Article 16 : Unprecendented grace in the change
This weekend begins the next season of lockdown with more changes to the government advice. The government restrictions still mean that gathering together to worship is not possible and may not be still for some time. I’m sure you are like me in that that is one of the main things you’re really missing. We are missing being together and experiencing the Lord’s presence as a wider family. Some things about the last 4 months have actually been refreshing and for some really welcome. For most of us though the change has had some real challenges. It’s worth remembering that nothing has changed in heaven throughout this whole period of time whilst everything may have changed for us. We are of course first citizens of heaven - that’s what the Bible says. We were adopted into our heavenly father’s family as his children. Jesus’ mission was to bring his kingdom to earth and fulfil the yearning in everyone of us for the eternal. That begins first in our own life and then effects and transforms our family, community and city around us.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Paul is talking about Jesus’ return which is still ahead of us but the Bible is clear that before his return he is passionate to partner with us in filling people and cities with his presence and moulding them in obedience to his teaching. This doesn’t change at all with the seasons and struggles we have on earth.
God is not the author of pain and suffering but there is no doubt in scripture and in our own life story we can see and know that God takes really difficult things and brings glory out of them. Satan is the father of lies and comes only to steal, kill and destroy but still is not as powerful as we sometimes make out. Light always overcomes darkness and even when everything becomes oppressively dark around us he has no authority to turn down or put out the light inside of every one of us. Only we get to control the light inside us. Nearly everything the enemy does is time limited and must pass however we get to choose to invest and live in what is eternal. What I mean is that God uses seasons of pain to make Jesus shine brighter in us, through us and around us. That light and effect will never be forgotten and will be remembered for all eternity whilst pain and suffering will be wiped away. That’s what the famous in scripture in Romans means.
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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Seasons of challenge and weakness make us more receptive to the moulding of Jesus. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to mould a gum-shield for a child playing sport? You receive a really hard piece of plastic that if you were to put in your mouth would give you blisters immediately. You put it in hot water for a minute and then place it in you mouth and bite down. The heat makes it mouldable and suddenly the painful piece becomes something protective and useful for life.
I’ve felt the challenge of managing like we all are. I’m having to do much more as a parent with homeschool (like so many of us), feeling the Lord open a door to do Medicine 3 days a week, not knowing how to respond to what our region and nation is going through, not knowing how to serve and support each other well in the rapidly changing landscape. But like we have emphasised the last three months of lockdown there is a grace to listen to the voice of the Lord. There is a grace to be shaped, moulded, prepared, positioned, and resourced for what is ahead. Chickezie’s dream
that we received together has become really important for us all. There was a simple prayer of ‘Lord help us’ in the dream that walked us surely on the road we couldn’t see through the flood and into future glory prepared for us.
So can I encourage us all to do three things. Firstly to acknowledge without shame that we need help in things that are difficult. We can drop the mask we may feel we have to keep on with the Lord and with the friends he has placed around us. Just like courage is not the absence of fear but is just not giving fear the place of influence in our emotions or choices. Faith is not the absence of struggle, weaknesses or difficulty it is making the choice to hand those areas to our Saviour Jesus whose power can redefine ALL things. Jesus gives us such a great example to follow of being authentic, vulnerable and transparent as he faced the cross ahead of him with faith and courage.
Secondly I want to exhort you to LET the Lord speak to you. Why would you have to let him if he is God? Because we partner with hearing his voice. Only a few times, in desperate moments does God override partnering with us in hearing his voice in the Bible. Nearly every time the Bible exhorts us to chose to listen, see and perceive. Like every human being we want to earn the right to interact with God through our own efforts and actions. We want to fix our difficult situations, and work our way out of them or earn Father’s pleasure through our disciplines in order to hear his voice. None of this works… it never has and never will. We are only made right with the Father through repentance at the cross, through letting go of our own efforts and trusting Jesus’ love, forgiveness and righteousness. Father wants to talk to us IN the difficulty and often through it. If we are constantly fighting to get out and prove ourselves we may miss what he is trying to say. Maybe you are like me and when things are difficult, if we let God in, you often find important things become more clear and less important things become less attractive?
Finally I want to urge you to take small steps of faith. I have been putting simple prayer evangelism to work as I’ve been walking around the hospital in my mask. Why? Because I want to be a blessing and the best thing that can happen to any street, workplace, or family is have you in it. I want to be a blessing in my home and to my neighbours. I want to share the truth of God’s love in the reality of messy painful life. I want to urge you to do the things that God drops into your heart, to phone the people the impresses on you mind, to love the family he has given you. Small actions, sown with faith release unprecedented light. Remember that’s season on our journey together? We looked at how light ‘finding it’s position finds it’s purpose’? We saw Jesus talking of our light building cities and lighting people’s movements? Well I believe that season is here and that light is shining and we can choose to let it shine. There is unprecedented grace being released right now, in the midst of all the change if you will continue to open, listen and obey.
Why don’t you pray with me…
Jesus thank you that you bought my life and I belong to you as part of your family as a citizenship of heaven. Thank you that you are present in all the change and have an unbelievable ability to take difficulty and work it for your good and my good. I ask you for help and acknowledge my need of you. I stop trying to get out of the change at the expense of listening to you in the difficulties. Please speak into every part of my life. I’m listening for your voice. Let your light shine in my life as I step forward today with simple obedience.