The Greatest Thrill

I’m not sure how many of you are thrill seekers, but one of the greatest places to get that sudden jolt of adrenaline that will make your neck veins distend and your heart pump out of your chest is at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

While I haven’t been there in years, I will never forget the Dragster. It has to be the most ridiculous ride ever!

From a standing start you’re launched forward, then straight up, then straight down and back to the finish line. Zero to 120 MPH in less than 4 seconds. 420 feet in the air.

The ride may be over in 17 seconds, but it’ll stay with you forever.

After the Harness Clicks

I think the scariest part is when you are seated in the ride with the harness clicking over your shoulders and locking in place. While it may only be seconds, that “pause” between the final click of the harness and the hiss of the hydraulic brakes releasing to jolt you forward seems like an eternity.

In those seconds, you think:

  • It is too late for me to change my mind.
  • Was this all a big mistake?
  • Is this what death feels like?
  • How much will it hurt?
  • I’m not sure I should have done this

But the problem is that it IS too late.

On the dragster you realize this all within 17 seconds. Tears have streamed across the side of your head and into your hair. Your lips are still wrapped around the back of your head. Your heart has stopped and restarted again. The harness has released and you hear that voice over the loudspeaker, “Please exit to your left. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.”

And guess what? You are amazed. You lived. And then you immediately text your closest friends and put status updates on Facebook and Twitter, knowing that you have secured bragging rights for the immediate future.

Do you know what?

In my journey of faith, I have discovered that following Christ is a lot like getting on a ride at the theme park.

There are times when God leads you to new seasons and places. It is scary. The harness of life clicks in place over your shoulders, and there is no way to escape. God may put you in situations where you are completely incapable of breaking free until after the experience is over. Here are a few situations that I think of:

  1. God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
  2. The anxiety that Nathan must have felt when he confronted David.
  3. God asking Hosea to marry a prostitute wife and to forgive her when she was unfaithful.
  4. Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, knowing that the Cross would stand on Calvary.
  5. Stephen who was stoned after he testified before the Sanhedrin.

The list goes on. Scripture testifies to situation after situation where God’s people must experience the “thrill” of trusting Him.

What about me?

Recently, Samantha and I have been experiencing the amazing adventure of following Christ. It has not been easy. Right now I am in the middle of a career change. I have been a registered nurse for almost 10 years now. It has brought a sense of financial security. Great benefits. Flexibility. The opportunity to minister to people who are sick.

Yet, we both sense that nursing is not likely our future. While we are absolutely willing to continue in nursing, it seems that this door in my life is closing after these years. It is difficult to explain, but we have experienced affirmation from individuals and situations outside of ourselves.

  • Family and friends who have watched me struggle in a worthy career affirm that I am not best gifted or shaped for nursing.
  • Even after intense study and internships, coworkers can see a “gap” in my abilities at work as a nurse.
  • My Myers-Briggs personality profile is an ENFJ. Look it up and you will see that this is not a great fit for a job that is demanding and filled with colleagues who tend to carry dominant personalities.
  • I have had positive affirmation that nursing is not the best suit for me- from my pastor and other leaders in my life who see my gifting and potential for full time vocational ministry.
So now what?

Even some of my closest friends have asked,

  • So do you have anything up the pipeline?
  • What is your backup plan?
  • How much do you have in savings?
  • What if you cannot find a ministry job?
  • Don’t you know that you are supposed to provide for your family?

And the list goes on…

Frankly, it makes me want to vomit. I know they mean well. And trust me, as someone who has a wife and three kids and a house payment and bills to pay, I know as well as anyone….

So, my answer is “I don’t know.”

Right now, if there is anything that seems clear it is that nursing is not working. That’s it. It has been a struggle professionally. It has taken a toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Right now I liken myself to that person whose harness just clicked. They are about to go from zero to 120 mph in less than 4 seconds.

Do you know what is going through my head right now?

  • Wow, is this the right decision?
  • How am I going to pay bills and put food on the table?
  • Will the Lord really come through?
  • Is this what he really wants?
  • Is this going to hurt?
  • I’m not sure I should have done this.

