The poster accompanying this post illustrates just the first portion of Isaiah 43:2. The second half complements the first and should not be eliminated from it. The entire verse reads:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (NIV).
This is a verse for all seasons and for all people. When I was still a child and not yet a Christian, I summed up my entire philosophical musings with the phrase, “All things are equal.” By this I meant that the experiences of a bird are bird-size, yet they fill that bird’s universe. The experiences of a mighty world leader are mighty-world-leader-size, yet they fill that leader’s universe. While small creatures may have what we might call small problems, yet they completely fill that small creature’s entire world. Large people have large problems, yet those problems can do no more than fill that large person’s entire world. In this sense, “All things are equal,” because everyone experiences their own lives to the maximum amount their lives can hold.
The point is that we should not compare our situations with the situations of others in a judgmental fashion. It makes no difference if we are judging ourselves or judging others. God does not do that. He judges each person according to their own size. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Palm 103:14, ESV). In other words, God does not judge us according to his own godly size; he judges us according to our own size. And we are creatures made of dust. In a parable Jesus told, a master speaks the same words to two people. One had invested and doubled five talents of money, and the other had invested and doubled two talents. Both received the identical commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” (Matthew 25). The master rewarded each according to their size. Yet for each, the reward was equally full, since no doubt it filled that person’s capacity.
Concerning difficulties, to a tiny ant, a trickle of rain water can present a formidable obstacle. To a long distance solo sailor, her obstacle might be a violent storm at sea. The ant should not think that her prayers and cries for help mean less to God than those of the brave sailor. And the brave sailor should not disdain the pleadings for mercy of the tiny ant. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” And in his very next breath, he told the crowd that we should all become like them (Luke 18:16-17).
No problem we will ever face is too big for God to handle, and no problem we will ever face is too small for God to care. God sees each of us for who we are. It does not matter to him if we are the Apostle Paul or if we are the poor widow who placed her last two cents into the synagogue offering. God loves all his children, and he will see us through it all.
Paul tells us in 2Corinthians 3:6, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Of course, he was talking about God’s law written in a believer’s heart. This is the New Covenant Jeremiah spoke of in 31:31. Jesus informed his listeners in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Bible is certain that a new creation in Christ needs the Holy Spirit. And, Christ also was certain that the words he spoke “are spirit and life.” Christians need both the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Here is the Trinity–God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and God the Son, who is the Word.
Because there are false spirits and because our hearts are not always as discerning as they might be, sometimes Christians tend to hear who they think is the Holy Spirit but is not. Or they hear or interpret the Holy Spirit inaccurately. Even famous Christians sometimes do this. Therefore, God has also given us his Word. His Word is a correction against false spirits. But the Holy Spirit is a correction for the dead letter–words alone that carry no life. So, charismatic saints and lovers of Scripture all! Let us heed Paul’s admonition and do as he suggests, “Let my prayer be from the spirit, and equally from the mind. Let my song be from the spirit, and equally from the mind.” In this is life. God in his wisdom and love gave us both mind and Spirit, both his Spirit and his Word.
I grew up in a traditional Presbyterian church that boasted big stained glass windows and a multi-tiered organ. (I’m not saying that’s where I am now.) One of my favorite childhood hymns was, “This Is My Father’s World.”
This Is My Father’s World
Maltie D. Babcock, 1901, Public Domain
This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.
This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
Two lines which keep reverberating in my heart are, “That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” Tell me, when has the world not seen trouble? Trouble is ubiquitous. All my recent ancestors knew seasons of peril and deprivation. Times of peace are the anomaly. Nevertheless, through it all, the light of God’s love shines. He hasn’t lost track of us, and he still intercedes to bless us where we are. During the hard times I say, “This, too, shall pass.” During the good times I say, “God is so good.” God’s love is everywhere, and he saves to the uttermost those whose heart is open to recognize and receive his Son.
