Posts Tagged ‘hope’

2 Samuel 15:13-37 (Part 2 of 3)
David Escapes from Jerusalem

Over the weekend, my senior pastor (and my boss) lost his father to death. Although his dad’s death has been anticipated for a while now, it does not take away the shock of the finality of death. I can feel for Pastor Tim and his family. My wife can too. My mom passed away in November 2010 and Elena’s dad passed in March of this year. In each of these cases, death came almost as a relief. Each was ready to go meet Jesus and was just waiting around and suffering til the time came in God’s providence.

My mom passed away in November 2010 at the fairly young age of 70. Although the last six months of my mom’s life was like watching some other person occupy my mother’s body. Her mind had degenerated into dementia and she was not the mother that I had once known. She had become paranoid and delusional because of the dementia. She was in excruciating pain from her back (where she had surgery on various parts of her spine 4 times in the final 6 years of her life). Crippling arthritis made even the smallest move of her body difficult. It was difficult to watch my mother suffer both in mind and in body. It ripped holes in my heart watching her suffer particularly those last 6 months of her life. We had been anticipating her death those last six months. However, it was that last 6 days where she was at death’s door. We were ready for it. The Sunday before she died on Thursday we waited at the hospital ICU for her to pass on, but she fought it. She was a feisty woman all her life so she wasn’t going to die without a fight. Finally, the day came. Not long after I got to work on that Thursday, I believe it was, my dad gave me a call and told me that I needed to get to the nursing home as quick as I could. The hospice nurse had told him that the end was within hours.

I was able to get to the nursing home in the little town of Starr, SC (the town where my dad was pastoring a small United Methodist church on a part-time basis at that time) pretty quickly. It was the middle of the morning and the drive down from the Greenville area was pretty smooth as rush hour was over. When I got there mom was breathing heavily in labored breaths and was totally incoherent. Her body was simply functioning. Her mind had already checked out. It was just her soul still making things happen in her body. She did not respond to any stimuli. As the remainder of the morning progressed, the breathing was not as labored but the breaths were beginning to be further and further apart. I finally was able to muster the energy to hug my mom and whisper in her ear that it was OK to let go and go be with Jesus and to see her mom and dad and brother. And within the half hour after that, she just…just stopped breathing. And that was it. No grand cataclysmic event. She was there one second and then she was gone. It was a peaceful passing. She just stopped breathing and it was finished.

I am getting a little choked up as I write this because even though it has been almost 8 years now since my mother’s passing, I can get choked up by thinking about her if I let myself think on it long enough. I miss my mom. I really do. I miss dreading having to answer the phone because I knew I would be stuck on the phone for 30-45 minutes. I miss her being all up in my business. I miss her unique Carolyn Bowling way of loving me. Since she has been gone, I have come to realize that mom was the glue that held us together (my dad, my brother and me). Family get-togethers do not seem quite as special now. My mom made our family time seem special. I miss that. I miss her.

But the thing that always keep coming back to is that I know my mom was a believer in Jesus Christ. I know that she is now in heaven. I know that she has been spending almost 8 years, by how we reckon time on this side of eternity, praising her Savior all the day long. She is fully healthy now in heaven. She is no longer ravaged by dementia. She is no longer in severe back pain. She is experiencing joy immeasurable.

That’s the believer’s promise. That is what we have in store for us in heaven when we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and have spent the rest of our lives making Him our Lord. No matter how tough things get. No matter how deep the valley. No matter the physical pain. No matter the troubling circumstances that we must go through in our lives, we will emerge on the other side on top of the mountain in heaven in victory for eternity. Eternity in heaven experiencing perfect joy and praising the Savior. That is how we as believers emerge from the valleys of this life is in the hope that we will one day be in heaven. Things may seem dark now on this side of heaven. You may be going through a valley that never seems to end but heaven is our reward.

That was the thing that I thought of today when I read this passage for the second time of three readings that I have planned for this passage, 2 Samuel 15:13-37. Let’s read the passage now:

13 A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!”

14 “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.”

15 “We are with you,” his advisers replied. “Do what you think is best.”