There is nothing scarier than clicking in securely to God’s grace and trusting him through the ride.

Right now, I am praying for God’s grace. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know the future. I don’t know how this ride is going to feel when the lips of my life are wrapped around my neck at the end.

What I do know is that when the ride is over, when my heart stops pounding and God says over the loud speaker, “The ride is over. Please exit to your left,” the first thing that I am going to do after this struggle is to secure my bragging rights of God’s grace and get on Twitter and Facebook and the blogosphere and let everyone know what God does in our life.

In the mean time, will you please pray for me and Samantha and our family?

God is giving us our greatest thrill. Trusting him.

Thank you,

Jeremiah

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Leaning Into God’s Love

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart (Ps 73:1).

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds (Ps 73:28).

Last week my wife and I closed on buying our first home. It was a wonderful experience- except one thing. While we were doing the preliminary walkthrough I went up into the attic. My wife asked me to take down the ugly curtains on the sun dormers.

So as I reached across to tear them down, my foot pivoted and leaned into this old particle board that was falling apart- instead of pressing into the rafters like I should have done. I thought it would be OK, but before I knew it, my foot went through our ceiling! Needless to say, I made my first trip to Lowe’s.

In the Christian life, many of us share the same kind of experience spiritually. We listen to sermons about God’s love. We read about his love. We tell others about his love. Yet, ultimately we do not lean into his love. We look around to find something that looks safer, and before we know it, what we have leaned into breaks through and lets us down.

God’s love is like the rafters on a house. It holds everything together. It is meant to be leaned into. It supports us. When we lean into something else- like the affections of another person, the thrill of buying new things, or self-destructive behaviors (i.e. alcohol, drugs, premarital sexual activity, etc.), we will lose our footing in life.

God created us to lean into him. 

We think that if we get that new job we would be better off. Or we might think that if we could just be married, we would be satisfied. Or if we were able to have children life would be complete. Yet, we get the new job and yearn for the old. We get married and our spouse causes us great frustration at times. Children make us lose sleep and require so much energy leaving us exhausted.

Spiritually, we say that if we just go to church more, read our bibles more, start new traditions, we would fare well. Yet, these spiritual activities will let you down. We are still left craving and unsatisfied. How is that, you might ask?

Spiritual activity is not intended to satisfy you. It is intended to teach you. Just like there is a difference between observing a traffic sign and following its instruction, there is a difference between doing spiritual activities and actually being spiritual. Spiritual activity is intended to inform you and remind you about the love of God so that you will lean into it as you experience life. 

All of life will let us down if we try to lean into anything but God’s love.

This is difficult because the new job, relationships- whether a spouse or having children or friendship, shopping, substances and even spiritual activities will let us down. Trusting in these things will have the same result as me stepping on old particle board. They are not intended to be leaned into.

Instead, we must come to the point where we start to press our feet into God’s love. This means coming to a realization and acceptance that no matter what we go through in life, no matter what happens, we trust God’s sovereign love for us. It is the transition between saying, “I know that God is a God of love…Of course God loves his people…God loves the Church,” to “I know that God loves me“- even through even the most difficult circumstances.

How to Respond to Trouble

Psalm 79:1-13

That phone call

It was my sophomore year in college when I received “that phone call” nobody wants to get. I can remember walking across the courtyard between classes when my phone rang. “Jeremiah, I just had a heart attack.” Life halted quickly to a stop. I looked up- people appeared as if they were walking in slow motion. Noise faded. People’s lips were moving and no sound. My dad had a heart attack. Would he be OK?

Panic rushed over me. My heart pounded. Sweat beads formed on my forehead and quickly disappeared as the wind whipped over me. “Are you going to be OK, dad?” I felt a headache sweep through my body. Soon, I found myself on the floor of the campus chapel pleading with God, “Lord, please be with the doctors. Help my dad to heal.”

