The Assyrians were preparing to attack Judah. King Hezekiah encouraged the people saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” (II Chronicles 32:7-8) The Apostle John will repeat this many years later saying, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. “(I John 4:4) The heart of our faith is in trust of our Lord who is over all, and who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, … to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21) We don’t know what is before us, but we walk forward holding our Father’s hand, knowing that He is more than able to meet all of our needs.
Paul was a man who went through a lot of difficulties in life, yet he would say, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(I Thess.5:16-18) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”(Phil.4:6) He didn’t know what the outcome of any given situation would be, but he knew that the Lord was with him constantly, and he kept his eyes always looking toward Jesus. This is not easy to do because we see the problems with our eyes, and feel the hurts in our bodies and minds, but in spite of this, our Lord has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5) In this knowledge we can join with the Psalmist in saying, Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the Lord!”(Psalm 150:6) And in this we can know that “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7)
I love the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is not that they are so prophetic in giving a road map for what is going to happen in life. Rather, they are clear in describing who man, fallen rebellious man, really is, and what God, in his grace, will do about it. They can be very harsh in places where words of judgment are necessary, but they also reach out with great hope in God’s redeeming strength. They are books to be taken seriously to deflate our pride, and bring us to humility before the Lord. They clearly show our inability to improve our own lot in life, and God’s supreme ability to bring us to the right place for our best good and His great purpose. These books give us the assurance that God will complete the plan He set in place at creation. It will be glorious, and it will include all who look to Him in hope.
What does it mean to trust, especially to trust God? We say it all the time, but we usually have a “back up” plan in case God doesn’t come through the way we think He should. This is especially true in our affluent world. We solve many of our problems with money. We really don’t know what it means to have to pray for our next meal, as some Christian workers have had to do. Or pray for safety from hostile peoples. Truly trusting God is to be out on a limb with no way back. If God doesn’t help, we are lost. It is not a question that we have to be in poverty or danger to learn to trust God. Rather, we need to see Him as our single source of provision, strength, and hope in all situations of life. God is trustworthy. He has proven it time and again.
There is a funeral service this morning for a woman in the community. It will be an absolutely beautiful time. Beauty is usually not the way we describe a funeral, and there will certainly will be tears because of the separation. But this woman, in her mid 80s, was a life long Christian, lived her whole life in the same community, and was a member of the same congregation for all her years. The family and friends will gather around her casket at the church, there will be a service of worship, songs of praise to our gracious Lord, and a message of hope and assurance of life. The family and congregation will then follow in procession behind the casket to the cemetery across the street where she will be laid to rest among all of her relatives and friends who have gone before her. In our fast moving and mobile society, most of our funerals are not this way, but the hope, the assurance of life, and the worship of our gracious God for the life of a Christian are invariable. There are always tears, and rightly so, but those tears come with the deepest sense of joy and gratitude for God’s assurance of life eternal.
As we struggle through various difficult time of life, there is an important statement that Paul made to the Philippians. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(I:6) We have been called by God’s Spirit, and redeemed by Jesus Christ. He is working in us as a great Master Builder, and He will complete the work He has begun, according to His good plan. We can slow that work down by our bad choices, just as Israel did by all their grumbling coming out of Egypt. A one year trip took them 40 years, but God did bring them into the Promised Land. This give us great hope for ourselves, and for those for whom we pray. God love us with an everlasting love. He doesn’t like some of the things we do, but He will not abandon us. He will complete all that He
began to the glory of His Holy Name.
We’ve often said that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but He really does give us more than we can handle. If all of our trials and temptations were only at the level we could handle, we wouldn’t need to depend upon Him. But our trials, and struggling with our temptations, force us in one of two directions. We can do, as Job’s wife counseled him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Or as Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”(13:15) Life is difficult. We have many needs, pains, and pressures, some very tragic. We don’t have all the answers, many we will never have this side of eternity. But the question always is, “In whom do we trust?” Only in our own reason, ability, and strength, or in the One who loves us with an everlasting love, who truly is working in all things for our best good, and to turn our hearts more to Himself? We soon find that our strength is limited, but His never is. And His grace is sufficient. (II Corinthians 12:9)