The Under Pressure / I Will Survive Mash-up

Job 39-40

I’m intrigued by tardigrades. They are eight-legged microscopic animals that look almost like bears when they move, earning them the alternate name water bears. They can be found anywhere on earth, surviving the most extreme temperatures and pressures. Apparently it is no big deal for them to have no air, water, or food for a while. They can dehydrate in a water shortage and sit dormant for decades until more water comes along, and then rehydrate and continue their life as if nothing happened. They can even survive exposure to outer space unshielded from dangerous radiation. They have a resilience of almost mythical proportions.

Consider Behemoth (Job 40:15-24). He seems pretty solid. He makes me think of an elephant, hippo, or in the Harry Potter universe, an erumpent. Who knows what he is anyway? All I know is that I’d rather not cross paths with one. The most a tardigrade could do to me is crawl on me, and I wouldn’t notice it. Encountering a black bear could be scary, but they’d likely run away, especially if we are in a group. They don’t want to run into you any more than you want to run into them. But Behemoth doesn’t care. He’d trample you.

“Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth. Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?” (Job 40: 23-24)

Like the tardigrade, Behemoth is resilient. You or I would be swept away by the current, but not Behemoth. He makes his way through the turbulent Jordan and doesn’t lose his confidence. He knows the struggle is real, and the waters may even slow him down, but this is not the end of Behemoth. Not even close.

We’re of “small account” just like Job (40:4). We all have our struggles, our raging Jordans, that we are trying to make our way through. During the process, it’s fair to want to know why we have to struggle and suffer, and where all of it comes from. Is it from a broken world paying forward the hurt? Is it the natural consequence of our poor decisions? Does it come from God, like the author of Psalm 88 might suggest? Is it from evil forces trying to discourage us? Is it just general suffering we’re guaranteed to experience? Is it some combination of all of them?

But do you think Behemoth or the tardigrade worry about why they suffer? Probably not. They just try to get through it. Maybe while you are suffering, the “why” questions aren’t going to be the most important thing. You may only have the energy or capacity to react to the crisis and pick up the pieces later. Figuring out the deeper questions might be something you only worry about on the other side of suffering.

The ability to think about suffering is both a blessing and curse. If you think about your situation and realize that you are at least partly responsible for your suffering or the suffering of others, you have the ability to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them again. In that way, being able to avoid unnecessary suffering is a blessing. But it can seem like a curse to keep thinking about the purpose of your suffering when it comes from something completely beyond your control. This is the carousel of painful thoughts Job was on.

In that situation, it is fair to want to challenge God, like Job did. Where is his supposed justice? Go ahead and challenge God and have the wrestling match (Gen 32). He can handle it. Just be prepared to be challenged back. Be prepared for the possibility of injury. Be prepared to grow and receive a new name. Be prepared to be more resilient, more Behemoth or tardigrade-like.

To quote someone who voluntarily took on suffering for our benefit and was resilient through death itself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)

-Jay Laurent

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Job 39-40 and Psalm 87-88

Take Heart! I have overcome the world.

Reading for today: 2 Chronicles 35-36 & 1 Corinthians 1

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

You might wonder why our focus verse for today is from John when the daily readings are in Chronicles and Corinthians. This week is FUEL, a National Youth Camp in which young people from all over the country gather to learn and grow in their faith. And the theme for the camp this week is ‘hupernikao’ … a Greek word that means ‘overwhelmingly conquer’.

Every day this week, except for today, we will pull from the daily readings as well as the daily FUEL themes, to explore this theme of overcoming or conquering.

Today, I want to focus on the big picture a bit. Overcome what? How?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

This verse in John is rich in helping to answer those questions. We might think that Jesus, who is the speaker here, is being kind of a downer if we just look at part of the verse. In this world you will have trouble? Not much of a pep talk, Jesus.

But if you’re anything like me, this is exactly the kind of pep talk you need.

The truth.

A little aside: A pet peeve of mine is people who sell things who won’t admit that their products have flaws. Their company is the best thing ever, producing the best products ever, which will of course give me the best results ever…Every. Single. Time. Am I the only one who would always be more likely to believe someone who is honest about the limitations of their product line or who is able to admit that while there are great options, there are also some weaker products to avoid? Rant over.

Jesus is laying out the truth here. “You’re a human person living in this world? Yup, you’ll have trouble. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. Difficulty. Expect that too.”

But he doesn’t leave us there. “Yes, life is hard. Really hard sometimes. … BUT … hold on! You can make it because I have overcome all of it!”

