There is rarely a problem-free season in our lives, but sometimes the onslaught is terrifying.
Rose saw her entire family, except for her two little daughters, slaughtered in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Now she is a widow among many widows with little money. But she refuses to be defeated. She has adopted two orphans and simply trusts God to provide for the food and school fees for her family of five. She translates Christian literature into the local language and organizes an annual conference for other widows. Rose wept as she told me her story. But for every problem in her life she has one simple remedy. “For this,” she said, “I have Jesus.”
God knows exactly what you are facing today. Isaiah reminds us that God’s knowledge of us is so intimate that it is as if our names were written on the palms of His hands (Isa. 49:16). We may sometimes neglect the needs of others, even those who are closest to us, but God is aware of every detail of our lives. And He has given us His Spirit to guide, to comfort, and to strengthen us.
Think of the challenges you face at this moment, and then write these words beside each one as a reminder of His faithfulness and care: “For this, I have Jesus.”
July 28, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. In the British media many discussions and documentaries recalled the start of that 4-year conflict. Even the TV program Mr. Selfridge, which is based on an actual department store in London, included an episode set in 1914 that showed young male employees lining up to volunteer for the army. As I observed these portrayals of self-sacrifice, I felt a lump in my throat. The soldiers they depicted had been so young, so eager, and so unlikely to return from the horror of the trenches.
Although Jesus didn’t go off to war to defeat an earthly foe, He did go to the cross to defeat the ultimate enemy—sin and death. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate God’s love in action and to die a horrendous death so that we could be forgiven of our sins. And He was even prepared to forgive the men who flogged and crucified Him (Luke 23:34). He conquered death by His resurrection and now we can become part of God’s forever family (John 3:13-16).
Anniversaries and memorials remind us of important historical events and heroic deeds. The cross reminds us of the pain of Jesus’ death and the beauty of His sacrifice for our salvation.
Mary enjoyed her midweek church group meeting when she and several friends gathered to pray, worship, and discuss questions from the previous week’s sermon. This week they were going to talk about the difference between “going” to church and “being” the church in a hurting world. She was looking forward to seeing her friends and having a lively discussion.
As she picked up her car keys, the doorbell rang. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” said her neighbor Sue, “but are you free this morning?” Mary was about to say that she was going out when Sue continued, “I have to take my car to the repair shop. Normally I would walk or cycle home, but I’ve hurt my back and can’t do either at the moment.” Mary hesitated for a heartbeat and then smiled. “Of course,” she said.
Mary knew her neighbor only by sight. But as she drove her home, she learned about Sue’s husband’s battle with dementia and the utter exhaustion that being a caregiver can bring with it. She listened, sympathized, and promised to pray. She offered to help in any way she could.
Mary didn’t get to church that morning to talk about sharing her faith. Instead she took a little bit of Jesus’ love to her neighbor who was in a difficult situation.
Two small boys were playing a complicated game with sticks and string. After a few minutes the older boy turned to his friend and said crossly, “You’re not doing it properly. This is my game, and we play it my way. You can’t play anymore!” The desire to have things our own way starts young!
Naaman was a person who was accustomed to having things his way. He was commander of the army of the king of Syria. But Naaman also had an incurable disease. One day his wife’s servant girl, who had been captured from the land of Israel, suggested that he seek healing from Elisha, the prophet of God. Naaman was desperate enough to do this, but he wanted the prophet to come to him. He expected to be treated with great ceremony and respect. So when Elisha simply sent a message that he should bathe seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman was furious! He refused (2 Kings 5:10-12). Only when he finally humbled himself and did it God’s way was he cured (vv. 13-14).
We’ve probably all had times when we’ve said “I’ll do it my way” to God. But His way is always the best way. So let’s ask God to give us humble hearts that willingly choose His way, not our own.
When I learned to sail, I had to walk along a very unsteady floating platform to reach the little boats in which we had our lessons. I hated it. I don’t have a good sense of balance and was terrified of falling between the platform and the boat as I attempted to get in. I nearly gave up. “Fix your eyes on me,” said the instructor. “I’m here, and I’ll catch you if you slip.” I did what he said, and I am now the proud possessor of a basic sailing proficiency certificate!
Do you avoid taking risks at all costs? Many of us are reluctant to step out of our comfort zones in case we fail, get hurt, or look stupid. But if we allow that fear to bind us, we’ll end up afraid to do anything.
The story of Peter’s water-walking adventure and why it supposedly failed is a popular choice for preachers (Matt. 14:22-33). But I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of them discuss the behavior of the rest of the disciples. In my opinion, Peter was a success. He felt the fear but responded to the call of Jesus anyway. Maybe it was those who never tried at all who failed.
Jesus risked everything for us. What are we prepared to risk for Him?
We were absolutely stuck! While I was laying the wreath in place on my parents’ grave, my husband eased the car off the road to allow another car to pass. It had rained for weeks and the parking area was sodden. When we were ready to leave, we discovered that the car was stuck. The wheels spun, sinking further and further into the mud.
In 2008, house values were tumbling in the United Kingdom. But 2 weeks after my husband and I put our home of 40 years on the market, a buyer offered us a good price and we agreed to a sale. Soon our builders started work on the house I had inherited, which would be our new home. But a few days before the sale of our old home was finalized, our buyer pulled out. We were devastated. Now we owned two properties—one whose value was tumbling rapidly, and the other a virtual ruin that we could neither sell nor move into. Until we found a new buyer, we had no money to pay the builder. It was an impossible situation.
Ivisit two elderly women from time to time. One has no financial worries, is fit for her age, and lives in her own home. But she can always find something negative to say. The other is crippled with arthritis and rather forgetful. She lives in simple accommodations, and keeps a reminder pad so she won’t forget her appointments. But to every visitor to her tiny apartment, her first comment is always the same: “God is so good to me.” Handing her the reminder pad on my last visit, I noticed that she had written the day before “Out to lunch tomorrow! Wonderful! Another happy day.”