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February 24, 2013, by Pastor Ben Willis

According to Luke 10:38-42 [NLTse]

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Can I tell you a story?

A man was having difficulty communicating with his wife and concluded that she was becoming hard of hearing. So he decided to conduct a test without her knowing about it. One evening he sat in a chair on the far side of the room. Her back was to him and she could not see him. Very quietly he whispered, “Can you hear me?” There was no response. Moving a little closer, he asked again, “Can you hear me now?” Still, there was no reply. Quietly he edged closer and whispered the same words, but still there was no answer. Finally, he moved right behind her chair and said, “Can you hear me now?” To his surprise and embarrassment she responded with irritation in her voice, “For the fourth time, yes!”

The Bible tells us that God speaks. We see Him meeting with Adam and Eve in the cool of the afternoon to walk and talk together. We read of Abraham and the Lord talking together, making treaties, and even negotiating the future of great cities. Moses and the Lord talk together about commandments, and Moses writes them down. The prophets speak to God on behalf of Israel and then bring God’s responses back to them. As a matter of fact, the prophet Amos tells us that not hearing from God is one of God’s judgments against humanity when he says,

“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day, thirsting for the Lord’s word.” (8:11-13)

But if the Lord is so eager to be in touch with us, then why don’t more people hear from Him?

In the very first place, let’s remind ourselves that in John 10:27 that the Lord Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) Notice He does not say, “My sheep can hear My voice,” or, “My sheep should hear My voice,” or even, “My sheep might hear My voice.” He says, “My sheep hear My voice.”

So, at its most basic, to hear from God, first, we must be of His sheep: We must accept the gift of eternal life that is found only in Jesus Christ. Today, acknowledge your need for someone to rescue you from your life of regrets, someone to rescue you from your fears, addictions, loneliness, and the hopelessness that life can ever be anything different. Jesus has a new life for you, and a new family to live that life with and in here. Accept Him! And begin trusting and following Him today.

That’s the first thing.

Of course, to hear from God we must believe that God wants to speak to us. For instance, if your phone rings and Caller ID says, “The Holy Spirit” is calling. Is your response, “Yes! I knew He would!” or do your respond, “No, God wouldn’t call me,” or, “Nah, God doesn’t speak to people any more (if He ever really did).”

And then we must give quiet time to hear from Him, willing to wait, if necessary.

For a lot of different reasons, I would encourage us to be very specific, as we wait. Let God know you’re there to hear from Him. Perhaps you’d pray aloud something like, “Lord, I’m here. I want to hear Your voice. I am committed to do Your will…” Perhaps as you wait you might say things like, “I love You, Lord,” and perhaps spend some time giving Him thanks… Just enjoying Him and trusting Him. And then wait. And listen to the Lord as we read the Scriptures and hear various sermons and interact with others throughout our days, always listening for God to speak…

Our reading from Luke about Martha and Mary shows us the importance of getting rid of those things which can interfere with our hearing from God. Mary was busy – welcoming Jesus, getting the big dinner ready. These weren’t bad things, necessarily, but they were clearly too many things.

I think many of us can be tempted to give Jesus our leftovers: Our leftover possessions; our leftover energy; our leftover money; our leftover time… And I think the devil can try and keep us distracted from God’s voice and God’s things with busyness, even when it’s just lots and lots of good things. But Jesus said that Mary, sitting at His feet and listening as He taught, had chosen the very best thing…

Anger, bitterness, unforgiveness… can all interfere with us hearing from the Lord. Focusing on the hurt another has caused us, while trying to hear from God at the same time, doesn’t work.

Notice that Martha didn’t go to Jesus to listen to Him but to complain to Him about Mary.

Ask yourself, “Who is keeping me from hearing God?” [Pause.] If a name or face just came to your mind then you need to forgive that person or your anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness will not keep you from letting God effectively work in your life.