Do you know that in other places in Scripture we’re given specific assurances of overcoming the hard stuff Jesus warned us we would face? Here are a couple of examples:

1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will provide us the means to overcome temptation:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

And Romans 8:31-39 paints a beautiful and poetic word picture of overcoming a variety of troubles. Spend some time while you read this thinking about what you could use some overcoming in… Are you feeling separated from God’s love? Do you feel pain, even anguish that feels unbearable? Persecuted? Hungry for something but you don’t even know what so you keep going after the wrong thing? Are you in need, bare before Him? Or even feel in danger of slipping out of His grip?

Take heart.

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.
For I am persuaded that not even death or life,
angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 35-36 and 1 Corinthians 1

When You’re Ready to Give Up

1 Kings 19-20

Have you ever been hiking on a strenuous trail or baled hay on a hot summer day? These tasks can prove quite difficult as your muscles become strained, you become overheated, and your endurance slowly dwindles. The idea of stopping and taking a nap or just quitting all together sounds very tempting. It seems like the best thing to do, but you have to keep going.

I remember one day when I was unloading a wagon full of hay bales on a hot and humid summer day. There were about 60 hay bales to unload and stack in the barn. About halfway through, I started to get tired. I was hot from the bright sun. I was itchy because of the hay that covered me, and I had rope burns from the twine on the bales. I was ready to be done, but I couldn’t stop. Rain was coming in that evening and I had to get the hay under cover before that happened. So, I kept going until my task was finished.

In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah at a point where he is ready to give up. He is on the run again. Jezebel wants him dead, so he flees from her grasp. But he is tired of running and having to look over his shoulder. He felt like he could not continue in this way any longer. Those before him had been put to rest and he says he is no better than them. Therefore, he asks God to let him die.

Rather than letting him die, though, God sent him sustenance through an angel. Bread and water were offered to Elijah that he might have the strength to continue. So, he went to sleep again and then the angel appeared once more providing more food. This food gave him the strength he needed. For without it, he could not have made the journey. It was not yet Elijah’s time. There was work that he still needed to do, and God gave him the strength to do so.

Sometimes it can be hard to carry on with our tasks, but God is there to strengthen us. Like a cool glass of water at the end of a hike or when baling hay, God is there to sustain us. God was there to strengthen Elijah and we too can be strengthened through God.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 19-20 and Proverbs 3

Unexpected Places

Unexpected Purposes

Acts 28

Have there been times in your life where you’ve been taken somewhere you didn’t expect? Last spring, I was taking a drive when I became lost on some of the backroads. I was filled with uncertainty about my location and starting to get anxious about finding my way back. As I found myself where I didn’t expect to be, a lost lamb appeared on the road. It was nearly hit by oncoming traffic as it frantically sprinted down the pavement. The cream and brown spotted lamb was panting from exhaustion. It was scared and confused. Because I was at this unexpected intersection, I was able to get the lamb off the road and put it in my truck. After searching for its farm and calling the sheriff, eventually it was reunited with its home. Sometimes it is the places that we don’t see coming, where we prove to be the most useful.

In Acts 28 we learn about Paul’s experiences on the island where he and the rest of the people on his ship came to be shipwrecked. As we read yesterday, Paul’s journey was quite wild. But God had delivered them safely to this Island called Malta. When Paul left for Rome, he probably never expected to make a pit stop, let alone be shipwrecked at this place. Yet, this was where he was taken, and it was not without purpose.

            On this island, in the middle of the Mediterranean, Paul was able to interact with the people. These inhabitants of Malta saw something different about Paul as they had witnessed him being delivered from the sea and from a snake bite. And then Paul was able to pray for and heal their sick. An island that might not have been a priority for people of that time to take the gospel to had nonetheless witnessed it through Paul’s unexpected stay there.

So, although this time and stay in Malta had been unexpected, it proved useful and it exposed others to the One True God. So, while you may at times find yourself in an unexpected place, do not be discouraged. Sometimes it is the most unexpected places in our lives that God uses us for an unexpected purpose.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Kings 13-14 and Acts 28

In Suffering – surrounded by enemies

Psalm 69

We’re going to take a little break from discussing Joshua today to look at Psalm 69. This is one of the Psalms which is most often quoted or referenced in the New Testament (probably coming in 3rd after Psalm 110 and Psalm 22). Similar to Psalm 22, it is a portrait of a suffering servant. In the New Testament these verses will be used to describe Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant. But most likely, there have been a time or two when you thought theses verses could have been describing you, too.

Have you ever felt like you were sinking? Your troubles choking out your breath? The saddest picture I find is from verse 3 “I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched, my eyes fail, looking for my God.” You can tell someone needs a hug! They are feeling so desperate. Their suffering is so great!