16 So the king and all his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to look after the palace. 17 The king and all his people set out on foot, pausing at the last house 18 to let all the king’s men move past to lead the way. There were 600 men from Gath who had come with David, along with the king’s bodyguard.[a]

19 Then the king turned and said to Ittai, a leader of the men from Gath, “Why are you coming with us? Go on back to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile. 20 You arrived only recently, and should I force you today to wander with us? I don’t even know where we will go. Go on back and take your kinsmen with you, and may the Lord show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.[b]”

21 But Ittai said to the king, “I vow by the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens—whether it means life or death.”

22 David replied, “All right, come with us.” So Ittai and all his men and their families went along.

23 Everyone cried loudly as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.

24 Zadok and all the Levites also came along, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices[c] until everyone had passed out of the city.

25 Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle[d] again. 26 But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”

27 The king also told Zadok the priest, “Look,[e] here is my plan. You and Abiathar[f] should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River[g] and wait there for a report from you.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.

30 David walked up the road to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. 31 When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, “O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!”

32 When David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, Hushai the Arkite was waiting there for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning. 33 But David told him, “If you go with me, you will only be a burden. 34 Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice. 35 Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will be there. Tell them about the plans being made in the king’s palace, 36 and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what is going on.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.

In this passage, we see that the Kidron Valley is mentioned for the first time in the Scriptures. The Kidron Valley runs below the southeast wall of Jerusalem, separating the city from The Mount of Olives to the east. It then turns southeast from Jerusalem and follows a winding course to the Dead Sea. The Kidron Valley is nearly always dry but does have a waterflow during rainy season. Here, we see the first reference to the valley when David and his people crossed through the valley over toward the wilderness. This strategic move would give them a way of escape if the forces of the rebel army of Absalom decided to attack the city. The people and the king wept bitterly during the move because it had such a depressing significance – they were abandoning the city without a fight.

Later Shimei was forbidden by Solomon to cross the valley on the penalty of death if Shimei did so (1 Kings 2:36-38). Josephus, the Jewish historian, mentions the wicked queen Athaliah was put to death in the Kidron Valley (see “Antiquities” 9.7.3). Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his crucifixion (John 18:1). Because of David’s sad crossing and Jesus’ sad crossing, the valley has come to symbolize suffering. We may have our own “Kidron Valley” to pass through; stay true to God, and he will stray true to you throughout your sufferings.

Each of us has hope in Jesus Christ. Once we accept Christ as our Savior and begin to grow in making Him the Lord of our lives, we have our eyes opened to one immutable reality. No matter how deep the valley or how severe the trouble, we have hope in a God that promises us deliverance. It may not always be on this side of eternity. Someone once said that “what’s the worst that could happen? I die and go to heaven? I can live with that!” Our ultimate prize is heaven as believers. That gives us comfort even in the toughest times. That gives us comfort when a loved one who was also a believer dies. We may miss them terribly but we know where they are. They have emerged from this valley called life into their victory on the mountaintop on the other side. Jesus gave us this hope through His resurrection. Death could not hold him. He arose from the dead to prove to us that He was our Messiah, Savior and Lord. He arose from the dead to show us that we have hope in everything that the Bible tells us. Jesus had His Kidron Valley moment but He emerged victorious in the resurrection.

So whatever you are going through including the loss of a loved one, take heart. Celebrate that there is a reward for being faithful to God even in the valleys of life. We have all eternity to celebrate with our Savior in heaven.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 1:1-8
Elkanah and His Family

There was a old poster when I was a kid that had a kitten hanging by one paw from a small limb of a small tree and the caption beneath said, “Hang in there baby! Friday’s coming!” Sometimes though it’s Monday and Friday seems an eternity away. That kind of typifies our story for today both in the Scripture lesson and in my illustration.

When we have our weeklong intensive seminar for my doctoral program, I feel like the Hannah in the room full of Peninnahs. Each one of my cohorts in the doctoral program are either senior pastors of larger churches, associate pastors are larger churches, or solo pastors as medium-sized or smaller churches. They are like Peninnah and are bearing children so to speak. They are pastoring. They are fulfilling their God-given purpose in life. And, then, there’s me. I am still just trying to get pregnant, so to speak, like Hannah. In ancient times, a woman’s purpose was many things to her family but the greatest achievement of a woman was to bear children. The lack of children was an embarrassment to her husband socially among men and, even women would belittle a childless woman as not fulfilling her true purpose in life. It was a social stigma. People would whisper behind your husband’s back and behind yours too as the childless woman. All Hannah wanted to be was a mother of a child. She wanted to fulfill her purpose in life.

