The World Hates Jesus’ Disciples

John 15:18-19 (NASB)
18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

I have always understood the meaning of this passage from John’s gospel, but recently this text has taken on greater meaning for me as a Christian. Let me just say that the presence of evil in this world today is increasing at a rapid pace. We are at a point in the history of the United States, where Christianity is coming under greater attack, as the forces of evil ramp up their spiritual warfare against God and His everlasting kingdom. All you have to do is listen to anything that passes itself off as news these days, or go onto the internet and Christians are being ridiculed, mocked and scorned. There is so much hatred today against Christians and the name of Jesus Christ. And we should not be surprised, because Jesus told His disciples over 2,000 years ago that it would happen.

Our Vice President was mocked recently because of his close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And besides many Christian leaders who spoke out against this mocking and uncalled for attack, there have been few others speaking out against yet another attack upon Christians. And just four days ago, there was a very ill-timed article about one of the greatest Christians ever to walk the face of this earth, Billy Graham. I won’t even mention the “news organization” because I plan to never read anything from their website or give them any mention ever again. What is obvious is that it is open season for attacking Christians and our faith in this country.

The Apostle Paul pulls back the curtain separating us and the spirit world and tells us something about the spiritual warfare that is raging in the spiritual realm. Ephesians 6:10-13: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Today as I was reading this passage, the realization came to me that Satan’s greatest desire is to have Christians so mad and worked up over these attacks that we fail to “love one another” and carry out the Great Commission. Jesus plainly told us that the world will hate us and as a Christian today, I rejoice that the world hates me because of my beliefs. And I can rejoice because I know that I am just passing through this world – it is not my home. I belong to Jesus and my eternal home is in heaven!

As believers, we must continue to love one another and tell the lost about the only way to heaven – by faith in Jesus Christ. We must forgive and pray for those that speak words of hate against us and we must overcome hate with love. That is our calling as Christians and we must show the world how different and distinct we are. We are not of this world and we should rejoice when the world hates us, because we then know that we are true followers of Christ.

Revelation 1:7 (NASB): Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

 

Heaven: I Can Only Imagine

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18: (NASB)
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul was writing in response to questions they had about those who had died or “fallen asleep in Jesus.” Those in the young church were concerned about what would happen to those believers who died before the return of Christ. And we see Paul urging them to not grieve like those who have “no hope.” Paul reminds them of the “hope” that all believers have in Jesus Christ and he encourages them to “comfort one another with these words.”

This world that we are living in is growing darker with each passing day. With so many acts of terrorism, mass shootings, and senseless violence, we are living in a time where sin is spreading a wide path over much of the world. We are living in a time where there is an intense spiritual warfare battle that is being waged over this world. Satan and his forces of evil are intent on denying and pushing God further and further out of our society. There is a growing attack on anyone who still believes in a good and decent moral society that draws upon the instruction of God on how to live out your life. It seems there is not much hope in the world today.

However, I remain hopeful in knowing that a faithful and just God is still on His throne and is actively ruling over this world. Nothing, and I mean nothing, escapes God’s notice and nothing will happen to determine the destiny of our world without God’s fore knowledge and approval. This world will cease to exist as we know it, only when God determines that time has come. So as believers, we must live with the hope that we have through Christ and we must continue to comfort one another with these eternal words from God.

So often when the news and current events of this world are too much to bear, I go to God’s Word and find hope and comfort as I read about what eternity will be like. And I try to imagine just what heaven will be like when we receive our eternal bodies and are finally free from pain, sickness, disease, and death. My grandfather and I did this many years ago as he taught me to close my eyes and imagine what heaven would be like. I remember him describing what he imagined heaven would look and sound like. And he often talked about reuniting with those who had gone before him in faith. He knew about the “hope” that all believers have for that glorious day when Christ comes back to gather those to him who have accepted him as their Lord and Savior.

A couple of Wednesday nights ago, I was teaching on 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, and I began by reading this particular passage. As soon as I finished, one of our church members said, “Those words are so comforting and hopeful.” And he was right! As believers, we must continue to live out our lives on this earth with those words of eternal hope. So I encourage you this week to open up your Bible, listen to some comforting and inspiring Christian music, and try to imagine a world without pain, violence, suffering, and death. Close your eyes and imagine heaven and what it will be like, living in eternal peace and fullness of life with God and our savior Jesus Christ. Close your eyes and try to imagine that hope and peace offered only through belief in Christ.

“Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Where is Your Hope?

Romans 15:13 (NASB): Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do you know a believer who just never seems to be joyful or happy? They may constantly complain and generally not seem happy or at peace with themselves and especially with God. I am not referring to people who are going through difficult trials or situations in life, because sometimes in those situations, it’s difficult to always be joyful. But if you are a follower of Christ, and you have accepted Him and believe upon Him as your Lord and Savior, then you have a lot to be joyful about. And your life should reflect that peace and joy that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I also believe that our God is a “God of hope.” True hope does not come from this world that we live in; that incredible and love infused hope can only come from our creator God. The things of this world will always disappoint and will never measure up or fulfill us. But the hope that becomes the very fabric of our soul, when we believe in Jesus Christ, will never disappoint. The hope that is found in Christ is the promise of eternal life. It really doesn’t matter what happens to us on our journey here on earth, because as believers we have the promise of eternal life with our Savior in heaven. That brothers and sisters is our ultimate hope and joy!

If the promise of eternal life with Christ does not put a smile on your face and joy in your heart, then I don’t know what will. When you believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit will come into your life and transform you into a person that will “abound in hope.” So often we lose sight of the fact that we are called to a new life in Christ; a life that is transformed and different from those in the world who do not know Christ. We must always strive to be a shining example of Christ’s love and compassion and joy to those who are lost.

So if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, I encourage you and challenge you to put a big smile on your face and show others what faith in Christ looks like. By believing in Christ, you are filled will “all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

Living a Holy Life in an Unholy World

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV): Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Peter 2: 11-12 (NIV): Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means for Christians to live “good lives.” How do we live out our life of faith in a world that does not glorify God? As believers, we have a decision to make. Will we lead lives that reflect our faith and God’s guidance in our lives? Or will we only give lip service to our beliefs and surrender ourselves to the desires of this world that we live in?

The apostle Peter tells us that our minds must be “alert and fully sober.” We must constantly be aware of the sinful lures of this world so that we can overcome enticing thoughts and actions before we act on them. We all have sinful desires that attempt to pull us away from God and prevent us from leading a life that is a witness to our faith and pleasing to God. Overcoming these desires is crucial for our soul but it is also important if we desire to be an effective witness for Christ. Our lives should reflect the degree to which God’s forgiveness and mercy has changed us. Our witness then, becomes living a life that demonstrates to unbelievers how our faith and belief in God has changed us.

A friend of mine once told me that she had been observing how I led my life as a Christian. To be honest, that scared me. I immediately started thinking about the times that this lady has seen me act in a way that was not consistent with my faith. She told me that she was not a believer but she wanted to know more about my faith because she could sense just how important our faith was to our family. She passed away a few years later but not before coming to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. This is precisely what Peter is referring to when he urges believers to lead holy lives – because you never know who is watching. In this case, someone who didn’t know God was watching and she saw that my actions were, for the most part, consistent with my beliefs. There are times when my actions don’t correspond to my beliefs, so I constantly pray to God that he will strengthen me to lead a life that always reflects my faith.

The Apostle Peter writes, ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”’ I don’t know about you but I am uncomfortable being called holy. It sounds like someone who never makes a mistake or is somehow above sin. Holy means to be set apart or to belong to God. Being holy is living in a unified relationship with Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

As followers of Christ, we face many sinful desires which “wage war” against our soul. I believe that the forces of evil are constantly waging war against Christians so that our witness will be weakened or ineffective. It’s time that believers live out a life of faith that shows the world that we are set apart from the sin of this world. The way we live our lives will reflect who we are and who we truly follow. Our choice is this: Do we give in to the sinful desires of this world, or do we try to lead holy lives that reflect the love, mercy and forgiveness of our loving God and our Savior, Jesus Christ?

1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

 

Giving Thanks to God

Psalm 100

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
3 Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations

Psalm 100 is a psalm for giving thanks to God. The psalm acknowledges all that God has done for us and more importantly, for God’s very nature as the God of all creation. Several weeks ago, I preached a sermon on Psalm 100 on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and the point of the message was: We should give thanks to God every day, for who God is, and for what God has done for us.

Giving thanks to God is what we as Christians must do each and every day, giving thanks in all circumstances. If God allows us to wake up tomorrow morning, we surely should begin our day by thanking Him! We can be facing one of the most difficult and trying days of our life, but if we are focused and centered on God, we can make it through that day with joy!