But this is not the cry of someone who has just had a couple bad days in a row – flat tire, sickness, general stress mounting. No, this is David, Jesus, or you surrounded by enemies. You know you aren’t perfect, certainly God knows that (verse 5) but these enemies don’t want to destroy you for something evil you have done, but for the very God you serve. They don’t understand you or your God so they hate you without reason and seek to bring you down for who and what you stand for. “For I endure scorn for your sake…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me…people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate (the town elders, ie – politicians, city councils, professors and principals) mock me” (Psalm 69:7a, 9, 11b, 12a).

Just this week I heard of the 3rd grader in trouble for wearing her favorite mask to school. It said Jesus Loves Me and the principal didn’t like that. Or the college student who was told he had to reserve a small “free speech zone” on campus from which to speak to others about his Christian beliefs and excitement. And when he complied with their rules he was once again told by campus police that he had to stop because some of the students were still complaining. Luckily the Supreme Court had something to say about that one recently.

Surrounded by enemies. We, in America, are watching our nation slip (or free-fall nosedive) from being a nation of “In God we Trust” where the large majority claimed Christianity to a foreign feeling country where our rights are being restricted at every turn. Suddenly “Dare to be a Daniel” means something to us. As new laws and policies develop, we have a new-found appreciation for what our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and other Christian hostile nations have endured for generations. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith? It feels so strange to us – but we are not the first to feel this way. Remember Paul, repeatedly thrown in jail for the crime of speaking the name of Jesus? David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul and the disciples, the list goes on and on and includes many modern and Biblical role models and even martyrs. Hopefully you didn’t sign up to be a follower of Christ because you thought it was always going to be easy and pleasant. Surrounded by enemies – for our faith! Christians unite, and take up our armor of God (but that takes us into another devotion for another day).

Back to Psalm 69 – After saying his eyes fail looking for God, and all he does see is enemies who insult God surrounding him, he says, “But I pray to you, O LORD”. He is NOT throwing in the towel. Even though it is sometimes hard to see God in the suffering, we keep on praying to Him, knowing He is the Creator, the Sustainer, our Loving and Powerful Rock. Even when it looks bleak, we know the war is far from over. And, we know who does indeed win the war. And, that is why we don’t give up and don’t give in. We are not swayed by the town elders or those who mock us or try to destroy us because of our God. Our God is bigger.

There is one verse towards the end of the psalm that says, “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30). Doesn’t that sound like he is having a good, sunny, easy day! It’s almost like this verse landed smack dab in the wrong Psalm. Singing, praising, glorifying, thanking. What happened to the enemy surrounds and I am scared and suffering? Oh, it’s still there. In fact, the verse IMMEDIATELY proceeding the praising, singing, glorifying, thanking says, “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” (Psalm 69:29). The trouble isn’t over, but David is still praising. It reminds me of Julie Andrews/ Maria (yes, The Sound of Music was my favorite growing up). Anytime she needed a confidence boost, when she was scared in a thunderstorm, or when the dog bit or the bee stung – she burst into song. We have something much better to sing about than girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. We have a God who saves, even though we suffer. When we are caught in the storm we have a God who saves. And even while the winds blow and our enemies surround we can pray and lift our voice in song. Jesus did, too. After the Last Supper, before going to the Mount of Olives knowing that is where he would be physically surrounded by his enemies, he sang a hymn.

Keep praying. Keep praising. Keep singing. Keep glorifying. Keep thanking.

The enemy surrounds but they don’t win in the end. Our God saves.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here –Joshua 15-16 and Psalm 69

If God Wrote Birthday Cards

Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

When I first read today’s passage and the opening verse of Joshua 13 I chuckled out loud thinking how inappropriate we would deem this opening remark, if it had come from anyone other than God. The verse says, “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, ‘You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). Who wouldn’t love to open a Hallmark greeting card that says , “You are VERY old, and there are lots of things you haven’t been able to accomplish yet “? Thanks, God. I can always count on you for telling the truth. I am now ready to just curl up and die.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I am sure that is not what God was saying.

Sadly, we have become a culture that doesn’t honor the aged. We all want to be told how young we are, or look or act. We love to have others in awe of how much we have accomplished already in our few short years of life thus far. We sell products that will fix that devastating gray hair and wrinkles so you can look like you did 20 years ago so no one will ever have to know just how old you really are.