I can relate to her pain in that it has been my calling that I feel at the soul level from the Holy Spirit that I am called to be a pastor. However, I am childless for a long time in that regard. I have not yet been allowed to become pregnant – to be in ministry. People wonder and even I wonder at times why I even am bothering with all this additional education. It seems silly to me at times why I am doing this. There are no churches beating down my door. Even my own church. I feel like Hannah. Wanting to be pregnant and to bear a child but God’s not allowing me to fulfill my purpose. Why is that? What’s wrong with me? Why is there no church that wants me? Why do I not have a burden to just go start a church myself? Church planting is a needed thing? Why do I not have a passion for that? Why is there no people group that I have a burden for? Just why did God put this calling on my heart and nothing is happening with it? I am no closer to being in full-time ministry now than when God first placed the call on my heart? Why do even my own elders at my own church not even see me in that light? Why did God give me the call if He is not going to provide me the opportunities to follow it at an established church or if He is not going to give me a burden and a passion for a people and a region that needs a church to be planted there for them? Am I just barking up the wrong tree and all this is just foolishness and a waste of time and that I am not suited for it anyway? Am I just comparable to a barren woman in the ancient Middle East?

I bet that Hannah was asking God those same questions. She was put on this earth to have babies. Even today when women have so many more options than they had in the ancient times of the Middle East and other regions of the world, too, there is a certain stigma associated with being a barren woman. There is just a certain fulfillment that a woman gains from being pregnant and bearing children. It is simply a part of the nature of a woman – to bear children – even today. That women can carry a child within their womb, grow another human being inside their bodies, and give birth (one of the most painful and beautiful experiences a woman can have) is a miracle of God. We men who really think about it must stand in awe of women in that regard. They are the live-givers and nurturers of life. It is part of their purpose for existence. For Hannah’s time, it was especially true. Did she feel left out? Left behind? Odd? Weird? Not worth as much? A step behind? A day late and a dollar short? Less than? Did she feel that God had forgotten about her? Let’s think about those things as we read through this first passage in 1 Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-8), this morning:

1 There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph[a] in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. 2 Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.

3 Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas. 4 On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. 5 And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion[b] because the Lord had given her no children. 6 So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children. 7 Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle.[c] Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat.

8 “Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”

In this passage, we see that, although may great Old Testament leaders (such as Abraham, Jacob, and David) had more than one wife, this was not God’s intention for marriage. Genesis 2:24 states that in marriage, one man and one woman become one flesh. Why then did polygamy exist among God’s people? First, it was to produce more offspring to help in a man’s work and to assure the continuation of a man’s family line. Numerous children were a symbol of status and wealth at the time. Second, in societies such as in the ancient Middle East where there were full scale wars between nations, civil wars within nations, and border skirmishes quite frequently, man young men were killed in warfare, polygamy became a way of supporting women who otherwise would have remained unmarried and, as a result, most likely destitute. Nevertheless, polygamy often caused serious family problems, as we see here in this story of Hannah and Peninnah.

In this story, we see that Hannah had been unable to conceive children, and in the ancient Middle East, a childless woman was considered a failure. Her barrenness was a social embarrassment for her husband. Children were a very important part of the society’s economic structure. They were a source of labor for the family and it was a child’s duty to take care of their parents in their old age. If a wife could not bear children during this time in history, she was often obligated to give one of her servant girls to her husband to bear children for her on her behalf. Although Elkanah could have divorced her for her barrenness, he remained lovingly devoted to her despite social criticism and his rights under civil law. Part of God’s plan for Hannah involved postponing her years of childbearing. While Peninnah and Elkanah looked at her outward circumstances, God was moving ahead with His plan. Think of those in your sphere of influence that are struggling with God’s timing in answering their prayers and who need your love and help. By supporting those who are struggling, you may just help them remain steadfast in their faith and their confidence in His timing to bringing about the fulfillment of their life’s purpose in God’s plan.