When we place our focus on God and not on ourselves, we find that we can come before God with thanksgiving and praise, simply because He created us and the world that we live in: “It is He who made us, and not we ourselves.” So we should praise God because of His very nature. “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” And we should praise Him because we belong to Him and He will care for us. As Christians, we trust that God is in charge and our eternal destiny is assured.

The psalmist gives us three reasons why we should praise God. We should praise God because; the Lord is good, His loving kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness extends to all generations. The psalmist wants us to understand that God is good, God is love, and God is faithful.

Life moves at a frantic pace and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we serve a God who is good, who is love, and who is always faithful to us. It becomes easy for us to focus on our problems instead of praising God for our many blessings. We often tell God what we want instead of asking Him for what we need.

Remember that you serve a God who is good, a God who is loving, and a God who is most of all – faithful to His children. So be thankful for what you do have and trust in the Lord that He will continue to give you what you need.

 

 

 

Our Hope in God

Romans 5:1-5 (NASB): Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We all face disappointments in life. So often, we pray to God and our prayers are not answered in the way that we desire. When that is the case, we must trust God and realize that His ways and His purposes are higher than ours. We have very limited vision, but God sees the entire picture and we must trust Him, even when it hurts. As believers that have been “justified by faith,” we can have a certain “peace” with God that lifts us up as we go through times of unanswered prayer or in the various trials of life.

Paul wants us to understand here in Romans chapter 5, that in all circumstances, our “hope” is found in the glory of God. Through our faith in Christ, God has given us His peace that will help us to navigate anything that life in this world sends our way. It’s easy to rejoice when things are going well, but it’s much more difficult to rejoice when we are faced with trials and suffering. God’s desire is that we acknowledge Him and praise Him in the midst of our difficulties, as well as those times in life when everything is going smoothly.

We would usually prefer to not go through any trials in life, we like for everything to go as planned. And the Apostle Paul, who is very familiar with trials, exhorts us to rejoice in the midst of our trials. Now that is the kind of advice that most of us would prefer to politely decline. Rejoice in our trials? Really? When I am going through times such as these, I would much prefer to sulk and to blame God and to question Him. And after a day or so, after God has allowed me to wallow in my misery, God says, “Trust me, I am going to teach you how to persevere through this trying time.”

You see, when we go through difficult circumstances, we learn how to persevere. And Paul writes that, perseverance improves and strengthens our character, and that will in turn point us to the “hope” of God in our lives. And as we trust God to lead us through the dark passages of life, we begin to sense and experience God’s hope and love. Paul tells us that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” So we must persevere and rely on our “hope” in God, who promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:6).

May God fill you today with His hope, His love, and His eternal peace!

Daniel Chapter 3: Don’t Compromise Your Faith

Daniel 3: 12-16 (NASB):

There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Do you have the faith that is required of you to stand firm in your faith and not compromise with the gods and idols of this world? Daniel’s three friends were given a choice: Fall down and worship a man-made idol or stand firm in your faith in God and face the consequences. Bear in mind that death in the fiery furnace was the consequence here. For many, this would be a difficult decision, but for these three young men it was a decision that was very easy to make. They were determined to stand firm in their faith in God, even if it led to a horrible death by fire.

King Nebuchadnezzar was filled with pride and arrogance and he “set up” an image of gold for all the people to bow down and worship at the appointed time. “To you the command is given, O people, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn…you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:4-6 NASB).

On the surface, what appears to be a challenging decision for these three young men was not a difficult decision at all. They had made the decision long ago in their minds when they decided to obediently follow God and not man. It’s likely they thought about the command from God when He said, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4). For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, they clung to their faith in God over any fear of man. Even being unsure if God would actually deliver them, they still thought it better to lay down their lives in obedience to God rather than to bow down and worship a false idol of man. They completely trusted God to deliver them, but even if He did not choose to do so, they were determined to remain faithful to Him, even if it meant death.

God wanted to use these three faithful men to show King Nebuchadnezzar that the God of Israel is sovereign over the entire earth. Their lives were spared and God used their faith and trust in Him to bring a powerful pagan king to acknowledge and fear God. God can and will deliver His people as He so chooses. It is God who rules the world and eventually all earthly powers will bow down to Him.

