Rich and Robin have a story! It’s not the ‘and they lived happily ever after’ kind, not yet anyway. Five years ago, she found that deadly cancer had invaded her body. She is still living with it, though not controlled by it. Three years ago, Rich also was found to have cancer, which has now moved into his lungs. They were only in their mid-40’s, active pastors of a church, when this news made life hit the brakes hard! As they spoke at Faith Discovery yesterday, their authentic faith inspired me. While they pray for healing, they are realistic about the possibility that God will choose not to keep them here on this earth. Though they deal with weakness, they have not quit on life, either. As much as they are able, by the Spirit’s power they keep on encouraging, loving, and doing God’s work.
We love miracle stories, don’t we? Somehow the idea that God’s will always ends with a spectacular burst of personal fulfillment has taken root in the hearts of many Christians. It is absolutely true that we are held safe in His hand, that in His provision and love we do find salvation. But, how do we find those promises and live in them? It is not by insisting on healing, full bank accounts, perfect marriages, or endless days of sunshine! It is by loving Him and delighting in Him, wherever the path leads.
You see, God does not promise us endless Summer! But, He does promise us that He is faithful, that when we come to the end of ourselves, that He is still there. Rich challenged us yesterday with a question that bears repeating: “Do you believe in God, or do you believe God?” If we only believe in God, then He becomes Someone we use to make life what WE want it to be. With our service, offerings, and morality we hope to prod Him into giving us ‘the good life.’ If we believe God, then we trust Him to take over and we let Him create new hope, give us the gift of peace that goes beyond human understanding, and shine through us. That is what I saw in Rich and Robin yesterday. They were real about the pain. They did not minimize the sense of loss that came with having to resign from leadership in their church. They did not pretend that tomorrow healing of their bodies will come. They believed God and revealed a depth of faith and peace that can only be understood as supernatural.
In the third chapter of Lamentations (written by Jeremiah nicknamed, “the weeping prophet”) there a is passage I love to read, full of great hope and assurance. “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all … the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.” (Lamentations 3:19-25, The Message) That is great, isn’t it? God is faithful. His love never runs out.
We are not so thrilled by the opening part of the same passage, where we learn of the mystery of God’s willingness to let us walk a pathway of terrible trials and suffering. These words help us to understand that “happy talk religion” is an empty thing, that there is a faith provided to hold onto hope through impossibly difficult days. Look at Jeremiah’s lament. “I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger. He has brought me into deep darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned against me. Day and night his hand is heavy upon me. … And though I cry and shout, he shuts out my prayers. He has blocked my path with a high stone wall. He has twisted the road before me with many detours. … My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness. He has given me a cup of deep sorrow to drink. He has made me grind my teeth on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” (Lamentations 3:1-18, NLT) Not so great, is it? That God could allow those of us He loves to go through times like this shakes us to the core. Now, go back to the previous paragraph and see what the Word says about genuine hope.
If you’re struggling with disappointment, wrestling with the Lord to own the blessings you think you must have to know joy, re-examine what faith means. Ask yourself, do I believe in God or do I believe God? Then, pray to accept this day from His hand, along with the grace He can give for the tests and trials of the day. In Jesus Christ, my hope is secure and I know that just as He was resurrected to glory, that I will be, too! Here’s the end of the Story. “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:2-7, NIV)
In Christ Alone
In Christ alone, my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm!
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease.
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ, I stand.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me.
From life’s first cry, to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny!
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand,
‘Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Keith Getty | Stuart Townend
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