Jesus said to Martha, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!” Worried, stressed, under pressure, feeling choked… All of this interferes with our hearing from God. Upset, wrecked, overturned, in shambles… How are we supposed to hear from God?

So, to hear God speak, we need to trust in Christ; we need to believe God would speak to us; we need to give Him the opportunity and time to speak to us; and we need to get rid of all that can clog up our hearts and minds and interfere with our hearing Him. (Of course, this is all from our human point of view, what we can do seeking to hear from God.)

Another is to be where we know God speaks.

“Where does God speak?” [Wait for responses.] It wasn’t just that Mary wasn’t too busy. Mary put herself where she could hear from Jesus.

Are you putting yourself where you can hear from Jesus when He speaks in these various places?

Then, when we’re where God speaks, we need to be focused and attentive, expectant that He may and wants to speak to you. For instance, we all come here each Sunday, but are we truly intent on hearing God speak as we sing the songs, pray the prayers, hear the Scripture, receive the sermon, etc..? (After all, Mary and Martha were both in the same place with Jesus, but only one of them was truly “there”.)

We can be in the same room with God, even taking notes, but if our mind is wandering or if we’re sure we already know all about what the preacher’s teaching or if we’re listening without wanting to hear from God our receive from Him…

John 11:27-29 is another account of Mary and Martha, when their brother, Lazarus, died. It tells us that when Martha told Mary that Jesus was coming towards their house that Mary got up quickly and went to Him. Do we rush to those places we know Jesus regularly shows up?

The last thing I want to speak about this, but, perhaps, the most important, is that when we are seeking to hear from God we need to be ready and committed to respond.

Have you ever been talking to someone and somehow realized that they didn’t really seem to care what you were saying? How motivated are you to continue talking to them after you’ve realized this? Or have you ever given someone advice but they never took it? Time and time again? What do you think, will you keep on giving them advice forever?

Perhaps you’re not hearing from God today because He’s waiting for you, first, to do what He told you to do last week? Perhaps the Lord is not answering your questions about this part of your life because you haven’t yet acted on His advice about that part of your life? (The Letter from James says, “Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says”! [1:22])

Sometimes people don’t hear from God because they have no true intention of obeying Him. Sometimes Christian people pretend to seek out counselors when, in truth, they are really just looking for more opportunities to gossip about their troubles or others. Sometimes Christians will say they want to hear from God, yet there are certain actions they are unwilling to take, certain things they are unwilling to surrender. Sometimes God speaks to us but it is not what we want, so we continue praying awaiting the answer we want Him to give us, and we wonder why He’s so silent. Sometimes we want to hear from God when we’re already decided what we want Him to say. The truth is, we don’t want to hear from Him, we just want His approval for what we’ve decided to do, anyway.

But we live by faith. Faith that God is good! Faith that God has great plans for us, not plans for our harm but for our good! We live by faith that God works all things out for our good, those of us who love Him and are responding to His calling toward Christlikeness! Faith that God is love, and that He loves us with a love that has faced death and that has overcome death. And knowing and trusting all of this, we can listen, waiting, ready to do what He tells us with child-like faith.

The Lord Jesus says to His sheep, to all who truly love and follow Him: “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it. (Matthew 13:16-17)



February 17, 2013 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

Luke 10:1-12 [NLTse]

The Lord now chose seventy other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places He planned to visit. 2 These were His instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord Who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields. 3 Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.

5 “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 6 If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. 7 Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

8 “If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. 9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ 10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ 12 I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.

The word apostle is a Greek word meaning “one who is sent out”.

And we see in our reading this morning the Lord Jesus “sending out” seventy of His disciples to prepare towns and places for His coming. These “seventy” are not the Twelve Apostles – the Twelve “Sent Out Ones”. No. The Twelve were “sent out” in the “office of apostleship”: After Jesus’ sacrifice, and after they’d been anointed by the Holy Spirit, the Twelve would be those “sent out” to spread the good news of Christ’s Kingdom and establish church’s and Christian communities as they went.

