A Matter of Trust
The Bible has a lot to say about patience and endurance. It teaches us that when we wait on God, we are to enjoy the wait with anxious anticipation and in the end, we will triumph.
Matthew 10:22 — “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (NIV)
Romans 5:3-4 — “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV)
Galatians 6:9 — “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)
Philippians 1:6 — “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
Hebrews 10:36 — “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (NIV)
Hebrews 12:1 — “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV)
James 5:11 — “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (NIV)
It’s really rotten when you find out you’re wrong, isn’t it? It’s difficult to admit it to yourself but even harder to admit it to someone else, especially to someone who may have suffered from your being wrong. It’s also difficult to put that change from wrong to right into a new way of living. Going from wrong to right—what does it take? If we look at the life of Paul, also known as Saul, we find that it involved several things. An Intervention: Saul had a light-filled, instructive encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. A Time to Realize You Are Wrong: Saul was blind for three days, giving Saul plenty of time and little distraction to realize how wrong he was to persecute the new believers. Call to Living a New Life: God used Ananias to deliver the good news that Jesus wanted Saul to see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit. A Conversion: Saul immediately accepted this word from Jesus, had his sight restored and was baptized. Assistance from Friends: Saul was in danger but was hidden by friends. He was feared by the Jerusalem disciples but Barnabas, another friend, told them the good things Saul was doing. A Change in Identity: Saul, also known as Paul, was later recognized by the name of Paul. He had a change of heart, purpose and identity because Jesus met him on that road. Are you trying to go from wrong to right or just now realizing how wrong your way of living has been? Look at Saul/Paul’s life and see what it takes—an illuminating time with Jesus, perhaps an intervention from someone, a conversion, help from friends and a change in your identity. What will it take for you to go from wrong to right?
Break the Routine
Moses knew what it was like to be alone and in trouble. It started when he was a baby, left alone in a basket, floating among the reeds along the banks of the Nile River. It continued as an adult when he had to run away from his homeland to escape the consequences of killing an Egyptian. You may wonder how often he thought about God’s plan for his life after he was rescued from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as her son. You may wonder if, during the years he lived in a foreign land, he even considered the possibility that God was at work. Those years had to be quite a setback for a person who grew up among royalty. He had plenty of time to regret his crime and attempted cover-up. What’s interesting is how little time we spend thinking about the difficulties that shaped the life of Moses. Our thoughts go straight to Moses leading the Hebrew nation through one of the most incredible comebacks in history. Without the setbacks Moses may have never recognized his limitations and God’s power. Consider this exchange between God and Moses. “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.” Exodus 3:10-12 (NIV) Trusting God through setbacks isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
Get Back Up Again
Peter was a part of the inner circle. He was a leader and often took on the role of spokesman for the Twelve. In the presence of Jesus, Peter was brave. “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:29 (NIV) When he took his eyes off the Lord, he began to sink, but Jesus rescued him. When the detachment of soldiers was sent to arrest Jesus, Peter, “who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant,” and Jesus commanded him to put away the sword. Here again Peter demonstrated his courage as he bravely challenged the soldiers. Peter boasted to Jesus that he would never deny Him, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” But Jesus responded saying to Peter, “…you will disown me three times.” Yet Peter professed his dedication more emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Matthew 26:33-35 (NIV) Peter was courageous and bold while with Jesus. Peter did deny Jesus three times. His courage and bravery escaped him; he folded in the face of possible punishment and imprisonment. The story does not end with Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter made a comeback! Peter was the main speaker on the day of Pentecost, “and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41 (NIV) Even arrest, beatings, and threats of death did not stifle Peter’s devotion to preaching about the risen Savior. Acts 5 (NIV) Peter’s acknowledgement and acceptance of the Holy Spirit delivered his comeback and returned him to the role of a leader. That same Holy Spirit seeks to lead your life.
The story of Jacob allows us to see how the character of a man can completely change when he comes to depend upon God. Jacob was a schemer, a liar and a manipulator for a large portion of his life. He stole his brother’s birthright and blessing. He lived a major portion of life on the run. He ran from people he deceived and used. He ran from God. He used his wile and cunning to build wealth. In many ways, Jacob epitomized what we now call the “me generation.” “Me generation” people reject tradition. Jacob rejected the birthright tradition. “Me generation” people believe in themselves above all else. Jacob had supreme confidence in his abilities and relied upon himself. “Me generation” people are unfiltered. Jacob exhibited great pride in his life and wasn’t afraid to let others see it. “Me generation” people appear to shun hard work and have a sense of entitlement. Jacob made his own rules and deceived others for selfish gain. Ultimately, “me generation” people want to be seen as individuals. Jacob struggled with and fought with God his entire life. Life was all about Jacob. In the end, Jacob does what we all must do. He confronts his failures, his weaknesses, his sins, all the things that are hurting him . . . and faces God. Jacob physically wrestled with God one whole night. It was an exhausting struggle that left him crippled and broken and able to be used by God. It also allowed God to bless him. Jacob became the patriarch of the twelve tribes of Israel. The sooner we trust God in life, the longer we will benefit from his blessings.
Samson: Down but Not Out
When we think of Samson, the first thing that probably comes to mind is his incredible strength. God blessed Samson with an incredible potential that he largely wasted. Samson could have been one of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel, but instead, his life tragically became an example of how not to live. His life was one of squandered resources and wasted potential and ability. He arrogantly threw it all away because he made some serious mistakes. His story stands as a warning of what not to do, but it is also a story that speaks of an incredible comeback. Trapped in sin, Samson ignored the warnings of those around him, until he woke up one day and it was too late. The Bible tells us, “The Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters and he became a grinder in the prison.” Judges 16:21(NKJV) Sin blinds us to the reality of the destruction it causes. However, we serve a God of second chances. The Bible tells us that “the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.” Judges 16:22 (NKJV) As Samson’s hair began to grow, his strength began to return. Just as God gave Samson the opportunity for a great comeback, he does the same for us. We all will have our failures and sins. But the question is, can we learn from our mistakes? Can we try our best not to fall into the same trap again? The same God that allowed Samson to have a great comeback can do the same for all of us!
Let Me Tell You About Jesus
In the 1993 NFL playoff game, the Buffalo Bills came back from a 32 point deficit to beat the Houston Oilers in overtime, 41 to 38. This is considered by many to be the greatest post-season comeback in all of NFL history. It’s a great story and was a great game. People love comeback stories! It gives us hope and encouragement, especially when we are down. The greatest comeback in the history of the world would have to be when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The truth of the matter is that Jesus didn’t actually make a comeback, He is our great comeback. He rose from the dead and in so doing, conquered death. He conquered death for us…for the world! “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 (NIV) Rick McDaniel writes, “Anyone who confesses their sins to Jesus will be forgiven and granted eternal life. Thus, because of Jesus’ comeback any person can have their greatest personal comeback. The setback of mistakes, failures and sins can be forgiven. The comeback of inner peace, purpose and meaning in life is now available. We can live our lives in a personal relationship with God experiencing His plan for our lives and we can spend eternity in heaven with Him after this life is over. Thanks to Jesus, life’s greatest comeback is available to you any time you choose.”