Denial? No! Hope? Yes!

Denial of reality is a common problem for us when life grows unbearable. The Bible never hides the truth about pain or the hope which we have in Christ.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 82-84; Romans 8:19-39

Selected Verses

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?   Romans 8:32

Reflections

We, humans, are known for denying reality under certain circumstances.  As a little boy I could put on a tough face after a nasty fall on the playground with my buddies watching.  “I’m OK!” I could claim loudly while grimacing inwardly.  [That would not be the case if my mom was nearby to comfort.]

The God of the Bible never encourages our denial of reality. While the psalms are filled with laments, the Psalmist never loses hope.  He finds his complete fulfillment in God.  Nothing but God’s presence delights him.  There he sings for joy (Psalm 84:2).  One day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand anywhere else.  Being a doorkeeper for the Lord is better than being in prominence in the “tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

In the same way, Paul in his letter to the Romans doesn’t downplay the reality of pain and suffering in this world.  We groan as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  To help us, we have hope that gives us patience.  We have the Holy Spirit to help us pray and to intercede for us.  God promises that all things work together for good and that He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son.  We are called, justified, and glorified by God.

Think about it

We can be confident that all this is true because if God has given us His Son, and He has, He will certainly give us every other necessary thing with Him. God promises that those who are in Christ Jesus will never lack any good thing.

If you are in Christ, you know what the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul are saying.  Your heart longs to be with the Lord.  This world is not your final destination.  Nothing here totally satisfies you.  You are a citizen of heaven and you want to be home (Philippians 3:20-21).  But you are not home. Not yet.  Your way may be difficult, but the victory is sure.  You are more than a conqueror “through Him who loved us.”  Be filled with hope because our God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

Paul’s Tweet

Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The godly believer focuses on this as life’s circumstances range from monotonous to terrifying.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 36-37; Acts 23:1-11

Selected Verses

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
 They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.    Psalm 36:7-9

It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.  Acts 23:6

Reflections

The Psalms offer an antidote for the tendency to complain, to be bored, restless, overwhelmed, or impatient.  This antidote is to meditate on the Lord, His Word, His steadfast love, and His constant providential care.  On the flipside, the antidote includes a healthy dose of fear of the Lord knowing that He will destroy the wicked.  Do not “flatter” yourself that He can’t see you and bring you to account for your sin.  Instead, run to Him for mercy.  Fear Him. Praise Him.  Love Him.  Delight in Him.

Paul must have understood this as his difficulties grew more and more serious.  He used wisdom, even shrewdness, in addressing the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court composed of members with severe theological differences.  In what we would call today a “sound bite” or “tweet”, he summarized the problem, “It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”   Paul, by this statement, showed that, despite his imprisonment and the constant threats to his life, his hope was undiminished and his focus on the gospel was undistracted.  His trust in the historic resurrection of Jesus Christ was the basis for his life and ministry.  His words set off an intense and disorderly debate in the court. He was no longer the focus of their attention, but the subject of hope and the resurrection of the dead took center stage.

Think about it

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.[1]   Review this frequently when the circumstances of life are at best monotonous and at worst terrifying.  Are you prepared for this day with its unforeseeable trials or, most likely, its predictable sameness?  Whatever may come, seek to drink from the river of God’s delights.  You are given the task of enjoying Him, today and forever.

[1] Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 1.

 

Unswerving Hope

How immovable is your hope?  Can circumstances destroy it?  In today’s reading (Job 11:1-14:22) we find out that Job’s hope was in God no matter what.  Those who, like Job,  trust in the God who spoke to us in His Word have a firm foundation to keep on believing and hoping come what may.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

Do We Need the Old Testament?

Today’s reading: Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-20

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!                             Psalm 105:1-3

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.                                                                                                 Romans 16:3

The Old Testament plays a key role in the life of believers in Jesus Christ giving them instruction leading to endurance, encouragement, and hope.

Paul makes his case to the Christians in Rome that the Scriptures that they had from the former days had a crucial place in their lives. It is hard to find a stronger passage in the New Testament urging the careful and continual study of the Old. After all, the Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus knew and frequently quoted. He relied on it when confronted by Satan and while dying on the cross (Matthew 4:1-11; 27:46; Psalm 22:1; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:5). It was the Bible from which He taught the disciples about Himself (Luke 24:27).

Psalm 105 gives us a good example of why we need the Scriptures written in former days, if we are to fulfill our calling to glorify God (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Revelation 4:11). It includes both a call to praise (vs. 1-6) and content for praise (vs. 7-45).   Like several other psalms, this one focuses on praising God for who He is and what He has done in history for the people of Israel. It is easy to see God’s wisdom, faithfulness, power, and glory. Well, at least, it’s easy to see when you read this psalm. My experience personally and by observation of others is that it’s not easy to think of words with which to praise God. It is easier to look at the problems of our lives and our world than to spend more than a few minutes giving praise to God. We need the Old Testament, in general, and the Psalms, in particular, to instruct us and encourage us to praise the Lord.

Make it priority to know the Old Testament as well as the New. It will instruct you, sustain you, encourage you, and give you hope to finish the race.

 

Strength for Today; Hope for Tomorrow

Today’s reading: Job 19-20; Acts 9:23-43

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!      Job 19:25-27

31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31

God, who alone is unchanging, gives His people strength to do His will today and hope that someday the struggles and burdens of this life will end when we see Him.

Job continues his complaint against God in vivid terms. He has been abandoned by everyone he knows. But suddenly he seems to recall that he has a Redeemer, One who will save him. That Redeemer is alive and will reveal Himself after Job has finally died. God has stripped poor Job of every comfort and dignity of this life, but there will come a meeting. Job will see his Redeemer.

The church had been devastated with persecution but God had turned it to good by sending out His people throughout the nearby nations, proclaiming the good news of Jesus. Saul went after them but found Jesus himself. He then became a preacher of the gospel he had been seeking to silence. He had to flee for his life from his former allies. Meanwhile a measure of peace came to the church in Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. The church grew spiritually and numerically. The disciples were “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

No matter what your situation today, seek to walk in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. If you are suffering, like Job, remember that your Redeemer is alive. He awaits you when this life is over. As the old hymn goes,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(from “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by T.O.Chisholm 1866-1960)