For me, the thing that I have to remember that my timing is selfish and shortsighted. I may be barren now and have been for a while since the calling was laid on my heart by God. By I must trust the Eternal One’s timing. I must trust that He is working out His plan right now in my life even though there is no visible evidence that His call to ministry is anything but a dream right now. I kept reminding myself of the story of Joseph in prison after being falsely accused of taking advantage of Potipher’s wife. He languished by human standards in prison for 12 years. 12 YEARS! I am sure that he has his days of doubt and where he was down and out and where he felt barren and where he felt that God had forgotten him. But he kept plugging away. He kept being faithful and earnest to God. He kept holding on to that small sliver of hope that God gives us sometimes. Sometimes that small sliver of hope from God is all we have to hang on to. Sometimes that small sliver of hope is what God wants us to hang on to so that He can teach us real faith – that faith that you have when everything else in your life is screaming that you should not have faith in God’s plan. That’s faith. That’s real faith. That’s where we become closer to God is when we have nothing else but His hope to hang onto. Let us remember that Joseph by not letting his outward barrenness control him, he was able to continue to give God his best even in prision. He was rewarded eventually with what God’s true calling was for his life – to be the savior and preserver of God’s people and even the people of Egypt. If he had let go of that small sliver of hope that allowed him to be faithful to God despite his prison circumstances he would have never been in position to get to his rightful place in God’s plan. Hannah continued to be faithful with her small sliver of hope and she became the mother of Samuel. Samuel become one of the most important men in the history of Israel – transitioning the country from a loose band of tribes ruled by a rag-tag bunch of judges into a nation ruled by a centralized monarchy. She found her purpose in being his mother. She influenced his character and who he became. She played an important role in God’s plan. She held onto that small sliver of hope even when the world was chiding her for being barren and what an embarrassment she was.

Whatever you are going through, hold on that small sliver of hope. God is working His plan for your life. He is working in the background even when you can’t see the evidence right now. Trust that He has a plan. Hold on to that hope. Hold on. Hold on. You will see someday the whole purpose for the barren time right now. Hold on. Hold on.

Amen and Amen.

 

1 Corinthians 13 — Yesterday, we talked about how pretty much every gift given from God is meaningless unless we love, unless we show love, unless we act in love. Then, that begs the question, What is love? In this next paragraph of this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes love. It reminds you of that scene from the movie, Forest Gump, when he asks Jenny to marry him for the first time and the speaking parts of the scene end with Forrest saying, “I might not be a smart man, but I do know what love is!” Paul, in this paragraph, tells us what Forrest already knows. Since love is the central theme of Christianity, we will spend a few days here on these definitions of love. Just think how patient Forrest was with Jenny. That was patient love. That was abiding love. We can learn a lot from how Forrest loved Jenny.

The first definition of love is that love is patient. Right out of the gate, Paul uses patience to describe love. It must therefore be a primary characteristic of love. Just as food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of food you purchase in their order of relative content in the food. If patience is listed first, it must mean that Paul sees it as the most important ingredient in love. What is patience then? Dictionary.com defines patience as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It goes on to define patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience is also quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To be patient is to have these qualities and to live out these qualities. Love is patient.

According to gotquestions.com, patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Without patience can we truly love? The lack of patience in relationships means that we are not willing to invest in them. Lack of patience with others means that we see our agenda as greater than theirs. Impatience is the fruit of selfishness.

Patience means setting aside getting my needs met. That is where impatience is born is in our selfish, depraved, sinful desires to get what I want and I want it now! We start out young being impatient. Babies that do not get their needs met immediately shower us with their curdling cries and screams. We come into this world wanting what we want and wanting it now. Patience only comes when we care about the needs of others more than our own needs. Think of the wife how suffers through decades of her husband’s alcoholism but still loves him. She still sees the best in him.

Patience gives us hope. Patience believes in the best in others. Just think of the joy that she has when her husband finally admits his problem, joins Celebrate Recovery, and begins his sobriety journey. Impatience would have ended that marriage decades ago. Patience is rewarded in this scenario we are talking about. Often the strongest marriages are those that have survived devastating setbacks, pain, and troubles. When marriages come out of the valley, one or the other or both see the godly love that has been shown them by their spouse and it deepens their love for one another. Without patience that would never happen.

Patience sees potential in others. Patience allows us to nurture that which is good in others. It allows us to invest in another person even though right now that person is so annoying. Patience allows us to give them space to be themselves. Patience concentrates on that which is good in others rather than that which annoys us.

