Are you going through one of those times when it seems every attempt to resolve a problem is met with a new difficulty? You thank the Lord at night that it’s taken care of but awake to find that something else has gone wrong and the problem remains.
During an experience like that, I was reading the gospel of Luke and was astounded by the opening words of chapter 18: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (v. 1). I had read the story of the persistent widow many times but never grasped why Jesus told it (vv. 2-8). Now I connected those opening words with the story. The lesson to His followers was very clear: “Always pray and never give up.”
Prayer is not a means of coercing God to do what we want. It is a process of recognizing His power and plan for our lives. In prayer we yield our lives and circumstances to the Lord and trust Him to act in His time and in His way.
As we rely on God’s grace not only for the outcome of our requests but for the process as well, we can keep coming to the Lord in prayer, trusting His wisdom and care for us.
Our Lord’s encouragement to us is clear: Always pray and don’t give up!
On October 31, 2014, an experimental spacecraft broke apart during a test flight and crashed into the Mojave Desert. The copilot died while the pilot miraculously survived. Investigators soon determined what had happened, but not why. The title of a newspaper article about the crash began with the words “Questions remain.”
Throughout life we may experience sorrows for which there are no adequate explanation. Some are catastrophic events with far-reaching effects while others are personal, private tragedies that alter our individual lives and families. We want to know why, but we seem to find more questions than answers. Yet even as we struggle with “Why?” God extends His unfailing love to us.
When Job lost his children and his wealth in a single day (Job 1:13-19), he sank into an angry depression and resisted any attempted explanations by his friends. Yet he held out hope that someday there would be an answer from God. Even in the darkness Job could say, “[God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10).
Oswald Chambers said, “There will come one day a personal and direct touch from God when every tear and perplexity, every oppression and distress, every suffering and pain, and wrong and injustice will have a complete and ample and overwhelming explanation.”
Today, as we face life’s unanswered questions, we can find help and hope in God’s love and promises.
A cowboy friend of mine who grew up on a ranch in Texas has a number of colorful sayings. One of my favorites is “It don’t take much water to make good coffee.” And when someone ropes a steer too big to handle or is in some kind of trouble, my friend will shout, “Hold everything you’ve got!” meaning “Help is on the way! Don’t let go!”
In the book of Revelation we find letters to “the seven churches in the province of Asia” (chs. 2–3). These messages from God are filled with encouragement, rebuke, and challenge, and they speak to us today just as they did to the first-century recipients.
Twice in these letters we find the phrase, “Hold on to what you have.” The Lord told the church at Thyatira, “Hold on to what you have until I come” (2:25). And to the church in Philadelphia He said, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11). In the midst of great trials and opposition, these believers clung to God’s promises and persevered in faith.
When our circumstances are harsh and sorrows outnumber joys, Jesus shouts to us, “Hold everything you’ve got! Help is on the way!” And with that promise, we can hold on in faith and rejoice.
A recurring difficulty on our journey of life is becoming so focused on what we need at the moment that we forget what we already have. I was reminded of that when our church choir sang a beautiful anthem based on Psalm 103. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord is our forgiver, healer, redeemer, provider, satisfier, and renewer (vv. 4-5). How could we forget that? And yet we often do when the events of daily life shift our attention to pressing needs, recurring failures, and circumstances that seem out of control.
The writer of this psalm calls us to remember, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (vv. 8,10-11).
In our walk of faith, we come to Jesus Christ humbled by our unworthiness. There is no sense of entitlement as we receive His grace and are overwhelmed by the lavishness of His love. They remind us of all His benefits.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name” (v. 1).
Approaching the first Christmas after her husband died, our friend Davidene wrote a remarkable letter in which she pictured what it might have been like in heaven when Jesus was born on earth. “It was what God always knew would happen,” she wrote. “The three were one, and He had agreed to allow the fracturing of His precious unity for our sake. Heaven was left empty of God the Son.”
As Jesus taught and healed people on earth, He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. . . . For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:38,40).
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was the beginning of His mission on earth to demonstrate God’s love and give His life on the cross to free us from the penalty and power of sin.
“I cannot imagine actually choosing to let go of the one I loved, with whom I was one, for the sake of anyone else,” Davidene concluded. “But God did. He faced a house much emptier than mine, so that I could live in His house with Him forever.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).
While attending Bible college, my friend Charlie and I worked for a furniture store. We often made deliveries accompanied by an interior decorator who talked with the people who had purchased the furniture while we brought it from the truck into the house. Sometimes we had to carry the furniture up several flights of stairs in an apartment building. Charlie and I often wished we had the decorator’s job instead of ours!
During Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, three clans from the priestly tribe of Levi—the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites—were assigned the job of transporting the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). They put it up, took it down, and carried it to the next place, then repeated the process again and again. Their job description was simple: “Carry the things assigned to you” (see Num. 4:32).
I wonder if these “custodians” ever envied the “clergymen” who offered sacrifices and incense using the holy articles in the sanctuary (vv. 4-5,15). That job must have looked much easier and more prestigious. But both assignments were important and came from the Lord.
Many times we don’t get to select the work we do. But all of us can choose our attitude toward the tasks we’re given. How we do the job God gives us is the measure of our service to Him.
Fifty years ago A Charlie Brown Christmas was first broadcast on American television. Some network executives thought it would be ignored, while others worried that quoting the Bible would offend viewers. Some wanted its creator, Charles Schulz, to omit the Christmas story, but Schulz insisted it stay in. The program was an immediate success and has been rebroadcast every year since 1965.
When Charlie Brown, the frustrated director of the children’s Christmas play, is discouraged by the commercial spirit of the holiday season, he asks if anyone can tell him the real meaning of Christmas. Linus recites Luke 2:8-14 including the words, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (vv. 11-14 kjv). Then Linus says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
During this season filled with our own doubts and dreams, it’s good to ponder afresh God’s great love expressed in the familiar story of Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, and the angels who announced the Savior’s birth.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
According to a New York Times article, children in many African countries are often named after a famous visitor, special event, or circumstance that was meaningful to the parents. When doctors told the parents of one child that they could not cure the infant’s illness and only God knew if he would live, the parents named their child Godknows. Another man said he was named Enough, because his mother had 13 children and he was the last one! There’s a reason for everyone’s name, and in some cases it also conveys a special meaning.
Before Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord told Joseph, “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” In that day and culture, many children would have been named Jesus, but only one came into this world to die so that all who receive Him might live eternally, forgiven and freed from the power of sin.
Charles Wesley wrote these words we often sing as Christmas nears: “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.”
Jesus came to turn our darkness into light, to transform our despair into hope, and to save us from our sins.
C. S. Lewis and his older brother, Warren (Warnie), endured several terms at Wynyard, an English boarding school for boys. The headmaster was a cruel man who made life unbearable for everyone there. Decades later, Warnie wrote in his understated dry wit, “I am now sixty-four and a bit, and have never yet been in a situation in which I have not had the consolation of reflecting that at any rate I was better off than I was at Wynyard.” Most of us can recall a similar dark and difficult time in our lives and be grateful that we’re better off now than we were then.
Psalm 40:1-5 records a low point of David’s life when he cried out to the Lord who rescued him. God brought him up from “the slimy pit” and “the mud and mire” and set his feet on a rock (v. 2). “He put a new song in my mouth,” David says, “a hymn of praise to our God” (v. 3).
But deliverance from depression and despair are seldom one-time events. Psalm 40 continues with David’s renewed plea for God’s mercy, lovingkindness, and truth to deliver him from his own sin and the threats of his enemies (vv. 11-14).
Along with David, we can say at every low point, “I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer” (v. 17).