We all have been there, or we all will be there at some point in life. That phone call will come. It will catch us by surprise. We will not be prepared.

When it comes, how should we respond?

Asaph’s Trouble

In Psalm 79:1-5, the psalmist laments over the destruction of Jerusalem. While it is difficult to know exactly who caused the chaos, it is clear that there was utter ruin and devastation. The psalmist laments that Israel suffered physical pain– corpses literally lined the streets. The city was in ruin. Israel suffered emotional pain– the utter humiliation that there was nobody to bury the dead. There was spiritual pain– God’s felt presence had disappeared.

Asaph’s Response

When the world of the psalmist had screeched to a halt, when everything seemed like slow motion, when lips were moving and it seemed like there was piercing silence, Asaph turned to God and he prayed (vv. 1, 6-13)!

Asaph prayed for justice (vv. 6-7, 10, 12) because Israel’s enemies scoffed at God’s authority and destroyed God’s property. Asaph prayed for mercy (vv. 8-9) because God’s reputation was at stake and Israel needed to be forgiven and delivered from the consequences of her sin. Asaph prayed for freedom (v. 11) because Israel suffered from bondage to her enemies. Asaph also promised to praise God (v. 13) because of God’s wonderful acts.

When you and I are in trouble

The last time I researched, I found out that 1 out of every 1 persons die. Isn’t that amazing? I don’t think that statistic will take you by surprise. So, to suggest that this world is filled with trouble is not pessimistic but realistic. I love life, yet it is reality. You and I will be sideswiped in life by troubling news. Jesus said that in this world we will have troubles, but that in him we can have peace (John 16:33).

In Christ we can have peace

Some get repulsed by prayers like Asaph’s. How can anyone pray for doom upon another? That is not the point of Asaph’s prayer. Israel was a Covenant people of God. God did not create the world to be under the curse of sin. He did not create us for eternal suffering. Suffering is the consequence of our sin. It is something we are expected to endure in this life. It is what happens when this world is in rebellion against his authority. We suffer, but in Christ we can have peace because he came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

Asaph’s prayer

So, if we look again back to Psalm 79, what we can see is the prayer of a faithful servant of God. The psalmist’s response to trouble was turning to God and ultimately praying for God’s Kingdom to come! The psalmist was asking God to respond against rebellion, to forgive Israel for her sins, and to set Israel free from bondage. Why? For the sake of God’s reputation. And the psalmist promises to praise God. Sound familiar?

The Lord’s Prayer

6:9 So pray this way:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored,

6:10 may your kingdom come,

may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

6:11 Give us today our daily bread, 

6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven ourdebtors.

6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 

6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

6:15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins (NET Bible).

When You Pray

I found myself kneeling over that hard oak pew. Tears streaming down my face. “God, for your glory, heal my dad. Give me the grace to make it through this. Give my dad strength. I will praise you.” Everything turned out OK. Dad got his stent. He recovered fine.

Life does not always turn out that way, but it does not change the way we should pray.

A Model, not a formula

Passages like Psalm 79 and Matthew 6 are not formulas that promise relief of our pain. Rather, they are models that demonstrate submission to God. They are petitions to the Sovereign King whose authority on this world has been usurped by Satan and sin. These prayers are really petitions for God to act, rightfully restoring His Kingdom back under his rule.

When we face trouble, we should turn to God. Pray to him. We should express how we feel. Our suffering is the consequence of living in a world subjected to sin and judgment. Pray for the sake of God’s name that he would intervene.

Pray for justice. Petition God to act against rebellion and sin. Pray for mercy. Plead for God to forgive you of your sins. Ask for freedom. Beg God for deliverance from physical, emotional and spiritual bondage. Praise God for what he will do. Give God the glory because he promises that one day He indeed will act!

This world continues to be subjected to the bondage of the curse of sin.

Please pray.


How Serious is God about His Name?