Patience allows us to grant others grace, the same grace that we have been shown by Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In a world where Christians are bombarded by a world now that sees what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong, patience can be in short supply. We want to wash our hands of a world gone mad. We may find it disgusting and it may turn our stomach and make us nauseous to watch Bruce Jenner in an evening gown being rewarded for his courage. We can lose our patience over things like this because it just seems that the world now glorifies everything that is the opposite of what we think is right. But weren’t we ourselves ones who used to shake our fist at God by the way we lived our lives in opposition to Him. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who accepted Jesus as your Savior as a child, then, you and me have lived lives that grieve the heart of God. It was not until God allowed circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees before Him that we quit shaking our fist at God. We must be patient with those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. We must offer them the same grace that we have been given.

Patience allows us to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, it means that we don’t write people off as beyond redemption. We don’t write people off because what they do makes us sick to our stomach, literally. Jesus would have encountered Bruce Jenner not rejected Him. Jesus would have ate dinner with a same-sex couple. He would have not waffled on God’s truths with them. He would have told them like it was, but He would have done it in a way that made them think. He would have done so in love. Imagine the patience of Jesus with us sinners. He loved us. He sat down with us in the midst of our sins. He went to the cross and died for us and patiently waits for you to accept Him as your Savior even now while you shake your fist at Him.

Jesus, The Holy Spirit and The Father are one. In Scripture it says God is patient. According to gotquestions.com, since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).

If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be little Christs, we must have love in our hearts for others. We must be able to set aside our need to have our needs immediately met. We must have godly patience with others. We must love them to the cross. Sometimes that takes long-suffering patience. Patience is the hallmark of love. Patience means never giving up, never writing off, always hoping, always seeing a child of God in others even when they are shaking their fist at us and everything that we hold dear. God, grant us patience daily! OK. Let’s go watch Forrest Gump again!

Luke 24:44-49 — In this next to the last passage of the Book of Luke, Jesus explained the prophecies that He fulfilled, that He was the suffering Messiah predicted in the Old Testament (OT), and that this fact must be preached to the whole world because it is through His sacrifice that all the world may come to salvation and restoration to a right relationship with God. Jesus is the point of it all.

This scene reminds of those post-game shows after a major college football game where the analysts try to tell what the implications are for the winner and the loser of the game. Here, Jesus is telling them what all of the past three years were about and what the implications for the future are.

None of the past three years would have made any sense if Jesus was not the Messiah, the promised Savior. Jesus walked them through the OT. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), check. He showed them that the Messiah was to be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15, 19), check. He showed them that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in a triumphal entry (Zechariah 9:9), check. He demonstrated that the Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:1,3), check. He even showed them that the Messiah would be betrayed by one of His own followers (Psalm 118:22, 41:9), check. The Messiah was to be tried and condemned (Isaiah 53:8), check. The Messiah was to be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), confirmed. The Messiah was to be struck and spat upon by His enemies (Isaiah 50:6), yes that happened. The Messiah was to be mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8), yep. The Messiah was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16-17), that’s an affirm. The Messiah was to suffer as and with criminals and yet at the same time pray for his enemies (Isaiah 53:12), this is recorded. The Messiah was to be offered bitter wine as He was dying (Psalm 69:21), got it. The Messiah’s clothing would be subject of gambling bets among His captors (Psalm 22:18), check. The Messiah’s bones were not to be broken (as was often the case in crucifixion to hasten on death) (Exodus 12:46), yes. The Messiah was to die as a sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-12), we know this. The Messiah was to be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10), we are reading about it right now.

Jesus showed them that He was the fulfillment of all OT scripture. He was the Messiah. He was all the things that God promised. That’s the point. Anything else, his 3 year mission was too short, his death was meaningless, and his resurrection from the dead unneeded. He is not just another prophet. He is the Messiah who came to earth for the express purpose of fulfilling prophecy which includes Him being the sacrifice once and for all time for our sins. When we believe in the Messiah, we are restored to a right relationship with God. That’s the message. That’s the good news!

What’s the point of all of it? What are the implications for the future? Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus fulfilled all of the above OT prophecies and others that are not named above. He is the real deal. He is the Son of God. He was the culmination of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. He is the point of it all. Jesus came to be the agent by which we can be restored to a right relationship with God. This is what the OT predicted. God has been working His plan through the ages and Jesus was the culmination of His Promise and His Plan. God never does random. There is purpose. Jesus is the way in which all things are culminated and He is the way in which we are made right with God.

What are the implications for the future? Jesus tells us right here that we must go forth and share the story of redemption through Himself. Without the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus, there is no hope for our eternity. With and through Jesus, we have hope. We are made right with God through Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the Messiah. God keeps His Word. This is the message we must share with the whole world.

