Seems to me that we are treated to the ‘crisis of the week’ by our news media. The imminent end of the world is always just around the corner. The world we live in does have real issues, but to get our attention everybody is screaming at full voice, hyping their concerns in the most apocalyptic terms. Remember when the news was full of stories about the collapse of bee colonies a decade ago? We were warned that our food supply was threatened, that famine would follow, because of the critical importance of bees in the pollination process. We’re still here and with plenty of food. Was it a real issue? Yes, it was and continues to be a concern, but the end of the world was not about to happen!
Perhaps you are in a time when tomorrow is uncertain, when you cannot see a way forward. There may be voices, inward or even from people around you, that suggest the imminent end of your world. That day in March of 2014 when Bev was diagnosed with terminal cancer stands out vividly in my mind as a moment when the future went black! When she stepped into eternity 20 months later, I could not imagine a life without her; yet here I am. Life has continued, not as I might have wished, but it has gone on, and I can even see where the Lord has used this sorrow as a chisel to shape me for His use, an invitation to know Him more deeply.
There is a passage, written by Paul from prison, that is packed full of assurance for Christians who cannot see a way ahead. He does not ask us to give into Fate. He shows the foundation of hope, a strong faith! Paul had preached the Gospel of Christ across the Empire for 20 years. He had not known much of what we would call success. He met resistance, was criticized, had been thrown out of cities, and now was languishing in a prison. Yet, he is joyful and hopeful. Why?
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:12-21, NIV)\
He does not say that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ which is nonsense. That line dismisses the reality of our choices and the power of evil implying that God causes all things, including those things that cause us pain and suffering. That is simply not true. He allows things to happen, but He not the author of evil! Paul never suggested that God put him in prison. But, he does have full confidence that God, in answer to prayer and as he walked in faith, was able to use his situation to bring about Kingdom results. As he sat there, guarded by the elite soldiers of Caesar’s guard, he found an audience he could not have reached before. He recognized that as he was faithful despite his problems, others would be encouraged to remain faithful, too.
He fully expected God to use his life and to protect his salvation. The phrase that we need to know and understand is the final one – “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Dead or alive, Paul belonged to Jesus Christ and thus expected a win. Alive, he continues to advance the Kingdom. Dead, he goes home to the Father. Now that is a win-win if ever there was one.
In no way do I intend my thoughts to minimize your struggle. Life can be hard. We live everyday with the effects of sin’s curse in evidence. But, we are never without hope, if Christ is Lord. Expect the win, and allow that it may look nothing like you think it should. Continue to rejoice in the Lord. He is at work to take those things that others, that the Devil, means for our destruction and to shape them into a means of displaying His grace and awesome power. Steady on, patiently, in faith.
Here is a word from the Word. It is not a simple thing. But, it is a word to keep us when there appears to be no tomorrow. “And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:30-34, NLT)
Abba, increase my faith.
Turn my fears into courageous hope,
my struggles into a display of Your grace and mercy.
Whisper of Your power to save to me,
convince me that You secure my future, straight into Eternity.
Jesus, may You shine most brightly in me when the skies are dark.
Spirit of God, lead me on, through the storm, through the uncertainties,
into the glorious Will of the Father.