For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Psalm 86:5
Current technology has made everything so fast to the point that we often take relationship and other aspects of life for granted. Imagine how long it took people to connect with each other during the Old and New Testament days, or even just a century ago. It’s incredibly slow compared to today, where it takes us no time at all to connect. Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere and connecting online is a snap.
This made me recall Pastor Brett’s sharing about his Nepal mission trip almost two years ago. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, and at his hotel room there was no heater. But guess what? They had Wi-Fi!
Yet no matter how fast technology is, it cannot beat the swiftness of how God designed His relationship with us. Did you know that He is only a call away? Are you exercising your rights as His child to communicate with Him?
Did you know that God is interested in you? Pastor Rick encouraged us during the Fearless sermon series kick-off by reminding us that God likes you, Jesus loves you and He wants to connect deeply with you through His Spirit.
There is nothing that God can’t do and there is nowhere He cannot reach. So make an instant call to Him now!
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Difficult life circumstances can come upon us in any number of ways, occur at unexpected times, and impact us on multiple levels (e.g., emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually).
Late last year my family began fostering a 2 month-old baby boy for what was intended to only last two to three months, the end of which was supposed to culminate with this little baby being adopted into his permanent family. We were meant to act as the “bridge” between this baby’s stay in institutional care and his adoption into a permanent family. However, at the end of three months the little baby was still not eligible for adoption and it was unclear as to when that would occur. Due to the indefinite time horizon for his adoption and a variety of circumstances in our own family, we found ourselves unable to continue to care for this baby.
As a result, we made the gut-wrenching decision to have the baby placed into the care of another “bridge” family until his eventual adoption. Saying goodbye to those close to us is always difficult, but doing so with this little baby knowing that he was not yet being united with his permanent family was especially hard. The potential emotional and psychological impact it would have on the little boy weighed heavily on our hearts. Thoughts about letting this baby boy down were compounded with feelings of shame, guilt and sadness.
While my family and I will need to process through those thoughts and feelings in due course, I have been reminded of Jesus’ open invitation in Matthew 11 to come to Him in order to find rest. Spending time with the Lord in prayer and meditating on those verses have been particularly comforting to me during this time. I have also been encouraged and blessed by the prayers and support received from friends and family.
If you are experiencing a challenging or difficult season in your life, whether created by your own doing or otherwise, I hope you can find comfort in the midst of the storm by:
Karen grew up in a Christian family but always believed the bringing people to Christ was the job of a pastor. After going through a Grow Course, Karen realised that that bringing others to Christ was a call that was shared by all Christians. Soon after, she was given the opportuntiy to share the gospel with a very close friend who was going through a very difficult time. Through this experience, Karen sees God’s amazing love for everyone, the power of prayer, and the nourishment that the gospel brings.
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from me, but I lay it down on my own initiative. This command I received from my Father. John 10:18
In the Bible, “lying down” and “laying down” are often used to mean rest or sleep. Laying down, however, has another meaning. While we “lie down” [ourselves], we “lay down” an object. Jesus laid down his life, which suggests that “his life” was something that was outside of himself. The verse expresses the complete control, volition, and freedom, with which Jesus was carrying out His Father’s command.
Charles Spurgeon, the great Christian writer, wrote that Jesus’s sacrifice was “always actively performed.” Jesus had no internal resistance because He was the embodiment of the Father’s command. We as humans have a tendency to see ourselves as passive sufferers of circumstances—things “happen” to us, and we argue, we whine, we complain, we pity ourselves. What does it mean for us to lay down our lives that we may take it up again? God has given us our lives with a degree of control: over our attitude, our perspective, and our hearts. These are the things we can lay down on our own initiative. After all, we cannot lay down what we do not hold in the first place.
Oswald Chambers, another evangelist, wrote, “It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God.” For many of us, the decision to receive Jesus in itself was not a painful one, but most of us don’t die right then. We have to live out our lives with the ability to choose another way at any moment. That taking our lives back into our own hands at any time is a constant possibility renders laying it down a continuously active, Christ-honouring, decision.
