"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made..." Psalm 145: 8
What a journey we are on.
And I don't mean the one with suitcases and different beds and borrowed cars and hotels and church reporting...
I mean The Journey.
The One with Him. Our Lord.
I have visited this Create Post screen in the last month and after some minutes of head scratching and brain searching, the screen remained blank. But recently, I was given the honor of standing before His People in a small suburb in Washington State and share of the Lord's faithfulness in our lives. As I shared with those sweet souls, I realized exactly what I needed to say here.
Look with me at some verses that are challenging my heart right now.
"Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saing "Lord save us! We're going to drown!" He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." Matt 8: 24-26
Jesus was sleeping. What an interesting thing. Has Jesus ever been sleeping through a storm in your life?
With waves rolling and fear rising, the disciples woke Jesus up and his response to them was, "Why are you so afraid?"
Waves have been rolling around us lately. And as I've clung to the side of the boat and screamed for Someone to "wake up and do something!" the waves have kept rolling. I have longed for the Masterful Rebuke and the "completely calm"...but I'm still gasping under the waves.
One recent Sunday afternoon, following worship and lunch, our family settled in for a rest. I was exhausted and promptly fell into a deep sleep. Throughout my nap I was aware of the children shaking me on the shoulder requesting food or judgment for an erring brother :-), but Jeff valiantly deterred their requests so I could stay asleep. My body was resting. I chose not to wake up completely because their Daddy was on the scene and had things under control.
Maybe Jesus slept through the storm for the same reason. He knew Who was in control and that eventually there would be peace. Either now or later. The storm would not effect the outcome.
The squall would only serve to measure faith. "You of little faith!"
Sigh. It is my deepest heart's desire, that as waves wash over my boat, my faith will be found to be strong.
And what exactly does that look like?
Confident, in even a resting Savior.
He will wake up. And His Voice alone can still the storm.
"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there giving approval to his death." Acts 7:59- 8:1
The stones were hitting that innocent man in the head and he spoke... forgiveness.
Just as our Lord, in the middle of deep humilation, unjust claims, and death proclaimed forgiveness, not judgment.
At the moment of attack. While feeling the pain.
In the most excruciating times of life, human nature longs to call fire down on the offender's head not speak words of mercy.
But these men, Jesus and Stephen...
Their forgiveness, their mercy coincided with their greatest physical and emotional pain.
And, friends, as if that wasn't challenging enough, the last sentence gives me much pause.
Saul was giving approval to this brutal killing.
Those who attack you or stand by in approval as others attack, may be God's next miracle. God's chosen one to carry His message far and wide. The person whose faith and submission to God will effect others for generations.
What in the world are we supposed to do with that tidbit?! Does God expect us to remember this when we are angry?
This man who vehemently opposed Christ's Beloved was pursued by Christ Himself and redeemed.
It is not difficult to think of my offenders as being pursued :-)...
But for redemption?
Forgive. God is all about that word. We cannot do any less than our Master and expect the storm to ever cease.
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." 2 Cor 2:14
We walk with the winner. Even "as we walk thtrough the valley of the shadow of death..." Triumph. Confident. Heads held high. He has won. Therefore, we, who are His, always have won. We are a part of the triumphal procession. Whether or not the world around us recognizes Him directly, they will not escape His Aroma.
"Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chron 16:8-9
And finally, brought to this. No matter how big the "army", God is looking at the heart. My heart. Isn't that really all we have to choose about. Other peoples' actions, words or choices are far from our control or even our influence sometimes. But our own hearts. That's where we choose. His way or ours. Submitted or personally controlled and filled. Full or empty. Living for Forever or grabbing what we want for now.
As His Knowing Eyes search through the earth, what does He find here? In me.
Fear? Forgiveness? Triumph?
Oh Father, the storms rage in our lives on many fronts. But You Never Fail.
Where waves often roll over our boats and stones sometimes fly at our heads and Righteous Men stand in approval of our "deaths"and armies seem mighty and overwhelming.
God calls us to rest, trust, forgive, guard our own hearts...
He. Has. It. All. Under. Control.
He even steps up to fill us and accomplish these ongoing tasks for us when we cannot.
Father, how can You be So Good? So patient.
Receive Your Glory Mighty Jehovah.
The darkness that threatens us only serves to more fully contrast All the Goodness You are. I am so amazed by You.