Will you be completely obedient and faithful to God, or will you allow the world and its values, to influence how you live out your life? Each time we give into the world and follow its urgings, we create a distance between ourselves and God. God loves us and cares for us and in return He expects our loyalty and obedience. As Christians, we must stand firm in our faith and we must oppose those worldly values that are in direct opposition to God’s commands. Do you seek the praise of men or do you follow God’s laws above all else? Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, we have a choice. Who are we going to follow? Man or God?

 

Daniel Chapter 2: There is a God in Heaven

Daniel 2:19-23 (NASB)
19Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
21
“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
22
“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
23
“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel chapter 2 is a long chapter (49 verses) but you may want to read the entire chapter so that you get a sense of what’s going on with Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar. Several Wednesday nights ago as I taught this chapter at church, there were two prominent themes that stood out to us. First, it is Daniel’s God, “the God of heaven,” that is in control of this earth. And not only is God in charge, but we are also reminded that He can remove and establish kings, leaders, presidents, and even dictators! Second, it is only Daniel’s God who can reveal and make known deep and profound mysteries, the “hidden things.” God gives wisdom not to those who hold powerful positions in this world, but to those who obey, trust, and faithfully follow God’s will and purpose for their lives.

King Nebuchadnezzar was having a troubling dream that caused him to have some sleepless nights and he was anxious to have the meaning revealed to him. The king called for his conjurers, magicians, and sorcerers – his “wise men.” However, the king throws them a curve; he not only wants them to interpret the meaning of his dream, but he demands that they also tell him what his dream actually was! Well as you can imagine, the “wise men” are shocked and grasping for words. So they tell the king: “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king” (Daniel 2:10). It’s not going to come as a surprise that this was not the answer that King Nebuchadnezzar was looking for. So he gives the order that they be “torn limb from limb.” And then for good measure, their houses would be “made a rubbish heap” (Daniel 2:5).

“Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them” (Daniel 2:12-13).

And what was Daniel’s response? I don’t know about you, but my first thought would be to get as far away from the king as possible. Daniel, however, did not do that. We are told that Daniel asked to appear before the king (yes, the same king that wanted to take his life) in order to ask for more time so that he could give the king the interpretation of the dream. And because of God’s influence in earthly affairs, the king grants Daniel the time needed for the interpretation of the dream.

Daniel remained calm because he trusted God regardless of the outcome. Daniel knew that prayer would provide the answer to this dream and that would be how he would approach God. Daniel’s faith and trust in God enabled him to go before the powerful and unpredictable King Nebuchadnezzar and ask for more time. So Daniel and his three friends resolve to pray “so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:18).

God reveals the dream and its meaning to Daniel and immediately, Daniel gives praise and thanks to God, while acknowledging God’s wisdom and power over all the earth. Daniel then goes before the king and tells the king his dream and then gives him the interpretation. The point that Daniel makes to the king is that the “God of heaven” is the only one who “reveals mysteries” (Daniel 2:28). The “God of heaven” reigns over the whole earth and King Nebuchadnezzar will soon find out that it is God “who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings” (Daniel 2:21).

Thinking about the world we live in today, we see the same circumstances occurring. We have ruthless and power hungry dictators and self-appointed leaders threatening to destroy entire nations. They don’t even pause to consider God, because they believe their own power is greater than anyone else, including God. However, as the Bible clearly states and history has shown us, it is God and God alone, who determines the “times and the epochs; he removes kings and establishes kings.” People throughout the ages have over and over again relied on their own wisdom instead of God’s wisdom and what do we see occurring? Presidents, dictators, and kings have come and gone but God remains in control. God’s kingdom is the only kingdom that will last forever, it will be everlasting!

Daniel 2:44 (NASB)
In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.

 

 

 

 

Daniel Chapter 1: Being A Good Witness


Daniel 1:8-9: But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials…

For the last four weeks, I have been teaching the book of Daniel in our Wednesday night Bible study. Although this book was written around the sixth century BC, it has many important applications and insights for us as believers today. One important aspect stood out for us as we studied the first chapter of Daniel. Given the example of these four teenage Hebrews believers, we talked about how important it is for us as believers today, to be a good and faithful witness for God. We certainly live in a time and in a world that needs to hear our witness, to the love and compassion of God, and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We saw in Daniel chapter 1, how Daniel and his three Hebrew friends stood firm in their belief and trust in God. These young men were teenagers, who were taken away into captivity to Babylon, and they stood firm in their faithfulness to God against the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. And because of their faithfulness, “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).