But this group of seventy “sent out ones” Luke makes clear are just your average disciples. Jesus “sends them out”, but not to necessarily stir up a following or establish churches, they are “sent out” simply to prepare the people and communities they are going to for Jesus’ coming.

So there are two very different aspects to this idea of “apostle”, of being “sent out”. Yes, there’s the “office of the apostle”, but there is also the mindset of being apostolic: The recognition that each and every Christian has been “sent out” by Christ to prepare the people and communities around us for Jesus’ coming; no matter where we go and no matter what else we may be going to do there, that we’ve ultimately been sent there by God to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming.

Here are some examples: We go to school and complain because of the ways our teachers or classmates behave, or get down because of what the administration allows there… Your workplace is getting worse and worse: Growing in the Lord is helping you see more and more clearly how twisted their values have become and how mixed up their priorities. And it’s becoming harder and harder and more and more drudgery even just to get out of bed to go and be there each day… And we could describe the same kinds of feelings, struggles, and complaints about our home life, relationships with neighbors, and even our life together here at church…

But the Lord Jesus tells us that everything changes when we go to school or go to work or go home or go wherever it is we go realizing we go there “sent out by God”. If I go to the office hoping I can make it through the day, that’s very different than getting ready for work with the mindset, “I’m on a mission from God!” – knowing that God has sent us to bring Heaven to that place, to be Jesus to this specific group of people.

Without the sense of being “sent out”, well, we all know what it’s like: Our days are emotional roller coasters, happy one moment (depending on our circumstances), and miserable the next (as those circumstances change). We’ve all, perhaps, known or heard about priests and pastors who’ve left the ministry because of disappointment and hopelessness in the circumstances where they’ve been called. (I can think of one pastor I know whom this happened to recently who spent six or seven years – the entire time of her pastorate – complaining and frustrated because those who made up the church she served just wouldn’t be the way she wanted them to be or do the things she wanted them to do.

(I had the opportunity to counsel her as things were coming to a head and tried to share with her this mindset of apostleship: That sometimes our Father calls us to be Light among other Light-bearers. But other times He calls us to bring our Light into places that need more Light – places where there is darkness or negative, unpleasant, even demonic things happening. And having a sense of godly purpose – knowing we’ve been “sent out by God” into these dark, negative, unpleasant, and even (sometimes) demonic places changes everything!

So we ought not be surprised if and when we find that things aren’t the way we’d hoped they’d be at our new job or in our marriage or at our new school, in the Commissioner’s Office or at the Courthouse, etc… Having put His Spirit inside of us, the Bible is filled with accounts of the Lord God sending His sons and daughters into troubled situations to be a part of His solution there! He “sends us out” to share Jesus’ love and bring Heaven to Earth in these places.

Too often, however, we go to work hoping to get Life there; we hope to get Life from our husband or wife, we hope to find Life and fulfillment from our friends, or from this or that endeavor, and we are regularly disappointed because we don’t understand the nature of God’s calling on our lives as His “sent out ones”.

As Christians we are not called to seek Life or fulfillment from the people or activities of the world. We are called to get our fulfillment and Life from Christ, and then to bring Christ’s Light and Life to the places we go.

It can be a challenging mindset. It can be a difficult calling to remember and set our lips and hands to day by day, but it is His calling on our lives, and He promises it’s an integral part of our having abundant life here in the world, and, of course, integral to those around us coming to Christ and enjoying His Light and Life for themselves, as well.

Such a being “sent out” would have been just as strange and awkward to those first seventy. So let’s see what He told them to help them live in this Way.

First, the Lord Jesus told them not to take any money with them or any extra belongings. I hear two charges to us in this. First, let’s not think we have to have this or that saved up or to have attained this or that status or position to serve God in the world. Jesus tells us we’re ready to be “sent out” just the way we are!

