It is easy now days to feel a bit hopeless when we read or watch the news! We seem to be lurching from one emergency to the next without resolving anything. Our world seems to be burning up, flooding and dying. Wars or the rumors of war are rampant and there seems to be no end or solution in sight!
Then I ponder anew the predicament of Daniel. He was a stranger in a foreign land with no hope of returning home. He had faced the prospect of death and uncertainty repeatedly. Now, as chapter 2 unfolds, he is threatened with death along with his three friends.
First, he inquires when Arioch, the commander sent to kill them, what is going on and why. When he receives the answer, that the king wants to be told what his dream is and the meaning of it, Daniel turns to God. Daniel knew from experience that with God nothing is impossible. Daniel also understood that impossible situations are designed by God to reveal to us and the world God’s nature and power.
After Daniel receives the answer from God he prays, “Praise the name of God forever and ever. For he alone has all wisdom and power. He determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he himself is surrounded by light, I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”
As world and national events unfold, we would be wise to learn from Daniel and do likewise.
A few days ago as I was beginning my day I wondered how all the obligations could fit together. I was working on paperwork in the morning, needed to deliver a Christmas
tree in the early afternoon and be back home by 4:30 to meet someone who wanted to purchase some old barn wood from me. I said to God. I cannot do all this in a timely way. I need your help.
Within a few minutes of this prayer I was called, the tree delivery was moved up to right then. Be at the State Farmer’s Market as soon as I could get there. I thought, “What a prompt answer!” Then, getting to downtown I ran into a traffic jam as the Christmas parade had just ended. What should have been a trip of 20 minutes took closer to 2 hours! But I decided not to doubt God’s answer and used that time to talk with my Father.
It took much longer to deliver the large 14 foot tree as we had to carry it up steps, put it in a stand and set it upright. Again I wondered how God was going to work it all out. By the time I was on my way home it was 3:17 and I figured I had plenty of time. Then I saw a text message that said they would arrive early, at 3:30 instead of 4:30. By this time I was clearly seeing the hand of God in all this and I was sure that I would see their arrival just at the right time. Sure enough, just as I finished moving something out-of-the-way and uncovering the wood, at that exact moment they arrived.
And the people buying the wood were missionaries and we shared Christ for an hour.
What I learned anew from this is that only when we invite God into our problems and challenges with persevering faith in the face of circumstances which might cause us to doubt, will we witness the almighty Hand of God.
Three years ago this Thursday, I stood outside our home in Wake Forest pondering my future as I was to leave pastoral ministry in a few days and begin several years of disability leave. I asked God, “Are You done with me now?”
In the next moment I looked up to the sky and immediately over our house, as if resting right on top of it was a full, complete TRIPLE Rainbow! I have never before or since seen anything like it. I immediately spoke again to my Father, “Well, I guess that is my answer!”
There was nothing in my circumstances that should have indicated that, as I believed in that moment, my best years of ministry were still ahead. I was 62 years old and ending my 26 year career of being a pastor in the United Methodist Church.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross His few followers all fled to their homes and except for His mother, John the disciple and a few other women, He was left alone…. even by God!
Yet in more than two thousand years since no life before or since has had such a profound effect on humanity as His “One Solitary Life”.
What accounts for this? What God did in resurrecting His lifeless body from the grave and pouring out His Holy Spirit on all who believe.
Last Sunday I preached and led a worship service for the first time in almost four years. There were about 12 people present and all of them past the age of 65. Yet I felt full of hope and joy. I saw in their eyes Life as a result of hearing anew and afresh the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.
It is never what WE do that matters. It is what God is able to do because of our sacrificial gift of ourselves in believing obedience to the one, living, true God.
I love to travel! I still remember our last trip overseas and what joy we found as we visited the beautiful Lake District in the northern UK.
In the same way Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, “God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.”
Then in Matthew 5:10 He says, “God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of God is theirs.”
Wait a minute! First He gives them the Kingdom and then it is theirs. What does this mean? It is just like the Promise given to Israel of the Promised Land. All of Israel was given the promised land but only a few ever entered it of the many thousands promised it. And why? Because their belief in the promises of God only became a reality when they gave “feet to their faith”.
In the same way, as Christians, we are promised the Kingdom of God. But only those who put their trust in Him into practice in their lives show the evidence of their faith to actually possess His great gift. This is why He says there will be great anguish and many will cry because they are shut out.
Our churches are full of those who received the promise but failing to act upon their faith, living it out through a long life of one continued obedience, they dispossess themselves of the Kingdom of God. They become the salt thrown out and trampled under foot (Matt. 5:13). They become the branches cut from the vine and burned in the fires. (John 15:6). We must heed the words to the Church in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The one who overcomes will inherit all these things. Thanks be to God for His incredible Gift. But what profit is there if we gain the whole world but lose our immortal souls?