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Hope Springs Eternal

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“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  Romans 8:11

 On a regular basis, I deal with situations of deep and overwhelming heartbreak.  It is an occupational hazard for me.  I am regularly at hospitals, funeral homes and cemeteries.  In these moments, we pray for God’s healing.  I believe that God does answer prayers, and even brings healing in many cases.  However, He does not always heal someone when we ask Him to.  Sometimes He answers by allowing the illness to progress or He even allows death itself to come.  We pray for miracles and yet He has perfect knowledge and perfect timing in these moments, even when we cannot see His orchestration of events from our limited viewpoint. All we can see is illness ravaging our loved one’s body.  We see death’s definitive reality.  It feels hopeless. It seems like our hearts will never heal.  We cannot see the divine workings around us and through us.

This must have been how the disciples’ felt.  They saw the soldiers arrest Jesus.  Some of them followed along to the place of His trials.  They saw Him crucified, and they watched Him die.  Two of His disciples took His dead body down from the cross and placed it in a tomb nearby.  Grief, pain, heartache, disillusionment, anger, despair, and much, much more, must have dominated the thinking and emotions of the disciples.  Their pain was so deep that they may have literally felt death’s grip on themselves as they contemplated the death of Christ.  “He’s gone.”  “Our lives were a fraud.”  “We have followed Him in vain.” “We should have never gotten involved.”  “If we had stayed in Galilee and minded our own business, our ignorance of these events could have provided protection from this painful reality.”  “My heart aches to the point of breaking beyond any repair.”  God allowed the three days of overwhelming, penetrating loneliness to permeate the lives of these followers.  His message to them was painfully clear.  “Here is the reality of sin and death.”  “Here is the reality of brokenness in this life.”  The disciples were going to minister to a fledgling church racked with persecution, suffering, and even death.  God gave the disciples the clearest demonstration of the penetrating impact of the ravages of human sin.  Then, like the breaking of the dawn as it defeats the power of the night’s darkness, God demonstrated His victory over death.  God breathes life back into Jesus Christ.  In that one moment, in that first inhale of oxygen into Christ’s lungs, God shattered the power of sin and death forever in our lives.  It took the disciples all day long to grapple with the meaning of it all.  From despair, to confusion, to doubts, to wonder, to faith, to joy, on the day Christ had risen from the dead the disciples processed all that had transpired.  God had instantly destroyed all the power of sin and death over His chosen ones.  It took these disciples all day, even several days, to understand it all.  

It is not surprising that we take time to work through similar emotions.  When someone is sick or dies we, like the disciples, work through a series of emotions.  We despair.  We are confused.  We doubt.  We then begin to see these trials in light of the breaking dawn of the resurrection of Christ.  We begin to imagine the implications of His empty tomb, especially in the life of our precious husband, wife or child.  Faith is renewed through the work of God’s gracious presence.  Faith is established through our contemplation of His Word.  The final, victorious emotion comes after days, weeks, months or even years: Joy.  Victorious joy comes and overpowers our despair.  This joy is ours as we allow the truth of what God has done in Christ to seep into the crevasses of our mind.  Why does the resurrection of Christ bring hope when my spouse, parent or child dies?  Because God has a habit of bringing His children back from the dead.  In Romans 8:11, Paul tells us that in the same way that God raised Jesus Christ, He will also raise us up.  The Spirit of God dwells in us and accomplishes many things in our lives.  There is a work to be done by the Holy Spirit that is in the future.  He will bring life to our mortal bodies.  He will do this.  We know that He will because He already has.  God has a habit of bringing life into the mortal bodies of His beloved children. Hope springs eternal.  Even now Lord Jesus, come.

Posted by Daniel Sweet with

40 Days of Prayer, Day 27

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Day 27, Friday, September 16

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Psalm 51:12-13

A Contrite Heart and a Concern for Others

In the confession of Psalm 51, in the midst of David’s heartfelt contrition, David not only asked God to restore the joy of his salvation, but also to sustain a willing spirit within him.  Willing spirit for what?   David requested a willing spirit in order to free others trapped in the pain and sorrow of human sin.  A contrite heart produces brokenness over our own sin.  A contrite heart also produces a brokenness for others.  Just as God pursued David through the prophet Nathan, so he pursues transgressors and sinners through us.  We are the brokenhearted that have been turned to the pursuers of the brokenhearted for God’s sake.  We see this displayed most clearly in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He, who unlike David and the rest of us, is absolutely perfect.  Even still, He empties Himself in order to save those who are completely empty.   Jesus told His followers in Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Unlike us, He is only truly holy One and yet He allows Himself to be broken in order to accomplish His mission of seeking and saving those who are by nature unholy.  We see this incredible contrast in the life of Christ.  We see in Christ the holy power of God combined with the humility of the lowest servant. 

 

James Stewart, the Scottish Theologian described the juxtaposition of Christ’s divinity and humanity in this way: He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men, yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable that the children loved to play with him, and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break, his whole life was love, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism He has all of our stark realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully He strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in His eyes. He saved others, yet at the last Himself He did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.

If Christ, the Son of God, the infinitely holy Creator of the universe humbled Himself for others, we must follow His example.  If He came to serve others, then surely we can allow God to renew a willing spirit within us so that we may serve others.

 

Prayer Focus

Create in me a willing spirit, Oh God.  Give me compassion for those around me.  Just as Christ came to seek and serve, help me to seek and serve the broken people that I will encounter today.  In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen.

From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice

The Word of God is an awful Word to a broken-hearted man. Solomon says, 'The word of a king is as the roaring of a lion'; and if so, what is the Word of God? for by the wrath and fear is meant the authoritative word of a king. Hence you have a remark set upon them that tremble at God's Word, they are the ones that keep among the godly; they are the ones that are apt to mourn, and to stand in the gap, when God is angry; and to turn away his wrath from a people.  It is a sign the Word of God has had its place, and worked powerfully, when the heart trembles at it and is afraid, and stands in awe of it. When Joseph's mistress tempted him, he was afraid of the Word of God. 'How then can I do this great wickedness, ' said he, 'and sin against God?' He stood in awe of God's Word, did not do it, because he kept in remembrance what a dreadful thing it was to rebel against God's Word. When Eli heard that the ark was taken, his very heart trembled within him; for he read by that sad loss that God was angry with Israel, and he knew the anger of God was a great and terrible thing. When Samuel went to Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled; for they feared that he came to them with some sad message from God, and they had had experience of the dread of such things before (Gen 39:7-9; 1 Sam 4:13, 16:1- 4).