Dear Friends,

Like the downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus, many Christians have lost
their hope in Jesus Christ even though He is risen and walks with us today.
Because, we like them, can have wrong expectations of Jesus and misunderstand
the purpose of His first coming. “But we had hoped that he was
the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (v.21) The disciples thought
that the Messiah would come and conquer the Romans and Israel would be restored
to its former glory as God’s people. Even after walking with the resurrected
Christ for forty days they still didn’t understand. “Lord, are you
at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)

This can be true for us too. Maybe you were told that when you gave your life
to Jesus that He would not only forgive your sins and take you to heaven one
day, but He would solve all your problems in this life too and bring heaven
down to earth; that He would restore all your broken dreams. But the song, Bridge
Over Troubled Water, is not exactly Biblical. Jesus doesn’t build a bridge
that takes us over all of our trials and sorrows but He does walk with us through
our troubled waters and gives us His strength and even peace in the midst of
them. And, in the meantime, i.e., in this life, we are called to suffer for
Him and His gospel even as He suffered, (which is far more than any of us ever
will). “How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that
the prophets have spoken (about Him)! Did not the Christ have to suffer these
things and then enter his glory?” (vv.25-26) The cross comes before the
crown. “But if you suffer for doing good and endure it this is commendable
before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving
you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (See 1 Peter 2:18-21)
And, He goes on to say, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead
on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in
his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these
things.” I am going to send you what my Father promised.” (vv.46-49).
And, sure enough when the promised Holy Spirit fell on them at Pentecost (See
Acts 2) they finally got the message and the power to carry it out and did exactly
that, preaching the gospel to the known world and suffering for doing it. Every
disciple, with the exception of John, was martyred for Christ.

The Easter story, the message of the cross, is still the same for us today:
Be witnesses to Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit taking up our cross daily
(dying to self) and then enter into glory, i.e., receive our eternal rest and
rewards. The cross comes before the crown. “Blessed are those who are
persecuted because of righteousness …because of me. Rejoice and be glad,
because great is you reward in heaven.” (See Matthew 5:10-12) So first
of all we need to repent of putting our hopes as Christians in this earthly,
temporal life (See 1 John 2:15-16) and thus letting our disappointments with
the Lord keep us from loving and trusting Him and not obeying His command to
be His witnesses. But this doesn’t mean we won’t have disappointments
with the trials and struggles of this life. Nor does it mean that these struggles
and disappointments are sinful. It is how we deal with them that makes all the
difference. Pastor Doug Banister discusses this in his book Sacred Quest.
He used the analogy of marriage to help us better understand how to relate to
the Lord. He quoted a Christian friend who is a marriage counselor saying that
every marriage that goes the distance are couples who have learned how to let
their disappointments with each other drive them first to God, and then to one
another. And in that process, their marriages mature and become healthy, life-giving
marriages. Banister went on to quote author Philip Yancey who wrote Disappointment
with God
and Where is God When it Hurts. Yancey pointed out that
it wasn’t just horrible tragedies that shook peoples’ trust in a
loving God but just as often it was people who had more of the mundane disappointments.
“I have found that petty disappointments tend to accumulate over time,
undermining my faith with a lava flow of doubt,” he writes. “I start
to wonder whether God cares about everyday details – about me. I am tempted
to pray less often, having concluded in advance it won’t matter.”
Then Banister adds that as trust and passion for the Lord ebbs away, people
turn to other gods, gods they can touch and taste and feel when they are hurting
and God doesn’t bring the relief they expect. So we must learn to deal
with these disappointments just the way God’s people in the Scriptures
did – the ones who were emotionally honest with God and wrestled with
Him in their trials. Like Job and David (Psalm 13) and Jeremiah ("O Lord,
you deceived me” 20:7) Like the psalmists who cry out to God: Why do the
righteous suffer and the wicked prosper? (Psalm 73); Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression? (Psalm 44:9-26) Sometimes God comes and
delivers them from the trial. And other times God keeps them by His grace in
the trial. The key is to stay in honest relationship with the Lord and pray
through until our trust and obedience is renewed. Banister says: “The
essential character trait I find in those who suffer redemptively is a humble
willingness to leave some questions unanswered and a quiet decision to believe
that God is good even when the evidence says otherwise.”

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
(Psalm 23:5) One final point. Jesus’ Presence can bring peace and calm
and joy right in the midst of our storm, right in the presence of our enemies.
“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. They asked each
other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us
on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:31-32) Often
in my struggles the Lord has spoken specifically to my concern, my question,
through His Word and brought me peace and hope. Jesus is the Word made flesh
and dwells among us through His Word today. (John 1:1,14) As we meet with the
Lord by reading His Word and asking for the Spirit’s illumination we can
experience Jesus and have our hearts set free from the burden of our trial and
be revived to be about the work of the eternal kingdom of God.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things
above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things
above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with
Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear
with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) The cross comes before the crown.


Len and Kristen

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