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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

Four times those words of encouragement were given to Joshua—three times by God and once by the men serving under him. (Joshua 1)*

And that encouragement is relevant to us today.

For forty years God had been preparing Joshua for leadership by having him serve as Moses’ assistant and military strategist. When Moses died, God appointed Joshua to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land and establish a homeland for Israel.

His primary task was to lead more than two million people into Canaan, defeat the armies of the nations that occupied the land, wipe out those nations because of their wickedness, and divide the land between the twelve tribes of Israel.

It would involve years of protracted warfare against thirty-one kings and their armies, destruction of their cities, and putting to death millions of their inhabitants.

It was a daunting task, and God knew that there would be many times that Joshua would feel overwhelmed, even afraid. So, to assure and strengthen him, God said:

“…I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1:5)

“Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors.” (Joshua 1:6) Joshua would succeed because God would fulfill his promise made to their ancestors.

“Be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7-8) This time God outlined for Joshua how to be strong, courageous, and successful—by obeying the laws that Moses gave him; and by studying and meditating on Scripture at all times.

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged.” (Joshua 1:9) This third encouragement came with the assurance, “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The twenty-four chapters of the book of Joshua provide a fascinating account of how Joshua, with God’s help, succeeded in establishing a homeland in Canaan for the Israelites.

Although we are not called to lead millions of people into battle, we face a different kind of battle—living life and meeting challenges of every-day living that sometimes cause us to be afraid and discouraged.

Whether it is the loss of a job, taking on a new job and new responsibilities, financial problems, declining health, broken relationships, the loss of loved ones, uncertain tomorrows, or a host of other challenges, each of us experiences times of fear and discouragement.

And there will be mornings when, for unknown reasons, we will wake up afraid to face the day.

To us, God says, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged!”

How can we be strong and courageous?

Believe and trust in God’s words of encouragement:

“I will be with you…I will not fail you or abandon you.” (Joshua 1: 5 & 9)

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you. I will hold you up in my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Believe and trust in the words of Jesus Christ as he encouraged his followers:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me.” (John 14:1)

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift that the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)

And take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul who suffered many things in his ministry, but always found strength and encouragement to press on in the task that God had given him in service to Jesus Christ:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

I pray that whatever you’re facing in life at this moment, you’ll put your trust in God, spend time alone with him as you meditate on his holy Word, and seek his guidance, strength, comfort, and direction.

May the words and music of Maurette Brown Clark inspire you to find your comfort and strength in God for the task ahead of you. I encourage you to listen to it in its entirety.

*All Scripture passages quoted above are from the New Living Translation © 2007

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She dropped in midway through our church’s 12-week workshop, “EXPERIENCING GOD: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” and sat beside me at our table.  She had never been to our church before and had been invited to the workshop by one of our members to learn about the will of God.

But we were not far into that evening’s session when our visitor became agitated and began to mutter in disagreement with what was being said about Terry, one of our congregation’s outstanding Bible teachers and leaders, who had died the week before at the age of 57, less than four months after doctors discovered that he had a brain tumor.

Terry had been very successful in business, including the founding and operating of a very profitable sportswear company.  He lived an affluent life and was a highly respected and effective Bible teacher and leader at our church.

But in the 1990s, Terry suffered financial setbacks and lost his business.  For several years he was unable to find work and eventually lost his beautiful home.  Throughout his years of financial setbacks and ordeals, Terry continued to witness and teach about God’s faithfulness, love, and amazing grace – even after his brain tumor was discovered in July 2000, and even after he knew that he was going to die.  Despite our fervent prayers for Terry’s healing, he died within months, leaving behind a wife and two young children.

This discussion disturbed our visitor.  She had become a Christian nearly two years before, with the expectation that not only would Christ save her soul but that he would bless her abundantly in all aspects of life – including her finances, love life, health, and with long life.

When we started to discuss the possibility that the premature death – and not the healing of Terry – might have been God’s will, she became so disturbed that she got up from the table and left the workshop.

As I watched her leave, I suddenly thought of the words and tune of a 1970s pop song by Joe South:

I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden,
Along with the sunshine
There’s gotta be a little rain sometime.

Our visitor expected her new faith in Jesus to be the key to life’s rose garden, but she was unwilling to accept the possibility that along with the beauty of roses could come thorns, storms, droughts, setbacks, failures, and things that kill.

She had apparently embraced the “prosperity gospel” brand of Christianity but couldn’t handle the reality that “s – – t happens” to even those who follow Christ.

And even more significant, she freaked out at the idea that God would allow such things to happen to his followers!

So she ran.

As we begin 2011 and look forward to the coming months, we naturally hope and pray that it will be a great year in which we’ll enjoy the good things of life – health, financial stability and success, happiness, pleasure, and loving relationships, all part of achieving the desires of our heart.

But what if bad things were to intrude into our carefully planned lives?  How do we, as Christians, deal with life in crisis?

There are several principles in Romans 8 that our brother Paul lays out to help us face life’s difficulties:

First, remember who we are and to whom we belong.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. (vv. 1, 2; these and the following verses quoted are from the New Living Translation)

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.  And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by the same Spirit living within you. (v. 11)

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family – calling him “father, dear Father.” For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children. (vv. 15, 16)

Second, we share God’s glorious treasures – as well as his suffering.

And since we are his children, we will share his treasures – for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. (vv. 17, 18)

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. (vv. 22, 23a)

Third, the Holy Spirit sustains us and intercedes for us in the midst of our hardships and sufferings.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (vv. 26, 27)

Fourth, God works in every circumstance – even the bad ones – for our long-range good and to fulfill his purpose for us.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (v. 28)

Fifth, nothing can separate us from God’s love – so live with confidence and joy.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv. 35-39)

I sometimes think about our visitor who walked away from our workshop that night, and I’ve prayed that she has since come to a deeper understanding of her relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

No, God did not promise her a rose garden, but something far better – himself, with all the richness and fullness of his indwelling presence that enables her to live life powerfully, confidently, and joyfully because of his gift of Jesus Christ.

And he promises that, too, to all of us who believe, trust, and follow Christ.

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