The Dung Gate at the outer wall of Jerusalem

Malachi 1-4

Focus: Malachi 2:2-3, “If you do not listen and take seriously the need to honor my name,” says the LORD who rules over all, “I will send judgment on you and turn your blessings into curses–indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart. I am about to discipline your children and will spread offal on your faces, the very offal produced at your festivals, and you will be carried away along with it.

Falling in love is easy to do. Remaining in love over time can prove to be quite difficult. Israel was a nation called by the name of God. When God identified them by His name (Deut. 28:9-10), it signified the joining of the two in very close unity. God made a covenant with His people, and it was filled with abundant blessings- designed to bring life and peace (Malachi 2:5)- for Israel if they lived according to His ways. God had Israel’s best intentions for her. Yet, over time, Israel’s only consistent pattern was her inconsistent love for Yahweh.

When the prophet Malachi wrote, it was over 100 years after God had returned Israel back to the Land after their exile to Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And as time faded, so also did Israel’s love for the Lord. They violated the Law of God by offering blemished sacrifices and kept the best animals for themselves; they were disloyal to God; and they committed unspeakable sins. Israel did not take seriously the need to honor God’s name. This had serious consequences.

God was warning Israel through Malachi. He would not tolerate the defiling of His name. God cares when His people offer Him second best. He cares when His people fail to honor Him with their treasures because they are keeping the prized possessions for themselves. God cares when His people approach Him wrongly in their sacrifices. God cares when His people’s love for Him fades. He cares about their disloyalty. He cares so much that he would bring ultimate shame on His people if they won’t turn back to Him.

God said that he was about ready to spread offal on the priest’s faces- the faces of those were supposed to be “holiest” in Israel. This would be the utmost shaming of a person. The offal was the internal organs of sacrifices, feces and all, that was discarded and taken out the Dung Gate to the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna, AKA known as Hell in the NT). At the Valley of Hinnom there was a constant fire that would burn up and consume anything deemed unclean. The dead bodies of criminals were also taken here. So it is no minor infraction that Israel has committed. God said that he would smear “poop” in their face and that they would be carried away (out the Dung Gate) with it. God cares that His people honor His name! He cares when the love of the hearts of His people grows cold toward Him.

We can all learn from this. I am also guilty of letting my heart grow cold at times. It is a frustrating thing, but that is why the Lord asks us to repent. To repent just means to return to the Lord. God wants us to return back to our first love for Him. When we have done this, then we will no longer offer him the “seconds” of our lives. We will give Him the first portion of our time, talents and treasures. How is your heart? How is that reflected in the sacrifice you give to the Lord throughout the week– and not just on Sunday?

The Faithful Servant

Zechariah 10-14

Focus: Zech. 13:7-9 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,” says the LORD who rules over all. Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the insignificant ones. It will happen in all the land, says the LORD that two-thirds of the people in it will be cut off and die, but one-third will be left in it. Then I will bring the remaining third into the fire; I will refine them like silver is refined and will test them like gold is tested. They will call on my name and I will answer; I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

In these prophetic words to Zechariah concerning God’s Shepherd, we can learn about what it means to be a faithful servant. Jesus Christ was the Shepherd alluded to in this prophecy. He was sinless, blameless and did everything right. There is nobody else who has ever been as faithful to the Lord as Jesus was during his ministry on earth. Yet we know of his suffering. Zechariah foretells that God would strike his faithful servant. Jesus’ faithfulness led him to suffer on the cross and die a criminal’s death on account of the sins of mankind.

Next, in this prophetic passage, we can see what happened to those who faithfully followed the Shepherd. God turned his hand against them, and they scattered. The disciples of Jesus Christ had their hero murdered right in front of their very eyes. Not only that, but they were forced to flee for fear of their lives since they were associated with Jesus. When Roman officials killed insurrectionists, they also took down any co-conspirators. The backside of God’s hand was against those who were most faithful to Christ. This indicates God’s removal of protection and blessing.

Additionally, the text says that two-thirds of the people in the Land will be cut off and die, and the remaining third will be refined and tested. God would weed out those who follow Him for their own selfish desires, and he would gather unto Himself those who come forth as pure silver and gold. When they are through with their testing and suffering, their lives will still remain loyal to Yahweh. These are the people that God will identify as His.

