Outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo is a statue commemorating an Akita dog named Hachiko. Hachiko is remembered for unusual faithfulness to his owner, a university professor who commuted from the station daily. The dog accompanied him on his walk there in the morning and came back to meet him every afternoon just as his train arrived.
One day the professor didn’t return to the station; sadly, he’d died at work. But for the rest of his life—more than nine years—Hachiko showed up at the same time as the afternoon train. Day after day, regardless of weather, the dog waited faithfully for his master’s return.
When the apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica, he commended them for their faithfulness, citing their “work produced by faith,” “labor prompted by love,” and “endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians 1:2). Despite harsh opposition, they left their old ways “to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (vv. 9–10).
These early believers’ vital hope in their Savior and His love for them inspired them to see beyond their difficulties and to share their faith enthusiastically. They were assured there was nothing better than living for Jesus. How good it is to know that the same Holy Spirit who emboldened them (v. 5) still empowers us today to faithfully serve Jesus as we await His return.
I once heard about a student taking a class in preaching at a prominent seminary. The student, a young man who was a bit full of himself, delivered his sermon with eloquence and evident passion. He sat down self-satisfied, and the professor paused a moment before responding. “That was a powerful sermon,” he said. “It was well-organized and moving. The only problem is that God was not the subject of a single one of your sentences.”
The professor highlighted a problem all of us struggle with at times: We can talk as if we’re the primary actor (emphasizing what we do, what we say) when in truth God is the primary actor in life. We often profess that God is somehow generally “in charge,” but we act as if all the outcomes depend on us.
The Scriptures insist that God is the true subject of our lives, the true force. Even our necessary acts of faith are done “in the name of the
So the pressure’s off. We don’t need to fret, compare, work with compulsive energy or feed our many anxieties. God is in charge. We need only trust and follow His lead in obedience.
My father-in-law turned seventy-eight recently, and during our family gathering to honor him, someone asked him, “What's the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?” His answer? “Hang in there.”
Hang in there. It might be tempting to dismiss those words as simplistic. But my father-in-law wasn’t promoting blind optimism or positive thinking. He spoke those words as someone who’d endured tough things in his eight decades. His determination to press on wasn't grounded in some vague hope that things might get better, but in Christ’s work in his life.
“Hanging in there”—the Bible calls it perseverance—isn’t possible through mere willpower. We persevere because God promised, over and over, that He is with us, that He will give us strength, and that He will accomplish His purposes in our lives. That’s the message He spoke to the Israelites through Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
What does it take to “hang in there”? According to Isaiah, the foundation for hope is God’s character. Knowing God’s goodness allows us to release our grip on fear so we can cling to the Father and His promise that He will provide what we need each day: strength, help, and God’s comforting, empowering, and upholding presence.
As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he did. The Exodus account tells of Moses seeking God’s reassurance and God’s response. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory to him, God answered graciously, knowing that “no one may see me and live” (v. 20). He tucked Moses into the rocks when He passed by, letting Moses only see His back. And Moses knew that God was with him.
We can trust that just as God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (v. 14), so too we can find refuge in Him. We may experience many storms in our lives, as did Moses and the English minister in the story, but when we cry out to Him, He will give us the peace of His presence.
“I’d be very disappointed if one of our team members did that,” said a cricket player, referring to a South African cricketer who’d cheated in a match in 2016. But only two years later, that same player was caught in a nearly identical scandal.
Few things rankle us more than hypocrisy. But in the story of Judah in Genesis 38, Judah’s hypocritical behavior nearly had deadly consequences. After two of his sons died soon after marrying Tamar, Judah had quietly abandoned his duty to provide for her needs (vv. 8–11). In desperation, Tamar disguised herself by wearing a prostitute’s veil, and Judah slept with her (vv. 15–16).
Yet when Judah learned that his widowed daughter-in-law was pregnant, his reaction was murderous. “Bring her out and have her burned to death!” he demanded (v. 24). But Tamar had proof that Judah was the father (v. 25).
Judah could have denied the truth. Instead he admitted his hypocrisy, and also accepted his responsibility to care for her, saying, “She is more righteous than I” (v. 26).
And God wove even this dark chapter of Judah and Tamar’s story into His story of our redemption. Tamar’s children (vv. 29–30) would become ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1:2–3).
Why is Genesis 38 in the Bible? One reason is because it’s the story of our hypocritical human hearts—and of God’s heart of love, grace, and mercy.
As a young writer I was often unsure of myself when I was in writing workshops. I would look around and see rooms filled with giants, if you will—people with formal training or years of experience. I had neither. But what I did have was an ear formed by the language and tone and cadences of the King James Version of the Bible. It was very much my armor, so to speak, what I was used to, and allowing it to inform my writing style and voice has become a joy to me, and I hope to others.
We don’t get the impression that David the young shepherd was unsure of himself when it came to wearing Saul’s armor to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:38–39). He simply couldn’t move around in it. David had the awareness to realize one man’s armor can be another man’s prison – “I cannot go in these” (v. 39). So David trusted what he knew. God had prepared him for that moment with just what was needed (vv. 34-35). The sling and stones were what David was used to, his armor, and God used them to bring joy to the ranks of Israel that unforgettable day.
Have you ever felt unsure of yourself, thinking If I just had what someone else has, then my life would be different? Consider the gifts or experiences God has given specifically to you. Trust your God-given armor.
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!
When Kerry and Paul got married, neither one knew how to cook. But one night Kerry decided to try her hand at spaghetti. She ended up making lots of sauce and too many noodles, so the couple had it for dinner again the next day. On the third day, Paul volunteered to cook, doubling the amount of pasta and sauce, hoping the huge pot would last through the weekend. As the couple sat down for dinner that night, however, it was Kerry who confessed, “I’m sick of spaghetti.”
Just imagine eating the same meal as the Israelites did—for forty years. Each morning they gathered the sweet “super food” God supplied and cooked it (no leftovers unless the next day was the Sabbath, Exodus 16:23–26). Oh, sure, they got creative—baking it, boiling it (vv. 23, 31). But, oh, how they missed the good food they had enjoyed in Egypt (v. 3; Numbers 11:1–9), even though that nourishment had come at the high cost of cruelty and enslavement!
We too may sometimes resent our life that isn’t what it once was. Or perhaps the “sameness” of life has caused us to be discontent. But Exodus 16 tells of God’s faithful provision to the Israelites, causing them to trust and depend on His care each day.
God promises to give us everything we need. He satisfies our longings and fills up our soul with “good things” (Psalm 107:9
Desmond Doss was drafted into World War II as a non-combatant. Though his religious beliefs prevented him from carrying a gun, Doss ably served as a combat medic. In one battle, he withstood intense and repeated enemy fire to pull seventy-five soldiers in his unit to safety after they had been injured. His story is told in the documentary, The Conscientious Objector and dramatized in the film Hacksaw Ridge.
A roll call of the heroes of Christian faith includes such courageous characters as Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, and Paul. Yet there are some unsung heroes like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who risked their standing with the Jewish leaders to take Jesus’s crucified body and give Him a decent burial (John 19:40–42). This was a bold move from a fearful, secret disciple of Jesus and another, Nicodemus, who had previously dared to visit Jesus only at night (vv. 38–39). Even more impressive is that they took their faith stand before Jesus rose victorious from the grave. Why?
Perhaps the manner of Jesus’s death and the events that immediately followed (Matthew 27:50–54) crystallized the fledgling faith of these fearful followers. Maybe they learned to focus on who God is rather than what man could do to them. Whatever the inspiration, may we follow their example and exhibit courage to take risks of faith in our God—for others today.