Edward Payson (1783–1827) led an extremely difficult life. The death of his younger brother shook him to the core. He struggled with bipolar disorder, and he was affected by extreme migraine headaches for days. If this wasn't enough, a fall from a horse lead to paralysis of his arm, and he almost died from tuberculosis! Surprisingly, his response wasn’t one of despair and hopelessness. His friends said that before Edward passed away, his joy was intense. How could that be?
In his letter to the believers in Rome, the apostle Paul expressed his complete confidence in the reality of God’s love regardless of circumstances. He asked with boldness, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). If God gave His very own Son, Jesus, to save us, then He will provide everything we need to finish this life well. Paul listed seven situations which he went through himself that seemed unbearable: “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (v. 35). He didn’t imply that Jesus’s love would stop bad things from happening. But Paul said that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).
Through the uncertainty of this world, God can be trusted completely, knowing that nothing, absolutely nothing, “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39).
Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, there’s a door that tells a five-century-old tale. In 1492 two families, the Butlers and the FitzGeralds, started fighting over a high-level position in the region. The fight escalated, and the Butlers, afraid they would be killed, took refuge in the cathedral. When the FitzGeralds came to ask for a truce, the Butlers were afraid to open the door. So the FitzGeralds cut a hole in it, and their leader offered his hand in peace to prove their desire was genuine. The two families then reconciled, and from adversaries they became friends.
God has a door of reconciliation that the apostle Paul wrote passionately about in his letter to the church in Corinth. At His initiative and because of His infinite love, God exchanged the broken relationship with humans for a restored relationship through Jesus’s death on the cross. We humans were far away from God, but in His mercy He didn’t leave us there. He offers us restoration with Himself [“not counting people’s sins against them]” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Justice was fulfilled when “God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us,” so that in Him we could be at peace with God (v. 21).
Once we accept God’s hand in peace, we are given the important task of bringing that message to others. We represent the amazing, loving God who offers complete forgiveness and restoration to everyone who believes.
Jim was frantically sharing about problems he was encountering with his work team: division, judgmental attitudes, and misunderstandings. After an hour of patiently listening to his concerns, I suggested, “Let’s ask Jesus what He would have us do in this situation.” We sat quietly for five minutes. Then something amazing happened. We both felt God’s peace cover us like a blanket. We were more relaxed as we experienced God’s presence and guidance, and we felt confident to wade back into the difficulties.
Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, needed God’s presence. One night he and the other disciples were sailing across the Sea of Galilee when a strong storm arose. All of a sudden, Jesus showed up walking on water! Naturally, this took the disciples by surprise. He reassured them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Peter impulsively asked Jesus if he could join Him. He stepped out of the boat and walked toward Jesus. But he soon lost focus, became aware of the dangerous and humanly impossible circumstance he was in, and started sinking. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus lovingly rescued him (vv. 30–31).
Like Peter, we can learn that Jesus, the Son of God, is with us even when walking on water in the storm!
In 1722 a small group of Moravian Christians, who lived in what is now the Czech Republic, found refuge from persecution on the estate of a generous German count. Within four years more than 300 people came. But instead of an ideal community for persecuted refugees, the settlement became filled with discord. Different perspectives on Christianity brought division. What they did next may seem like a small choice, but it launched an incredible revival: They began to focus on what they agreed on rather than on what they disagreed on. The result was unity.
The apostle Paul strongly encouraged the believers in the church in Ephesus to live in unity. Sin would always bring strife, pursuit of selfish desires, and dissonance in relationships. But as those who were made “alive with Christ” the Ephesians were called to live out their new identity in practical ways (Ephesians 2:5). Primarily, they were to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3).
This unity is not just simple camaraderie achieved through human strength. We are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (4:2). From a human perspective, it’s impossible to act in this way. We cannot reach unity through our own power but through God’s perfect power “that is at work within us” (3:20).
What thoughts of wonder must have gone through Annie Moore’s mind when she stepped off the steamship Nevada into the immigration station on Ellis Island in 1892 as the first immigrant to the US registered at that location. Millions would pass through there afterward. Just a teenager, Annie had left behind a difficult life in Ireland to start a new life. Carrying only a little bag in her hand, she came with lots of dreams, hopes, and expectations of a land of opportunity.
How much more excitement and awe will God’s children experience when we see “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). We will enter what the book of Revelation calls “the Holy City of God, the new Jerusalem” (v. 2). The apostle John describes this amazing place with powerful imagery. There will be “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1). Water represents life and abundance, and its source will be the eternal God Himself. John says that “no longer will there be any curse” (v. 3). The beautiful, pure relationship God intended between Himself and humans will be fully restored.
