This week's post comes from Josh Mullins, one of the guys who does some outreach for Here Am I:
At one time I was driving a lot for my job. And during those times I was always trying to set my heart on God, turning my car into a "mini worship service" before facing the world at work, and before seeing my family after a day of working in the world. Having scoured Spotify for various playlists I came upon a collection of old hymns. They reminded me of the churches I grew up in. But admittedly, as a child, the weight of the words of those songs didn't have the same effect they do now. Recently I was listening back through the playlist on a long drive. And, in the midst of all that is happening in the world and the United States, I was reminded of just how weighty those words can truly be...
I think it is safe to say that those among the Believers in Christ desire that God be close and active in our lives. We greatly desire to see His working in our troubles. We want to see suffering end in our own lives and the lives of others. We want to see justice for the innocent. And, there's nothing wrong with these things. Needless to say, we want to see God fix the broken parts of this fallen world.
You know, John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that He would fix all the world's problems and make life an easy place to live, free from troubles, suffers, and injustice." John the Baptist doesn't declare, "Behold the Lamb of God who has come to bring us lives of ease and comfort!" Interestingly enough, this is what the people of Israel were expecting. The Messiah was supposed to come and throw off the yolk of Roman oppression, remove the Gentiles from their land, and reestablish the throne to the rightful descendant of King David. That's what Palm Sunday was really all about. They were celebrating the Messiah riding into Jerusalem to overthrow Rome. And when Jesus didn't perform, within a week they went from "Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!" to "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"
I think this is where many issues arise with people lacking faith in God. They are expecting Him to step in and fix everything. But that comes later. That's what we're waiting for. But at the moment, we have to hold onto what Christ came to do the first time. Because John 3:16 does say, "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life." In other words, Jesus came to save us from eternal perishing and give us eternal life though faith in Him. John the Baptist does declare, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Jesus came to die as our payment (or the Biblical word, as our propitiation) for our sins. He came to deal with the problem that is causing all the problems in the world - SIN. And through faith in Jesus we don't have to pay for our sins, because He did it for us. And that's not all...
Jesus says in John 16:7 and 13-14, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you...However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak...He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and declare it to you." In going away Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit. He didn't leave to take away the problems we face, but to send the Spirit that we may face them together with Him. He even prays for us later on in John 17:15-23:
"I do not pray that You (the Father) take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for them alone but also for those who will believe in me though their word (that's us!), that they may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me...I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them as You have love Me."
He didn't pray to take us away from the world, but rather that we would be sanctified - set apart - for His work. Jesus set Himself apart, dying for our sins, that we would be sanctified by truth. And, His Word is truth. The Word, the Bible, declares who God is, who Christ is, from beginning to end. To draw near to God, to be used for His purpose, starts in study and application of the Word to our lives. Why? Because we are not of the world. We are sent into the world, set apart, that the world may believe that Jesus is the Messiah. We are here to be light in the darkness, saved from our sin, empowered by the Spirit, living lives set apart according to God's Word, that the world may know that God loves them. In other words, we are called to suffer among the world's problems and glorify God anyway. Our lives are to show His power in spite of the "wrong seems oft so strong" as the hymn says.
Or as another hymn says, "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."
Or as another hymn says, "Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee! E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me."
Are we willing to draw near to God though it cost us everything? Because it cost Jesus everything so we can draw near! Can we see the pain and struggles in the world, in our own lives, and declare, "My God! How great Thou art!"? Jesus prayed for us that we could - that the world would see, through our lives giving glory to the One who will deliver us from this world - that they may know His power in our testimony - that they would be saved from the same suffering world we're seeking to be delivered from? Do we understand that the eternal Hell to come is worse than the world we're suffering in? Do we understand we've been saved to be with Him forever and to live lives declaring His glory to the world?
As I consider these things, I can't help but cry out:
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.
I need Him so I can be the light He has called me to be. It's easy to focus on the suffering. But, brothers and sisters, it is better to focus on Him. Because He hasn't left us orphans. He has given us power to live for Him, and He's given us hope of a time to come when there will be no suffering. Paul says we are supposed to comfort each other with the hope of what is to come. Pain will be taken out. Justice is coming. As the hymn says, "Lord, haste the day, when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll! The trump shall resound, and our Lord shall descend..." This will be a glorious time for believers. But this will also be a horrible time for those who reject Him. And so we're here, waiting for His return, and burning all the brighter to show the power of God in our lives throughout the world...
As Paul declares, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."