in light of eternity. The living hope in I Peter 1:3 does not represent wishful thinking but a confident expectation of future blessings. I Peter 1:3-9 outlines them for us.
First of all, we have been redeemed because of Christ’s death on the cross, but we have assurance of everlasting life because of Christ’s resurrection. Because He was raised to life, we know that we can be too. Secondly, we have an inheritance reserved for us, that is protected by God, and we are protected for it; we cannot lose it. Thirdly, we will be purified like gold through our suffering. When gold is put into the fire the impurities are burned away, and the gold can be reshaped in a purer state. All of these blessings are because of God’s great mercy; we have done nothing to deserve them. However, we are called upon to have faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, what we have the confidence to expect, even though we cannot see it. (Hebrews 11:1) Jesus said that those who believed He was raised from the dead without seeing Him would be blessed. (John 20:29) You will be praised and honoured for your faith when Jesus comes again. (I Peter 1:7)
Even though you can’t see Jesus in the flesh, you can know Him, and knowing Him will bring you indescribable joy, no matter how bad the circumstances seem to be that you are in right now. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, just speak to Him—you don’t have to talk out loud; He knows your thoughts—and ask Him to make Himself real to you. Tell Him that you want to know if He really exists, and if He really wants to have a relationship with you. Then be open for the answer.
My heart is still heavy for the family of Al and Rita Chretien who have been missing for just over two weeks. From every indication I have, which comes from their Facebook page (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien), the family has a strong faith in God. Other people have gone through equally devastating situations—earthquakes, floods, fire, criminal acts; does faith really help when we are put in such trying situations? I believe it does. Sometimes, in tragic circumstances people will say that this proves that there is no God, but people of true faith trust God, not because of their own comfort and blessed circumstances, but because of who God is.
God has promised to be faithful. Hebrews 10:23 tells us that we can hold on tight to the hope that we have, because God is trustworthy and will keep His promises to us. In the previous verses (Hebrews 10:19-22), we see that we are invited to draw near to God, and that we can have confidence to do so. We are confident because we know that Christ gave His life so that we could have this privilege. In Old Testament times, the people needed to have a priest to approach God on their behalf. They would sacrifice the animals that were required for atonement, and they alone could go beyond the curtain into the inner sanctuary to meet with God. Now because Christ has shed His own blood for us, He has drawn back that curtain and has become our priest so that we are welcomed into God’s presence. We can draw near, because we have the assurance that faith brings. (Hebrews 10:22)
And this faith is not based on what we know, or on what we can see or figure out. Faith is being convinced that God is control, that everything is under His command, and we can believe Him even when we don’t have all the answers. (Hebrews 11:1-3, 1 Corinthians 2:5)
Al and Rita Chretien are parents, grandparents, business owners and much loved members of their community. They were last seen on March 19, 2011 in Baker City, Oregon on their way to Las Vegas. They were driving a brown 2000 Chevrolet Astro mini van with British Columbia plate number 212 CAV. If you have any information about this couple, please contact your local police department and cite Penticton RCMP case file 2011-3395, or call the toll free tip line in Canada or the U.S.: 1-877-987-8477. And please keep this family in your prayers.
Peer pressure, pride and regret. When most people read Daniel 6, they admire Daniel’s integrity or consider what they can learn from him. But what can we learn from Darius? Darius was a new king who greatly respected and trusted Daniel and appointed him as one of the top leaders of the land. He knew that Daniel was a man with an extraordinary spirit—wise, honest and full of integrity. Darius intended to appoint him over the entire kingdom. (Daniel 6:3) We will see when we get to Daniel 6:16 that Darius knew that Daniel served God continually. Daniel was dedicated; his faith was not something that he took lightly.