Faithfulness to God is a commitment to suffer. It is a commitment to be used by God for His purposes. There are many health, wealth and prosperity preachers out there who teach that sickness and suffering is the result of unconfessed sin. They teach that if we give our money to their ministry, then God will bless us and make us wealthy and heal us of our sickness. If you turn on TBN, you will see a lot of these guys on there (But to be clear, not all the ministry presented on TBN is false. A lot of it is spiritual hogwash though).

These ministries use the name of Jesus to sell religious relics that promise blessing and healing. That is a false gospel! The Gospel begins with Christ. Look at Jesus- God struck his Shepherd! Look at the most faithful-they ran in fear, many dying martyrs deaths! When you follow Christ, it is a commitment to suffer and to be used however God desires. Are you willing to be tested, and will you still say, “The Lord is my God?”

God’s plan for when you struggle

Focus: Joel 2:12-13 “Yet even now,” the LORD says, “return to me with all your heart– with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments!” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love–often relenting from calamitous punishment.

One thing that is true about all of us is that we are all in one of three places in life: 1) We are either going into a storm 2) in the midst of a storm or 3) coming out of a storm. It is the reality of the world we live in, and it will stay that way until one day the Lord returns to gather up His followers. God knows the situation His people are in, and he is gracious, compassionate and patient with them when they fail. We can see the Lord’s grace and patience especially in the prophetic writings, and it goes clear back to his covenant with Israel. God has given his people a plan for when they are in trouble.

In Joel’s short book, he describes an invasion of locusts. There was a huge locust plague that completely destroyed Israel’s crops and devastated the land. The reason this is significant is for two reasons. First, Israel was an agrarian culture. Their very livelihood was codependent on the land. Famine and pestilence could have the potential to wipe out an entire generation. Second, a locust plague was indicative of divine judgment.

In Deuteronomy 28:38-39, the Covenant stipulated that God would judge his nation with locusts and famine if they sinned by turning away from Him and failing to follow His commands. His judgment was so that Israel would return back to Him. In 1 Kings 8:37, when Solomon finished the temple, he led his people in prayer. In his prayer, it was assumed that God’s people would sin, and one of the divine judgments was plagues of locusts. Solomon’s prayer was for God’s people to return to Him and repent when they were in bondage because of sin.

Joel was writing to a nation that had long departed from the ways of the Lord, and they were experiencing divine judgment. God was disciplining his people for their hardness of heart, and the land was in chaos. They were in the midst of a storm because of their sin. Yet, God gave provision for his people. He called them to tear their hearts, not just their garments. The tearing of garments was an external symbol of remorse, but God wants inward change more than outward appearance. God’s judgment is a call for authentic repentance and return to Him.

When God’s people turn back to Him, they will experience his mercy and compassion. It will not guarantee that the pain will immediately capitulate, but God’s promise is that He will restore His people. Especially throughout Israel’s history, God promised in His Covenant that when they repented, he would return them back to the Land and bless the land and make it fruitful. They would live in blessing and peace. God’s promise is still valid today for those who trust in Him. He will restore us back to peace and make our lives fruitful and abundant with blessing if we return back to Him with our whole hearts.

What does God want from me?

Micah 5-7

Focus: Micah 6:6-8, “6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Yesterday, I wrote about a woman I met when I was flying home from San Antonio. This woman was rejecting the Church because she witnessed the hypocrisy of her “Christian” mother who ruined several marriages through adulterous affairs. Yet her mother was one who faithfully attended church three days a week, tithed, read her bible, and was baptized. This woman, like so many, equated religious deeds with pleasing God. But that is not what God wants from her or anyone else.

