The room seems a bit dark.Â Would you mind if I turn on a light?Â John tells us a very simple but important truth regarding who God is. He writes, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
God is light.Â The truth of this ought to affect the way that we think about God.Â The concept of â€œlightâ€ is all about the purity, holiness, and rightness of God.Â God doesnâ€™t do things with hidden evil motives.Â God is not sitting up in heaven thinking up ways to make you miserable so He can laugh at you and watch you suffer.Â This is not what God is all about.Â We may indeed go through difficult times as Godâ€™s children, but itâ€™s not because of dark scheming.Â Godâ€™s plans for His children are for the good.
The truth John shares also affects the way we see ourselves.Â If we claim to have a relationship with God, but our lives are filled with disobedience and darkness, something isnâ€™t right.Â Our relationship with God ought to be moving us out of our old dark, evil ways, and closer to God.Â In fact John says that if you claim to know God but live a life of darkness, youâ€™re lying (1Jn. 1:6) and you donâ€™t know God like you claim.Â â€œBut waitâ€, you say.Â â€œI am a Christian but I still have some â€œdarkâ€ things in my life.Â What do I do about those things?â€Â John goes on to say, â€œBut if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sinâ€ (1 John 1:7).Â Turn on the light.Â Make the right choices.Â Youâ€™ll find others to help you.Â Youâ€™ll find cleansing.Â Just turn on the light.
Sometimes itâ€™s because of the â€œbusy-nessâ€ of life.Â Sometimes itâ€™s because of a particularly difficult time we may be going through at the moment.Â Sometimes itâ€™s because of the season of dryness where God just doesnâ€™t seem so close any more.Â But no matter what the reason, from time to time we all run into the problem of forgetfulness.Â Call it Spiritual Alzheimerâ€™s.Â We forget who we are.Â We forget what God has done in our lives.Â Peter is careful to remind us of what we often forget:Â â€œBut you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercyâ€ (1 Pet 2:9-10).
Beloved, take time with me to stop and remember.Â Put aside your concerns and burdens for just a moment and think about how God sees you.Â He hasnâ€™t rejected you, He has chosen you.Â He considers you royalty. Â You are special to Him.Â And He has a purpose for your life.Â His desire is that people see and hear you proclaiming the praise of the God who has changed you.Â Before God worked in our lives we were nothing.Â But now we can humbly proclaim that weâ€™ve become the people of God.Â We are a people who have received and continue to receive mercy beyond measure.
Thinking about these things may not change your circumstances, but it might change your attitude.Â Peter doesnâ€™t promise a way out of difficulty but he shows us a way to get through it.Â Remember who you are.
A word for the weary.Â The writer to the Hebrews was concerned about his readers.Â He saw the difficulties they were going through.Â He was aware of persecution they faced.Â He knew about the temptations to quit.Â One of the main thrusts of his letter involved the encouragement to not quit.Â We see this theme throughout the entire epistle, the encouragement to â€œendureâ€, to â€œkeep believingâ€.Â After having painted a picture of the saints in heaven who all endured through lives filled with difficulties and obstacles, he wraps up the letter with a word to run the race before them with endurance (Heb. 12:1).Â But even pondering the saints who have endured isnâ€™t quite enough, so the writer gives us one more person to think about:
â€¦looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Heb 12:2-3 NKJV)
Beloved, keep your eyes on Jesus.Â As the â€œauthorâ€, He is the one who first sparked faith in our lives.Â As the â€œfinisherâ€ He is the one who will see us through to the end.Â There is no greater example of a person who has endured difficulty than our own dear loving Lord.Â When our eyes are on our circumstances we will become weary and discouraged.Â When our eyes are on Jesus, we can keep going.Â Heâ€™s already made it to the finish line and Heâ€™s there cheering you on in your race.Â Keep your eyes on Jesus.
At times there is nothing better than serving the Lord.Â Seeing a hurting friend find comfort in Jesus.Â Being present at the spiritual birth of a believer. Watching prayer being answered before your very eyes.Â It doesnâ€™t get any better than this.Â But if I was to be honest, Iâ€™d have to let you know that there are times when it isnâ€™t so â€œfunâ€ to serve the Lord.Â There are times when God calls us to say that difficult thing to a rebellious friend. There are times when Satan attacks on all fronts â€“ spiritually, emotionally, and physically.Â Jeremiah was a one of those fellows who knew how difficult it could be to serve the Lord.Â He had people accusing him of being a traitor to his country and mocking his ministry.Â He had people plotting to kill him.Â As you or I would expect, Jeremiah had times where he struggled with all of this.Â And yet he kept going.Â Jeremiah might have experienced times of anxiety, fear, and depression, but he continued to do the things God asked him to do.Â How did he keep going with such a rough life?Â Iâ€™ll let Jeremiah tell you himself:
â€œYour words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hostsâ€ (Jer 15:16).Â Jeremiah kept going because of a connection he had with God through Godâ€™s Word.Â He learned to find spiritual nourishment in Godâ€™s Word.Â He learned to even find emotional stability (joy and rejoicing) from Godâ€™s Word.Â He found his sense of purpose, that God had called him, right from Godâ€™s Word.Â Beloved, when life and service arenâ€™t so â€œfunâ€, get back to your foundation.Â Seek God in His Word.Â Find His call on your life.
