DON'T BE AFRAID AS TIME MARCHES ON
Dear Christian friends,
When someone loses a loved one there are all kinds of emotions they go through. There is grief and emptiness. Some get angry… at themselves, because they feel they might have been able to do more. Often that anger is directed toward God, because ultimately he has the power to change all things as he wills. People feel he failed.
Fear is another emotion. Why? Fear rages because of the radical change in life that suddenly takes place. A husband and wife make decisions together. They have plans that no longer apply. Children in the family never lived a day without both mom and dad. Suddenly one is no longer there. Death of parents is the ultimate in getting kicked out of the nest; the children, no matter how old they might be, are forced to fly on their own.
Maybe it is me, but at the beginning of a new year I am reminded of my mortality. I think of those who are not with us here anymore. I think of the year that was and the challenges that we faced. I think of Judy’s eye injury and what seemed to be a long and painful process for her; I think of the challenges that members have faced. But you know what? We are still here. What will happen tomorrow or the day after or the day after or the day after will soon be revealed. We wonder what 2017 holds in store for us.
We could go crazy wondering, but there is a better way - trust the Lord. “Don’t Fear as Time Marches On.” 1) Remember who you are; 2) Remember who you are particularly through life’s trials.
Fear is a paralyzing emotion. The Bible records the first time man ever experienced fear. It goes back to Eden. Adam and Eve sinned. Adam and Eve were afraid. They hid and didn’t want God to find them. Unfortunately sin not only made them fear but also made them very foolish. They tried to hide from God. People whose consciences are plaguing them do that. People stay away from the Lord’s house because by doing so they apparently think that God does not care about them. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Confess your sin. It’s real but also listen to the Lord, “Fear not for I have redeemed you.” We tend to take care of those things that we paid a lot of money for. When I went away to school my dad made me pay for my education. That happened already in my sophomore year of high school. Don’t get me wrong, he employed me during the summers. I made enough money to pay for nine months of tuition/room and board. He wanted me to write out the check. If I had to pay I would be more studious. It was my money. I am forever grateful for that. I have a difficult time with politicians want taxpayers pay for college for everyone. Warren Buffet used the term “investors need to have some skin in the game” when they invest other people’s money. It motivates the investor because he has “skin in the game.” His money is there too. I believe that about education too. People need to have their own in the game so they don’t waste it.
The Lord literally had skin in the game when he invested in us. Jesus came in the flesh to redeem us. He paid to redeem us with his flesh and blood. The one who oversees us and our lives invested himself in us. No wonder he says, “Don’t fear!” The Bible says, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich yet for your sakes became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Don’t fear! Remember who you are. You are God’s investment.
Fear not… for I have summoned you by name. The Lord knows all things. He knows names and faces. He even knows your social security number. He doesn’t need a celestial computer room or heavenly archives to keep track of you. He simply knows each of us, because he is God.
He summons us. He calls us by name. The Bible says he did that even before the creation of the world to be his children. This was his work, not ours. Needless to say it wasn’t chance or luck or being in the right place at the right time when it comes to why we believe in him. He summoned us.
Let’s go even farther. He promises, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. The future he is talking about is not limited to a retirement home in Tennessee or Florida. He isn’t talking about an IRA or pension plan, he is talking about the treasures of heaven. He is talking about our eternal future. We are passing through here to get there. He has a plan for each of his children.
The plan included Baptism by which we were connected with Jesus Christ. By Baptism when he died we died; when he was buried we were buried; when he arose we arose to live a new life. Astounding, isn’t it? Check out Romans 6. At Baptism we were fitted with the robes of Jesus righteousness. The plan included more - a diet of the Bread of Life and the living waters of Christ as we are spiritually fed the promises of God’s Word and the love of Christ. Then there are the trips to God’s altar to receive of Jesus’ intimate love for us. It’s not just bread and wine we receive but the body and blood of Jesus who assures us so personally of his forgiveness for us. You are summoned by name into his family and kept in his family. Don’t fear.
“Fear not…you are mine!” Aren’t those tender words? You are mine. You know what proves it - the nail scarred hands and the slit in the side out of which poured blood and water. Most of all, look at the empty grave that many saw. Remember the eyewitnesses who could say and did say, “Jesus arose from the dead on the third day.” We are one with God. Jesus did it all to make it possible. Now God says you are mine. Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. Remember who you are!
Remember who you are in the trials that you must endure. “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.” Isaiah uses three illustrations to demonstrate the great comfort that we don’t have to fear whatever we have to endure because God is with us. He will see us through.
Water is often symbolic of the testing a believer goes through. The flood. The crossing of the Red Sea. The crossing of the Jordan. The last two are referred to in these verses. Notice he doesn’t say if you pass through the waters, he says, “when you pass through the waters.” If you haven’t yet, you will.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” These words are an obvious reference to the Children of Israel at the Red Sea. The armies of Egypt were behind them, the inescapable waters of the Red Sea were in front of them. Trapped! What were they going to do? Actually, nothing! They would do nothing! God did the work. Israel watched. Moses stretched out his staff over the waters and they divided. The Israelites walked through to the other side of the Red Sea with walls of water on both sides.
But imagine what it must have been like! Walls of water on both sides. What a test! Was it going to pour down on them or not? We know the answer; the Lord was with them.
What’s ahead for you? The Lord only knows. Are there going to be tests? You better count on it. You might be frightened. You might have doubts. But yet the Lord promises every child of God, “I am with you!” He will see you through.
“And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” People often forget there were two water crossings the Children of Israel were part of. One at the beginning of their forty years in the wilderness and the other one at the end. They needed to cross the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. The river was at flood stage. How were they going to cross? God told the Levites who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant (symbolizing the presence of God) ahead of them to keep walking. When their feet hit the water the waters backed up. The Jordan was dry. Two million crossed and no one had to swim for it. God’s promises are not empty promises.
How is the Lord going to get you through this next year or however long he wants to leave you on this earth? His promise is that he will do it. Even though there might be pain and hardship, the Lord says whatever challenges you face will not sweep over you. Don’t be overwhelmed by self-pity of doubts. Count on the fact that he will get you through. I have seen it again and again in the families I have been privileged to my minister to and I have seen it a few times in the lives of my own family.
It makes us stronger. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” There is another place in the Bible that speaks about the Lord testing faith to make it ever stronger. When you walk through the fire, it is a test – it can even be a very painful one. Yet that faith, says Peter, “of greater worth than gold even though refined by fire might proved genuine and result in glory when Jesus Christ is revealed.” To refine silver and gold heat is applied and the precious metals become liquid. Impurities surface and they are swept away with pure gold and silver left. Faith in the Lord is made stronger.
The apostle Paul said that when he was weak, he was strong. Sounds kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? But think that through. We are actually weak when we think we have all the answers. We are weak when we are leaning on ourselves and not on God.
Faith is purified when we see that our pardon, our strength, our hope, our resolve, our future, our lives depend on him. When we see him as our strength, our Old Faithful, that’s when we are strong. He has our lives plotted and planned.
He promises, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Who is he? He is “Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” This is not John Smith talking to you, this is the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Remember who you are! Remember who you are even when we go through trials.