Unless it is about leading people to see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise as the Messiah, the Savior, the Anointed One, there is no point. We can touch the world around us with nice acts of charity and do big free events to get people in our doors, but if the end game is not about showing them the Messiah, showing them the Jesus who died for their sins to make them right with God, then, there is no point. Close the doors. Send everyone to charitable agencies and to the kindness of the good people out there. The point of Jesus’ church as Jesus Himself says in Luke 24:47 is that “it was also written that this message be proclaimed in the authority of His name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem.” We have our charge from our boss, and that’s the point.

Romans 8:31-39 — Nothing can separate us from God’s love. No matter what we go through.

This is the good news. This words were written to a church in Rome that would soon undergo terrible persecution. In just a few years from the time that Romans was written by Paul, his hypothetical situations would turn into painful realities. This passage reaffirms God’s profound love for His people. No matter what happens to us, no matter where we are, we can never be separated from God’s love. Suffering should not drive us away from God but help us identify with Him and allow His love to heal us.

These verses contain one of the most comforting promises in all of Scripture. Believers have always had to face hardship in many forms: persecution, illness, imprisonment and death. Although here we may not be imprisoned or killed for what we believe but we can suffer painful losses such as death of loved ones, betrayal, divorce, the results of other’s actions such as greed, jealousy, and people that are just downright evil to us. Sometimes we suffer because stupid choices that we have made that have short-term or even long-term negative consequences for our lives. Sometimes, when we go through trials, in whatever form they may take, we may fear that Christ has abandoned us. Paul, however, exclaims that it is impossible to be separated from Christ. His death on the cross, and His willingness to do so, are proof of His unconquerable love for us. Paul says that Jesus is pleading our case before the Father. We are acquitted of the penalty for our sin before the Father through Jesus so the Father listens to the Son. Jesus is our advocated sits at the Father’s right hand to present our case. If we believe these overwhelming assurances, we will have comfort and not be afraid.

Sure, going through hard times when you feel all alone is tough. As a believer there is that faint hope even in the worst of times that things will get better. That feeling comes from God. Those who have Christ as their Savior know that current hardships are temporary. We know that God will walk us through our trials and tribulations. He will set us on the mountaintop when the time is right, when the purpose of the valley is complete. Recently, in the book, Radical, I have been reading it challenges you with the question of basically, “How far are you willing to take your ‘yes’? Are you willing to go where God sends are you so married to the American dream that you will not spread the gospel in the place and in the way that God leads.

The combination of this passage and the book that I am reading leads to the question now of how much do you believe in the reward of heaven? Are you a good-time Christian only? When times get tough do you run from God? The Bible promises us suffering in this life, particularly when we are following Christ. Satan will attack. Bad things will happen to us. Are we capable of weathering the storms of life with our faith intact here in America where our problems pale in comparison to the minister in Nigeria who watches his village be destroyed and people killed for not denying Christ. How deep is your faith? How deeply do you believe that your reward is heaven? Our suffering here has an end game. It is heaven. We will be rewarded for our endurance and perseverance. When will we as Christians really believe in our reward so much that we can put it all on the line. Leave our comfort zone. What’s the worst that can happen? We die….and go to heaven. We talk about how wondrous it is. Do we really believe it.

Paul says it here. No matter what we go through. We have Jesus on our side. He will deliver us one way or another through what we go through. In this life, our suffering has a purpose when it occurs. It helps us to see and experience our dependence on Him. It helps us to demonstrate to others that there is something far greater than our suffering. Our suffering and the way we handle it can lead people to Christ. Our suffering and the way we handle it can give glory to God. Because we knew for a fact that we have hope. Even if our suffering doesn’t end before we die, we still have hope. We have heaven awaiting. We have Jesus waiting there. We have glory unmeasurable awaiting. Even if our suffering does end before we die, God is preparing us for what’s next. Our suffering gets us ready for what God has planned for us next. That is the hope we have. When we see God’s guiding hand in it all, we see hope. We see a plan. Let us not lose hope. He is preparing us for what He has prepared for us. Live with abandon in this assurance. Follow where He leads. Do His Work. Spread the Good News where it needs spreading. Do not let fear of suffering hold you back. What is the worst that could happen? We die and go to heaven. Believe it. Live life like you believe that heaven awaits!