When a person truly comes in contact with God, they change.Â It is not possible for a finite and flawed individual to truly taste of Godâ€™s mercy and grace and not be changed.Â Yet sometimes we forget just what that change should look like.Â As Paul writes his young disciple Titus, he clarifies what that changed life should look like:Â Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men (Titus 3:1-2 NKJV).
A life changed by grace is one that learns the role of authority and the importance of submitting to authority.Â It is not a life of rebellion, but a life that is learning to obey and to be ready to do good works.Â The life changed by grace is a life that learns to get along with others and to speak well of others instead of slandering or mocking them.Â The life of grace is one characterized as â€œpeaceableâ€, or literally, â€œnot picking a fightâ€.Â Grace is not about winning the argument; itâ€™s about loving the individual.Â The life of grace is one that is â€œgentleâ€, a word that speaks of treating people fairly or evenly.Â The life of grace is one that shows â€œhumilityâ€ to everyone.Â Here the idea of humility is the kind of attitude that responds to each situation with gentleness, no matter what happens or how uncomfortable that may be.
Beloved, may our lives be characterized by grace.Â May we be reminded over and over that God has shown us so much mercy that it has changed us.Â May our relationships be marked not by how much we try to â€œfixâ€ each other, but by how much we have been changed by grace.
And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” (Isa 25:9 NKJV)
Sometimes life gets so crazy that itâ€™s easy to forget what our goal is in life.Â It might be the pressure of a tough week at work.Â It might be a family crisis.Â It might be a situation where you feel like you are being attacked. It might be a life so filled with things to do that you have trouble catching your breath.Â If you travel too far under those kinds of conditions, itâ€™s easy to get disillusioned and want to quit.
Beloved, we have a goal that weâ€™re heading towards.Â And it is helpful once in a while to stick our heads out of the whirlwind of life and catch another glimpse of the end of the race.Â We are headed to see Jesus.
What a glorious day that will be.Â After all these years of following a God that we cannot see, we will one day see Him face to face.Â When you drive a car through the mountains you donâ€™t always see your destination.Â Yet there comes a point where you make it around that last corner and see the place youâ€™ve only dreamt about.Â One day we will come around that final corner of life and we will see Jesus.
Arenâ€™t you wondering what His face will be like?Â I donâ€™t think Heâ€™ll be upset to see us.Â I think Heâ€™ll be glad that we finally arrived.Â What joy it will be to see Him looking at me, to see His look of love, to know that He considers me His beloved, and to enter into His rest.Â Beloved, donâ€™t lose sight of the finish line.Â Keep running toward Jesus.
If Iâ€™m going to be honest with you, I have to let you know that from time to time I become afraid.Â Sometimes itâ€™s the fear of whatâ€™s ahead in the world â€“ when will the next terrorist incident happen.Â Sometimes itâ€™s a fear for people around me â€“ Iâ€™m concerned for the health of a loved one or afraid others close to me will be making bad decisions.Â Sometimes Iâ€™m afraid for the church â€“ silly things like will we meet our bills this month or will that offended person hurt the church.Â And if Iâ€™m going to be totally honest, I have to tell you that sometimes my fears just seem a bit too much to handle.Â Sometimes my fears paralyze me like a deer caught in the headlights.
The Bible tells me what I can do about my fears.Â David wrote, â€œWhat time I am afraid, I will trust in theeâ€ (Psa 56:3).Â Thatâ€™s a good instruction for when I find the fears multiplying.Â I need to turn my thoughts to the Great God of heaven who loves me more than I can ever know.Â I need to remember that I can trust Him.Â He hasnâ€™t forgotten me. The Bible also tells me that thereâ€™s something I can do to avoid going down that road of fear in the first place.Â Isaiah writes, â€œBehold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvationâ€ (Isa 12:2).
