We are hearing a great deal today about refugees having to flee their homes because of war. The U.N. came out with an incredible statistic recently that world wide there are more than 50 million displaced people. We’ve also had a few house fires in our area, and read of many more in our western states. We are comfortable and secure in our homes and communities, but these things must make us think about what really is of value. Life is uncertain. We try to protect ourselves in many ways, but life in this fallen world gives no guarantees. As long as we are in this world our task is to help one another as much as possible, and to pray earnestly for God’s mercy, and grace. What is our ultimate security and strength? The Apostle Paul faced many trials throughout his life and was finally martyred for his faith, but he could write to the Philippian church, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,…”(3:8) And further he declares, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”(4:13) We cannot take lightly any of this world’s tragedies, but we must have a solid foundation in Christ which give us hope and strength in all times.
Government statisticians just came out with new figures on what it takes to raise a child from birth to age 18. They say it is now $245,000 not including any savings for college. I really dislike such figures, and in God’s eyes they are meaningless. To begin with, it, among other conditions today, scares couples about even the prospect of having kids. We have learned well how to limit reproduction, taking that out of God’s hands. We’ve taken children, that Scripture declares are a blessing from the Lord, and put a dollar figure on them. This means that we balance kids against a lifestyle we desire. It also means that we are not willing to trust the Lord to provide for the children He gives. Psalm 127 declares, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;…”(vss.3-5) This is just another area where the western world, which used to be Christian, has gone far from the will of God, yielding to science and reason rather than Scripture, and seeking to understand the gracious Lord who created us. Just another thought to ponder for a Tuesday morning.
I ran across two important questions in a blog I read last week that really stir one’s thinking. “What is it that we’re trying to accomplish via education and children? Although it might seem like an obvious question,” the author wrote, “surprisingly enough the question is rarely asked. (and) What kind of adults do you want your children to be when they grow up? Figuring out the answer to that question will go a long way in determining the goal and scope of education.” The problem is that we really don’t want to ask these questions because they impact the whole direction of society as well as the lifestyle we’ve created. I think back, at times, to the educational goals of an ancient Jewish father. He had three primary responsibilities toward his son. He would see that he learned to read so that he could read the Scriptures. He would teach him a trade so that he could support his family. And He would find him a wife so he could start a family. I’m not sure that he was all that far off in his goals for life. I don’t think we are going to make drastic changes anytime soon, but it does give us something to ponder.
In the morning we are sometimes asked, “did you have a good night? Did you rest well?” A good night’s sleep is important. We need our rest in order to have the energy for the day’s activities. The Bible talks a lot about rest, but not the rest of sleep. The Lord knows we need that, but His rest is something far deeper. “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. (Matthew 11:28) True rest is a complete trust in the One who has given His life for us. Paul had learned this through many hardships. He wrote to the Philippians, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”(4:12-13) This is certainly not easy, but when our eyes are focused on Jesus, we realize that there is a truth far greater and stronger than what we presently face, whether it is good or bad. We can learn to rest in Jesus. We enjoy our sleep because we put aside all of our cares, and abandon ourselves to our beds. We rest in Jesus when we lay our care upon Him, and trust in His strength. That is a far better rest.
A young man asked me yesterday, is it a sin to doubt, and how do you ever get rid of them? Unfortunately, doubts are common to all of us. I wrote about Peter’s doubts in Matthew 14 that caused him to begin to sink when he looked at the storm. Jesus gave him a mild rebuke, then reached out and took his hand. The Psalmist begins the 13th Psalm by crying out “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” That’s a feeling many of us have had. So, doubts have a way a assailing us all. I don’t think the question is about the doubts themselves, but what do we do beyond the doubts. The 13th Psalm ends by saying, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me.” Whatever is causing the doubts today, we look past that to all the Lord has already done for us. In Him we have our salvation and life. In this truth we keep walking forward in spite of our doubts.
Where are our eyes? The Gospel lesson this past Sunday was from Matthew 14. Jesus came to the disciples on the storm tossed Galilean lake. He called to His men who were struggling and afraid in the fishing boat. The text says that Peter got out of the boat and began to walk toward the Lord on the water.(vs.29) When Jesus invited Peter to come to Him, He didn’t first still the storm. In the midst of the storm He simply said, “Come”. As long as Peter’s eyes were on Jesus he continued to walk forward. When his eyes fell from Jesus to the raging sea he began to sink. We face many storms in life, and they just don’t go away. That is the nature of our fallen world. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul tells of a serious problem he had. He writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(II C.12:8-9) Paul found that strength, as did Peter, because their eyes were on the Lord Jesus. No part of life is ever going to be exactly the way we want it. Yet, our strength is not in the smooth going, it is in our Lord who walks with us whether the seas are stormy or calm. That’s where our eyes need to be.
There are life lessons to be found in all kinds of places. For some reason I was reminded recently of the 1971 film Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory. If you remember anything of the story, the children who were filled with pride and greed were the losers. The one who was humble and caring was looked down upon, but was ultimately the winner. It was the same conflict Jesus faced between the prideful Jewish leaders versus the tax collectors and sinners He associated with. He said that the first shall be last and the last first. He made His point dramatically at the Last Supper by getting on the floor and washing the disciples feet. He said, “If I, your Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet. You also ought to wash one another’s feet.”(John 13:14) People spend a lot of time creating images and gaining advantages. The Lord has to continually remind us, as He did for Samuel, that “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(I Sam.16:7)