The angel Gabriel had come to Zechariah with the good news that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son called John…John the Baptist. But Zechariah rejected the notion immediately as impossible due to their advanced age. A amazed Gabriel answered Zechariah’s skepticism with this, “I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news…but you don’t believe my words.” But not to be too rough on Zechariah…how many times have I done the very same thing? I hesitate, question, or downright reject a word from the Lord thinking, “You don’t know what You’re asking me to do, or worse yet, “I know more than You do, God.” That’s when I must remember to remember. Remember what? To call to mind all the Lord has done for me in the past. How He’s protected and cared for me in situations I should of died in…how He’s brought me through things I didn’t have the strength to do myself. When I doubt God, I limit Him…but when I believe, nothing is too difficult for Him to do.
Time is made up of seasons…just as our own lives. For within each season of our life there is unique beauty peculiar only to the time. And as we transition from season to season in our life there may be frustration, sadness, or longing, for we simply don’t understand God’s workings. “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits?” (Job 11:7) But because we can’t understand what God’s doing doesn’t mean we can’t trust Him. Just as He’s placed within mankind’s inner nature the notion of hope in the hereafter, He’s calling us to trust Him completely in all things our minds cannot fathom. So we take that hope… to build our faith… and learn to trust.
This Summer we had several severe thunderstorms come through causing large tree limbs to come down in our yard. Chainsaw in hand, my husband and I made short work of cutting up the fallen boughs. But it was amazing to me to see just how quickly the leaves had already wilted on the branches. When Jesus said, “Remain in Me.” He’s speaking about the mutual union between Himself and all Believers. And when we abide in this relationship through obedience and dependence on Jesus…we grow and flourish. For as we remain in Him, we will bear the fruit of God’s evidence in our life…a life full of joy, peace, and encouragement.
This verse causes me to bring up a uncomfortable question for some. What are you focused on? Where is most of your time and attention going? Is it towards present visible material things…or is it on Jesus? I dare ask, if I scrolled through your social media feed today, would I find more temporal than eternal…more carnal than godly? We all need to lift our eyes above this secular landscape before us and fix our eyes on Jesus. We need to look beyond our natural abilities of sight and rather ask for divine revelation by the Holy Spirit. And then armed with this Godly vision…we can fix our eyes on the unseen eternal glory.
It’s not too hard to see. “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) God is requiring our obedience and He’s saying, “Look at the world around you, this all didn’t just happen because of a big bang!” Also, it’s not beyond your abilities to read the Bible and learn of Me, ” My word is very near you; it’s in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” (Deuteronomy 30:14) The ultimate decision is ours though, but God makes it abundantly clear…”See, I set before you today life and prosperity, or death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16)
If you’re shaking your head at this idea, hear me out. Maybe you accepted the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins in the past, but guilt and shame keep bringing them back up in your face. That’s not God reminding you of your past shortcomings, that’s Satan. For Psalm 103:12 tells us that, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God has thrown your sins into the Lake of Forgiveness and placed a ” No Fishing” sign on the bank. The past is the past and none of us can change a moment of what has happened…let it go, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward. Or maybe your saying to yourself that your sins are just too bad to be forgiven…too horrific for God to pardon. The Lord doesn’t place sin in different categories, classes, or degrees of severity. All of us have sinned, there is no one righteous, not even one. (Psalm 14:3) And where sin increased, God’s grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20) All you need to do today is accept the gift of forgiveness God is offering you.
Now I know the term “special” or “You are special” has sank to the same level as participation trophies. But let’s look at what God has to say about your uncommonness. We are the work of God’s hands, (Isaiah 29:23) created and designed with unique abilities, capabilities, and capacities. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship…His exquisite craftsmanship lovingly displayed in each one of us…separate and alone. You are truly special to God…created for His glory, formed and made to be distinctively you.
You’d probably agree this past year has been especially challenging…filled with enduring hardships and persisting in spite of difficulties. We’ve all experienced suffering in one way or another…but the question is, how well have we done? In II Timothy, the Apostle Paul was exhorting the young Pastor Timothy that suffering for the sake of the Gospel was part of his job description, and that he was to ,”Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (II Timothy 2:3) No one wants to endure hardship, just as no one wants to suffer… it’s part of living in this broken world, but if we can hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, God is faithful. For as James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the man who perseveres.” And we can also take great encouragement from Revelation 2:3 when it says, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for My Name, and have not grown weary.”
If I asked you what you were afraid of today, what would you say? I’m not talking about things like spiders, snakes, or mice, but things that have your stomach tied up in a knot. For me it’s COVID 19 and everything related to it. It’s being fearful about my kids and grand-kids coming down with it, or my elderly Dad, or my health-compromised family-members succumbing to the virus. But II Timothy 1:7 tells me, “God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” Fear tells me that I can’t, while faith tells me it’s already been done. For Romans 8:15 says, “You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of son-ship.” And this son-ship tells me that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted me and you as His son or daughter thus making us a heir to His promised salvation. Thus we have nothing to fear, for the fear of death is gone…and if you really think about it, fear of death is the origin of all other fears.