Joshua was there as a young aide to Moses when the 10 Commandments were given and the people were told that if they followed the commandments and feared the Lord they would be blessed. They would be able to cross the Jordan, increase greatly, prosper in the Promised Land and enjoy long life (Deuteronomy 6, specifically verse 2 for long life). Getting old is a blessing. And VERY old, a double blessing! “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24 NIV). When God told Joshua he was VERY OLD, this was definitely not a put-down as some would read it today. It was a compliment to Joshua and a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

We would do well to regain a thankfulness for every day we are “kept alive”, rather than constantly trying to turn back the clock. As well as, looking up to those who have been kept alive longer.

Job 12:12 — Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Proverbs 16:31 —Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

Remember too, that God was not saying this to Joshua in the final verse, final chapter of Joshua’s life. We are still in chapter 13 and Joshua won’t be dead and gone until chapter 24 (at the ripe old age of 110). Yes, a lot of the ACTION of the book of Joshua, as well as the life of Joshua has been completed by chapter 13…but God is certainly NOT done putting Joshua to work! Biblehub.com gives a timeline of Joshua’s life and they suggest that Joshua will live 24 more years from this point. We can’t give away everything that is yet to be done in the rest of Joshua’s life and book, but God has a lot more direction and guidance to give to His servant Joshua and Joshua does it. Just a few verses down from God’s VERY OLD comment, we read how God says HE himself will continue the work of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land, and He wants Joshua to “Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Joshua 13:6 NIV). It doesn’t help to have taken the land, if no one will be there to justly divide it and distribute it. Even though Joshua’s work at the thrilling battle front just may be winding down, there is still a lot of important work to be done. Going from the front lines to the desk job isn’t a demotion. Your ministry may look different through the years. Be thankful for the long life and listen to see what He wants you to do next!

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” (Psalm 68:19-20)

If God helps you escape death today, praise Him for it and be thankful for yet another day to dig in His Word, to serve Him and watch Him carry your burdens.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Joshua 13-14 and Psalm 67-68

God’s Greatest Hits

Deuteronomy 11-12

I’ve already confessed to you that I like to hang on to things (see Sunday’s devotional thought for reference), so I might as well let you know that something else I’ve kept from my past is a set of mixed tapes I created when I was in high school. 

Cassette tapes predate CDs for those of you who aren’t familiar with the old school technology. And before iTunes, if we wanted recordings of our favorite songs, without actually buying the music artist’s tape, we had to have a tape player with a recording feature and sit and listen to the radio and wait for the song to eventually come on. The worst was when the DJ would continue talking as the song started – this just meant that we cut off part of the song, deal with the DJ talking, or wait until the song played later in the day. 

But eventually, we ended up with customized playlists of all of our favorite songs. And why I’ve kept them up until this point seems silly…I no longer have a tape player to listen to them with. 

You might be wondering why I am sharing all this with you…

As I read through Deuteronomy 11 and 12 today, verses 2 and 7 caught my attention. Moses is continuing to let the Israelites know what is expected of them as they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. 

He wants them to realize that it was them, his audience, not their children, who experienced first hand “the discipline of the LORD your God; his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm…” (Ch11 v2)

Multiple times through scripture the recounting of God’s greatest acts of saving the Israelites from the Egyptians is recorded, much like listening to my mixed tape over and over again.

I suppose I have kept my tapes as a way to share with the generations who will follow me about the awesome music of the 1990s. 

In the same way, I have stories of my own that I can share with today’s youth about the amazing acts that God has performed in my life. 

And it’s not just a way to pass the time, but sharing our testimonies is actually a responsibility that we have. It’s a way that we teach one another about God’s provision and goodness. It’s a way that we can encourage one another through difficult circumstances. It’s a way that we can pave a path of hope for what’s to come. 

Sharing how God has impacted YOUR life can dramatically influence the lives of others. So do not hesitate to pull out the oldies and goodies of God’s greatest hits in your life. Tell others your testimony, for “it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the LORD has done”. 

-Bethany Ligon

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway here – Deuteronomy 11-12 and Luke 14

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

Daily reading: Philippians 1-4

What’s that series of movies called? Mission difficult? Mission easy-peasy?

Ahhh…Mission Impossible.

Not possible. Can’t be done.

But somehow Tom Cruise always manages to complete the mission, doesn’t he? Somehow, with his resume of spy skills and his team to support him, he always gets the win.

Philippians gives us a few ‘Missions Impossible’… are you ready? Here they are:

-Consider others above yourself.

-Consider loss what you used to consider gain.

-Rejoice always.

-Don’t be anxious.

Before you turn the missions down because they are clearly impossible to accomplish, take a look at what’s in our arsenal:

I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

All of these missions, at their core, are a matter of perspective. And isn’t the best part of every spy movie the part where you go, “Ahhh! That’s what’s really been going on the whole time!”

