Light in Darkness

June 25th, 2019

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright—for the gracious, compassionate, and righteous. (Psalm 112:4)

Are you discouraged? Do you feel darkness surrounding you? Discouragement is too often part of our thinking.  

Here is a promise that should lift our spirits. When anyone determines to think and act graciously, compassionately, and righteously, the Lord notices and turns to aid him.

First, thinking positive things about others, rather than negative, seeing them as objects of grace changes our attitude about life. When we think this way towards others a sadness is removed from our hearts. It is as though the blinds that kept out the light are taken away.  

To be constantly annoyed by others, to be quick to think the worst, to be quick to judge and feel false emotions of our superiority and their inferiority, is to invite darkness to make itself at home in our soul. I know so many deeply conservative Christians who are also deeply unhappy. They see only the bad, and sadly they are so quick to believe the worst, that they have lost their joy and their hope. They quickly latch onto the worst news items, even if such “news” is not based on fact at all, or even a misrepresentation of facts.

Why not be gracious? Philippians 4:8-9 says:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

Second, when we think graciously, we act graciously. Our actions follow our thoughts. We live in a fallen and sinful world, but we live in this world with a new hope that comes through Christ. Our personal world need not be darkened by hate and doubt and sin. Our own hearts can rejoice daily and can see the true potential of each life. And when we think this way we will act in accordance with our thoughts.

Years ago, when our daughter was a young teenager seeking to grow in her faith, she was going through that “agony of the soul” stage where she was understanding both her own sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world itself. She was seeking unsuccessfully to share her faith with her friends at school, and one day I asked her: “Are you seeking to win your friends to Christ so they can be as miserable as you?”

She outgrew this stage and has gone on to be a beautiful Christian woman. How we need Christians to witness not just with their words — and it IS essential to bear a verbal witness about Christ — but also with their attitudes and their kindness, AND their fairness. 

Third, when we think and act graciously, the Lord comes to our aid. He rushes to help us, to sustain us, to protect us: “Light dawns for the upright!” Consider these scriptures:

“A generous soul will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Prov. 11:25).

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

“Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your harvest; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). 

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each one should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not out of regret or compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:6-7).

“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Prov. 28:27).

None of this means we shut our eyes to the reality of sin, to the evil that is in men’s hearts, and certainly not the evil that is in ours. It does not mean that we shut our eyes to the judgment of God or the fallenness of this world. It means, rather, that we do not let our imagination stop there. We consider also the grace of God and the potential of each life. We are willing to risk having our words and gracious behavior rejected – which they will be from time to time.   

When we do this we will live in light, we will touch others with hope and love, and God will come to our aid. 

Psalms

Longing for Salvation

June 24th, 2019

My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119:81-82 NIV)

Our hearts may simultaneously be both at rest and in longing. We long for the fulfilment of all of God’s promises, but we can be at peace while still in the journey.

The word “salvation” in Hebrew meant both spiritual salvation and physical deliverance from danger. In this earthly life all such moments of peace and safety are fleeting. We may establish peace and put an end to conflict for a season, but the minute the armistice is signed a new enemy seeks to take advantage and the old enemy reminds us he is not fully vanquished. 

The only real inner peace we know on this earth comes through faith in God’s promises and the enjoyment of His presence, reminding us that He will fulfil all of His promises to us in His time. We walk by faith. These moments of peace are precious. We are assured by His Word, comforted by His Spirit, and encouraged by the fellowship of believers, and in these we have a taste of future glory. And we should treasure these in our hearts.

But there is more to come! The journey of faith continues to move toward the climactic and ultimate peace of God. The psalmist said that his eyes failed looking for the fulfilment of God’s promise – a moving example of a heart that is not fully satisfied with only moments of peace, but desires the permanent and complete peace and comfort of God.

Humanism with its godlessness sees the Christian hope of eternal peace as mere escapism and fantasy. They reject all such ideas of moral perfection and holiness and peace. So they live life without intention, without hope, without goals, and without God. They muddle through and think that muddling is enough, for it is all we can hope for.

The Christian knows the challenges of life, knows the loneliness and pain of the soul, but his imagination does not stop there. He does not just muddle through. He is a pilgrim on a journey to a better place. God pours His love into his heart, and his moments of peace remind him that the best is still yet to come. In faith he looks to God’s promises and longs for them, and that longing produces in him patience, hope, faith, and opens his heart to receive the comfort of God.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5)   

Psalms