“Upheld by the Hand of God”

I enjoyed some short recorded clips of the Winter Olympics on the On-line news. I was astonished by the speeds of some of the events, especially the speed skating. Having done little in the way of skating all my life other than trying it a few times, and spending most of my time spreadeagled on the ice trying to get back on my feet, I decided it was for not for me. So the skills of the Olympic skaters was beyond my understanding. They spoke of very hard work and single-minded dedication. This makes the heartbreak of things going wrong in the heat of a race doubly painful. This was the experience of  Briton Elsie Christie in the 500 metre short track speed skating final. She fell as a result of some contact with another skater, The agony of her disappointment was too painful to watch. She seemed to be going so well with her mind set on an Olympic gold medal, and in a few split seconds she lost all control, and was sliding on her back. We all hope that she will recover from her disappointment and regain her confidence; a difficult task.

The christian life has many falls while we are in this world. We have not been promised a smooth journey through this life, but many trials and tests. We are not speaking about physical falls like that of Elsie Christie, but spiritual falls: falls into sin, failures of faith, lapses of our love for one another, failures to love our neighbour as ourselves, and many other things overtake us, and we are filled with disappointment and self-reproach, but our relationship with Christ is not broken, although we may feel that it has. The bible has comforting words for us.

In Psalm 37, verses 23,24, we read, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He (the Lord) delights in his (the christian’s) way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand”. There are a number of encouragements for our christian lives in these verses, but the first thing we learn is that the Lord does not promise us that we will never fall. What He does promise is that He holds our hand when we fall. There are other important things which we learn from these verses, regarding the christian life.

In verse 23, we read that the christian’s very steps are ordered (directed) by the Lord. Yes, and this ‘directing’ includes our falls and stumbles! These falls in the christian’s life are important for his or her sanctification. We all naturally want life to be going smoothly, but smooth times can be dangerous times. We become self-sufficient and independent, which makes us less dependent on the Lord. The Lord loves dependent children, and He will do whatever is necessary to ensure that dependence by allowing His child to have occasional falls. However, the Lord delights in the christian’s ‘way’, that is the whole of his life’s journey including the falls. In verse 24, we are given some insight into what happens when the christian actually falls.

We read that when the christian falls, “he shall not be utterly cast down”. This is speaking  about falling without hope of recovery. This simply will not happen, and there is a very good reason given for this: that in the fall “the Lord upholds him or her with His hand”, He just does not let go! Poor Elsie Christie, when she fell, she was sliding and spinning around on the ice, with no hand to hold her. The christian may have spiritual falls, but in these falls, he or she will never be left for one second without that hand to hold them.

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“The Winter and the Springtime of the Soul”

We have had a long, cold winter, and it is showing no sign of abating. For people who enjoy skiing and snow-boarding it has been a good winter; however, for most of us it is a case of longing for the spring, and some warmer weather. The Song of Solomon speaks of this in Chapter 2 and verses 11 and 12: “Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land”. This describes the joy of springtime. We complain about the winter, but the farmers tell us that the winter, especially frost. is good for the soil, and makes it better to work with the next spring. Of course continual winter would not be good, because things would not grow at all. The soil needs the winter and the summer.

When the Song speaks about the “winter”, it is speaking about the spiritual winter, the winter of the soul, experienced only by the person who is RightWithGod through Jesus Christ. It is the Lord who is speaking here, and He is rejoicing with the believer that the winter of her soul is over and spring-time has arrived. But then surely He is the one who brings winter on the soul? Yes indeed He is. Why does He do this? Well, just as the soil needs summer and winter in order to be healthy, so it is with the believer’s soul while in this life. Long ago I listened to a recorded sermon where the preacher said, “We must learn to live  always in the springtime of revival”. I agreed with him at that time, but now, being many more years on in my spiritual journey, I would strongly disagree, because I have since experienced many summers and winters in my own soul. I have been enriched by both, but I would say that my soul has always been enriched more by trials and afflictions than by the good times, that is the winters rather than the summers.

When we are experiencing a winter of the soul, it is a great help to us that the spring will eventually arrive. It will arrive as soon as that phase of God’s sanctifying work in us is over, when we will be able to say with joy, “the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;” the flowers, the blessings appear, and there is a song in our hearts like the joyful singing of birds.

When things are difficult, and we are experiencing pain and heartbreak, we may even be tried to the point where we say, “Lord take me away”. That day will arrive, but not until the Lord’s work in us is finished. Then, and then only will He come for us and we hear the final, ‘come away with me, my loved, and dearly bought one, time to go. I have worked in thee that which was pleasing in my eyes, the work is now complete’.  “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” to be with me where there is no winter, but perpetual blessedness, eternal rest and pleasures forever more.

 

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“The Christian’s Inheritance”

In a world where financial pressures are greater than ever, especially on young couples trying to get a start on what we call the ‘property ladder’, it is a great help to receive an inheritance. However small or great the inheritance, it is something for which they have not laboured nor contributed to. It has to be received humbly and with thanks if possible. The problem with the thanks is that the giver has passed away, and it is not usual or proper to give thanks in advance! So the only person we can thank is God; and it is right to do so, for our lot in this life is set out for us by Him.

The inheritances of this life are soon used up, and sometimes they become more of a hindrance than a help in their long term effects on our lives. But there is one inheritance which has no downside, that is, God’s inheritance. It is described to us in 1 Peter, chapter 1, verse 4 as “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you”. But who are the “you” spoken of here? Does it mean all humans without exception? No, only those who are described in verse 3 as having been born of God: “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. This is not as complicated as it may at first sound. When someone becomes a christian through believing on Christ and receiving Him as Lord and Saviour, that person experiences something which is a parallel to the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, namely a resurrection. He or she is, as we say, and as the bible says, “born again” (John 3: 3,7). That person, in that instant, is made RightWithGod, and becomes one of those who will inherit that inheritance “incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you”. This inheritance is God’s inheritance reserved for His people: it is heaven with Jesus Christ. Let us consider this wonderful inheritance in a little more detail.

It is incorruptible. Age and decay affect everything in this world, but this inheritance cannot be so affected.  It will never suffer from any kind of decay.

It is undefiled.  Everything in this world is tainted with the defilement of sin one way or another. This inheritance is pure, and will never suffer from the defilements of sin, because there is no sin in heaven. Nothing will ever taint it for all eternity.

It will never fade. It is difficult for us to even imagine this, because we are so used to this world where even the greatest pleasures fade away with the using. This pleasures of this inheritance will be as intense after a million years as at the beginning.

This inheritance is reserved for you if you are RightWithGod through faith in Jesus Christ. It has your name on it already. There will be no mistake.

But what of the time until we enter into this great inheritance? The fear is often expressed, ‘What if I lapse? I cannot keep anything up for very long’. You do not need to worry about that, because the keeping is not up to you. God becomes your keeper the moment you trust in Christ. In verse 5 the position of the christian during this interim time is described for us: “kept by the power of God through faith, unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time”.

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