Life is full of uncertainties. We have things to do, tasks that must be accomplished. Some routine, we’ve done numerous times. Others more difficult and uncertain. No matter the task there is always a degree of uncertainty, perhaps apprehension. We don’t know the future. We can’t control all the variables. We never have a guarantee that all will go smoothly. Case in point, the current global pandemic. As much as we try to control our life there is always uncertainty. Yet we believe that the Lord is involved in all life, is concerned about all that touches us, and, in fact, goes before us on the path we take. When Moses led the nation of Israel out of captivity in Egypt there was much uncertainty. The people had been told they were going to the Promised Land, but they didn’t know all that could or would happen, all that they might have to face. But they went with a promise,“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) This is a prayer I’ve prayed in many situations over the years. “Lord, please go before me today. Guide, and strengthen me for whatever I need to do.” The Lord is ahead of us. Nothing takes Him by surprise. He has already walked our path. He has taken our sins, paid the great debt we owed, and given us His pure white robe of righteousness for our journey. Now He is up ahead waiting for us. These are images, or human expressions of our journey through life, but as those who believe in our gracious Saviour, they are true. He has already walked the path. He is up ahead waiting for us. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Doing a little shopping in a home goods store yesterday there were a number of items on display in the checkout line. There were some small decorative pieces intended to sit on a living room table. One had the word BELIEVE written across it. Another had the word HOPE. I imagine you’ve seen these kinds of pieces, also. But I always have to wonder what they mean. I’m sure it is completely individual depending upon the person buying them, but the question is still valid. BELIEVE in what? HOPE in what? These are great words in the context of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but outside of that they can be very vague and simply wishful thinking. They can be like the often misquoted Roman’s passage (8:28) that “all things work out for good”. I’ve heard this from a number of people in the midst of difficult situations. The verse actually says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Belief here has a solid foundation in a relationship with our Lord through faith in Christ. On that basis our hope rests on the evidence of the love God has shown us in the redeeming work of Jesus at Calvary. Those kinds of home articles are nice decorations. Just be sure they express the depth of faith you have in the Lord.
One of the great things about reading the Psalms is that they are completely honest. The Psalmist will praise the Lord. He will cry, complain, ask why. He trusts his God enough to let everything within him, good and bad, be completely expressed before his Lord. In one of his low times he even asked if the Lord’s character had changed. “Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?”(Ps.77:8-9) We simply do not and can not know all the ways of our God. Why certain things happen as they do, or why we have to suffer under very difficult trials. But then the Psalmist began to look back in his life. “Then I said, ‘It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed.’ I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.”(vss10-12) No, God has not changed. His nature is still the deepest of love. We can’t answer all of the why questions of life, but we can look back, as the Psalmist was doing here, and see all that the Lord had done for us in the past, all of the good that He has already accomplished in our life. In this we know that He has not abandoned us. Whatever we face He is the same gracious Lord, and He will see us through.
I am a creature of habit. I do things at a certain time. I put things is certain places. A crooked picture on the wall bothers me. Obviously I like order, certainty, things that can be counted on. But we live in a disordered, and uncertain world. The Psalmist faced this disorder over and over. They often cried out for help in the midst of things that were going awry. But they came back time and again to what they knew was solid. “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”(Psalm13:5) We try as best we can to make our solid places and safe havens in our world, but there is truly only one place, one person that is solid and unchanging. “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;…”(Psalm71:1-3) Our ultimate hope is in God alone. He will not fail us.
We hear so much these days about gun violence. 30+ people killed in random shootings just a couple of weeks ago. There are renewed calls for gun control. These tragedies have been in places of employment, in shopping malls, and even in churches. They are horrible, and leave many individual devastations in their wake. One article pointed out, however, that statistically each of us has a very low probability of being involved in such an incident. I’m not sure how comforting that is, but the article did say that we can’t live our lives in fear. We have responsibilities, and normal patterns of life with work, shopping, entertainment, and so forth. We can’t and shouldn’t curtail these activities out of fear. Above all we believe in our God who is a part of us at all times, our God who cares about every soul of the victims and even of the shooters. He has allowed sinful mankind to make choices, and at times those choices are used in very wrong ways. Yet He is not absent. He is present to calm our fears, to comfort the bereaved, and He alone is the One with power to touch hearts and overcome hate. Some aspects of gun control are important, but our main concern, and the focus of our prayers, is for God to change sinful hearts, including our own. And above all that He would shorten the days until Christ’s return.(Mark 13:20) He alone will bring the peace we all want.
