“But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love” (Psalm 52:8, NLT).
We have olive trees scattered around our neighborhood, what’s left of a grove after the houses went in. They are always green and are a nice addition to the landscape. I’m glad the developers preserved this bit of the past.
When we trust in God, the tree that’s always green (see yesterday’s post), we become like a beautiful, vibrant tree too. His life in us infuses us with energy and his inexhaustible love helps us flourish.
“I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me” (Hosea 14:8, NLT).
Does God answer prayers? Yes he does and he cares for us too. God isn’t a distant being somewhere out in space, unfeeling, uncaring, oblivious to our suffering. Many people seem to think this is true, but if it were, I believe life would be even tougher than it is. He’s given us so much – the earth, each other and evidence of his goodness everywhere we look (that’s another verse: Romans 1:20).
As this verse indicates, God is the source of life and he shares his life with us like a tree bearing an abundance of fruit. He answers our prayers with himself and his loving care.
“Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7, NLT).
We’ve all seen (at least in movies) a natural disaster or something evil approaching and suddenly everything goes eerily silent. The birds stop singing, the animals scurry to safety and even the air seems to go still. Birds don’t sing if they sense danger. They make themselves as invisible as they can until it’s safe again.
We’re like that too. We try to hide when we sense danger or evil. We stay quiet, either literally or figuratively, hoping it will pass. But when God is our helper, we can boldly sing, knowing we’re safe. We sing for joy, praising him and exulting in his protection, love and goodness.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT).
One of the worst things we can do is assume God thinks the way we do or that we know how he thinks. We get in trouble when we don’t even allow for the possibility he might just have a different opinion on something. Is it weakness or lack of faith to be less than dogmatic about some of the things we believe?
This is what I’m sure of: God exists, he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he loves me, he died for me and because of the finished work on the cross, I will be with him forever. After that, everything registers on my sure-0-meter under 100%. There is one more thing I know: even though we think we understand many things about God, I’m 100% sure he is keeping some secrets, which will only be revealed when he’s ready.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20, NLT).
Joseph’s story inspires me, with the twists and turns, imprisonments and good times. I marvel he didn’t get angry with God or give up hope with so many setbacks and seemingly impossible situations. The biggest twist is at the end, when we learn God worked everything out to save Joseph’s family, the whole nation that would come after and through his lineage, Christ would be born to save the entire world.
Perhaps God gave Joseph some glimmer of hope to keep him going – at some point, he forgave his brothers and saw the big picture: the evil his brothers did to him would be redeemed by the God he held onto and trusted from childhood. God’s purpose for all the evil in our world is redemption, lovingly planned from before the beginning by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20, NLT).
The parable of the prodigal or lost son is probably my favorite of all Jesus’ stories and one of the best looks into the character of God. The son had basically told his dad to drop dead, took his inheritance and ran off to live a wild, irresponsible life. What did the father do? Disown him and declare he had no son? No, he waited for his son to return to him, leaving the light on so to speak, watching for him, loving him and never giving up.
God grieves as his children – all of humanity – live as they please, backs turned, hearts hardened, but he is the dad who never gives up. God’s compassion encompasses all and he loves his prodigals (all of us) back home.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15: 13, NLT).
Hope, the feeling things will turn out for the best, is what keeps us going. Without it, we get depressed, do desperate things or give up on life altogether. Hope is very important to our well-being and is what helps us get up every morning.
Sometimes hope is just that – a feeling. But if our hope is in God, it’s not a feeling, it’s a strong conviction that he has our best in mind and will bring it about. Our expectations can be confidently put in him because he is the source of hope and the only one with the power and will to make all our hopes into reality.