The other leaders knew this too, but they didn’t admire Daniel; they were envious of him. So they conspired against him. However, they could find nothing to charge him with because all his ways were upright. They knew that the only way they could entrap him was to make a law that contradicted a law of God. They lied to Darius, telling him that everyone was in agreement with their proposal. Since Daniel was one of the top leaders, Darius would have assumed that Daniel was included in the “everyone”, but he obviously was not. Daniel would never have agreed to a plan that would make it unlawful for him to pray to his God. What made Darius agree to such a thing? His pride allowed him to be deceived by the flattery and false promises of men who had ulterior motives. Interestingly in Daniel 4:37, Nebuchadnezzar recognized God’s power to bring down those who live in pride. Daniel had explained that very thing to Nebuchadnezzar’s son just before Darius became king. (Daniel 5:18-20) Now Darius was falling into the same trap, and would risk the life of the man whom he trusted to oversee his entire kingdom.
When Darius learned that Daniel was to be convicted, he immediately regretted his actions. There was no doubt that Daniel was guilty; Daniel did not deny it. Nor did he do anything to try to save himself. Though he had no assurance that God would save him, he trusted God to do whatever He deemed best. Darius did try to do something, but unfortunately there was nothing he could do. The best he could offer was to encourage Daniel with the words that his God would rescue him. Darius would certainly not have signed this edict if he had considered the possible consequences of his actions, but he only realized them when it was too late. For some reason the Medes and Persians trusted their kings to make such good laws that there was no recourse or appeals process to change them. (Esther 1:19, Esther 8:8) Was this pride too? In both Esther and Daniel, the result was regret. Thankfully, in both cases there were people who prayed to God, and God demonstrated that He was more powerful than the most adverse circumstances.
God saved Daniel from the lions, and He gave Darius a second chance. His next edict was that throughout his kingdom the God of Daniel was to be worshipped. If Daniel (and Darius) had not gone through this hardship they would have missed the opportunity to testify to God’s power and glorify Him. So what can we learn from Darius? 1. Consider people’s motives when they pressure you to do something. 2. Consider the consequences before you make a decision. 3. Don’t let foolish pride sway your choices. 4. Trust God to take care of things when you can’t.
In my last post, I mentioned that God wants us to rely on Him. The prophet’s words in Jeremiah 17:5-6 make that clear. Those who rely on themselves or on other humans will be cursed. In Jeremiah 17:1-4, we see that the people of Judah were worshipping and relying on idols. They provoked God to anger which resulted in them being carried off into captivity. In verses 5 and 6, Jeremiah is warning the people that those who trust in any human, including themselves will not succeed. When you trust in others, you will be let down. When you trust in yourself, you will be let down. In fact, God’s words through Jeremiah are so much stronger than that. Only God is infallible. When you don’t trust in Him, you will be cursed.
You will remember, I hope, from a previous post (February 28, 2011), that God is slow to anger. (Nahum 1:3, Exodus 34:6, Psalm 145:8, Joel 2:13). It is not that the people of Judah slipped up just once. They repeatedly rejected the Lord their God who brought them out of Egypt into the promised land. If you read about their journey, you will see the pattern repeat itself over and over again.
God is patient with us too, but what Jeremiah said to the people of Judah also applies to us. When we don’t invite God into our lives, not only our hearts, but our everyday activities, we will be like a shrub in a dry land. Our roots won’t be strong enough to get to the water, and we won’t be able to grow. We may get along for a little while, but we will not thrive.
I think the reason that many people reject God is that they want to be independent; they don’t want to give up control of their lives. They somehow think that if they surrender themselves to God, they will be giving up their freedom, and their lives will be dreary and dull. In fact, the opposite is true. Come back on Wednesday to see the other side of this coin.
David Teems, author of Majestie: The King Behind the King James Bible, has said, “God is not in the business of explaining things. He’s not obligated to explain anything to us. But we live in a generation today where we feel like we’re entitled to an explanation.” Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if God would let us in on His plan and tell us what our role is in it? Decision-making would be so much easier. Deuteronomy 29:29 lets us know that that won’t happen. God has all the answers, and He only gives us some of them. Sometimes He gives us answers in the form of thoughts or knowledge, but He most certainly gives us answers through the Bible. Because we have access to His Word, we have become responsible for the information that it contains.
