Trials 5

Heaven is one of those topics that comes up quite frequently whenever religion and faith are discussed.  We all have varying ideas of what heaven might be like.  We have different images that may bring us comfort and eager anticipation, or they may baffle us and evoke more questions.

The revelation that came to John of Patmos – that is, the holy vision God gave this man – includes some images of what might be involved in heaven.  What is it that “one of the elders” shows John?  Who were these people?  What is their reward?

Here is one of those wonderful images of comfort.  The faithful believers have endured the tribulations and trials of life and are now in heaven in the presence of God.  They are given their eternal reward – never again to hunger or thirst or experience any sorrows.

Too often, however, we hold onto a hope of heaven that is in the far distant future.  Some day, we say, some day we will receive our great reward.  But whether your idea of heaven is white mansions and streets of gold, clouds peopled with angels strumming harps, or an ethereal light filled with joy I believe we do not need to wait.

Those presented to John were the people who had washed their robes and purified them in the blood of the Lamb.  They serve the Lord day and night.  As a reward God spread His tent over them, protected them, and gave them comfort.

If we as believers can wash our robes, if we can get rid of our tendency to sinning; if we can purify ourselves through the blood of the Lamb, if we can accept Jesus as our Savior; if we can serve God day and night, won’t we receive the same reward in our present life?  If we can strive to be holy and draw near to God in our thinking and actions and in faith then God will spread His tent over us.

Although we may be surrounded by the hardships of life God will be there to give us comfort.  He will watch over us and protect us.  We will have springs of living water, not just in heaven, but the living water of Christ’s presence and comfort in our world today.

Although we may still go through times of sorrow and hurt God will be with us to wipe away the tears if we will learn to trust that He is with us in all things.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Where do you need God’s comfort today?

Trials 4

A paradox is a statement or situation where two things that contradict each other appear to be true.  One example, my favorite, is the sign that reads “Keep door closed at all times.”  How can we keep the door closed if we use it as a door?  It must open at some time or another.

Another example is the statement, “This sentence is a lie.”  If the sentence is true then it is a lie.  If it is a lie, then it can’t be a lie.

I feel this may be the case with Paul’s comment in Romans.  What does he say about our relationship with God?

On the surface this comment is intended to be a reassurance to us.  If God is on our side then it is not possible for others to be in opposition to us.  Since God is the Almighty and everlasting Lord, if He is on our side then there can be no one who is against us.

But I believe that in truth there may be many people who are against us even when God is “for us.”  The difference is that it doesn’t matter who or what is against us if God is on our side.

We who believe in the Lord are not spared our times of trouble and pain.  We will probably encounter those who do not like us for one reason or another.  There will likely be those who find some delight in causing us heartache.  And there is simply the occurrence of random events – accidents happen, loved ones pass away, tempers flare up, life brings its share of unhappiness.

If God is for us, who or what can be against us?  Truthfully many things and many people might be a problem for us.  But we have the reassurance of knowing that we have a companion, a defender, an advocate, a comforter in our Lord.  God has promised to be with us as we walk through the fires of life.  He has promised to save us from the deep waters of life’s troubles.

If God is for us, even though there may be many things that seem to work against us, things and people and situations that are there to cause us hurt and stress, it will not matter.  God is with us.  He is “for us.”  And knowing that enables us to get through all the hurt and heartache of living.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What will remind you that God is “for” you?

Trials 3

The other day my wife and I were both feeling very tired.  We simply did not have the energy to get anything done and spent a good portion of the afternoon lying around on the couch or in bed trying to rest.  Frustrated with my own lack of pep and with the fact that so much needed to be done I decided I would get up and do what I could.

I discovered that by getting up and doing things – washing up some dishes, clearing away clutter, doing laundry – I actually began to gain energy.  The more I did the better I felt.

When it comes to confronting all the challenges of life we can sometimes feel defeated before we even get out of bed.  The difficulties of our jobs, the needs of our families, the stress of the problems in the world can get us down.  On top of all that we might be struggling with emotional issues; concern over relationships, feelings of loss and loneliness, questions about our faith.

