Hope

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Chronicles 11

bible

Read 1 Chronicles 11:1-9

…because the Lord Almighty was with him.”

What do you put your hope in?  What do you have faith in?  What do you believe in?  What thing, if you have it, puts your life in order?  What thing, if you were to lose it, would cause your life to unravel and deconstruct?  The Israelites thought they had a King.  They thought they had a savior who would protect and bless them.  Then, abruptly, that King was taken from them.  The absence of this King left a void that the Israelites were forced to look into.

The loss of something we love causes us to ask questions.  We ask ourselves, “Why is this loss so painful?”  “Why do I miss it so much?”  “Why do I feel incapable of moving on?”  “What will I do without it?”

When we face loss, our most honest and sincere feelings are revealed.  When seeking answers to our reaction we often find uncomfortable truths:  that our love for what we lost was unnaturally great and what we loved was naturally finite.

To know God as HE is and to love Him for who He is we must lose something.  We must take the thing we treasure the most and let it go.  We must begin to see the things in our lives in their natural order.  Our love for people is naturally beautiful, but our faith in them is destructively irrational.  We love things, but a love for a mere thing that cannot love us in return is illogically unreasonable.

But ultimately, what we must lose is neither a person nor a thing.  We must understand that the love of self is the greatest opponent to the love of God in our lives.  The truth is that without Jesus Christ we are lost, sheep without a shepherd.  We will find temporary success, but only a success that is fleeting and painful to lose.  In Jesus Christ there is no loss, except for the loss of the one thing that could never truly give you anything in the first place.  In Jesus Christ we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and in Jesus Christ we are no longer investing in a losing battle.  With Jesus Christ, the loss of our self is the painful first step to a life where our treasure is Christ, and to know Him is gain.  With Jesus Christ we have a King that has already won the victory. Through faith in His life, death and resurrection, that same victory is ours and we can and will overcome.

 

 

Born Again: Trouble (Psalm 102)

Welcome to Week 2 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Psalm 102 has to say about “Trouble.”

Read Psalm 102

When someone is suffering, a typical recommendation is to read the Psalms. While this is an excellent idea that I completely endorse, we first have to realize that most Psalms are separated into two parts.

The primary reason we tend to recommend the Psalms in times of trouble is the “hopeful” sections. It’s great to be able to read how others before us have also suffered and endured pain like our own. However, without the hopeful conclusion at the end of many Psalms, all we are left with are groups of people sharing pain together, which is not that encouraging.

As I read Psalm 102, I wish I knew more about the anonymous psalmist, the “afflicted person” who is struggling and in despair. Why? What happened? What brought this man down to such depths that he feared the absence of God more than anything else?

While this question captivates my attention, yet more astonishing is the eventual turnaround in his spirit. The final two-thirds of the Psalm are nothing but praise for God. Not only that, but this writer is so confident in his hope of a new world with people who will worship and commune with God in new and wonderful ways.

This man didn’t have the Psalms!  Nor did he have the encouraging words of the apostles, and even more, he didn’t have Jesus and the Gospels!  Yet, he believed with his entire being in “the Gospel,” the “the good news.”

Psalm 102 is the prayer of a person in trouble, without a solution or happy ending, without the rich fulfillment of prophecy that would come in the ensuing centuries. Yet we, with our plethora of Bibles and Bible resources, tend to so easily let ourselves be overcome with despair and trouble to the extent that the mere mention of hope in a better future gets our eyes rolling. Many hallmarks emerge from a born again spirit and, while all are important, none amount to much without joy and hope. How often are Bible studies, church services or prayers marked with somber silence and not joyful laughter? Do we run into the future that God has prepared for us with feet like the deer? Do we fly into the unknowable future with wings like eagles?

Whether we do or do not, this man apparently did. And he managed this without the foretaste of the Kingdom of God delivered in full by the Son himself.

As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, the process of discipleship starts with suffering, but always ends in hope. And hope never disappoints. Hope brought this man out of the darkness. A person born again by the Spirit has taken hold of the Son and his Gospel never to let go.  Troubles only have the ability to control our lives if we ignore the One who offers us a way out.  Living without the joy of salvation and the hope of heaven leaves us futilely wrestling with our troubles.  When we are born again, we know that trouble will come, but will never be a match for the hope we have found in Jesus.