“So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10b, NLT).
Suffering is a part of life we’d rather do without, but unfortunately, like death and taxes, it’s here to stay. Two famous stories of suffering and loss are those of Job and Joseph. Job woke up one fine morning, thinking it was going to be another beautiful day, only to receive one crushing blow after another, learning his family and everything he owned was wiped out. Joseph was ripped from everything he knew and loved, sold into slavery, falsely accused and put in jail. Both were sent reeling: unexpectedly and inexplicably devastated.
We know the end of their stories: everything was restored to them and then some, happy endings all around. That doesn’t happen in real life. Most of the time it seems we suffer loss and that’s it. But what God restored to Job and Joseph gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. He knows what we suffer, he feels our losses and he will make right all the wrongs we’ve experienced. No, probably not in this life, but that’s the hope we have in Jesus: life after death, joy after mourning, peace after war, strength after weakness and restoration after loss. We will not be left desolate when our strength and hope is in him.
“For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12b, NLT).
Many verses talk about the glory of God, which can be the beauty of his presence or evidence of his power and characteristics. We talk about giving him glory, or the glory of his throne. A couple of good words to describe his glory are effulgence (a brilliant radiance; a shining forth) and refulgence (shining brightly, radiant or gleaming). This all sounds good, but once again our words are inadequate. We could simply say God, all he is and all he does, is absolutely magnificent.
It’s also magnificent that he wants to share his glory, who he is, the wonder of being, the joy, peace, harmony and love of Father, Son and Spirit, with us. This is why he made us, why he “puts up with us,” why he sent his son to live as one of us and also die for us. He didn’t put humanity on this earth for dart practice or to see if we could live up to his high standards. Out of love and the joy of giving, he calls everyone to himself so he can share his life with us.
“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3, NLT).
People come in all shapes, sizes, colors and other variations in appearance. It’s fascinating how no two are exactly alike. Even identical twins have unique characteristics. Everyone has their own perspective, shaped by many circumstances, including environment, family and geography. We all know this yet we insist on categorizing, generalizing and judging people, often with no more than a glance.
Of course, there’s more to a life than what you can see on the outside. The Colossians didn’t understand that the Gentiles could be Christians even though they weren’t previously Jews, didn’t look like Jews and didn’t need to change to become just like them. Paul assured them the outside didn’t matter because a Christian dies to this life and is given a new life which is hidden, or kept secure and safe, with Christ in God. It’s the new life that matters, the real life in Jesus, which can’t be hidden, but bursts out like the rays of the morning sun as we live for him.
“In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3, NLT).
One of the truly amazing things about life is when you’re young, you think you know everything and when you get older, you realize how much you don’t know. The only difference between now and when I was growing up is kids really do know more than their parents and grandparents when it comes to technology. Almost anyone under 20 can fix any gadget problem.
Jesus will always know more than us—he knows everything there is to know. But not only are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge about life, our world and the universe hidden in him, he himself is a treasure. John said all the books in the world couldn’t contain an account of merely what he did on earth (John 21:25), let alone all there is to know about him, his Father and the Holy Spirit. An amazing thing about knowing God is there is always more to know. How wonderful it is that he wants to share himself with us.
“I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself” (Colossians 2:2b, NLT).
When God first gave the law to Moses, it was only ten items and fit on two stone tablets. Then along came many more rules and regulations, with probably a few more added in by the priests for good measure, until the laws numbered over 600 and filled a whole book. Keeping track of that many would be hard enough, let alone obeying all of them.
When Jesus talked about breaking the laws by just thinking about doing something wrong, it seemed he made them even more hard to obey. But at other times, he seemed to flaunt them, like when he healed people on the Sabbath. As we might say today, what’s up with that? What’s up is that he didn’t come to add more laws or to do away with them. He came to fulfill and personify them. In his perfect life, he was and is everything right, good and beautiful, full of grace and truth. He threw out the book, so to speak, to reveal God’s mysterious plan—himself—and to show us he is the way to eternal life.
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39, NLT).
Many people aren’t sure what to think when they read the Old Testament. It’s filled with stories they think may or may not be true, a bit of history, poetry and to some, crazy sounding prophecies. Some consider it great literature. It used to be taught at all the universities as the basis of a good education. Now you might find instruction on the Bible tucked into a comparative religion class.
Studying the Old Testament is worthwhile, but it will remain a mystery or just literature without the key perspective given by Jesus himself—it all pointed to him! Every book contains not just references to Jesus, but is all about him. He is the thread, the link, the underlying and overarching theme of the whole thing. Reading it with this frame of reference helps it all fall into place, the opening act as it were, for the greatest show on earth.
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, NLT).
We often talk about perfection, such as the perfect cup of coffee (to me, as a tea drinker, there’s no such thing), the perfect shoes or golf shot. But as we all know, nothing and no one is perfect. Everything is flawed in some way, especially people. This verse then is a bit of a puzzle, especially if we focus on the first part.
We aren’t perfect but God is. He has no flaws. Everything about him is perfect: his ways, works, knowledge, laws, will, plans and peace. He also has perfect power and love, which is how and why he makes us perfect. In and through Jesus and by his grace, we are forgiven and made into new creatures, who will one day have perfect minds and bodies. We are his children, made in his image, and just as parents want to see their children grow into mature adults, God wants us to grow up in him and his love. We can and will be perfect, but only in Christ.
“Jesus became a priest, not by meeting the physical requirement of belonging to the tribe of Levi, but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (Hebrews 7:16, NLT).
One of my biggest disappointments as a child was learning we are all going to die. To be told this at the beginning of my wonderful adventure of life was not only a letdown, but completely eclipsed the smaller lessons about unfairness I had already encountered.
I still don’t like the inevitability of death, but I now have a hope for eternal life I didn’t have back then. This hope is not based on fairy tales or pie-in-the-sky thinking, and I don’t have any plans for cryogenic preservation. My hope is based on the life of Jesus: his life as God, his human life which he laid down for us and that was restored by his own mighty power and his resurrected life that can never be destroyed. My life is in him and his life will be in me forever, which is so much more than fair—it’s grace!
“What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position ‘a little lower than the angels’; and because he suffered death for us, he is now ‘crowned with glory and honor.’ Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9, NLT).
Some wonder if the death of Jesus happened because God was into child sacrifice. Or they think God’s anger was so out of control the only thing that would appease him was death for everyone, so Jesus, being the kindhearted, more loving member of the Trinity, volunteered to take the rap. How could a loving father require the death of his son, just to make himself feel better? But of course, God isn’t like that.
It wasn’t anger, revenge or the need for appeasement but rather the love, mercy and grace of God that motivated and put into action God’s plan of redemption for the human race. Jesus, who was God and was with God and already existed from the beginning with God (John 1), came to earth as a human being, lived as one of us, lay down his own life and tasted death for us all because of grace. Instead of putting up his hands as if to say calm down, dad, Father, Son and Holy Spirit linked hands and together, in love, did what only love and grace can do—free us from sin and death and give us life with him, forever.
“That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return” (2 Timothy 1:12, NLT).
Every day, we put our trust in governments, banks and other institutions to guard our lives and valuables. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but knowing the risks and that we don’t have much of a choice, we continue to trust them, for the most part.
When we believe in the saving power and grace of Jesus, we are trusting him with the most valuable possession of all—our souls. How do we know we can trust him? He is the great I AM, who cannot lie, who keeps his promises and who loves us more than we know. Our trust grows as we get to know him better, which is why getting to know him is the most important thing we can do. In our uncertain world, knowing whom to trust is difficult, but one thing is certain—God can and will guard what we entrust to him.