There is a song sung by one of the prominent men’s Gospel quartets that talks about the conditions of our times. The chorus ends with the line, “but I’ve read the back of the book and we win”. We don’t need a singing group to tell us about our times. The news glares at us from every newspaper and broadcast. We live in the midst of it. Yesterday I wrote about the work of our God in the creation and redemption of mankind. That is the work of our gracious Father God to bring people – you and me – to a place of peace and harmony with Himself. He has worked for us over centuries of time. He has promised never to leave or forsake us, and to complete the good purpose He has for our lives. In the difficulties of our days and the tragedies we hear about daily, yet there is hope. We are strengthened to continue day by day with our eyes fixed on the promise of our Lord, and the evidence we have seen in our Redeemer. We have the greatest reason for hope.
We had a great worship service yesterday celebrating our Lord’s resurrection. Church was full. We sang great hymns, heard a fine message, gathered around the altar to share the Holy Sacrament, and declared again He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! But today Monday. We have a week before us of routine work, some pleasant tasks, some not so pleasant. The week may contain some illness, or a funeral service, as ours did last week. So as great as our service was yesterday, we are back in the midst of life today. But that is just the point of all that yesterday’s service proclaimed. Our Lord knows who we are and all we face in day to day life in a broken world. God sent His only begotten Son into this world to bring us life, not just for one special day but for every day. “I have come”, Jesus said, “that you may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10) In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave the power of sin, death, and the devil have been broken. Through faith in His name we have life. Today is Monday. The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24) I don’t know what you have planned for today, or whether you circumstances are good or bad. Even so this verse sets the tone for our days. Whether good or bad we are assured that the Lord is not far off. He is a part of our days with wisdom, guidance, strength, and help. This Psalm is also part of the messianic psalms. Just two verses before this one is the verse Jesus applied to Himself when talking to the Jewish leaders. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” Jesus is our Chief Corner Stone in all times and in all situations. He is the Rock on which we stand and in whom we have hope. You may want to take time to read all of Psalm 118. It is certainly a good one for each day.
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”(Psalm 18:1-3) David gives us a wonderful prayer of trust in this Psalm. He is clear in saying that life is a struggle. There are many battles and enemies to the point where he feels overwhelmed, but the Lord is always there, bringing him through to life. This is our trust in all times, and all conditions. Life in our fallen world is not easy. There are many things that try to separate us from our trust in the Lord. Circumstances don’t turn out as we would like, or even as we can understand. Yet, God is there. He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. He is worthy of our praise in all times, and our praise turn the eyes of our heart to Him.
We don’t have to look far to know that we are in a broken world. The trials and pains of life come to all of us. It is how we deal with them that matters. And I must readily admit that I don’t always deal with them in the right way. I am not a good patient when I face some pain. I took a fall last week that wrenched my back. It is painful when I move and have to use a walker to get around. I don’t like not being able to get up and go. Which leads to frustration, etc. etc. etc. I said I’m not a good patient. I often wake up with the verse of some song playing in my mind. This morning it was a reminder that I needed. It was an Easter song highlighting the events of the cross and empty tomb. “Then came the morning.”
Then came the morning
shadows vanished before the sun
death had lost and life had won
the morning had come.
This is the assurance we have. This is the message of the Gospel. God has come to share our burdens and to redeem us from the power of sin, death, and the devil. We have that assurance in the empty tomb. The morning has come, and with that truth we have the assurance that it will come for each us. I’m still not a good patient, but whatever I go through today is not the final word. My present pain will ease up, but more importantly we live the daily hope that in Christ all things shall be made new. Including our broken bodies.