Proverbs 25:2 indicates that we (even though we aren’t kings) should not only feel free, but obligated to search out the truth, to find the answers, to investigate the best way of doing things. The title of Proverbs 25 tells us that these proverbs were collected by King Hezekiah, so it is natural that he would be concerned about the responsibility of kings to lead and govern their people. Today, however, we are all required to lead and govern our own lives, and the wisdom of this passage is just as valid for us. Investigate, study and learn what it is that you can know, but realize that you can’t know it all. If we could know all that God knows, He wouldn’t be God. We can know enough, however, to have faith in His trustworthiness.
The passage in Deuteronomy says that we have this information so that we might obey God’s laws. James 4:17 tells us that because we know what is good, we are obligated to do it.
Did your mother ever tell you that you had to share? Most mothers do. I find it interesting that children are forced to share when it is not a habit that is practised by most adults. While discussing this with a friend the other day, the parable of the ten virgins came to mind. (Matthew 25:1-13). Five of the ten came prepared for the long wait with extra oil for their lamps, and five didn’t. The ones who were unprepared asked the others to share their oil. If that were to happen today, would the prepared virgins be criticized for not sharing? Would they be called mean, just because they prepared for themselves but not enough to also take care of others? After all, we know from other passages in the Bible that God likes us to care for the needy (James 1:27, Matthew 25:40) and He loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:7)
To be honest, sharing was not really the point of the parable, but it is interesting that the five virgins who wouldn’t share were not condemned for it. They were commended for being prepared, while the ones who had not brought enough oil to get them through the night were called foolish and were banned from the wedding feast.
Preparation is the point of the parable. Since it is a parable, the focus is to be spiritually prepared for eternity. The oil is representative of the Holy Spirit. There are many who call themselves Christians, perhaps because their parents did or because that’s the kind of church they go to, but only those who have truly accepted Christ as Saviour will be invited to the eternal wedding feast. This is your own decision--something you have to do on your own. No one on earth can share eternal life with you, but you can accept it as a free gift from God.
I’m a bit of an idealist, so I don’t like it when things go wrong, especially when bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it. It’s one thing to deal with the consequences when you’ve made a mistake, but if you didn’t do anything wrong, it just seems so unfair. Either way though, it is good to be able to call on God to rescue you.
Do you ever wonder if God really hears you when you pray? Sometimes we feel like the pain, frustration and struggles will go on forever. He says that He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11), but do you ever want to negotiate with Him? Tell Him your side of the story? Give Him your ideas for the plan? I think that the Psalmist David must have felt that way when he wrote Psalm 13. In the first two verses he asked “How long?” four times. He felt ignored, anxious and threatened by his enemy. We don’t know for sure, but he may have been running for his life at this point. David didn’t end his psalm the same way he started it though. He moved from complaint (Psalm 13:1-2) to prayer (Psalm 13:3-4) to praise (Psalm 13:5-6).
Philippians 4:6 tells us not to be anxious about anything, but with thankful hearts to present all of our requests to God. This is what David did. He asked the Lord to answer him, to revive him, and to save him, not only so that he would be saved, but so would the reputation of God’s name.
What caused David to turn from despair to praise? Hope in God’s unfailing love and mercy. David had faith that God was still God and would keep His covenant with him. We must do the same when we face trials that have gone on so long that we think they will go on forever. When we have lost our joy and our hope, we must cling to our faith. We must remember that God is God and more importantly that we are not. Even when we don’t understand what He is doing, we must believe that He does. We know that He understands every trial that we go through (Hebrews 4:14-16), that He will not give us more trials than we are able to bear (I Corinthians 10:13) and that He longs to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). Think back on how God has brought you through trials before. He will again.
Second chances. Mulligans. Do-overs. Don’t we all appreciate another opportunity to get things right? When Adam bit into that apple, and sin entered the world, we were sentenced to live in a world outside of God’s favour. (Genesis 3:17-19) Thankfully through Christ we have a second chance. (John 3:16)
II Corinthians 5:16-17 tells us that when we accept Christ we become a new creation. That doesn’t mean that we suddenly become perfect; it means that we have a new position as children of God. We still have to work on all the old issues in our lives, but God is a god of second chances. He forgives us for the things that we haven’t got right yet, and He is working on us, helping us to become more like Christ.
