How do we respond when the world seems to be crashing in on us – when there is no justice and no apparent solution – when those we love are in pain or, worst yet, abandon us – when sickness overtakes us? It is so much easier to be faithful and confident in the rosy times in our life than when we find ourselves in the fire.
Paul’s life story was given to us specifically for those very trying times. In 2 Timothy, Paul was languishing in a cold Roman prison, his friends had abandoned him and his enemy, Alexander the coppersmith, had caused him a great deal of harm. Paul’s frustration was certainly evident, as is ours in our times of struggle. Yet through a closer look, we see that Paul simply left retribution to the Lord. He understood that even when his friends lacked the courage to stand with him, God never abandoned him, providing him with amazing strength and courage. That simple, yet profound realization equipped Paul to not only forgive his friends, but to pray for them – even as he faced his own impending death. The secret was the reality of God’s everlasting presence.
That profound realization can be found throughout the Psalms. God reminded David over and over again that he was not only with him, but was actually controlling his destiny. Like Paul, David experienced betrayal, injustice and persecution – some through no fault of his own and others through his own mistakes. Yet through it all, David never lost sight of the glory and majesty of our God. He knew in his heart and witnessed throughout his life that our God was ALWAYS near to those who call upon him.
What then are we to do with this certainty of God’s presence each and every day? In John 15, it is very clear that those who are followers of God are chosen to go and bear fruit that will last. This simple message, or actually command, is strongly proclaimed in the 10th chapter of Luke’s Gospel where we are reminded that the harvest of those needing salvation is abundant but the laborers to spread the good news are few. Jesus reminds us in that passage that he is sending out lambs among wolves. Does that sound to you like it is always going to be easy – that we should think that we can accomplish the command to go and make disciples on our own? I know that my problem is that I simply lose sight of the fact that God is ALWAYS with me. I forget both Paul’s and David’s reminders. I worry that I will not have the right words to speak or find the best time to speak it. It is as if I think it is all up to me to win souls for Christ. What if I fail? Yet since nothing is more important than helping those God has placed in my life to understand that the only way to salvation, eternal life, and true peace & joy is through my savior Jesus Christ, I should know that God would not leave such an important task up to someone like me without his personal guidance. Yes there will be troubles. Yes, my efforts will not always produce results that I can see. And Yes, Jesus knew all that, yet he sends us out anyway.
I know that God did not make a mistake in placing me at my current location, with my current responsibilities, and with those currently in my life. I just need to stay focused upon the incredible power and presence of my God and what he has asked me to do.
I believe the deterioration we see in our society along with the terrorism and the hatred throughout the world are all signs that we are running out of time to complete the harvest. I pray for the insight to see the opportunities God has provided to share my faith and for the courage to take advantage of those opportunities to effectively proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.