Fear is Rampant
We live in fearful times. For the first time in my life of nearly 5 decades, we as Americans are living under a constant state of alert. During World War II, we read about those who lived along the western coast of the US keeping lights off at night so as not to attract possible Japanese war planes. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Americans lived in a constant state of readiness under threat of another imminent attack. Now we too are being warned not to go to certain high profile cities and attend large venue concerts and such due to ISIS threats of terrorist activities. The recent attacks in Paris have been a wakeup call that we are in a real war. This is not just places far away any more, it is right here in our own back yard. Schools, coffee shops, movie theaters, shopping malls-all are targets of terror. Another shooting is happening right now in Colorado as I write this.
It Affects Us All
All of this can seem far away to us here in Bend, Oregon, but fear has hit people here as well. One of our local high schools recently had a scare when a troubled kid thought he would pull a prank and threatened to go on a rampage. Thankfully, it was just a prank; however, one father told me that he is afraid to send his kids to school now. When will all this stop so we can resume our quiet, peaceful and secure lives once more? The answer is...maybe never in my lifetime.
Jesus warns us that as humanity rushes ahead into what the Bible terms "the last days", that wars and threats of wars will increase and that mankind would become more and more selfish and hurtful to each other. (Matthew 24:7-12) He describes for us that a world without God gets worse and worse not better. We are beginning to see a world like Jesus described unfold before us today. When a society pushes away the Author of life and love from them, it is left with anything that will fill that void-but be assured, it won't be life and it won't be love. It will be power, control, fear, domination, self centeredness, apathy, cruelty, pride; basically everything that God is not will rush in to take His place. Does this sound familiar? We as a society cannot afford to push God away, the alternative is terrifying.
There Is Hope
Is there any hope? Absolutely and emphatically YES!
“Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.” When we place our trust in God Himself, not our government, not our military might, not Wall Street, not our stock portfolio or retirement account; only then can we be truly secure. I have experienced first hand the protection of God over my family and I.
Safe In His Hands
While at a conference in Istanbul a number of years ago, terrorists bombed the British embassy right next to our hotel. Our hotel was destroyed but those of us who were there working with persecuted Christians from Muslim countries were praying in the basement when the attack happened. We were safe and secure in the hands of God, not a single one of us was injured in the slightest even though there were many casualties that day. "Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion."
In God Alone
We have no control over what goes on in the world around us or even right there in our home town of Bend, Oregon. Still, I am confident in this, the safest place to be is in the Lord's hands. He wants to be our Protector, He wants to be our Provider, He wants to be our healer, but unless we put our trust in Him and stop looking to other things to be our savior, He can't do what He does best. He is very good at being God, will you let Him be yours today?
“Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever.” Psalms 125:1 NLT
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT)
There is so much more to serving God than just a fear of being punished or ending up in hell.
The Lord asks us to give him our lives and everything else, in that request there is a tendency to feel as though we have given up so much and have gotten the short end of the stick some how. We tend to look at how much we have sacrificed for the Lord and the sake of his kingdom, when in actuality; the benefits far out way the sacrifices.
Here Paul reminds us of all the great promises that Jesus has in store for us. When we realize how incredible the reward he has in store for us actually is; the sacrifices made to get there don't even compare.
Jacob worked for seven years in order to make Rachel his wife. The Bible says that it seemed like only a few days to him because his love for her was so strong. To him the prize of Rachel as a wife was worth the cost.
What promises has The Lord made to you, what desires in your heart have you poured out to him and what was his reply? The Bible is stacked full of incredible blessings and the only price tag is simple obedience. Some of these blessings we get to begin to enjoy now and some of them we will enjoy later and some of them we will enjoy for eternity.
This is why Paul encourages us in Colossians 3 to fix our eyes on the realities of heaven and the blessing that will be ours when we get there. When the blessing of Heaven becomes a reality in our lives, the mandate to cleanse ourselves from everything that brings defilement, shame, fear and separation becomes our mission and passion - to live a life that make God proud as a father to a son.
I think more than anything I want to hear my Father in heaven say "Well done Son, you fought the good fight, you kept the faith and you finished the race - now enter into the joy of The Lord."
If we look at life with eternity in mind, anything the Lord asks from us is really small compared to the rewards later. Am I willing to lay down my pride to get his divine nature? My stinginess and self preservation tendencies to receive his abundant provision and limitless resource? Can I lay down my need to be right to receive his righteousness?
This is what Jim Elliott meant when he said, "He is no fool to lose what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Pastors Phil Harris of Epikos Church in Bend, Oregon.