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).

What Never Changes

Psalm 111-118

psalm 118 1 NIV sgl

In our Bible reading there were too many great psalms to choose what to write about today.  I decided to narrow it down to Psalm 118.  But even within Psalm 118 there are too many great verses to choose what to write about today. I will share a few thoughts…but spend some time in the psalm and see what strikes you most.

We do not know who wrote Psalm 118, nor for what occasion.  Perhaps part of the power of this psalm (and many others)  is that it feels like it could be written for each one of us in any number of situations we find ourselves.  It makes sense.  The psalms are a picture of God and His relationship with man.  God is God – from before history began to an eternal future.  And mankind hasn’t changed that much over time either.  He is still good.  And His love still endures forever.  And, it is still our duty and joy to give thanks to Him.  Some things never change even in a world where everything else is changing faster than we can keep track.

Psalm 118 both begins and ends with this lasting declaration:  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1 & 29).  If it sounds familiar, it may be because that verse is also repeated in 4 other psalms.  Sounds like God thinks it would be a good thing to remember!

It can be easier to give thanks for God’s goodness when we are in a happy, contented, easy place.  But the psalmist writes of many struggles, anguish, trials, battles and oppression that have surrounded him.  Verse 6 says, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  Verse 13 says, “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.”  If you are ever feeling stuck, it is a great time to pray to see more clearly God’s goodness and love.  Then, give thanks.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+111-118&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 1-2 and Psalm 37, 71 & 94 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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