Second, I hear Him calling us to travel light. Our plans to achieve and possess the good things of this world often get in the way of God’s giving us the best things of this world. Giving away and not getting bogged down in the acquiring and getting (and then the maintenance and care of those things we’ve acquired and gotten) keeps our hearts, minds, and souls light for God to “send us out” and fill up our lives with His best things.

Another charge Jesus gave concerning this apostolic mindset was to ask God’s blessing upon the people and places they went to. How would it change you and your school (or your workplace or home life or neighborhood, etc…) if, every time you entered its doors and entered your various classrooms or conference rooms you asked our Father in Heaven, “Grant Your peace to this house”? I think the truth is, we don’t know how it would change things because we don’t tend to do it! J

Jesus “sends us out” saying, “Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’” As we go about our daily lives, the awareness that Heaven has sent us to those places we’re going – Taco Bell, Radio Shack, gym class, that new prospect’s office, the doctor’s office, etc… – can make us ready to pray with and for those we sense have a need. Now, I know that many of you would feel uncomfortable initiating prayer with someone else. And, in the name of Jesus Christ I say to you today, “Get over it!” God has “sent you out” to be His representative: To bring Heaven to Earth; to bring Jesus to lost people. Pray for those He brings to you. Share with them what He’s done in your life.

You’re on a mission from God.

On Saturday afternoon, March 23rd – the day before Palm Sunday and the week before Easter – we are going to be breaking all of us up into teams and going out door-to-door and around the Wal-Mart and Kmart (and more) shopping centers to invite our neighbors and community to celebrate the wonders of Jesus’ death and the mind-blowing fact of His resurrection with us. We’ll be meeting a week earlier, Friday night, March 15th at 7pm downstairs in Fellowship Hall, for some training and preparation in this very special kind of “sending out”.

Let’s make plans now to be available and be a part of it all!

We are on a mission from God!

Traditional Worship: [“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (Hymn #354, vv. 1, 2, 3) (INTRODUCED BY PASTOR)]

Contemporary Worship: [Acknowledging the Body of Christ (PASTOR)]

, and across Luke, we see that Jesus had the habit of sending out different ones of His followers ahead of Him into the towns and places where He planned to visit. At the beginning of Luke 9 we see Him “sending out” the Twelve Apostles to preach, teach, and minister in Jesus’ name and Kingdom. Later in Luke 9 we see Him “sending out” messengers to a Samaritan village He was preparing to visit. As we’ve just read, Luke 10 records Jesus “sending out” seventy other disciples (that is, not from among the Twelve) to go ahead of Him to get ready those towns and places for His coming. And Luke 22 shows Jesus “sending out” Peter and John to get everything ready for their Passover celebrations in Jerusalem.

There are two distinct kinds of “sending out” going on in these passages: When “sending out” the Twelve Apostles the Lord is “sending them out” to train them for the “office” of Apostle, training them to be “sent out” to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God far and wide, and to establish communities of Christians as they go. The “office” of Apostleship.

But these other “sent out ones”, the so-called “messengers” and “the seventy”, are simply “other disciples,” Luke writes. And unlike those called to the “office” of Apostle, these others were “sent out”, but then they came back.



February 10, 2013 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

Matthew 10:16-31 [NLTse]

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are My followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.

24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master.25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the Master of the Household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of My Household will be called by even worse names!

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!

28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in Hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

I was recently talking with a friend who was considering purchasing a handgun for protection. (I know in the aftermath of the Newtown Elementary School shootings that some people have looked to guns as a way of protecting themselves and their families.) It got me thinking – this idea of protecting ourselves from society; this idea of protecting ourselves from “bad guys,” “crazies,” “people that have snapped” – it got me thinking…

