Monday, November 2, 2009

One Way to Joy

This Sunday we'll hear Jesus call attention to a poor widow who gives everything to God (Mark 12:41-44). She came to worship and put every cent into the offering. Perhaps she had learned that she only had one real hope in life. Perhaps the sorrows had multiplied to the point where there was no sense having any hope any more in her own resources. She was releasing every last hope to God. That's such a wise thing to do. It's really the only way to joy.

I heard the same thing from two friends recently.

The first, quoting a devotion written in God's voice, said:
"I would have you know this, that from the moment you placed all in my hands, and sought no other aid, from that moment I have taken the quickest way possible to work out your salvation, and to free you."
The other wrote to a friend who was hurting:
"People are going to fail you. Trust me, I keep learning this the hard way. That's why you don't fully trust people and you just turn your eyes upon Jesus, because he will not fail you. Just think about what I said because it is so true... I am guessing your status has something to do with someone promising you something. It hurts I know. But let go of them for awhile and focus on God. It works!"
I was thinking of this earlier today as I was visiting older folks who are losing everything on their way to death. And I'm thinking about these things now as I'm getting ready to preach at a really sad funeral tomorrow. A little 3 month old baby died. It has hit the family really hard. The mother and father, the grandparents, friends... So sad. So hard. So terrible.

Terrible things do happen. People we trust abandon us. Death looms. Disaster hits us out of nowhere and for no reason. When these things happen it can make us wonder if there is really much goodness in life at all. Without hope in God this life is a pain pit with a few quickly vanishing joys thrown in before--AHA!--cruel fate throws in the next wave of suffocating suffering.

Without God, someone said recently, this world is hell. You and I might be able to push that out of our minds by keeping ourselves busy or entertained or drugged, but sooner or later the cold hard reality of life will catch us up. Sooner or later, we will fall.

As I'm thinking about these things, I realize that it's no wonder that those who have not grown up with a solid trust in God have a hard time believing in him or trusting him. Even those of us who have known God's love find our faith shaking under us! How can we accept a good God when so many people's days and nights are filled with unrelenting suffering?

There's really only one way. It's by getting to know Jesus and by giving all of our hope to him.

Jesus is God. He came to live among us in this broken, sinful world. He didn't need to. Jesus was equal with God. He lived outside this broken creation. But he saw our suffering and, full of mercy and abundant love for sinners, Jesus came down to us from heaven, immersed himself in our pain, experienced total rejection and died in order to set us free from hopelessness.

How did that happen? Somehow, when Jesus died as an innocent man for us, and when he defeated death and rose again, Jesus destroyed the power of death and sin and hell--whether in this life or the next. And when we place our hope in him, we can experience his joy, amid the suffering, in this life now--and forever in the new world God has promised.

That's what I hope to share tomorrow. Jesus love is beyond question. Nothing can separate us from it. He doesn't force us to accept it, however. We can turn away. But the powerful Word of God can break the hardest of hearts, plant itself deep in our souls, and bring life and love no matter what our present or past life is or has been like. And then when we can just accept it, just let it come in, we can have joy--joy that is not just for this life only--but joy that abounds and overflows to a future without tears, without death, without pain--in heaven--in the wonderful kingdom of God.

Please pray that hearts and minds will be open to hearing a bit of this hope tomorrow, and that we will abandon all else, putting all our hope in God.

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