God Tends Us 5

John 17:15-16

There used to be a commercial on TV for Calgon® bath soap. After a rough day the harried housewife and mother would immerse herself in the bubble bath and say, “Calgon, take me away.”

We can all feel that way now and then. The worries and stress of life can make us want to find a place of seclusion and rest. And, if possible, we would like to be spared the troubles of life. We may want to be taken away from all the trouble.

But troubles come anyway and we have to deal with them. We just need to remember that God is watching over us even in the toughest of times.

In John 17 we see Jesus offering a prayer to God before he is arrested. In spite of what Jesus is about to go through he takes the time to speak to God about those who follow him. What does Jesus request? Why does he want this?

Jesus was facing some big challenges on the night he was to be arrested. He was facing torment and crucifixion. And he knew that his disciples would have a tough time of it when he was gone. They too would face their own challenges and struggles.

But Jesus prayed for his followers. He didn’t ask God to remove them from the world, even though as believers in Christ they were no longer part of the world. He knew they would have to go through the challenges. What he asked for was that God would be there with them to watch over them in love. He asked God, not to stop the problems, but to be with them in the problems.

Later, in John 17:20, Jesus includes us as well. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”

We will not be spared all the troubles and problems in life. We will face some challenges, even times when we feel all alone and beset on all sides. But God loves us so much that He watches over us even in the darkest of times. We must trust that God is with us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you know God is with you in all things?

God Tends Us 4

Matthew 6:25-26

There is a familiar saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” In other words, don’t worry about things that aren’t important. Then there is the follow-up statement, “It’s all small stuff.” The implication is that we shouldn’t worry about anything because nothing is that important. But we all know that isn’t true. There are things in life that are not important and there are things in life that are very important. We can’t avoid worrying about some things, but we need to gain some perspective and a little faith to help ease the worries.

In “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus makes a comment on worry. What should we not worry about? Why not? What example does he give? What does he say about us?

I guess a modern interpretation of what Jesus says here would fit with “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Our meals and our drink, the clothes we wear – these are the small things of life. We shouldn’t be focused on these concerns.

But I don’t necessarily believe Jesus is saying that nothing is important enough to worry about. He tells us not to worry about food and clothes and then follows it with the statement that life and our bodies are more important than these. Our lives and our physical beings are important. Perhaps we should be concerned for these.

I see this less as a teaching that instructs us not to worry at all and more of a lesson on where to place our focus. He concludes this whole lesson in Matthew 6:33 with the comment that we should seek first the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus seems to be saying that we should not get caught up in the unimportant and trivial – food and clothes. We should not focus on the superficial and the transitory, the momentary, perishable things of life. Instead we should put our concerns and focus on the important things of life – our physical health and our spiritual well-being.

And once we have the right focus we need to have the confidence of knowing that God is always with us. We are much more important to God than the birds of the air. God values us so much that He is with us in all things to help us, to tend to us, to provide for our needs. God watches over us so that we don’t need to sweat even the big stuff.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you hand your worries over to God?

God Tends Us 3

Psalm 139:8-10

When I was about five or six my friend and I were out in our back yard along the fence simply wandering around looking for something to do. While we were hanging out together I found a big rock and decided we didn’t want it in our yard so I tossed it over the back fence. I didn’t realize the neighbor was out in his yard and saw me.

He yelled at me. “Hey! Quit throwing rocks in my yard!”

I did what almost any five-year-old would do. I ran into my house and hid. I had done something wrong, got caught, and now didn’t want to have to face the world.

Part of what Jonah was doing on his trip to Tarshish was more than avoiding the work God wanted done. He was trying to get away from the guilt of facing God. What does the psalmist say about the presence of God? Where is God? According to verse 10, what does God do for us?

We all experience those times where we are not exactly proud of what we have done. We may feel bad about our actions and the people we may have hurt. We can feel that the best solution is to run away, hide from the face of God so He won’t see our failure.

