Saturday, March 06, 2010

A HOPE AND A FUTURE



“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). This verse was a great comfort and assurance to me during a very uncertain time in the early years of my Christian life. Faced with a difficult situation I had never experienced before, the words of Jeremiah the prophet were spoken to me just days apart by two different people as a means of assuring me of God’s presence and the wisdom of His ways. Twenty-five years later, I have never forgotten them. The words at the end of the verse, “to give you an expected end,” are best understood to mean a hope and a future. As believers, we know that all of our tomorrows are in God’s hand, but the circumstances of life often cloud our vision of His gracious love, and we begin to feel forsaken by God. Brethren, I can assure you, on the full testimony of Holy Scripture, that the Lord does know the paths we take, because He has planned the course of our lives for His glory: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23,24).

Take for example the patriarch Job: Here was a righteous man who experienced trials, the likes of which no mortal man has ever encountered, to the extent that many do not believe in the historical reality of the book which bears his name. They deem it impossible for any one man to experience such horrific things. But the inspired statement of James, the brother of the Lord, dispels this idea: “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:10,11).

Although we cannot say with absolute certainty when and where Job lived, we know that he is not a character of fiction. We have heard about the “patience of Job” because Scripture records his story, and “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19a). In a very short period of time, Job lost his earthly possessions, his servants, his children, and his health. To say that Job’s future looked bleak would be a gross understatement. Anguish upon anguish fell upon him, seemingly without purpose. Yet, in the midst of it all, Job did not succumb to his wife’s advice, “Curse God, and die” (2:9). To the contrary, Job rebuked her and exclaimed, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10b).

How could this be? Job endured because he understood that in a fallen world, sorrows come upon the just and the unjust -- no man is exempt from heartbreaking loss. Suffering and death are the norm in this life, not the exception (Genesis 3:16-19): “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a); “Through the offence of one many be dead” (Romans 5:15b). This is the law of cause and effect. Job had his theology right in this regard, but his theology was more than head-knowledge. Job’s consolation in his trial of faith was the firm belief in his heart that God makes no mistakes; nothing is without purpose or plan: “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:8-10) .

If only we could grasp this, brothers and sisters, we would look beyond the darkness of the night, knowing that the sun will rise again in the morning because God is faithful. He does know what we are going through and accompanies us on our journey (Hebrews 13:5). Suffice it to say that the Christian always has a hope and a future because his hope is in the God who made the heavens and the earth and who sustains everything by the Word of His power (Colossians 1:17). If the universe cannot be shaken free of the hand of God, neither can we be, no matter what we may be facing. Our trials may be long and hard, but we, too, will “come forth as gold” because the Divine goldsmith is using them to purify the dross from his children, or as in the case of Job, to showcase their faith: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6,7). This truth reminds us that part of the journey of the Christian involves not only the uncertainty of the moment, but also the assurance of a glorious end.

Dear reader, are you presently in “heaviness through manifold temptations [trials]”? Do not despair; remember that in every situation in life, God is at work in us and will continue that good work until the day of our complete redemption, when we will be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Perhaps it will be sooner than we think, and what a day of rejoicing it we will be when we will be like Him: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

May I suggest, in closing, that you reflect upon the truth that God’s ultimate plan for you is one of peace and not of evil, to give you the brightest tomorrow? I am convinced that this is true for all God’s children without exception, and when that plan is fulfilled in our lives, we will say with the saints on high that it was exactly what we would have chosen if we had the infinite knowledge of God. He is preparing a people for eternity with Him. That, my friends, is long-range planning and far beyond our ability to understand. May we, like Job, find our rest and comfort in the Almighty, whom no man can instruct nor reprove (Job 40:2).

One short life for watching with the Saviour,
Eternal years to walk with Him in white,
One short life to bravely meet the disaster,
Eternal years to reign with Him in light,
One brief life for weary toils and trials,
Eternal years for calm and peaceful rest,
One brief life for patient self-denials,
Eternal years for life, where life is best.

- Anonymous

In His name,

Pastor Tom

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