It was the worst snowstorm in Texas. We were not ready for it. Lives were lost. Many suffered and continue to suffer from it. This all on top of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. If you thought 2021 was going to be a better year, think again.
No, think a third time. Our blessings in Christ are not dependent upon the circumstances and conditions of the world in which we live. Nobody and nothing can take them from us. Unlike the temporal physical and material blessings of life, what we have in Christ is everlasting. Any one of the blessings of Christ is greater than all the things of this world put together.
We have been forgiven and set free from sin. We have been given a new life. We have a new family in the Lord. We have a heavenly Father who is always good to us. We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is our Lord but also our friend and fellow brother. We have the Holy Spirit, our helper and comforter, who dwells in us. We have brothers and sisters with whom we share a common faith and love. We have the privilege of prayer 24/7. We have the constant help and encouragement of God’s word and His promises.
This will always be an evil world because it is full of sin and death. It is not the way God made it and it is not what God wants for us. In His love, He sent His Son to rescue us from our sins and to give us eternal life. He will send Him again to bring an end to all things and to bring us home to His Father in heaven. For now, we walk in faith, waiting and watching for His coming.
We are not alone. We are not defeated. We are not without hope. This year, and every year, is better in Christ!
Matthew describes Jesus’ compassion for lost souls: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Do you know His compassion in your life? Do you have compassion for those who are lost in sin? Remember dear Christian, you and I were once lost as they are today. It is our job to show them that there is Someone who cares and can help them find their way.
Have you ever noticed how some always seem to be so upbeat and positive? It is not because everything is going great in their life, or that things are necessarily going better for them than everybody else. No, it is because they choose to be that way. They decide to look for reasons to be happy and to focus on the good things. In doing so they attract more of the same. It doesn’t just happen; they make it happen.
This is how Paul teaches us to live our lives. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). As a Christian we have every reason in the world to rejoice; today, tomorrow and every day. If, we choose to focus on the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. He has blessed us with the forgiveness of our sins, salvation from the bondage, guilt, and condemnation of sin, power over the temptations we face, strength to endure the trials of life, love that surpasses knowledge, peace that passes understanding, joy unspeakable and full of glory, and hope eternal. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Opening the letter of 1 Thessalonians, you will be immediately struck with one of the greatest blessings we have in Christ – the wonderful family of God!
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4).
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
We have all been blessed by what we have received from others. Perhaps, it was a gift that came just at the right time, just when you really needed it. Maybe you were surprised by a generous and wonderful gift that you could never have imagined. Or have you ever received a gift and thought to yourself, “What am I going to do with this?”. Even then you might say, “It’s the thought that counts.”
There is a blessing in receiving but according to Jesus the greater blessing is in giving. He said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
That question may sound quite negative to you. It may sound more like a burden than a blessing. But God made it clear to Israel that His requirements were essential to their relationship with Him. God requires no less of His people today. To experience redemption from the life of sin and death, to know God, and to have an abundant, eternal life with Him, we, too, must meet His requirements.
It was one of the darkest times in the history of God’s people. Because of their shocking sinfulness they suffered untold horrors from the Babylonians especially during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. In Lamentations (3:21-25), Jeremiah mourns over them, but he also shines four rays of light from the LORD upon them to brighten their future.
Hope is the first ray of light: “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope” (v. 21). Jeremiah brought a message of hope to the people. It was not a just the wishful thinking of a naïve optimist nor was it based on chance like that of the gambler. No, it was the LORD that he had in mind. His hope rested upon the LORD. Without Him there is no hope but with Him there is always hope.
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
If you constantly tell your child that he is a lazy, no good, loser he may very well grow up to be that very person. Certainly, we need to correct our children for bad behavior, but that does not have to define who they are. They need to know that they can become mature, productive individuals. When the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled church at Corinth, he began his letter by reminding them who they are and of their potential in the Lord. Even though he would go on to strongly convict them of their spiritual immaturity and rebuke their sinful behaviors, this was an encouragement and a strong incentive for them to strive to do better. We, too, need to be reminded of who we are.
Depression is a real and present danger, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are those who are shut in, others who have gotten sick and lost loved ones, some who have lost their jobs and businesses, so many changes that have brought an unusual amount of stress upon us all.
Recently, I have talked to several preachers that are battling depression. Elijah, the prophet, had a tremendous battle with depression that lasted many days (1 Kings 19). James reminds us that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Perhaps, we forget that we are all just human.
Psalm 73 is a wisdom psalm. The psalmist struggled to understand why the wicked prosper, and he was envious of them (vv. 2-3). They were saying that God didn’t even take knowledge of him; that He didn’t care about him (v. 11). His efforts to live a pure life seemed futile because all the while he himself was suffering (vv. 13-14). It was not until he finally sought God for answers that he came to understand the fearful destiny of the wicked in complete destruction (vv. 17-19). With a convicted and penitent heart, he then realized that he should never have complained and questioned God (vv. 21-22). He knew that God had always been there for him and would ultimately bring him to glory (vv. 23-24).
It is here that the psalmist exclaimed: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135