Friday, September 19, 2014

...But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 tells us that in this world we will have trouble, but there is hope because of Jesus.  There is victory in Jesus.

Lately I've had Psalm 46 on my mind.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall
into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake
with their surging.

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see the works of the Lord,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
He burns the shields with fire.

Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalm 46 NIV84)

God is with me.  This is His promise, and He always keeps His promises.  He will be with me, wherever I go (Joshua 1:9).  He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).  Nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:35-39).  God is constantly with me, and I can absolutely always depend on this fact, no matter what comes.

I've been through a tough time.  A number of stressors piled up and put me into a lupus flare like I had never before experienced.  I literally thought I was going to die.  Even after I was stabilized, I felt bad for days, and at one point I just had a good, long cry for all the things I felt were lost to me: sunshine walks on the beach, romps with grandchildren, an adventure to see the giant redwoods of the west.  I sat within the small walls of my bathroom and felt the limits of my world, grieved the cookies I will never bake and the bread I will never again eat.  The loss of dreams, giving up gluten and "normal food," adjusting myself to a life of limited energy, limited strength, limited resources after medical bills are paid, possibly limited medical care because of limited insurance coverage.

But the Lord Almighty is with me.  The God of Jacob is my fortress.

And then I started to learn of other tragedies.  A dear friend just learned that her husband has an aggressive, malignant brain tumor.  I went to see them in the hospital.  They are the most beautiful family, full of peace and love for one another.  He is a farmer, one of those saintly farmers who cannot leave a good deed undone.  Clear eyed, radiating kindness, smiling gently.  His strong hands looked so out of place amongst the little plastic tubes of his monitors and IVs.  Two daughters sat in front of the window, quiet and serene, loving their dad, just being there and loving him.

You look around at all the smoking, drinking, cheating, stealing, lying, wife-smacking men who seem to live forever, and you wonder why this gentle, God-fearing saint of a farmer has a medical death sentence on his head, just before the harvest, in the middle of a kitchen remodel.  Why?

The righteous perish,
and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.
(Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV84)

We don't understand.  We cling so hard to this life, storing up treasure here, valuing the temporal instead of the eternal, seeking thrills, beauty and happiness in a world destined for destruction.

Paul said, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV84)

To live is to pour ourselves out sacrificially for the sake of the world, and to die is to go to our heavenly reward.

Sometimes God takes people home because He loves them.  1 Kings 14 tells the story of the one righteous descendant of wicked King Jeroboam.  This boy died and was buried ". . . because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good." (1 Kings 14:13 NIV84)

We need to get over our fear of death.

Perfect love drives out fear (from 1 John 4:18).  When we can--if we can--understand the love God has for us, and then love Him in return, the way He has commanded us, with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, then we will no longer be afraid.

The Lord Almighty is with us.  The God of Jacob is our fortress.

I met a lady for the first time last week.  She has just received a diagnosis of breast cancer, and she is facing a double mastectomy in the near future.  After the surgery, there will be chemotherapy and radiation, pain, malaise, hair loss, days lost, medical bills and more medical bills.

In this world we will have trouble, Jesus tells us.  In this world we will have trouble.  But we can take heart, for He has overcome the world.

In Philippians 3, Paul tells us that he considers everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.  Jesus is our Lord, and for His sake we lose all things, considering them rubbish compared to the treasure of Christ.

The kingdom of heaven
is like a treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went 
and sold all he had
and bought that field.
(Matthew 13:44 NIV84)

May we have that same joy as we learn to apprehend the love God has for us, the promises He gives to us, the future He has prepared for us.  Nothing can compare.  We only see dimly what is in store, but by faith we go forward.  God, grant us more faith.

Our hope is in Christ.  Our hope is in the next life.
Our trials here are temporary, but our joy in heaven will be eternal.

The Lord Almighty is with us.  The God of Jacob is our fortress.

He is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

Be still and know that He is God.

Take heart, for He has already overcome the world.

For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.
so we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV84)