Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Never give up

"One day Jesus told his disciples a story 
to show that they should always pray 
and never give up."
 ~Luke 18:1 (NLT) 

Sometimes I feel like giving up.  That's the honest truth.

Praying is hard work.  Praying when you don't seem to receive the answers you're hoping for, that's exhausting.  Praying for things that are far away, things you can't see, things that are mysteries to you, things you have no way of monitoring (let alone controlling) -- it can be excruciating.

Sometimes I drop to my knees, feeling the stiff numbness of lupus spreading into my slightly swollen toes and ankles, and my heart hurts.  "I can't do this anymore, Lord Jesus," I say.  Tears sting my eyes.  I've forgotten my reading glasses somewhere, and I can't see to read my Bible or the selected verses I've printed out for my prayer time.  How can the prayers of a messed up, discouraged, disorganized person like me have any effect?

But Jesus tells me to persevere.  Jesus tells me to keep praying.  Jesus tells me not to give up.  Furthermore, Jesus tells me that it is not about me or the power of my prayers.  It is about Him and His infinite power, His perfect wisdom, His incontestable dominion, His unfailing love.

I can rest in Him because it all rests on Him.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest," Jesus says.  

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls," Jesus says.

"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus promises.  His yoke is easy because it rests on Him, so I can rest in Him, next to Him, but in Him.

Jesus walks with us through our dark times.  "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He says.  Immanuel.  God with us.  He is here.  He is near.  He is constant.

Jesus sits by the side of His Father's throne and intercedes for us.  The Holy Spirit also intercedes for us, with groanings too deep for words, the Bible says.  If God is for us, who can stand against us?

And the miracle: our prayers rise to God and become like the fragrance of incense in His holy nostrils.  Our fearful, fretful begging and pleading is miraculously turned into a fragrant offering as He listens and attends to our needs, our broken hearts.  How can He be so unfathomably good? 

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord.

I do not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone, He explains.

He will not coerce anyone to follow Him (oh how I sometimes wish he would), but He finds no joy in watching the rebellious reap what they sow.

For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son that whoever would believe could have eternal life.  He gave His own Son, His own life, to purchase our deliverance.  This mission has already been completed.  It is finished, Jesus said, and it was.  It is.

He is not willing that any should perish, and so He waits, patiently, graciously, extending opportunity after opportunity, orchestrating circumstances, shining the light of His Spirit into the corners of this darkened world.  To all who will receive Him, to those who believe on His name, He gives the right to become sons of God.

His desire is that all men would come to a saving knowledge of the truth.  The Bible tells us this in 1 Timothy 2:3-4.  I remember that now, because the numbers go 1-2-3-4.  As simple and straightforward as counting, God yearns to save humanity from sin and destruction.

This is my hope.  He is the saving God, the God who has always planned and executed everything for the salvation of His people.  He saves, rescues, delivers, heals, restores.  This is His character, His nature.  He is kind and gentle, and He longs to take us into His arms, feed us real food, clothe us in clean linen and wipe away all our tears.

Because of who He is, because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and His mercies never come to an end, because of His unfailing love, His almighty power and His lovingkindness, I must not give up as long as there is life.

Even if death comes, there is still hope, because even at the last moment, a heart can turn, as the heart of the thief on the cross turned (Luke 23:40-43).  The owner of the vineyard (Matthew 20) paid the same rate to those who came at the last hour as he paid to the ones who had worked all the day long.  There is hope to the very end, no matter how bleak things appear.

I must always hope, always pray and never give up. 


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