“What is impossible for people is possible with God” (Luke 18:27, NLT).
Where is God when terrible things happen? Why doesn’t he prevent the tragic consequences of natural disasters? We ask these questions because we can’t understand why someone so good and powerful lets so much suffering and pain take place, and not just now, but throughout all of human history.
When Jesus was on the cross, some asked this same question. You trust him and have such a close connection with him, why doesn’t he come down and save you from this painful execution (Matthew 27, paraphrase mine)? Jesus didn’t answer then and we seem to receive no answers now. Because of the silence, many assume God turned his back then and does the same today. Jesus was seen as weak and certainly not the Messiah the Jews expected. God is seen as weak, as if his hands are somehow tied, or perhaps he just doesn’t care. But this verse puts that to rest. He knows all the inside stories, and has reasons for everything he does or doesn’t do. Knowing everything is possible with God gives us reason to trust in his goodness and power.
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:14-15, NLT).
No one wants to die, but as the saying goes, death and taxes are the only sure things. C.S. Lewis said the best way to approach death is to neither desire, fear or ignore it, but to calmly accept it. We fear it for the simple reason it’s a big unknown.
Jesus frequently told his disciples, those he healed, even Mary at the tomb, not to be afraid. He understood how fearful we are and how it affects us. He also understood our greatest fear, and the one that makes us slaves: our fear of dying. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he enables us to do as C.S. Lewis advised and calmly accept death because we know it no longer has power over us. We know our Savior couldn’t be kept in the grave and he won’t let it hold us either. Because he is free and he loves us, he gives us freedom from not only the fear of death, but from death itself.
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1, NLT).
We often think of our homes as refuges from the harsh realities of the world. Home is a place we can go to get away, be safe and relax. But sometimes home isn’t as safe as we would like. Some avoid home to find their only refuge in harmful substances or destructive behaviors.
God is the home we can go to when there’s no place else to go. He is always there and always ready to help. In God we have a stronghold, or fortified place, with strength for any situation. Some are afraid they’ll get inside the fortress that is God and find rebuke and condemnation instead of refuge so they don’t seek him out. But that will never happen. God really is a place of safety—for everyone, not just a chosen few—without judging or disapproval.
“Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35, NLT).
There’s nothing like the smell of baking bread to make you feel warm and fuzzy, calm and happy. The familiar fragrance raises endorphin levels and puts a smile on your face.
It makes sense Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. Besides the obvious—giving and sustaining life—he evokes the same feelings when we think of all he is and all he has done for us. Coming to Jesus is like walking in the door of your home and being greeted by that wonderful smell, knowing you are welcome, loved and cherished. It’s knowing you will be cared for and comforted no matter what. He is the bread that warms, fills and keeps us going—forever.
“You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy” (Psalm 63:5, NLT).
We’re always looking for things or people to satisfy our needs and wants. As soon as one is satisfied, another demands attention. Sadly, many find the answers in destructive ways.
This verse brings to mind the image of a big table filled with delicious food, enough to fill a hollow-legged teenager, as well as the good feeling of having eaten well. Every need and want we have can be satisfied with God, who is the source of all good things. He wants to fill our needs and satisfy our desires. He knows only in him will we find true satisfaction, the kind that is good, helpful and always for the best long term. It’s enough to make you sing out loud!
“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT).
Some think being a Christian is too hard, with all its rules and restrictions, so they treat it like a New Year’s resolution. Others think they won’t have any fun and if you can’t have fun, what’s the point? Still others think all God is interested in is telling them how to live their lives. These are all misconceptions that cloud a fundamental aspect of God’s character—he loves us and wants us to succeed.
It’s easy to miss an important point in this verse, one I missed too—“everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God” (same verse, The Message, emphasis mine). God doesn’t just give us everything by waving a magic wand. Faith, trust and strength (part of the “everything”) come through knowing God, which is a lifelong process. The knowing—the relationship—is what matters most. The rest is a bonus.
“Trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” (1 Peter 4:19b, NLT).
The mouse I use with my laptop is dying. It’s been a good little mouse and I’ve really appreciated all the help it’s given me the last few years, but it has failed me. Soon I’ll have to get a new one. I have also appreciated everything my body has been to me and done for me, but one day it will fail me too. Fortunately I will be able to trade it in for a new one.
Everything in this life will fail eventually and we are resigned to this. It’s the way of the universe. The only thing—the only one—we can count on is God. He has life inherent in himself and can never fail us. His nature, his attributes, his character and his love are perfect and eternal. We can entrust our lives to him, in perfect confidence and with no reservations.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10, NLT).
Children usually have to be taught to share their things with others. It doesn’t come naturally to them or to some adults either. Sometimes those with the most possessions are the ones with the most trouble sharing.
God owns everything and yet he shares it all freely with us, from life itself and all our sustenance requires, to the faith and grace we need in this life, to eternal life with him. Out of the abundance and variety of his grace, he has given each of us a spiritual gift to use for the benefit of the church and indeed for everyone we meet. You could say God is the one who invented sharing. May he give us sharing hearts.
“And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites” (1 Peter 1:17a, NLT).
In The Shack, Papa (the Father, represented by a woman) tells Mack (the main character) he’s her favorite. When he wonders about that, she tells him everyone is her favorite. I can understand this because both of my kids are my favorites. I love them equally but a little differently because they are unique.
This verse tells us God has no favorites. Peter wanted us to understand no one has an edge when it comes to God’s affection. Nothing we do can give us an edge or an in with God. That’s the beauty of grace—no one can claim an advantage due to anything they’ve done. Not more prayer time, more Bible reading, deeper obedience—nothing changes how God feels about us. I think it’s safe to say that even though he shows no favoritism, we are all his favorites—we are all loved equally and best.
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16, NLT).
Forrest Gump, in the movie by the same name, told Jenny he wasn’t a smart man but he knew what love is. He proved it by the way he took care of her, no matter how she treated him. Toward the end of her life, she finally realized he had loved her all along.
People have many ideas about love and it’s true love comes in various forms. Real and true love is what Jesus did for us by submitting himself to death on the cross. By giving up his life, he not only showed his love, he proved he considered our lives as important as his. Rather than holding onto his life, as most of us tend to do, and letting us fend for ourselves, he made it clear he was willing to do anything to save us and make it possible to share his eternal life. May we—in, by and through his Spirit—learn to do likewise for each other.