If I have a handgun to protect myself from somebody who’s a “bad guy” or somebody who’s snapped: If they kill me, and Jesus has given me the confidence by adopting me into His family – has given me the confidence in salvation – to know where I’m going (that is, to be with Him in Heaven until He makes all things new), and that comforts me; and if the realities of the Holy Spirit’s saving work in my life – the ways I’ve been changed and am being changed for the good – and that giving them hope to know where I would be going, if that would all be a comfort to my wife and my children and my parents and all of you, my loved ones; then, in a manner of speaking, if I died or was killed, I’d be OK, and you’d all be OK… (Of course, you’d perhaps grieve, but your grief would be buoyed by the hope God would have given you in the promises of my being with Him in Heaven…)

But if I somehow killed them – killed the “bad guy, killed “the crazy,” killed someone who’d snapped – then, likely, they wouldn’t be ready, overwhelmed by all their troubles and likely still in their sins, and likely they’d end up going to the other place. So if I died or was killed, I’d be OK because I’m ready to die. But the ”bad guy” or the troubled guy, they wouldn’t be ready…

It all got me thinking, “Are you ready?” Are you ready to die, if that’s what comes? Or do you feel you need to protect your life here? Do you feel like you need to save your life here? Do you need to save yourself?

(I’m not talking about people that have handguns because they enjoy target-shooting and all that kind of stuff. I’ve never shot a handgun. I’ve never been target-shooting. People say it’s fun. Maybe it is? That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the idea of having guns to protect ourselves. I’m talking about all the extremes that some people can go to so that we can protect ourselves…)

I want to challenge us that this is a spiritual issue. It is a question that our faith as Christian men and women and boys and girls, as those of us who are getting to know God through Jesus Christ better and better by the Holy Spirit, and who are getting to love God through Jesus Christ better and better by the Holy Spirit. It’s a spiritual question – a spiritual issue – for us: Protecting ourselves…

It leads me to ask all of us, all of you this morning: Do you know where you are going? Do you have confidence, not just in your faith in Jesus Christ, but in what He has promised is true for us because of that faith?

Because the Bible tells us, as Christians, that the idea of our death should not fill us with fear but with joy! Paul says about himself and his missionary companions, “We would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord,” in 2 Corinthians 5:8. And he writes to the church in Philippi: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.” (1:21-23)

Yes, the Scriptures reassure us that not even death will “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Once a believer has died, though his or her physical body remains on the Earth and is buried, at the moment of death their soul (though in some places it’s spoken of as their spirit) goes immediately into the presence of God with rejoicing!

We’ve already seen Paul’s writings to the Corinthians and Philippians about preferring to be away from the body and at home with the Lord, and that to depart and be with Christ would be far better! But our Lord Jesus also speaks to the repentant revolutionary on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Sound joyful to you? You bet! And the author of Hebrews writes that each time we Christians come together to worship that we come, not only into the presence of the angels, God in Heaven, and the Lord Jesus, but also into the presence of “the spirits of the righteous ones in Heaven who have now been made perfect.” (12:23)

So don’t let the teachings about Purgatory steal your sense of hope and joy concerning Heaven, because if we’re in Christ when we die then Christ has fully paid the penalty for all our sins and there is no further condemnation or need for purging our sin further.

And don’t let the teachings about Limbo steal your sense of hope and joy concerning Heaven. In the case of Old Covenant believers the Bible makes clear that God is the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that although these Patriarchs may seem dead to us that they are very much alive and in His presence to God! (Matthew 22:32; and see Luke 16:19-31) And in the case of infants or young children who’ve never been baptized, the Bible makes clear that God knows His Own, that He’s chosen us before the creation of the world, whether we are infants or adults, baptized or unbaptized.

And don’t let the teachings about “soul-sleep” steal your sense of hope and joy concerning Heaven. (“Soul-sleep” is the teaching that upon death believers go into a state of unconscious existence – like sleep – and the next thing they are conscious of is being with Christ when He returns and raises them to eternal life.) The Bible speaks of death as “sleep” only metaphorically, such as when Jesus says to His disciples about the death of Lazarus, “Our friend, Lazarus, has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep,” in John 11:11 when Jesus is speaking about going to raise Lazarus from the dead. This and, of course, the passages about going immediately into Jesus’ joyous presence in Heaven that we’ve already read, make clear the promised reality that our souls (or spirits) go to be with Him immediately upon our deaths, awaiting the Great Resurrection and the consummation of the New Heaven and the New Earth!