Verse 17 is a general view of what verse 16 tells us more specifically. Just as we have become a new creation, when we are in Christ we no longer see people according to their human qualities—race, gender, nationality, etc. Now we see them as we are, a person for whom Christ gave His life. God gives us the grace to see that person with spiritual eyes.
Before Paul met Christ (and his name was still Saul), he judged Christ on what he had heard about Him. He saw Christ as a contradiction of all the religious laws that he followed so strictly. Then Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, (Acts 9:1-22) and his views changed. He began to see Christ, and subsequently humans, whether Jews or Gentiles, differently.
The world judges you based on your past. God judges you based on your future. The world judges you based on what you have done. God judges you based on what you can, and what He knows you will, become. Let’s do our best to see others through God’s eyes.
Do you believe in miracles? Do you think that Christ still performs miracles today? In Matthew 8-9, we read the accounts of several of Christ’s miracles. Matthew 9:23-26 tells us of the raising of the synagogue ruler’s daughter.
When Jesus arrived at the ruler’s house, there were already mourners wailing and lamenting. It was customary to hire mourners for this purpose to help express the grief of the family. The fact that they were already there meant that they had no doubt that the girl was dead. When Jesus said that she was only sleeping, they mocked Him. These people knew Christ, knew His character and had already witnessed other miracles He had done. Surely, if He said that the child was asleep, they should consider it a possibility. Yet, they were so certain of her death, they thought His statement was ridiculous. Christ, however, had a different perspective on the matter. He knew that He was going to wake the girl up.
Before performing this miracle, Christ sent all the mourners and onlookers away. Only her parents, and a few disciples remained with Him to witness her resurrection. This meant that believing that the girl was raised from death would become a matter of faith for everyone who did not witness it, and perhaps even for those who did. Had she really been just sleeping?
I don’t know about you, but I like to have things explained and know the details of how things work. In this case, like many others, Christ didn’t allow the details to all be known. He left some things a mystery. That is still often the case today. Either we can’t understand the explanation, or there is some possible explanation other than a miracle from God. Those who choose not to believe in God, can find another way to rationalize what has happened, but those who do believe must often exercise their faith to do so. Jesus said, “Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), we know that He can still perform miracles. He is able to meet every need, but He cares more about your salvation than your comfort. He wants you to rely on Him. (Matthew 11:28) Seek Him first, and He will take care of the rest. (Matthew 6:33)
Do you ever feel like you want to just quit? I do. For example, right now it is the middle of winter which means cold, grey days and long, dark nights. I am recovering from not one, but two car accidents within the last five weeks. The second didn’t cause more injury, but it did create more hassle in car repairs and insurance paperwork. The injury from the first accident, however, is still causing pain and severe headaches. I have much I want to do, but little strength. Others I love are suffering even more. My aunt has a recently diagnosed inoperable brain tumour. My sister-in-law is in the hospital being injected with harsh anti-rejection medications to try to save her second transplanted kidney. Friends are dealing with work and family issues. Sometimes I wonder, can we not just get a break? Then I remember Galatians 6:9 and that we will be rewarded for our perseverance.
Galatians 6:7-8 tells us that we will reap what we sow. Good seeds will produce a good harvest; bad seeds will produce a bad harvest. Verse 9 tells us that we need to continue to sow those good seeds. We need to be kind and helpful to others, and not give up. Continuing to do good does not mean that we need to do everything. We need to prioritize the things that consume our time and energy, but we also need to be sure that it isn’t all focused on ourselves.
Growing weary is not the same as growing tired. Tired is a physical state that we encounter when we try to fit too much into our lives at the expense of rest. Weary is an attitude of discouragement—we feel like it is just not worth the trouble. Galatians 6:9 tells us that it is worth the trouble. Some rewards will come sooner and some will come later, but this verse promises us that they will come. The agricultural analogy is a good one. Not all crops progress from seed to harvest in the same amount of time—some are ready in months while others take years. It is possible that we will see the rewards for some of our good deeds soon, and it is possible that we won’t see others until eternity, but we are promised that we will see them, and when they come we will realize that God’s timing is perfect. Take heart! Don’t give up!