Whether itâ€™s by â€œtrusting when Iâ€™m afraidâ€ or â€œtrusting and not being afraidâ€, it all boils down to trust.Â We have a God who is extremely worthy of your trust.Â You may not know what the future holds, but you can trust the one who holds the future.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Gal 6:9 NKJV).
At first glance, it seems that Paul is simply telling us to â€œhang in there and donâ€™t quitâ€.Â But the more I dig into the words Paul uses, the more I realize that thereâ€™s a slightly different flavor to the text.Â The phrase â€œgrow wearyâ€ means to be wearied out or to be exhausted.Â It doesnâ€™t speak of quitting; it speaks of dropping from exhaustion.Â The phrase â€œlose heartâ€ doesnâ€™t really have anything to do with your heart, but more the idea of letting go of something, of being so tired that you lose your grasp on what youâ€™re holding.
I usually look at this verse as Paul being the coach on the sideline yelling at the runner to keep going and give it his best shot.Â And certainly Paulâ€™s goal is to encourage the believers to keep serving the Lord.Â But rather than being an exhortation to keep going, Paulâ€™s warning is really about not becoming so exhausted that you end up quitting.
Some of us take seriously our walk with the Lord.Â We are looking forward to the day that He says to us, â€œWell done, good and faithful servantâ€.Â We are constantly trying to tweak the engine of our life to get as much performance out of it as we can.Â And thatâ€™s all very good.Â But along the way we need to be careful to add the balance of rest.Â An athlete who strives hard for the finish line trains hard to run, but also needs to have a life of balanced nutrition and rest.Â Beloved, the goal is to make it to the finish line.Â Be careful about becoming weary as you serve the Lord.
In the middle chapters of his letter, Paul is trying to address the problems that the Corinthians had getting along with each other.Â He deals with their selfishness in the communion service (1Cor.11), he encourages them to realize that each person in church is important (1Cor.12), and he teaches them that having a few ground rules during the service can keep things orderly and edifying (1Cor. 14).Â But itâ€™s in chapter 13 that Paul talks about the â€œmore excellent wayâ€ to get along, the way of love.Â Paul uses the Greek word â€œagapeâ€ to describe the best way for people in church to get along with each other.
As Paul clarifies what love is all about, he writes, â€œLove suffers long and is kindâ€ (1 Cor 13:4 NKJV).Â The phrase â€œsuffers longâ€ is often translated â€œpatienceâ€, and the original Greek word speaks specifically of being patient with difficult people.Â The word â€œkindâ€ speaks about doing good things for others.Â I usually take these two words as separate things in a long list defining love.Â But the New King James translators stuck that word â€œandâ€ between the two words, and it made me think. Love doesnâ€™t just â€œsuffer longâ€ with difficult people and then is finished with them.Â Love also does good things for those same difficult people.Â Sometimes I will â€œput up withâ€ those difficult people I suffer with, but â€œkindâ€ things are reserved for people I like.Â Do you have difficult people you are learning to â€œsufferâ€ with in your life?Â Then take it a notch further and learn to do good to them as well.Â Godâ€™s kindness changes us (Rom. 2:4).Â May our kindness change others. Â This is the more excellent way.
Sometimes it hits you like a brick wall.Â Sometimes it just comes out of nowhere.Â And sometimes, just when you think you canâ€™t take anymore, it gets worse.Â Iâ€™m talking about the difficulties in life, the things we Christians call â€œtrialsâ€.Â There are certainly good ways of handling trials and bad ways of handling trials, but no matter how you handle them, they still come.Â Some people try to avoid trials at all costs.Â Some live in a pretend world where there are no problems for the Christian.Â But sooner or later reality will hit us all like that proverbial two-by-four across the head.
There arenâ€™t too many people who have gone through what Job went through.Â As the first wave of trials began to hit, Job did quite well, falling down and worshipping God despite the difficulty (Job 1:20-21).Â As the second wave hit, he continued to do well, telling his wife that they needed to not just accept good things from God, but adversity as well (Job 2:10).Â But after awhile, Job began to wear down until he let loose a cry that cursed the day he was born.Â “May the day perish on which I was born, And the night in which it was said, ‘A male child is conceived.’â€ (Job 3:3)Â
Iâ€™m not trying to let us off the hook when it comes to complaining about lifeâ€™s difficulties.Â I just want to say that itâ€™s certainly normal to slip into depression.Â Peter tells us we shouldnâ€™t be surprised by trials (1Pet. 4:12), and that ultimately we should learn to â€œrejoiceâ€ because trials are how we grow and are refined (1Pet. 1:6-7).Â If you have a friend going through a trial, donâ€™t be quick to condemn the complaining.Â Just help them move past it.