HOW SHOULD WE DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY?

COVID19 has introduced a new level of uncertainty into the everyday “norm” of life, so much so that the questions raised about this pandemic have revealed our startling lack of sure and certain knowledge. With all our academic brains and advanced technology, here we sit “churning in the ditch” trying to get traction. This uncertainty has divided friends, family, churches, businesses, schools, local, state, and of course our federal government. We have struggled with the uncertainties for so long that we have lost sight of the great certainties. The world has always presented us with uncertainty. It is just in these “abnormal” times that the uncertainties are highlighted and brought to the front more forcefully.


For a moment let’s turn away from the uncertainty and go back to what we know to be certain. It seems when we rely on the great certainties proclaimed in God’s Word that the uncertainties of this life hold less of a worrisome grip on us.
Let me list some of life’s great certainties:

# 1 – There is a God and He knows and ordains the course of life on this planet! Of that, we are certain! Divine comfort and assurance from a Sovereign God who is “driving the bus” gives us a settled peace and a sure message for an uncertain time! Listen to God’s Word: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). A steady and wise hand on the wheel—that is the certainty we have in this always good and ever-faithful God!

# 2 – The Word of God is absolute truth and will never fail! Of that, we can be certain. This life manual will never need revision. How sad that some men who claim to hold the faith struggle with the whole matter of certainty. It is either all truth or none of it can be trusted. There is no middle ground. John 17:17 declares “Your Word is Truth.” Ps. 119:89 says that “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” I Kings 8:56 states categorically the following certainty: “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses.” Matt. 24:35 says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” We have an absolutely reliable voice in the Word of God! Its unchanging declarations hold us  fast in uncertain times.

# 3 – There will never be a change in Christ or His atoning sacrifice! Of these truths, we can be certain! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “Behold, I have come to do your will. He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:9-12). To know that Christ remains steadfastly the same person and character that He has always been and that his death on the cross stands forever as the only and ultimate sacrifice for our sins imparts strong confidence as we walk into the future with all its uncertainties. That is the message of our unchanging and certain Gospel…the good news! No wonder Paul could testify to Timothy with such assurance when he said: “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim. 1:12). No wonder the Bible calls our Savior God  “my rock,” and “the rock of my salvation” (2 Sam. 22:47; Ps. 18:2; 62:2; 1 Cor. 10:4).

# 4 – Jesus will never leave His own! Of that, we can be certain. Jesus said in Heb. 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God affirms this certainty to his people in Deut. 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  One of the most heart-wrenching byproducts of the virus is the prohibition for loved ones to be with those who are critically ill and dying. As hard as that is, for the believer to know that our Savior is always in attendance with us and with those who know Him brings comfort and peace to our souls. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). What great certainty! Even more, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18).

# 5 – Death will end in life for the believer in Christ! Of this, we can be certain. Paul said for the believer that when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1, 8). We have a “new house” waiting for us and Jesus assured us if this were not true, He would have told us (John 14:2-3). We have the word of Christ as our certain hope and assurance. Eternal life is not a pipe dream for the one who knows Christ. It is an assured reality! Thank God there is not a black uncertain hole awaiting those who know Christ. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

There are many other certainties in God’s Word but these five should ground us to deal with the uncertainties we are now continuing to face. Praise God behind the uncertainties of this time, there arises God’s solid ground of certainty for those who know and follow Christ. Think it thru





DO YOU HAVE A HIDING PLACE?

“Shelter in Place” has now become a common expression. A few weeks ago we would have asked “What is that?” Now we know!! This idea prompts a very critical question. Do you have a sheltering place, a hiding place for your soul, your heart, your mind? The old hymn entitled “A Shelter in the time of storm” seems very appropriate today.

“The Lord’s our Rock in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm;
Secure whatever ill betide, a shelter in the time of storm.
A shade by day, defense by night, A shelter in the time of storm;
No fears alarm, no foes affright, A shelter in the time of storm.

The refrain continues:

“Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land.
Oh, Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm.”