Hebrews 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (ESV)
This morning, I invite everyone who may read this to draw near to God through Jesus his Son, so that the rest and peace we can find only in Christ may be ours in abundance.
God is familiar with all our fears. He’s been there with us and for us. He knows how we respond to dangerous or challenging situations–with fear! Consider these verses:
- “Fear not, Abram, …” Genesis 15:1
- “Fear not, for I am with you…” Isaiah 41:7
- “Fear not, you worm Jacob, You men of Israel…” Isaiah 41:14
- “Fear not, O Jacob, my servant…” Jeremiah 46:28
- “Fear not, little flock…” Luke 12:32
But here’s the thing…God rejects NO ONE on account of their fears. Rather, God sees fear as an opportunity for his Holy Spirit to help us build our trust in him. He’s not going to pass us by simply because we are afraid. If God wants to use us, he will use us, no matter our fears. Get used to it. Grow your faith by trusting God and obeying his commands for you, especially when you are afraid. You will discover that God is always with you. He will never let you down. He will walk through those flames with you, and he will hold you close to himself. Yes, you may even die. But the Lord has you in himself. He will resurrect you and give you life eternal.
God is good. Jesus knew fear. Luke tells us that before the agony of the cross, Jesus’s “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground,” (Luke 22:44). Jesus did die, but just look at what his death accomplished. Because of his trust and obedience to God his Father–alongside his fear of the torturous cross–Jesus conquered death itself.
The important thing is always pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Stay very close to the Holy Spirit in your heart and in God’s word of Scripture. Ask the Lord to help you hear him correctly. Check out your understanding of his commandment to you over and over and over again. When you are sure that you are hearing God correctly, then tell him your intentions to act. Ask him to overrule you if you are wrong, to let you know. Plead with him to reveal any mistakes in your heart. When you have done all this, and God is still telling you to go, then go. He will not fail you. He will be with you. We have his unbreakable promise on this. Our reward for allegiance to Jesus our King is eternal life–with him, forever. That is the best part.
Be strong and take heart, and have no fear, for it is the Lord your God who is going with you. He will not take away his help from you. —Deuteronomy 31:6
God our Creator is our Father. His being is Trinity. When he incarnated, he chose a Father/Son relationship, that is, parent/child. Until Moses, God’s one commandment to humankind was to be fruitful and multiply. Clearly, God favors families. He wants us to favor family, as well. This begins with our parents. Today is grandparents day. If our grandparents taught their children well, then we will be honoring both parents and grandparents today. Some of us will likewise receive honor. When we honor our father and our mother, we also honor our Creator-Father, God. This is a good way to give him pleasure in us.
The season of suffering besetting the world right now offers ample opportunity for God to test our faith. Although we’re not all being tested the same way, it’s clear from Scripture that testing is spiritually “normal,” and actually good for our faith. Our confidence during trials is that the Holy Spirit will light the way (Christ’s way) in front of us. Christ will grow us and pull us through. As Christians, let’s rejoice together in faith that God is in charge, and he knows what he is doing in each of our lives.
Part of me is impulsive and part of me mulls things over for years and years. Sometimes the impulsive part gets me into trouble. Other times, when I give myself space to be quiet and talk to the Lord in words, I ask his advice on certain issues in my heart. I ask him for wisdom. And when I do so, I admit to him that I’m willing to hear him call me out. When I say I ask him for advice and wisdom, I don’t mean the “super spiritual” items. I mean the practical things I am facing or a task I must perform.
But the results are amazing! So often, when I ask the Lord for his advice, he gives it to me. When I ask him for wisdom, he shows me the way. His Holy Spirit lights the path in front of me.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)
And yes, he does call me out from time to time. I’m grateful for that, because his words are wise. I get to modify my behavior, so I don’t fall into the same traps that lead to bad consequences the next time. So, the verse for today is:
The Lord is good to those who are waiting for him, to the soul which is looking for him. –Lamentations 3:25