How do we know truth from error? I think the fact is that we don’t? We are in a day of great confusion with many voices speaking both in the secular, and the spiritual realm. People say, “do this,” or “follow that.” Out of panic some people are buying up iodine pills, others are stocking food and water in the basement. I am certain not against prudent precautions, but we can’t listen to every voice that cries fear. As I said yesterday, we have a Rock to stand upon, and though we don’t see Him with our eyes, He can be trusted with all of our hearts. Paul wrote, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”(Romans 14:8) We don’t know all that is ahead, but we continue in reading our Lord’s Word, and in prayer, and above all rest in our complete trust in Him.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Solomon’s admonition is an important one. We live in frightening times. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and now the nuclear disaster are causing worldwide concern. Wars, gas and food prices, stock markets, and on and on. We have built a world that is very complex, and interconnected. We have become dependent upon many things over which we have no control. It seems like a row of dominos, or a house of cards. We can read the prophetic Scriptures, but we really don’t know what is ahead for any of us. Even so, we are told over and over, do not be anxious or afraid. Above all that man is able to do, our trust is in One who has promised never to leave or forsake us. We have a rock in the midst of life, and that Rock is Jesus.
In a city called Christchurch a 6.3 magnitude earthquake toppled the steeple of the cathedral along with much other devastation and death in this main city of New Zealand. We search for reasons, and some will try to give apocalyptic explanations as the prophesies of Matthew 24, “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”(vs7) And we can’t say that God is not involved. This is His created world, but it is we who have allowed sin to enter, and damage every part of this creation. Someone once asked Jesus about such tragedies. He responded, ” Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”(Luke 13:4-5) His point was turning eyes and hearts to the Lord. We don’t know why things happen in one place or another. It is not for us to attach various meanings to events, but to help in any situation where we can, and above all, to turn our hearts to the Lord who alone is our ultimate help.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the great chapter on those who lived their lives by faith. The writer uses some mighty examples of people throughout history who were faithful, often in spite of great opposition. While we look at some like Abraham and Moses as great men of faith, they were also just normal people, going about their daily lives. After highlighting a number of people, the writer concludes by saying, “I do not have time to tell about…..”(vs.32) indicating untold numbers who were faithful to the Lord. None of them set out to do extraordinary things. They lived their lives believing in the Lord, and trusting Him for their needs. They met each day as it came, with whatever the Lord brought in that day. And that is what the Lord asks of us. We are normal people with normal lives, but we believe in our God who is greater than all, and seek to honor Him in all we do.
Getting older, New Year’s Eve has lost some of its appeal. It has been some years since I’ve seen the ball drop at midnight. We enjoy an earlier party with friends, and then go to bed. I like the system my 6 year old grandson’s class used. They counted down the noon hour, and had a little celebration. What is it that we are celebrating anyway? The date change is really just a reason to have a party. At the turn of 1999 to 2000 everyone was in fear of computers crashing. Now we are hoping that 2011 brings in a better economy, more jobs, and a better housing market. We have hopes and desires for the coming year, but all of our times are in the Lord’s hands. Each new year, even each new day, is an uncertainty. We walk forward, with Christ Jesus, into whatever the year holds for us. Like a child gripping his father’s hand, we walk forward in security, no matter whether the path is rough of smooth. So, enjoy your evening, and try not to stay out too late!
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.
I am pretty sure God never intended us to have our world based upon the accumulation of things. This is Black Friday, the day all of the merchants and financial analysts are looking at to see if consumers buy lots more things. That will be the indication of the health, at least economic health, of our society. I’ll eventually do my Christmas shopping too, but I’m sure not starting at 3 am this Friday, as some of the stores around here have offered to let me do. Jesus talked a lot about money and things, and He wasn’t opposed to them. He just wanted us to keep all things in their right place. He said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”(Matthew 6:31-33) Things are nice. I’ve been blessed with a lot of them, but God is so much better. Let’s enjoy Him.
We are Americans! We can figure things out. If there is a problem, we find a solution. There is no frontier too great for our Yankee ingenuity! But have you ever noticed how many questions in life we can’t answer? Especially the “why” questions. Why did this happen to me? Why was this one taken and not another? Or even the “how” questions. How would I react if I were in that situation? And the more we hurt, the less we can find a sensible answer. Our Yankee ingenuity just doesn’t help. Jesus told the disciple on a number of occasions that He was going to suffer, die, and be raised again from the dead. The disciples responded, “No. This can’t happen to you, Lord.” It didn’t make any sense. There was not real answer for them at the time as to why that should be. But there was a reason, even if it was beyond their eyes. And more importantly, there was a gracious God beyond that why question, who would ultimately make sense of it. So many questions we can’t answer, but a God of wisdom and love that is greater than all of our questions.
Be careful of great claims, especially claims of faith. Just before His arrest, Jesus said to His disciples, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, …. Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Well, we know the outcome. Peter did deny his Lord, and was crushed. We try to say about some temptation, “I will never do that again.” “I will be strong and resist.” But then we fail, and like Peter, are crushed. We really never want to hurt or deny our Lord, but the world, the flesh, and the devil press in on us, and we yield. The great truth of Scripture is that grace and forgiveness are always available. We can be, and are restored when we repent. So, we don’t make any great claims of faith, but humbly trust the Lord for each day.
There is a British comedy we enjoy watching on Public Television. It is done quite well, and we have been following it for years. There is one aspect that makes it way into almost every episode, that is the lie. The characters will find themselves having to answer a difficult question, or give some reason for something they do or do not want to do, and they make up a lie. It usually gets them in trouble, but it is still the first response they usually make. It is always a temptation. We want to look good. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s so easy to shade the truth in our favor. After all, they are only “little white lies.” Which is a lie itself. Yes, it is hard at time to make truth our rule for everything we say and do, but it is a vital virtue to be cultivated. It is only out of truth that trust comes. God was quite serious when He gave the command not to bear false witness. It is hard at time, but it is the best policy for life.