Oh, how incredible to know that God, who loves His children and purchased us with the life of His own Son, is preparing such an amazing new home—where He Himself will dwell with us and be our God (21:3).
Ron and Nancy’s marriage was deteriorating rapidly. She had an affair, but after some time she admitted her sin to God. She knew what He wanted her to do but it was difficult. She shared the truth with Ron. Instead of asking for a divorce, Ron chose to give Nancy a chance to win his trust back by showing that she’d changed. In a miraculous way God restored their marriage.
Ron’s actions are a picture of God’s love and forgiveness shown toward sinners like you and me. The prophet Hosea understood this well. He was commanded by God to marry an unfaithful woman as a way to show Israel their status of unfaithfulness before Him (Hosea 1). If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, when Hosea’s wife left him, God told him to ask her to come back. He said, “Show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress” (3:1). After all their disobedience, God longed for a close relationship with His people. Just as Hosea loved his unfaithful wife, pursued her, and sacrificed so much, so God loved His people. His righteous anger and jealousy were motivated by His great love.
This same God longs for us today to be near Him. As we come to Him in faith, we can trust that in Him we will find complete fulfillment.
Haralan Popov had no idea what turn his life would take when the doorbell rang early one morning in 1948. Just a year earlier Bulgarian Christians started being persecuted. Without any warning, the police took Harlan away to prison. He spent the next thirteen years behind bars, praying for strength and courage. Despite the horrible treatment he received, he knew that God was with Him, and he shared the good news of Jesus with fellow prisoners—and many believed.
In the account from Genesis 27, Joseph had no idea what would happen to him after he was mercilessly sold by his angry brothers to merchants who took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar, an Egyptian official. He found himself in a culture surrounded by people who believed in thousands of gods. To make things worse, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. When Joseph refused repeatedly, she falsely accused him, leading to his being sent to prison (39:16–20). Yet Joseph’s God did not abandon him. Not only was He with Joseph, but He also “gave him success in everything he did” and even “showed him kindness and granted him favor” with those in authority (39:3, 21).
Imagine the fear Joseph must have felt. But he remained faithful and kept his integrity. God was with Joseph in his difficult journey and had a master plan for him. He has a plan in mind for you too. Take heart and walk in faith, trusting He sees and He knows.
“Oh, it’s only a gypsy boy,” someone whispered with disgust when Rodney Smith walked to the front of the chapel to receive Christ during a service in 1877. Nobody thought much of this teenager, the son of uneducated gypsy parents. Yet, Rodney didn’t listen to those voices. He was certain that God had a purpose for his life so he bought himself a Bible and an English dictionary and taught himself how to read and write. He once said, “The way to Jesus is not by Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, or the poets. It is . . . an old-fashioned hill called Calvary.” Against all odds, Rodney became an evangelist who God used to bring many to Jesus in the UK and US.
Peter too was just a simple man—untrained in the religious rabbinic schools (Acts 4:13), a fisherman from Galilee—when Jesus called him with two simple words: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). Yet the same Peter, despite his upbringing and the failures he experienced along the way, later affirmed that those who follow Jesus are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
Through Jesus Christ all people—whatever their education, upbringing, gender, or ethnicity, can be a part of the family of God and be used by Him. Becoming God’s “special possession” is for all who believe in Jesus.
Who do you think of when you hear the word mentor? For me, it is Pastor Rich. He saw potential in me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. He challenged me to expect great things from God as I obey Him. He modeled for me how to lead by serving in humility and love. As a result of his mentoring, I am now serving God by mentoring others.
The prophet Elijah played a critical role in Elisha’s growth as a leader. Elijah found him plowing a field and invited him to be his protégé after God had told him to anoint him as his successor as prophet (1 Kings 19:16, 19). The young mentee watched his mentor perform incredible miracles and obey God no matter what. God used Elijah to prepare Elisha for a lifetime of ministry. Toward the end of Elijah’s life, Elisha had the opportunity to leave. Instead, he chose to renew his commitment to his mentor. Three times Elijah offered to release Elisha from his duties, yet each time he refused, saying, “As surely as the
We all need someone who models for us what it means to follow Jesus. May God give us godly men and women who would help us grow spiritually. And may we, by the power of His Spirit, invest our lives in others as well.