“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…”
As believers today, we must also make up our mind to not defile ourselves. We live in a world that worships almost everything except God. If we are to be a faithful witness, by living out our lives in a way that is committed and faithful to God, we can’t allow the world to defile us. Christians need to pray for God’s strength to stand firm against the ever evolving belief system of this world. If we are to be a good witness for Christ, we must live a life that makes others take notice. When we rise above the sin and turmoil of this world, we can make an impact upon others by being a good and faithful witness to God.

God used these four Hebrew teenagers, to make a pagan king take notice of their unique and faithful relationship with the one true God. And God can use you, to help those who are lost today, to notice and want to know more about your relationship with God. Always strive to be a good and faithful witness to God, because you never know how God can use your witness to affect someone that is watching how you live out your life as a follower of Christ.

 

Please God, Hear My Prayer

Psalm 143 (NASB)
1Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart is appalled within me.
5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land.

I have been reading Psalm 143 every day for over a week now. It has given me great comfort as I have been overwhelmed from all directions, it seems. In the midst of the past week that was trying, difficult, and at times completely overwhelming, this Psalm of David has been a refuge for me in the midst of crisis. When you are faced with being overwhelmed by the difficulties of life, and circumstances seem so out of control, you are faced with two choices on how to deal with those problems. You can either get down on your knees and pray to God for help, or you can choose to address those circumstances in a manner that is not godly or healthy. For me, I instinctively turn to God for strength in enduring the onslaught and coming out stronger on the other side.

Have you every prayed or cried out to God, like David did in this Psalm? The first thing David asks is for God to simply hear his prayer! This is a kind of praying that sounds almost desperate. God, please hear my prayer because I am in such a bad place that only You can save me. David wanted God to hear and understand his dilemma and he asks God to answer him out of God’s faithfulness and righteousness. David knows that when God promises to deliver his people that God must be true to His nature of faithfulness and righteousness. God may not completely answer our prayer in our time frame, but He will answer (or give a different answer) when He knows it is the best time for us. In the meantime though, God will comfort and give care to us because He absolutely hears our prayers and He loves us. God and God alone can bring us through any difficult circumstance that we face if we will only acknowledge Him and turn to Him in prayer.

As I was dealing with one very specific issue last week, I had a non-believer tell me, “You better start praying about this because I don’t see this ending well.” Now I’m really not sure of his mind set when he said that. At first, I thought he was mocking me but after some time has passed, I’m not sure that was his intent. Whatever his thought process was, I am sure of one thing. I’m certain that this man did not believe  God would answer me and create a solution out of what seemed impossible. As this man kept giving me his opinion that the end solution would not be good, I continued to pray to God for direction and guidance. I also prayed for God to give me the words and the attitude to respond to this man so that I would not put someone else at risk. My faith in God and in God’s faithfulness gave me the strength to believe that God would deliver me from a seemingly impossible situation.

I love how honest David is in this Psalm. He knows and confesses that he is a sinner and he asks God to not judge him for his sinfulness. He is essentially saying, God, you know that no one is perfect. We are all sinners in need of your mercy and love. Be faithful God and deliver me from the enemy who has crushed me to the ground and who is persecuting my very soul and making me to live in dark places. David tells God, “my spirit is overwhelmed, within me.” David’s heart is appalled or desolate and He knows that only God can bring him out of the dark place that he is in. He knows that only God can save him and restore him.

After enduring five long days of worrying and not sleeping, I came to the end of my week. The problem that arose at the start of the week was solved and for that I give God all of the glory! And for the man that told me I better start praying, I wonder if he gave any thought to his comment about prayer. Hopefully, I will have another chance to have a conversation with him about the power of prayer and how my faithful and righteous God spoke powerfully in this situation. Now there are prayers of mine that remain unanswered and for those I just have to trust in God and in His timing. Whether it takes a month, a year, or ten years, I will remain faithful to God because I know He is faithful to me.

Prayer: God, I thank you for your faithfulness. You are a merciful and compassionate God and for that I praise you. In the midst of trying times, your great faithfulness gives us the hope to endure. And as we go through those moments in a way that glorifies you, we can be a strong witness to your power to those who do not believe. Help us God to live a life that sees your new mercies every morning and to rely only on you throughout our day, whether our day is easy or difficult. Help us to remember that there is never a moment in time that you do not watch over us. Amen.

My Daily Journey With God in Athens Ga.