Far from home and training for World War II, American recruits in basic training turned to humor and correspondence to cope with the challenges they faced. In one letter home a young man described the vaccination process with wonderful exaggeration: “Two medical officers chased us with harpoons. They grabbed us and pinned us to the floor and stuck one in each arm.”
Yet one soldier began to realize that humor could only take him so far. Then he received a Bible. “I enjoy it very much and I read it every night,” he wrote. “I never realized you could learn so much from a Bible.”
Long ago, the Jewish exiles returned home after years of slavery in Babylon to find their problems came with them. As they struggled to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, they faced opposition from enemies, famine, and their own sin. Amid their trouble, they turned to God’s Word. They were surprised at what they learned. When the priests read from the Book of the Law of God, the people were moved to tears (Nehemiah 8:9). But they also found comfort. Nehemiah the governor told them, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (v. 10).
We don’t need to wait for trouble to hear from God. The Bible is where we learn about His character, His forgiveness, and His comfort. As we read it, we’ll be surprised at what God’s Spirit will show us in its pages.
My friend, who had gone through many difficulties recently, wrote, “As I reflect on the past four semesters of student life, so many things have changed . . . . It is scary, really scary. Nothing stays forever.”
Indeed, many things can happen in two years—a career change, newfound friendship, illness, death. Good or bad, a life-altering experience may be lurking just round the corner, waiting to pounce! We simply don’t know. What great comfort, then, to know that our loving heavenly Father does not change.
The psalmist proclaims, “You remain the same, and your years will never end” (Ps. 102:27). The implication of this truth is immense. It means that God is forever loving, just, and wise. As Bible teacher Arthur W. Pink so wonderfully states: “Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so forever.”
In the New Testament, James writes, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). In our changing circumstances, we can always be assured that our good God will always be consistent to His character. He is the source of everything good, and everything He does is good.
It may seem that nothing lasts forever, but our God will remain consistently good to those who are His own.
Cade Pope, a 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma, mailed out 32 handwritten letters—one to each executive in charge of a National Football League (NFL) team in the US. Cade wrote, "My family and I love football. We play fantasy football and watch [the] games every weekend. . . . I am ready to pick an NFL team to cheer on for a lifetime!"
Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers football team, responded with a handwritten note of his own. The first line read: “We would be honored if our [team] became your team. We would make you proud.” Richardson went on to commend some of his players. His letter was not only personal and kindhearted—it was the only response that Cade received. Not surprisingly, Cade became a loyal fan of the Carolina Panthers.
In Psalm 86, David spoke about his allegiance to the one true God. He said, “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you,
In the remote region of Ghana where I lived as a boy, “Chop time, no friend” was a common proverb. Locals considered it impolite to visit at “chop time” (mealtime) because food was often scarce. The maxim applied to neighbors and outsiders alike.
But in the Philippines, where I also lived for a time, even if you visit unannounced at mealtime, your hosts will insist on sharing with you regardless of whether they have enough for themselves. Cultures differ for their own good reasons.
As the Israelites left Egypt, God provided specific instructions to govern their culture. But rules—even God’s rules—can never change hearts. So Moses said, “Change your hearts and stop being stubborn” (Deut. 10:16
Israel served the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome” (v. 17). One powerful way they were to show their identification with God was by loving foreigners—those from outside their culture.
What might this small picture of God’s character mean for us today? How can we show His love to the marginalized and the needy in our world?
The historic riverwalk area of Savannah, Georgia, is paved with mismatched cobblestones. Local residents say that centuries ago the stones provided ballast for ships as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean. When cargo was loaded in Georgia, the ballast stones were no longer needed, so they were used to pave the streets near the docks. Those stones had accomplished their primary job—stabilizing the ship through dangerous waters.
The days in which we live can feel as turbulent as the high seas. Like sailing ships of old, we need stability to help us navigate our way through the storms of life. David faced danger as well, and he celebrated the character of God for providing him with stability after he had endured a desperate time. He declared, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand” (Psalm 40:2). David’s experience was one of conflict, personal failure, and family strife, yet God gave him a place to stand. So David sang “a hymn of praise to our God” (v.3).
In times of difficulty, we too can look to our powerful God for the stability only He brings. His faithful care inspires us to say with David, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us” (v.5).
At the beginning of World War II, aerial bombings flattened much of Warsaw, Poland. Cement blocks, ruptured plumbing, and shards of glass lay strewn across the great city. In the downtown area, however, most of one damaged building still stubbornly stood. It was the Polish headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Society. Still legible on a surviving wall were these words: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35).
Jesus made that statement to encourage His disciples when they asked Him about the “end of the age” (v. 3). But His words also give us courage in the midst of our embattled situation today. Standing in the rubble of our shattered dreams, we can still find confidence in God’s indestructible character, sovereignty, and promises.
The psalmist wrote: “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” (Ps. 119:89). But it is more than the word of the Lord; it is His very character. That is why the psalmist could also say, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations” (v. 90).
As we face devastating experiences, we can define them either in terms of despair or of hope. Because God will not abandon us to our circumstances, we can confidently choose hope. His enduring Word assures us of His unfailing love.
The news was numbing. The tears came so quickly that she couldn’t fight them. Her mind raced with questions, and fear threatened to overwhelm her. Life had been going along so well, when it was abruptly interrupted and forever changed without warning.
Tragedy can come in many forms—the loss of a loved one, an illness, the loss of wealth or our livelihood. And it can happen to anyone at any time.
Although the prophet Habakkuk knew that tragedy was coming, it still struck fear in his heart. As he waited for the day when Babylon would invade the kingdom of Judah, his heart pounded, his lips quivered, and his legs trembled (Hab. 3:16).
Fear is a legitimate emotion in the face of tragedy, but it doesn’t have to immobilize us. When we don’t understand the trials we are going through, we can recount how God has worked in history (vv. 3-15). That’s what Habakkuk did. It didn’t dispel his fear, but it gave him the courage to move on by choosing to praise the Lord (v. 18).
Our God who has proven Himself faithful throughout the years is always with us. Because His character doesn’t change, in our fear we can say with a confident voice of faith, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength!” (v. 19).
One afternoon I was having a discussion with a friend I considered my spiritual mentor about misusing God’s name. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,” says the third commandment (Ex. 20:7). We may think this only refers to attaching God’s name to a swear word or using His name flippantly or irreverently. But my mentor rarely missed an opportunity to teach me about real faith. He challenged me to think about other ways we profane God’s name.
When I reject the advice of others and say, “God told me to go this way,” I misuse His name if all I am doing is seeking approval for my own desires.
When I use Scripture out of context to try to support an idea I want to be true, I am using God’s name in vain.
When I teach, write, or speak from Scripture carelessly, I misuse His name.
Author John Piper offers this reflection on what it means to take God’s name in vain: “The idea is . . . ‘don’t empty the name.’ . . . Don’t empty God of His weight and glory.” We misuse His name, Piper says, when we “speak of God in a way that empties Him of His significance.”
My friend challenged me to honor God’s name and to pay closer attention to using His Word carefully and accurately. Anything less dishonors Him.