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!
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).
Hebrews was written to Christians who were suffering persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. As a result, some were leaving Christ and falling away from grace. In Hebrews 11 the writer reminds them of the heroes and heroines of faith from the Old Testament who suffered persecution and trials. In chapter 12 he uses their example to encourage the Hebrews to keep their faith as Christians and to keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-4). In the verses that follow he helps them to understand what God is doing with their trials and it will help us to understand what God is doing with the coronavirus pandemic and the trials we face, today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a great hardship to many people around the world. It has caused a great problem for the church because most have not been able to assemble as a congregation. If I tell you all today to look with me in God’s word, the Bible, some might respond, “I don’t even know if there is a God. Where is He? What is He doing? Why doesn’t He take this all away? And, what does a book written thousand of years ago have to do with us today?” My answer is, “Yes, there is a God, He will take this all away and everything else in this world; and the Bible has everything to do with us.” All of this is not much different from the persecution endured by the church in Jerusalem when they were scattered from their homes, their jobs and separated from family and friends (Acts 8:1-4). It is to these Christians and others like them that Peter writes his first epistle. He gives them a message of hope that is just as relevant and powerful as it was when it was first written.
The world is making every effort to find a cure for the coronavirus. Some medicines have already proven to help treat it and we are on our way to find a vaccine. We all long the day when we can go to the doctor and he is able to write a prescription to take it all away. But there is a greater prescription already available given to us by the Great Physician to treat all our ailments. It is found in the apostle Paul’s inspired letter which he wrote to the church that met in Philippi long ago. Then, as now, there were all kinds of trials and temptations that Christians had to face. In chapter 4 verses 4-9 we find God’s prescription for a coronavirus pandemic and whatever else you may be facing in your life.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Judah was facing seventy years of captivity for their sinful rebellion against God. Yet, He wants them to know His thoughts for them. It was not to do them evil, but to give them a future and a hope. This is what God wants for all His people.
Sometimes we find ourselves suffering the consequences of our sins, as well as the sins of others. In those times we can become discouraged, knowing only doom and destruction. Often, we become angry at ourselves, at others and at God. It is difficult for us to understand what is happening and why it is happening. Instead of turning to God in prayer and going to His word for answers and for help, we fall away from Him.
Are you feeling fatigued and overburdened? Everyone experiences sin, stress, grief, heartache, pain and misery. It can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible to overcome. There is often no relief and no escape.
Here is Jesus' invitation to you: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
There are a lot of things we do not understand about suffering. Many of our questions go unanswered but there are some things we can know.
We can know that God knows all about our suffering (Psalms 56:8).
We can know that God understands everything we are going through (Hebrews 4:15).
We can know that God truly cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Suffering hurts. We don’t want to suffer. But it will help us to know that there are at least five benefits of suffering for the Christian.
1. It tests our faith (Jam. 1:2-4). If we meet our trials with faith, we will develop the patience needed to mature spiritually. It is when our faith is tested that we grow and become strong. So, we can rejoice even in our trials. Do you remember how God tested Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22, commanding him to sacrifice his son? Can you imagine a greater test of faith? Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He believed God would raise his son from the dead. That is a great faith. Do we have the faith of Abraham? Will we trust God enough to do what He has asks of us? God wants to know if you will keep faith even in the greatest tests of life.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135