Hard Is Not Hopeless

When life is hard, the mind is perplexed, persecution persists, sickness strikes, grief is heavy, the body is tired, emotions are high, spirits are low, and the flesh is weak – may we meditate on these Bible verses to help us abide in Christ with hope, patience, and endurance.

Genesis 18:14
Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you–in about a year–and Sarah will have a son.

Job 42:2
I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be thwarted.

Psalms 34:18-19
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psalms 147:3‭-‬5
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Isaiah 26:3-4
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 43:13
Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it? 

Jeremiah 32:17
Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!

Lamentations 3:21-23
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Luke 1:37
For nothing will be impossible with God.

John 16:33
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Romans 5:3-6
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 8:35-39
And who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:12
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

1 Corinthians 1:8-9
He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 1:2-5
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

1 Peter 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

1 Peter 4:13
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

The Lowest Of The Greatest

Who’s the greatest is often debated. Who’s the greatest President? Who’s the greatest of any given sport? The disciples of Jesus Christ seemingly could never let go of which one of them was the greatest (Matthew 18:1-5, Mark 9:33-37, and Luke 9:46-48). Peter, James, and John must have believed they were in line for the title since they were the only three invited up on the Mount of Transfiguration.

But who did Jesus say was the greatest among men? It’s the Elijah of the New Testament and the answer is found in Matthew 11:11:

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Here Jesus makes a paradoxical statement about him. He names John as the greatest, yet immediately states that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater. So where is Jesus going with this?

Let’s first note that the greatness that Jesus is referring to is John’s unique position in preparing the way for the Messiah. It wasn’t because of John’s talent, special merit, or personal holiness. It was because he was chosen to fulfill the prophecies from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1

Next, let’s remember John’s special birth. The angel in Luke 1:14-17 tells Zechariah (John’s father):

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Later on John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when she meets Mary who is pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:41).

Now to understand Jesus’s statement we also have to back up and understand the full context of Matthew 11. John the Baptist was in prison when Jesus proclaimed him the greatest. The man predestined to prepare the way for the Messiah is no longer sure he was right about Jesus as he sits in a dark dungeon wondering if he got it wrong. 

Can you imagine what was running through John’s mind? Isn’t it just like us to question God in our lowest moments? John had previously declared he was unworthy to baptize Jesus and that he couldn’t even carry His sandals (See Matthew 3). Now John was sending messengers to question Jesus to confirm if He really was the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-3). 

The greatest was at his lowest and Vance Havner sums it up nicely for us: “What (John) had preached like a living exclamation point had become a question mark to the Preacher Himself. But our Lord did not reprimand the troubled prophet. Instead He made His best statement about John the Baptist on the same day the prophet made his worst statement about the Lord.”

And Jesus answered them (those that John sent), “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me (Matthew 11:4-6).”

Havner goes on to state: In other words, “Blessed is he who does not get upset by the way I run my business!…God doesn’t operate by our timetable and sometimes it does not add up on our computers.”

The answer Jesus gave was an amazing confirmation that He truly was the Messiah, and his last sentence is an indictment of many offended Christ followers. The greatest prophet was prophetic indeed when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).” John never made it out of prison and then lost his head to a wicked, foolish promise made by King Herod (See Mark 6). John didn’t live to witness the horrors of Christ on the cross and didn’t get to see His victorious resurrection, yet he accomplished all that God called him to do.

When we find ourselves at our lowest, let’s remember John the Baptist and know that during our hardest trials and difficulties God may be doing His greatest work in us, through us, and around us (without us). Yet He is still good and great and worthy of all praise.

And here one other passage comes to mind…I wonder if John the Baptist remembered Habakkuk’s prayer while he was in prison (See Habakkuk 3). It fittingly begins with:

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds…(NIV)

And later Habakkuk rejoices in song (3:17-19) and gives us a glimpse of what he’s learned as a model for how we should trust and praise God in the midst of suffering (in this case famine):

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. (ESV)

Though…Yet…Though I’m in prison…Yet will I praise you. We can trust Him because He is good and He is great. He must increase, but I must decrease for He is the Greatest!

Afflictions Are Limited

alone-boy-child-256658 (1)A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Nahum 1:12

The entire human family, including God’s elect, will at times suffer various afflictions; however, our great and wise God, “according to the multitude of his mercies,” assures us that they are limited (see Lamentations 3:31-33). The rod does not last forever. Just as the prophet Nahum (“comfort”) gave a message of comfort to the nation of Judah in the seventh century B. C., revealing that Jehovah would eventually remove the Assyrian rod from their land, so too we are assured that the trials and sorrows of God’s people will one day come to an end: “Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more.” Thus we have this comforting promise to us in the New Testament:”Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Note, “receiving!” 

It was C. H. Spurgeon who once said, “Our Father in heaven takes away the rod when his design in using it is fully served.” Yes, whatever that “design” is, our merciful God will some day take it away. So, let us “be of good cheer,” looking to our Lord Jesus Christ alone, who knew all about afflictions of soul and body when hanging on the tree of Calvary as our Substitute. Dying for his people, “the just for the unjust,” he was identifying himself with us in all of our afflictions, according to 1 Peter 2:23-24; 3:18. What wondrous love, mercy, and condescension this was from our precious Savior!

Whatever trials we are facing today, let us learn anew that “in the faith” we must look beyond our present circumstances to a brighter day. Satan, our enemy and adversary, will not win in the end, so we are admonished: “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:9-11).

“These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st seek thy all in me.”
John Newton (Gadsby’s #295)

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