On Easter Week, we celebrate Jesus’s death and resurrection on the cross. It is a reminder of the hope that we have: as we lay down our lives before Him, we are also resurrected with Christ. So:
Have you ever been tempted to doubt God’s goodness to you? Or wonder if he sees you?
Earlier this week I was in hospital for a sleep test where it was confirmed that I have sleep apnea. Following that, I was very sick for the few days after. Being sick gives you time to think about your life and where it is going, as well as crying out to God for help. I’ve found that times of difficulty or sickness are some of the easiest times to doubt whether God sees or cares about you.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard about dealing with doubt comes from Pastor Tim Keller, who says, ‘Doubt your doubts.’ What we usually do is doubt our faith and believe our doubts. But stop for a minute and think: why shouldn’t our doubts themselves be questioned? We actually put a lot of faith in our doubts: a lot of confidence in our reason, our insight, and our ability to know the truth about reality.
Another thing we often think is that our doubts about God and faith are somehow unique to us. We may not realise that any question we have has probably been asked—and answered—hundreds if not thousands of times before.
So Dr Keller suggests that we try something different. He urges us to doubt our doubts and believe in what God says. He asks us to apply the same critical reasoning and testing that we do to everything else to our doubts and the beliefs that underlie them. Why do we trust the voice inside our own heads?
You might say, ‘I don’t believe that God intervenes in history’—but what are your reasons for believing that? You are only personally witness to the tiny portion of history that you are present for. Can you say for certain that the parts of history you have not seen, God has never intervened? How reasonable is it for us to have such confidence in our limited understanding?
Or you might doubt the existence of God. Is your knowledge so great that you can say that you have searched everywhere exhaustively and can confidently declare that God does not exist? When a Russian astronaut went to space for the first time in the 1960s, the Russian president declared that there was no God because they’d gone into the heavens and found no God there. Author C.S. Lewis replied that this would be like the characters in a Shakespearean play looking everywhere in their world for Shakespeare and, not finding him, declare he didn’t exist. Like Shakespeare, God is the author of the story, not a player hiding within its confines.
I was reading through Isaiah after my stay in the hospital and discovered it addresses this very issue. The people of Israel are complaining that God doesn’t see their suffering and doesn’t know their plight.
My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God. Isaiah 40:27
But God responds through the prophet, saying,
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom. Isaiah 40:28
Isaiah writes about the greatness of God. No one can fully understand him and his ways, and no one can be compared with him. Israel, having found herself in trouble, felt lost and forgotten by God. But through his prophet God reassures Israel that he is still in control of all things, that he cares for his people, and that he will come and save them. And he tells the people that they cannot comprehend God’s power:
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25–26
The point is that we are not like God. There is no one like God. He is far greater than we can imagine and His ways are beyond us. We were not present when He created the universe or when He created us. So it makes sense that finite minds like ours cannot grasp the infinite mind of God. It takes enormous confidence in our own mental ability to believe that we could ever be in a position to judge His designs and plans or to see His every move.
In the light of such a God, it makes more sense for us to believe what He tells us rather than trying to peer over His shoulder to see what He is doing. We should rethink our own ability to judge God and stop trying to cut Him down to our size. And instead of having great confidence in our ability to know enough about reality to sit in judgment on God, we should have even greater confidence in the One who created everything, including our minds and our abilities to understand and comprehend.
One time at Bible College, one of the students asked our Vice-Principal and NT Lecturer whether he ever had moments of doubt. He answered, ‘Of course I do! I too have times of doubt, wondering whether God is there and loves us. And in those times I have to go back to the Scriptures, reminding myself once again that we know that Jesus lived, died, and rose again, that the evidence is strong and clear, and that this is God showing us he is really there, and he loves us.’
It was reassuring that our teacher, who seemed so assured, knowledgeable, and full of the wisdom and grace of God, would also have these moments of doubt and that he would go back to the Word of God to find again the foundation of his faith.
At this Easter time, we celebrate the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to save His people. The people in the Old Testament did not know the lengths to which God would go to save His people, even giving up His own Son and allowing Him to be mistreated and killed by those He came to save.
These are the truths that are worth reflecting on at this Easter time. Let us spend this Easter meditating on how God made us, loved us, called us and died for us. Let’s trust and seek God together, whether in times of prosperity or adversity.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6