Let’s not miss this, because all of this impacts our growing older, the aches and pains of aging, of this body breaking down; and of all the troubles we can have living in this fallen world. God in His Own wisdom has chosen not to drive out all trouble – the wicked, the unclean, dark powers, the cruel, the unjust – from this world. He has chosen in His wisdom to allow these things to continue until all His enemies are destroyed, the last being death.

And He has chosen not to grant us the fullness of salvation here: So our bodies know weakness; our bodies know the failure of systems breaking down; our bodies know death… And this death is not a punishment for sin, because there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

The deaths we experience as Christians are the realities of living in a world that has not yet unilaterally bowed the knee to Jesus Christ. And living in a world where our salvation is not all that it will be when the Lord returns to make all things new; as we live in a world where the Holy Spirit has been given us as a down payment – a foretaste – of the fullness that God has for us to come.

So growing old, getting sick, these are all most fully opportunities to show God’s glory to the watching world. You can go to any rehab, hospital, and doctor’s offices and dentist’s offices and hear people moan and groan, complain and grumble, about their bodies having trouble. And maybe they’ll blame it on their doctors, maybe they’ll blame it on their bodies, maybe they’ll blame it on God, whoever, whatever. But few, if any people, will you find glorifying God and trusting Him with their troubles, perhaps saying: “Yeah, I’ve got this or that going on, but, worse-comes-to-worse I know where I’m going. And although I hope and trust that God’s going to use this doctor to help me, even if He doesn’t…

It makes me think of the prophet Daniel’s friends – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – “We believe that our God can protect us from your fiery furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar. But even if He does not we will not bow down to your golden statue!” We believe that God can save us and heal us, but even if He does not… We believe He can restore us from the troubles of old age and refresh us and renew us and keep us from all illness and infirmity, but even if He does not we will not forsake Him Who has never forsaken us!

Because we know He has given us a promise of life everlasting, and that until He returns – even if we were to die today – that until He returns that we have good things to look forward to after our death: Life with Christ in Paradise; a better, completely spiritual life with Him; more intimate than we are able to experience with Him here in this fallen world; awaiting the fulfillment of all things as we await the time of His return…

From glory to glory! After all, this Earth can be pretty glorious sometimes. But the intermediate state – Heaven! – how even more glorious that will be enjoying Jesus’ mighty, glorious presence! And of course, more glorious still, the New Heaven and the New Earth where we will live with Him in our resurrected bodies – you and I perfected and living face-to-face with Him in that perfectly material and spiritual creation. “Onward and upward for eternity!” as C.S. Lewis put it… (“The Last Battle”)

So let us glorify God with your bodies! In our troubles let us give Him praise. Let us see, in our troubles, opportunities to learn perseverance of faith. Let us see, in our troubles, opportunities to be better molded and shaped, by the Potter’s hand, into Jesus’ likeness. Let us see, in our troubles, our infirmities, our aches, our pains, our gray, our weakness, our inability to do what we used to be able to do… In our getting sick more readily… Let us see in our lives in this fallen world opportunities to give our Lord and our Savior endless, unending praise to draw men and women and boys and girls to Him as we celebrate His goodness in the good times and the bad times. As we celebrate the abundant goodness of this One Who is Himself the very standard of goodness!

Because this life is not the end. Because this world is not our home. Because the end Christ has for us is glory, if we will be faithful and true to Him in this life. And because the home Christ has for us is Heaven, and a New Heaven and a New Earth, if we’ll be faithful in our lives as strangers and temporary inhabitants of this fallen world!

To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.