You know, sometimes life is a stroll down the garden path. The way is clear, the footing is sure. The flowers are beautiful to look at and smell. The sun is warm and bright. You can just feel God's reassuring hand on your shoulder. And sometimes, well, life isn't that way. Sometimes it's dark and scary. Sometimes it's ugly and stinks. Sometimes you think that hand on your shoulder is trying to push you into some bottomless pit. I can look back and jokingly call these times my "poor, poor pitiful me" times, but they are real and they are easy to slide into. In these times faith, hope and love are simply words and foreign ones at that. God seems like he's a million miles away. Sometimes God pulls me out of these times by refreshing me with his creation. A sunrise or the laughter of a child. Sometimes God presents an ambassador for Christ. A friend, a relative or a kind stranger. Sometimes, until I can walk on my own, I can ride on the shoulders of the faithful who have gone before me. And sometimes God's Word restores me. I can throw myself on God's promises.
Today's scriptures focus on the struggle of believers. The world's hatred and persecution of believers, God's promised reward for a faithful heart and the fruits of a faithful heart.
In Hebrews the author makes no bones about what can happen to believers. Jeered, flogged, put in prison, stoned, executed, even sawed in two. Believers were destitute, persecuted and mistreated.
The psalmist fears he has been cut off from the sight of the Lord and cries out. The Lord hears his cry. The Lord preserves the faithful. The psalmist tells us to be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
In Mark, Jesus casts demons out of a man. The people of the region, instead of marveling at this miracle and praising Christ, reject Jesus and ask him to leave. This is only one of the many sufferings Christ endures. Only the man who was healed becomes a follower and a witness for Christ. It would be easy for Christ to be discouraged, angry, resentful or even vengeful. However, once again, Jesus serves as our model for faith, hope and love.
I recently taught a great song to my second grade Sunday School class.
It is called "Joshua 1:9." "Be strong and courageous. Do not
be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with
you wherever you go." Amen!
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