In Micah 6, the people of God are in God’s courtroom. They were a nation filled with religious activity, yet God was bringing charges against his people. Dishonest individuals who demonstrated no concern for treating others fairly ruled the Israelites, and they took advantage of and neglected the poor. They also prostituted themselves to idols by having sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes who were trying to give the fertility god Baal an orgy. Israel tolerated wicked sinful behavior. Israel was in serious breach of Covenant with God. But they were really good at doing spiritual things, right? Then why was God so mad at them? After all, they prayed and sacrificed and faithfully performed their religious duties. Shouldn’t that have made up for their shortcomings?

Micah 6:8 shows us what God wanted from his people. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. God wanted them to be people who have been changed by His grace. Literally, to do justly simply means to do the right thing. God wanted his people to do what is right all throughout life. To love mercy means to demonstrate loyal committed love toward God and his people. The love of Israel should have been God and his people. To walk humbly with God means to have daily communion with God, much like that which Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden before they sinned. God wanted Israel to enjoy the blessings of being in his presence.

Not much has changed today. God will reject those who simply say “I am a Christian” but do not do what is right, have committed loyal love toward God and his people, and share a daily communion with Him. This is a lesson that spiritual activity does not equal transformation. In other words, if our lives are not changed, it does not matter if we go to church 1 day a week or three days a week. It does not matter if we read our Bible, fast, are baptized, or give our tithe. Our outward symbols and actions should be visual reminders of inward realities (See Deuteronomy 10:16). If our lives are truly changed and we are doing the right thing, demonstrating loyal love to God and others, and walking humbly with God, then our religious activities actually take on new meaning. That is what God wants from those who call him Lord.

Does God care about justice?

Isaiah 46-50

Focus: Isaiah 47:1-3, “Fall down! Sit in the dirt, O virgin daughter Babylon! Sit on the ground, not on a throne, O daughter of the Babylonians! Indeed, you will no longer be called delicate and pampered. Pick up millstones and grind flour! Remove your veil, strip off your skirt, expose your legs, cross the streams! Let your private parts be exposed! Your genitals will be on display! I will get revenge; I will not have pity on anyone.” (NET)

There are times in life when I have wondered if God cares about justice. I have often wondered if God will ever do something about the wickedness that plagues our planet. The problem of evil is not new, but it is still difficult to address. While I know that Scripture deals with the problem of evil, I am shocked at just how graphic it is as it deals with God’s plan for evil and injustice.

Isaiah 47:1-3 is a prophecy against the wicked nation of Babylon. The charge against Babylon was that she tried to appropriate the throne of God. God’s judgment against her was severe. His plan was for the ultimate humiliation and destruction of Babylon. Babylon, a propagator of evil and injustice, was going to be stripped of all the things that she gloried in. Her rebellion would be crushed.

Truly, this passage gives a glimpse of one of God’s passions. God is passionate about justice. Micah 6:8 says, “He has show you man what the Lord requires, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Even while God has a special love towards His people, and when God disciplined them for their sin, His plan still was to restore Israel. God was vindicating His people who were thwarted by the wickedness of Babylon. God was bringing justice to Israel through His judgment and ultimate shaming of Babylon.

Babylon was stripped and humiliated because of her sin. She was charged with making a mockery of Yahweh and trying to assume His throne. This passage should give us significant pause. Are our hearts in rebellion against God? Do we have an independent spirit that has no regard for the King? Have we submitted to his authority and Lordship in our life? How are we fighting for justice on behalf of the weak and vulnerable?

God is passionate about justice. If Babylon had her day in court, so will we. If Babylon was completely exposed, stripped and utterly humbled, what will God make of those who do not turn away from their rebellion and continue to commit evil? The glory of mutiny against God’s throne will no longer be so glorious in the Day of Judgment. It will be a dreadful day for propagators of evil. It is clear and there is no question that God is passionate about justice. Are you? How are you a part of God’s mission against evil?

When I hurt, where should my focus be?

Isaiah 31-35

Focus: Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the hands that have gone limp, steady the knees that shake! Tell those who panic, “Be strong! Do not fear! Look, your God comes to avenge! With divine retribution he comes to deliver you.”