We certainly live now in a weary land in need of a rock shelter. The man who wrote that, Vernon J. Charlesworth, was the man who headed up Charles Spurgeon’s orphanage. He knew first hand what storms can do to your heart and he had a hiding place. Christ was a more than sufficient hiding place for him and He is that for us too. Come to Christ for your salvation.  He is the only sure rock in the shifting sand of this world’s troubles (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:4)!

There is another song that comes to mind written by Annie Johnson Flint entitled: “He Giveth More Grace.” She wrote this in the midst of great pain with sores all over her body needing eight pillows just to bear her body up. (You will recall she was also blind and subject to many other illnesses).

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done;
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Refrain:
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

The Grace of God is an incredible hiding place (2 Corinthians 12:9). The generosity of this God in giving his grace to sinners is overwhelming! But it is true!! Trust the grace of God to be sufficient for your battles!

Are you still a bit shaky? Then consider the following texts of Scripture. Think about what the psalmist had discovered about God being his hiding place and what that means:

Psalm 17:8
Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

Psalm 27:5
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

Psalm 31:20
You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalm 61:3
For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy.

Psalm 64:2
Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, From the tumult of those who do iniquity,

Psalm 68:20
God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.

Psalm 119:114
You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your word.

Psalm 143:9
Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies; I take refuge in You.

Oh what a hiding place the Word of God is for us who know Christ! The psalmist testifies that when his heart is “melting away” with sorrow, the Word of God strengthens his soul (Psalm 119:28). He confesses that the Word of God is well tried (Psalm 119:140) and  that it is life-giving, reminding us of God’s great mercy (Psalm 119:156). He also tells us that God’s Word brings great peace to those who love it, and they will be guarded from stumbling (Psalm 119:165)

The Son of God, the Grace of God, and the Word of God…what astounding “hiding places” for the soul. Have you gone there yet? Flee, go there quickly, rest there!! Come to Christ for your salvation. Trust the Grace of God to be sufficient. Go to the Word of God for your strength and hope.

Nothing prepares us for the outside battles like having a safe inside retreat. Think it thru




DOES TOMORROW LOOM TOO LARGE?

Let’s face it. We are a couple of weeks into the new year already and looking ahead to our next day’s journey. The danger is that we can try to live tomorrow before it gets here. Tomorrow looms large to us. Perhaps too large. I am not saying that we shouldn’t  plan for tomorrow as much as our limited life allows. But we must realize that we only have strength for the day imparted and so we cannot live tomorrow on today’s energy (God promised Israel: “As your days, so will your strength be” – Deut. 33:25). But when tomorrow looms large especially when it promises something we dread (I think I have a dental appointment looming on the horizon–get what I mean?), then we find ourselves a bit shaky in the strength & courage department.

I am reading a rather heavy tome called “The Christian’s Reasonable Service” by Wilhelmus A’Brakel. (Just the name intimidated me at first). It is in volume 2 that the author talks about the need for spiritual strength for our journey into tomorrow. He said this: “Spiritual strength is an undaunted steadfastness of heart, given by God to His children, whereby they, while entertaining a lively hope of acquiring the promised benefits, overcome fear of all danger and opposition, unyieldingly engage in warfare, and courageously persevere in obedience toward God.”  Now that is a mouthful. What is he saying that is so helpful to us?