But we can not hide from God. No matter where we go God is there. Even Jonah who was tossed into the depths of the sea was still in the presence of God.

No matter what we have done or failed to do, no matter what we feel about ourselves, we must remember that God is present with us. He is always with us.

And we must remember that God’s unavoidable presence is a presence that offers help. God cares for us. He tends to us, providing us with safety and salvation, hope and a second chance. As Jonah realized “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9)

We are never away from God. The Lord is there to guide us and to hold us fast – that is, He will help us to withstand any troubles.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you remember that God is with you in all places?

God Tends Us 2

Jonah 2:10-3:2

Second chances don’t always come around in life. But I believe that when we have a relationship with God we are often provided with a second chance in many situations. Jonah disobeyed God and did not want to be the Lord’s prophet. Trying to get away from serving God he ended up on a sinking ship and then was swallowed by a big fish. Things were not going well for Jonah.

But, given three days to think about his situation, Jonah realized how great God was. He prayed to God, praised Him for His greatness, and then pledged to obey.

What did God command? What did God say?

Someone has pointed out that God did things differently than most of us would. He had Jonah in a difficult situation. He could have told Jonah what He wanted and then released him from the fish only after Jonah agreed to obey.

But God took a different approach. God set Jonah free from the fish and then told him to go to Nineveh. Free from the bondage of his mistake Jonah could have backed out a second time. He could have tried once more to flee to Tarshish. But Jonah realized how good and wonderful God is and so was willing now to do as God asked.

Sometimes our decisions land us in hot water. Sometimes when we try to do things our way, when we try to live life the way we ant to and not the way God wants us to we end up in difficult situations.

But we must trust in the fact that God loves us and will take care of us. God often gives us a second chance, an opportunity to turn our lives around and head in the proper direction. God frees us from the bondage of our own mistakes. When we confess the greatness of the Almighty God we are given a new outlook on life. We can face things with a new perspective and a new attitude. We can change and do the right and holy thing.

And this can happen when we trust in the care that God gives us. Having the opportunity to consider our mistakes and our present situation, to realize what we have done wrong so we can do things right is part of God’s way of caring for us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you recognize God’s compassion even in the difficult situations of life?

God Tends Us 1

Jonah 1:12-17

When tough times come along there always seems to be someone who offers the comfort of saying, “Things could be worse.” That’s not much consolation when things are bad, but it may be true in many situations.

Many people are familiar with the basic story of Jonah. God has summoned Jonah to be His prophet, to go to the city of Nineveh and preach so the people will turn from their sinful ways. But Jonah is not interested in serving God. Instead he travels in the opposite direction.

He went to the city of Joppa and boarded a ship headed for Tarshish, but God caused a storm to come up, a storm so great the ship was ready to sink. The sailors determined that Jonah was to blame but they didn’t know what to do.

What does Jonah tell them? According to verse 13, what did the sailors do first? What happened to the storm when they threw Jonah overboard? What happened to Jonah?

At first glance we can consider Jonah’s situation to be pretty bad. He has been tossed off a ship and swallowed up by a big fish. What could be worse?

Well, death could be worse. Although Jonah was in a pretty bad spot he wasn’t completely lost. His failure to obey God brought him to a difficult and stressful situation. He was in a terrible storm.

Once he admitted his guilt his situation changed. By telling the truth at least things got better for the sailors, but now Jonah is inside a big fish. Yet Jonah still has a chance of getting out of his tough spot. The fish may seem like a real problem for Jonah, but it saved his life, as God commanded.

We can be a lot like Jonah. We can try to avoid what God wants and end up in some pretty tight spots. Even when we try to make things better we may feel that we are still in a bad way.

But we must remember that God tends to us. God loves us so much that He watches over us and provides for us. Even though our situation may not be ideal, we must remember and trust that God is caring for us and providing us with the strength to get through the toughest situations.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you trust God in the storms of life?