That is what Paul is offering us here with this credo.

[Consider others above yourself.] Seeing ourselves through the lens of the one who gives us strength changes the way we see others and therefore can change the way we treat them.

[Consider loss what you used to consider gain.] Considering the value of what success really is from Christ’s perspective will likely equal a shift in our priorities.

[Rejoice always.] Viewing our everyday with the eyes of him who conquered the cross and is coming to reign can give us strength to find joy in the mundane and even a glimmer of hope in our pain.

[Don’t be anxious.] Looking in the eyes of the Prince of Peace as he takes our burdens and walks with us through our trials reminds us that we are not alone.

That is how we complete our mission. That is how we, like Paul, are able to do all things through him who gives us strength.

Tom Cruise may do all his own stunts, but Jesus can do all of everything…so, yeah…go ahead and take that mission. You’ve got a good team.

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Philippians 1-4

Tomorrow we will read 1 Timothy.

If God is for you…

Romans 8-10

I think Romans chapter 8 is one of the most encouraging sections of scripture.  And boy can we use some encouragement right now.

It is so sad to see so many suffering from the effects of the Covid virus.  Many, many people have lost work and income.  Many children are not able to attend school in person.  Abuse has increased.  And many people have died or have otherwise physically suffered from this virus.  It is very easy and very natural to be discouraged and worried right now.  But for Christians at least, we need to cling to the fact that present circumstances do not alter the future promise that God has made.

One day, there will be no need to fear death from a virus or anything else.  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in Chapter 8, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us. 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if we do not.

Verse 31b – If God is for us, who can be against us?  That is a great statement.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

Yes, this pandemic stinks.  And it doesn’t seem the end of it is super soon.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  We WILL get through these momentary troubles.  For that is all they are, in the bigger picture.

Finally, chapter 8 concludes with more incredible encouragement:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you or, as now, the world seems to be falling apart.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 8-10.

Tomorrow we continue with Romans 11-13.

Be Strong

1 Corinthians 15-16

Welcome back to our final chapters in 1st Corinthians!

Chapter 15 must be one of the most powerful and hopeful chapters that Paul has written.  There is no one that can leave this chapter feeling defeated with a message taunting Death asking “Where is your victory?  Where is your sting?” (15:55).  We have a victory in Christ that no one can stop, not even something that feels as permanent and powerful as death.

This year has brought many challenges.  People have experienced financial struggles, people have dealt with severe illnesses and deaths, people have experienced mental and emotional turmoil, people have disagreed with those they are closest to, people have felt betrayed, silenced, oppressed, offended, and defeated.  It is so easy this year to become discouraged, and no one would blame anyone if they did not focus on something as far away as the Kingdom.

But that focus on the Kingdom must be at the front of our minds daily, because without it, the darkness that is this world today will all too easily take over our own life.  Paul calls us to be steadfast, immovable, working enthusiastically for the Lord, and knowing that our work is not in vain (15:58). 

In a world where so often the struggles and challenges we face are in front of us due to someone else’s choices, it can be incredibly uplifting to remember that Jesus will abolish all of the rule and power on earth, God will put the enemies under his feet, and our world will be at peace for the first time since the fall of man.  There is a point where things will be made perfect, and those who have committed themselves to Christ will have an opportunity to experience that perfection.

What strikes me while reading these passages is how even when though this was written to a specific church however many hundreds of years ago, the message has never changed and is incredibly applicable in 2020.  Our God is unchanging, despite our world changing so rapidly away from Him.  In this changing world we must put our faith, trust, and hope in an unchanging God.  I don’t care how cheesy that sounds!

So where does Paul leave the church in this letter?  He doesn’t just finish with a message of hope.  True to form, Paul gives the church one more reality check in chapter 16.  Verse 13 says “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”  To me that message is one that you leave when you know something’s coming…  Paul wasn’t finishing on a happy-go-lucky victory note because he knows that the victory doesn’t come without a battle.  As we grow closer and closer to Christ’s return, we can expect our world to continue to fall.  Yes, we have a hope.  Yes, that hope should carry us through the hard times.  And yes, we should be ready for a spiritual fight. 

We shouldn’t be living in fear of the battle, because we already know the outcome.  We should be living with the intention of being on the winning side.  When we are confidently standing with the winner, we should be finding everyone else we can to bring them to victory as well.  That is our mission.

I am so excited to jump into 2nd Corinthians with you all tomorrow!  Until then, My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

-Sarah Blanchard

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 15-16

Tomorrow we will begin 2 Corinthians (chapters 1-4).