Yesterday was one of those days for me; when I could not see beyond the trials. I was tired and feeling a lot of the ‘Jonah’ attitude. (In case you don’t know what that means. Jonah ran the opposite direction from God’s call and sailed on a ship going far away!) In 21st century fashion I fantasized about getting on a jet and flying away! I got stuck in a loop of futility – “Who cares? Why try? What does it matter?”
When I took a break from work for lunch, I drove up the mountain to Bev’s grave where I sat for a few moments looking at that slab of granite where her name is etched. In that place, surrounded by markers of death, I often get my heart right again. Yesterday was no different. As I thought and prayed, a song from the past found its way into my mind that began to turn my mood.
You have turned my mourning Into dancing, Lord.
Now my feet are filled with Your praise.
You have clothed my spirit with a robe of joy,
You have cast my sorrow away. (John G. Elliott, 1986)
Those lyrics are drawn out of a promise to the people of God written by the weeping preacher, Jeremiah. “The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” (Jeremiah 31:13, NLT) The recurrent theme of those prophets is restoration; the reminder that now is not all there is, that God does not give up on us.
Those ancient Jews heard the promise that their ruined nation and Temple would be restored by the Lord; and it was! There is a deeper promise woven into those sermons about hope. God reminds us, over and over again, that eternity waits, that life today really only makes sense when viewed with Heaven waiting. My text for the sermon this Sunday is drawn out of Isaiah 11 where the same story gets told in his richly poetic style.
We need Heaven’s hope!
And, it is not an empty promise, no mere wish projection. Jesus told us: “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19, NIV) Then, He died and rose again to prove it. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul calls Him the ‘first fruit’ of eternal life. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-21, NIV)
Remember my whine of futility?
“Who cares?” Many do and God always will.
“Why try?” God rewards those efforts that we make, seeing our faithfulness, our love, our service.
“What does it matter?” It matters because we live for Him, our lives one in a long chain of those who make His kingdom know, who love Him, who leave a legacy and receive His commendation.
So here is a word from the Word to tuck into your memory for those days. “But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.“ (1 Corinthians 15:57-58, NLT)
I close with this immortal line from Tony Campolo, one he borrowed from the African American preacher in his church. “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”
Sing the wondrous love of Jesus
Sing His mercy and His grace
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory
While we walk the pilgrim pathway
Clouds will overspread the sky
But when travelling days are over
Not a shadow not a sigh
Let us then be true and faithful
Trusting serving every day
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay
Onward to the prize before us
Soon His beauty we’ll behold
Soon the pearly gates will open
We shall tread the streets of gold
Eliza Edmunds Stites Hewitt | Eugene Thomas © Words: Public Domain