He Didn’t Let Go

Do you know anyone who no longer believes there is a God because they didn’t receive an answer to a heartfelt prayer? I do. I feel for them. I’ve been confused and hurt myself because I really believed . . . and it didn’t happen. I guess the reason I didn’t stop believing in him was because I did know him personally. I had experienced his presence. I had also received answers to other prayers.

Three boys playing tug-of-warBut I became less confident in praying–for a while. For years, actually. But I have not been satisfied with that. I have seen in the Bible that Jesus loved finding people with outrageous faith. So I have kept the hope alive.

So you can imagine how ENCOURAGING it was to hear my pastor’s remark about Abraham.

First of all, some background: You know, he was 75 years old when he left the old country to travel to the Promised Land. The Lord told him his descendants would inherit the land that is now Israel. Problem was, he had no children. None. His wife was barren, and he was getting up in years.

Abraham is called the father of faith, because he believed God’s “impossible” promises. But his faith was not exactly rock-solid in the beginning. Or middle. He waffled a little on following the Lord’s instructions. And, after waiting 24 years for this son to appear, he asked the Lord, “How can I know this will really happen? Couldn’t my chief servant’s son be my heir?”

At that point, the Lord made a blood covenant with Abraham, showing him how serious his promise was. Abraham was instantly convinced. From then on, he had no problem trusting God completely. . . . His son was born a year later.

This is the remark my pastor made about all this: During those 25 years, Abraham did not let go of his hope in God’s promise. He didn’t say, “I guess I was mistaken.” He didn’t say, “I don’t see this kind of thing happening anywhere. Why did I think it would happen for me?” No, he knew that he had heard from God. It was a precious thing to him, so he kept it alive. That’s why, my pastor continued, his faith was able to grow. To critical mass, if you will. To the point where he could receive God’s amazing promises.

I’m excited about the promises I’m hanging on to. I may not have quite enough faith to receive them yet, but I will. I’m giving my faith a chance to grow.:-)

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise (Hebrews 10:35-36 NKJV).

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galations 6:9 NIV)

EASTER: Blowing on the Embers

WP_000157 - Version 2Today it may seem as if I’m backpedaling. Yesterday–the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Today–referring again to Gethsemane. But, believe it or not, my thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is not a somber one. It is touching and encouraging.

By the way, this photo is one I took last summer in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is an olive tree that Jesus would have seen. You can see that the branches are small in comparison with the massive trunk. They have been trimmed many times, no doubt.

. . . If there ever was a time Jesus needed his friends, it was that night in the olive grove of Gethsemane when he was staring the Cross in the face. He had brought his closest friends–Peter, James, and John–with him to a secluded spot, told them his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, and asked them to support him in prayer while he went a little further to pray. But three times he emerged to where his disciples were and found them asleep! How did Jesus react? You choose:

  1. Jesus woke them up and reamed them for not caring very much and not being there for him when he needed them.
  2. Jesus began rebuking the devil for trying to weaken him by lulling his support team to sleep.
  3. Jesus woke them and urged them to pray for their own sakes, so God could strengthen them to respond well to the coming events.

Is 1, 2, or 3 the correct answer? Check it with this narrative:

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).

Notice that the question was addressed specifically to Peter. A couple hours before, during the Last Supper, Jesus had told them they would all soon desert him.

Peter blurted out: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Jesus answered: “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same (Matthew 26:33-35).

So, in the garden, Jesus pointedly addressed Peter, saying, in essence, “You need to pray for your own sake, so that you don’t cave in under the pressures ahead. Think about it–you didn’t even stay awake to support me in prayer. Your intentions are good, but you’re not as strong as you think you are.”

. . . Are you as overwhelmed by Jesus’ response to the drowsy men as I am? He knows their fickleness but still treats them as his special friends. He is disappointed by their actions but still sees the loyal intentions of their hearts. He is engulfed in dread of torture and death but understands and cares about his friends’ much smaller struggle.

There’s a wide-spread belief out there that God views us with a frown, much of the time. This scene shows me a completely different God. It convinces me that he does take note of our glaring failures. But then he bends down and blows on the embers of our good intentions.

He so wants us to succeed. And he is able to make that happen. It makes me feel safe to trust him with my life.