Recently I have been learning about the prophets of Israel and how God used them to guide His people. Every time there was a passage of judgment in the Prophets, it was actually an offer of mercy. If his people responded to the message of judgment, then God in great mercy might set his judgment aside temporarily or permanently. Unfortunately, God’s people did not respond in a way that would have benefited them as often as they should have.

In this passage, God is proclaiming what He will do for His people when they return to Him and are faithfully committed to Him as their Lord. In the midst of judgment, when all hell has broken loose and God’s people have suffered because of their unfaithfulness, God gave a promise for what their future holds.

As part of God’s discipline and punishment for breaking the Covenant, Israel and Judah would suffer from the oppression of Babylon and Assyria. Yet God said to strengthen the hands that had gone limp. Steady the knees that shake. Israel was to be courageous and strong in the midst of their oppression. Why? Because of God’s promises.

God promised to bring retribution and deliverance for his people. God is just and he will pay back and avenge his enemies that bring Him loss. Not only that but God is merciful and cares for His people who are rebellious against him. Remembering God’s promises was to be the focal point for strength in the midst of discipline and trials.

Today, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, people everywhere have the same hope. Even while we are all screwed up and live in a world that is jacked, we have the hope that we will one day be made new in glorified bodies. We will one day live in shalom, the peace of God.

Struggles and pain are a temporary reality, but our focal point in suffering should be in God’s deliverance. We need to strengthen our weak hands and steady our shaking knees. Have courage and be strong. For those who trust in the Lord, there will one day be freedom from all the struggles that discourage us and weigh us down.

Should We Continue To Trust God When We Suffer?

Isaiah 11-15

Focus: Isaiah 14:2 The LORD who commands armies makes this solemn vow: “Be sure of this: Just as I have intended, so it will be; just as I have planned, it will happen.

I wonder what it was like for Isaiah to listen to Yahweh as He revealed His plans for the nations. In Isaiah 11-15 there is a promise to preserve those who are faithful to God. Not only that, but there is a proclamation of judgment against the mighty nations of the earth. However, the judgment of nations and preservation of God’s people were not separate events. The remnant few who were faithful to Yahweh suffered greatly in a land that came under hot judgment for its broken Covenant with God. It does not seem fair that they should suffer. Should God’s people have continued to remain faithful to Him?

When answering this question, one thing that should grip the human heart like nothing else is the eternal sovereignty of God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God who controls armies. He is also the God with an eternal plan and perspective. What we know of His plan is limited to what we find in Scripture, but we are not limited in how we should trust Him. God’s past faithfulness is the foundation to trust Him for his future work in the lives of His people.

We can see how the Lord used the wickedness of the nations of Assyria and Babylon to chastise His people, but we can also discover that Yahweh was a just God. For those in Israel who were faithful- like Isaiah, God promised to deliver them from their bondage. God’s plan included the execution of nations and leaders that were used to reprove His people.

There are a couple of points that God’s people should take note of. First, suffering is inevitable, but it is not eternal. It is a part of the plan of God for His people to suffer. There are several reasons for this. First, suffering is a test of the faith that produces endurance (James 1:3). Suffering produces the opportunity for training that produces fruit (Hebrews 12:11). Suffering is also the DNA evidence of being part of God’s family. He is treating us as his children (Hebrews 12:7) whom He loves. When God’s people suffer, God is calling them to trust Him no matter the outcome.

Second, God’s people can be encouraged while going through suffering because suffering is being produced by God’s plan and is not incidental. Suffering is not haphazard. The pain of suffering is evidence of the working of God’s plans. Suffering is certainty that God is at work. God’s past faithfulness gives assurance that present pain will be relieved. The promise for God’s people is that just as God has intended, so it will be. Just as he has planned, so it will happen.

So yes, God’s people can give a resounding “YES” to answer the question. The remnant people of Israel who were faithful to Yahweh should have continued to be faithful to Him while they suffered. The same is true for us today. The present pain of suffering is God’s assurance that His past promises are being worked out to fruition. We can and we should continue to steadfastly trust in Him!