Trusting in God Through Trials

Romans 15:13 (NIV): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are many people today that are overcome with worry and doubt. Some of you may be worrying about the health of a friend or even your own health. There are those that are in doubt of how to handle conflict and tension at home, at work, or both. Many of you are worrying about how to make ends meet and you worry about bills that seem to be accumulating with little relief in sight.

Do you believe that God is there with you – present with you- in the midst of your struggles? Or do you sometimes wonder if God has somehow forgotten you and left you alone as you try to find your way back to Him? Many people talk about silence from God or a kind of spiritual exile in which it seems that God has stopped communicating with them. They view this as a kind of punishment that God is inflicting upon them for some supposed disobedience in their lives. I believe that we serve a God of hope and a God of peace who longs to give His children “good and perfect gifts from above.” James 1:17 (NIV): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”.

The Apostle Paul, in our scripture reading today, reminds us that our God is a God of hope that stands ready to fill us with all joy and peace, if we will only place our trust in Him alone. And God can powerfully guarantee this because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this promise from God.  This hope or trust in God can only come about and be realized through the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. God has not left us alone; He is with us and has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us into truth and out of worry and doubt.

Have you ever felt that God has somehow forgotten you because of difficult circumstances? Sometimes we must face and endure things that God can use to draw us closer to Him. I don’t believe that God necessarily sends trouble or suffering our way, but He can always use those circumstances to bring us closer to his unfailing love in which we can experience true joy and peace. It’s important to remember that God is always true to His word and He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us if we remain faithful to God and his word(Hebrews 13:5).

So if you are struggling with worry today, and you are wondering just where God is in the midst of your troubles, remember these words of the Apostle Paul from the book of Romans. Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

Prayer: God, we acknowledge that we find it difficult to do life on our own. Life throws us a lot of curveballs and we struggle in our many attempts to place our complete faith and trust in you and you alone. This world that we live in seems to take great delight to use these times of testing and trials to turn our focus away from you. We are told to trust in the things of this world instead of an invisible God that has stopped caring for His people. But we know that this is a lie that Satan wants us to believe, because we know that we serve you God, who not only created the universe but was also intimately involved in creating each of us as well. Help us God to place our faith and trust in you. Help us to remember your promise that you will be always be with us, that you are with us through all of our worries and doubts, especially the times when we fail to place our faith and trust in you. Amen.

 

Transferred to God’s Kingdom

Colossians 1:13-14(ESV): He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The state of affairs in our world at times can be very discouraging and depressing. It seems that every time I turn on the news, the lead story is one of violence or immoral behavior. This morning, I read about three sportscasters who did a distasteful and stupid parody of a former NFL player that suffers from ALS and in the process lost their jobs and did immense damage to their name and their careers. There is war and death in Syria, where it is now being reported that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons against their own people. The death, misery and sheer violence that the innocent Syrian people are enduring is unimaginable to me. And of course there is violence throughout the world and it seems that it is intensifying.

You probably hear many people remark that the world is becoming more violent with each passing day. The truth is that the world we live in has seen violence and terror in many forms since the fall of man. There once was a perfect world in which peace and righteousness reigned, but the moment that Adam and Eve gave into the powerful lure of sin, the world changed instantly. Satan, our evil accuser, was given control over this world and he has been trying to lead people away from God ever since.

The Apostle Paul again gives us insight to the control that Satan has over this world: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Satan is the spirit who is at work in those who don’t belong to God.

The book of Colossians (the letter from Paul to the church at Colossae) gives us as believers, an immense assurance that as confessed believers of Christ, we have been “transferred” from the “dominion of darkness” into the “kingdom of his beloved Son.” Many Christians are not aware of what takes place at the moment of conversion – we are immediately “transferred” from the kingdom of darkness to God’s eternal kingdom. We are no longer under the power of Satan but under the power of the Holy Spirit. We must continue to live in this world, but as believers, we are already “seated” with Christ in heaven. This is the “inheritance” that Paul speaks of in Colossians 1:12. This inheritance comes only through God’s “grace” so that we may believe, be saved, and given the gift of salvation and eternal life.

The Greek word for transferred is methistēmi, which describes a change of situation or place. That is precisely what happens to us as believers – we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. At the moment that you accept Christ as your Lord and savior, you are immediately seated with him in the “heavenly realms.” Paul states this fact in his letter to the Ephesians: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7 NIV).

Eternal life with God is something that cannot be earned; it is solely a gift of God. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As Christians, although we live in a sinful and fallen world, we have been given the promise of eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord – we have already been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. And that is a promise that this fallen world can never take from those of us who belong to Christ.

 

Heaven is the Goal

Philippians 3:14; 20-21: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. For our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

There are many Christians today who have difficulty grasping the promise and hope of our faith. Do you find it surprising that believers are unsure or confused about their future? And by their future, I am referring to what will become of us after we leave this world behind and go to be with the Lord. There are many respectable Christians that struggle with what happens after this life is over. I recently heard one believer wonder aloud if heaven is actually the goal. Living in a fallen and sinful world, it is often very easy to lose sight of our goal as a follower of Christ.

 I have heard many Christians say that we should be focused on doing as much good in this world as we can, and I completely agree. However, I would not consider that as my ultimate goal as a believer. While I do believe that Christians should make the world that they live in a better place, it is essential that we keep our focus on our final goal – and for me that is heaven.  The Apostle Paul also urges us to stay focused on our final goal which is “heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul wants us as believers to know that our greatest hope is not found in our earthly lives but rather in heaven where we will be with Christ.

Paul writes about being with Christ in heaven as the supreme goal of those who believe in Christ. In writing to the church at Colossae, Paul says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

I remember the many conversations that I had with my grandfather about what life would be like in heaven. We would sit and talk for long periods of time about what we thought  heaven would look like and feel like. My grandfather would talk about those that had gone on before him and how much he looked forward to once again seeing those loved ones in heaven. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my grandfather would often refer to how wonderful it would be to “be at home with the Lord.” I believe he knew that the ultimate goal of a follower of Christ is to be in the presence of our Lord and Savior in heaven.

If our focus is upon Christ and becoming more Christ-like every day of our lives, then we will accomplish meaningful and worthwhile things as we live out our lives on this earth. By keeping our focus on Christ, our hearts and minds will be open to meeting the needs of those all around us. We will become more Christ-like as we live out our mission to be the hands and feet of Christ to a weary and hurting world. As followers of Christ, our minds must not be set on earthly things but rather upon Christ, who will empower us to care for and minister to those who are in need of mercy and grace.

Paul, in Galatians, refers to heaven as “the Jerusalem that is above” (Galatians 4:26). Heaven is where Christ lives and reigns, and as Christians, we are already citizens of that glorious heaven. There are many Christians who struggle with the concept of heaven and what eternal life there will be like. They fret and wonder about the details of heaven and they and lose sight of the fact that the most important aspect of heaven is that we will be in the presence of Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I often sit and think about my grandfather and I try to visualize the wonders and sounds that he is experiencing at this moment in heaven. It is comforting and uplifting for me to think about what I will one day experience in heaven. For me that is the ultimate goal of my life as a follower of Christ. One of my grandfather’s favorite hymns was “Shall we Gather at the River” and we used the words and images of that great old hymn to talk about what life would be like in heaven. My grandfather taught me to remain focused on heaven as my final goal and out of that steadfast belief; I would be able to accomplish good and meaningful things through Christ, while living out my life on this earth.