First, he tells us that strength has to have a spiritual source. God has to give it. And He gives it to us in Christ (I Cor. 1:30 – Christ is made to us among other things strength). Only in Christ can I have this strength that  breeds a steadfastness of heart  for tomorrow’s events.  The Psalmist said in 31:34 “He shall strengthen your heart.” The prophet Isaiah speaks assuredly about this to his people as they faced an uncertain tomorrow when he says: “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength” (Isa. 40:39).  A’Brakel really opened my eyes when he observed: “The benefits hoped for are so desirable that they can endure all that is uncomfortable…Hope in the faithfulness and truthfulness of the promising God makes acquisition such a steadfast and unquestionable fact, that the stronger the believer is in this respect, the stronger his courage will be.” Those promised benefits may not come in our time and in our way, and we may have to face some opposition and trial, but they will come enabling us to have steadfastness of heart and courage to persevere. Those promises give us strength for tomorrow. God told Habakkuk he would have to wait for awhile until God unfolded what he had promised in the vision: “…if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Second, he tells us that this spiritual strength is an overcoming kind of thing.  The courageous believer is made so because he realizes that “…everything which is in opposition has no power to conquer him and prevent him from reaching his objective, omnipotent help being on his side.”  I think this is what the Psalmist was talking about when he said in Ps. 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The tomorrow that looms before us in such a foreboding way is no match for the omnipotent help we have been promised by our Lord.  Fear must go away in light of what we have been promised. When we feel our courage slipping away remember what Isaiah said in Isaiah 27:5 “Let him take hold of My strength.” Tomorrow loomed big in David’s eyes as he realized the people were planning on stoning him because the Amalekites had raided his headquarters in Ziklag.  How did he deal with that potential disaster?  The text tells us “But David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (I Sam. 30:6). He counted on God’s strength to be there in his tomorrow!

Third, he reminds us that spiritual strength is maintained by our obedience. God has given us grace to obey. We have to know that something desirable is at stake in tomorrow’s battle and that desirable thing is for us to persevere in obeying our Lord no matter what the enemy chooses to use against us.  We should know our enemy. We are acquainted with the Devil, the world, and our own flesh. On the flip side, our enemies are well acquainted with us too! That is why we need this strength from God. We not only desire to defeat our enemies but at the same time we also want to stay obedient. As we experience God’s strength,wait for it, and rely on its promise  we are able to persevere in obedience. Paul reminds us in II Cor. 10:4-5 of this:  “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power (strength) to destroy strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

David got it. In  Ps. 119:115 he declares: “Depart from me, you evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.”

Don’t let tomorrow loom too large!  Omnipotence has gone ahead of us! Take courage and draw on his strength. Take the psalmists words into your soul:“Be of good courage,and He will strengthen your heart” Ps. 27:14.  Think it thru

 

HOW SHOULD I FEEL ABOUT THE COMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS?

election

Robert Morgan in his delightful book entitled “The Strength You Need” observes that “The Bible hums with the energy of divine omnipotence.”  What does this have to do with the upcoming election?  Well, for one, God is involved in American politics, because the Scripture teaches us that God sets up one leader and takes down another [Ps. 75:7].  This sovereign activity of God gives me comfort as I listen to debates and read information on our choices for president and realize that neither choice excites me.  What should excite us is that God is at work in spite of the downward trend of the political process.

This reality does not excuse our due diligence and responsibility as citizens of this great country. But when the dust settles and we have done all we can,  we can be assured that God can use the worst leaders to move forward His agenda. This relieves our frustration and grief so that we can go on serving the Lord long after the election is over and if …horror of horrors….the president that was elected is as bad as we imagined, we need not despair.

Historically, the church has survived and thrived under extremely oppressive governments. The Gospel penetrates every kind of culture and governmental style. Our turn may come to be under such governance.  But Paul was right when he said about his own loss of freedom: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” [II Tim. 2:8-10].

Could we also view the abysmal choices [my personal opinion]  of presidential candidates before us as a means God may use to bring revival to His church?  Revivals in church history were costly, but they were incredibly  refreshing.  Could it be many people will come to Christ and join us in heaven because of this election?  God has never promised to keep our land free or intact as the United States of America. I think God has uniquely blessed this land and its people and I love it and pray for it. But biblically, God’s promises far surpass the future of the USA. God has bigger things in the works. We cannot afford to lose sight of His sovereign hand working His will and His plan to move us to His purposes and goals.

Here should be our election mantra: “Pray…Vote…Trust the Sovereign God…Continue to share the Gospel…but don’t worry…even wicked men can get saved…and even wicked men can be used of God to fulfill his purposes.”  –Think it Thru  Tom Wright