Before we surrender ourselves to the weight of all of our problems we need to remember that we belong to God and He is with us in all things.  What does Isaiah say about God?  What does He offer?

When we start to feel defeated or depressed we need to remember that we are children of God.  The Lord is with us in all things, and God is the everlasting presence of power and love.  He is the One who has created all things.  God is eternal and so is His love and His presence.

With God at our side we are able to face all the challenges that come around in life.  He is able and willing to be our advocate, to stand with us to face our troubles, to give us strength.  If we can begin with even the smallest bit of faith, if we can trust God just a little, He will be present with us to help us increase our faith.  He will give us what we need to overcome the trials and problems, our doubts and fears, our setbacks and sorrows.

He will give strength to your weary body and strength to your weary soul.  He will increase the power and vitality of your faith.  God can save us from our defeats and give us what we need to move forward in a life full of blessings.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What strength do you need from God?

Trials 2

I remember the secretary at our previous church.  Whenever someone came into the church office and had a negative attitude – complaining, angry, shouting – she would walk around the office after they left and wave her hands as if she was fanning the air.  I asked her what she was doing the first time I saw it and she explained that she was chasing away all the bad.

We take that attitude in life.  We want to be able to chase off all the bad things in life.  We want to shoo away the negativity so that our lives will be perfect and wonderful all the time.

Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar of all Bible passages (at least in the top 10).  It is a wonderful expression of comfort from God.  What is our attitude even when facing death?  Why are we secure?  According to verse 5, what good thing does God do for us?  Who is there?

While we can find assurance in knowing that God can bless us as much as He does, we must also be aware that we are not completely spared all the troubles in life.  Although the 23rd Psalm is a litany of comfort we must still see that troubles exist.

We find comfort in knowing that God is with us.  His rod and staff are a security to us.  But we still must walk through that Valley of the Shadow of Death.  We still must go through those things that frighten us.

Although the Lord prepares a table of abundant blessings for us and He anoints us with oil, reminding us that we are special, still our enemies are there.  The table spoken of in verse 5 is not one of isolation.  The enemies are present.

As we go through the challenges of life we must remember that God is with us to give us comfort and blessings.  But we also must remember that in spite of the Lord’s presence we may not be completely spared of all the problems.

When we face troubles, when we experience pain, when we encounter sorrows we must know that we are not abandoned by the Lord.  We are embraced by God, protected, encouraged and upheld.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you find strength to confront challenges?

Trials 1

The first time I saw the sign was when I was in high school and I was in the office of one of the school counselors.  The sign said, “Sorry, my magic wand is in the shop.”  Since that time I have seen similar signs with the same intent.  The idea is that none of us can work a miracle.  None of us have a magic wand to solve all of our problems.

And yet we have this story in Acts.  What was Tabitha like?  What happened to her?  Who was sent for?  What did Peter do?  Why do you think he did that?

This is one of those miracle stories.  Tabitha, a devoted believer, a disciple, falls ill and dies.  All of her friends learn that Peter is nearby so they send for him, begging him to come.  But, like the Lazarus story (John 11:1-44) Peter arrives to find Tabitha deceased.  Her body has already been through the Jewish cleansing ritual performed on the dead – a detail provided, no doubt, to let us know she was definitely deceased.

Upon his arrival Peter is shown samples of all the work Tabitha had accomplished.  It is then when Peter ushers everyone out of the room and performs the miracle of raising Tabitha from the dead.

At first glance we can see the miracle as the magic wand that no one has.  We can also see Tabitha’s resurrection as an example that good people are rewarded.

While it’s true that Peter was able to do miraculous work, we are not always able to be part of the incredible working of God.  We should not expect God to part the sea or raise the dead whenever things get tough for us.

Although Tabitha was brought back to life it likely was not a reward for her work.  She was not rewarded or paid back for doing kind deeds.  Rather, Tabitha was blessed because she had strong faith.

Although Tabitha was brought back to life she still had to experience death.  Though rewarded with new life she still had to go through the pain of illness and death.  The point is that all of us, even the most devout and dedicated, must endure trials and troubles in life.  The benefit the faithful enjoy, however, is the knowledge that God is with us to help us through all the challenges.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What reminds you that God is with you?