In His Grip Devotions, December 30, 2014
The Treasure of His Presence
By Sharon W. Betters
For our December In His Grip devotions, my wife Sharon, will encourage you with some of her thoughts about Christmas.
In a previous devotional we touched on the wisdom of Mary, Mother of Jesus. And one of the core truths that equipped Mary for the journey God marked out for her was the declaration of the angel:
Fear not! For you have found favor with God! And The Lord is with you!
The most priceless gift of Christmas is this gift - the treasure of His favor and Presence.
For wisdom in making daily choices, we eavesdrop on an ancient conversation, a verbal exchange where God gives the mother of all gifts to Abraham and everyone in Abraham's family (which includes you if you are a child of God). To begin to understand the deep emotion of this moment, reach back into your own treasure chest of memories and recollect the delight and joy you experienced when you gave your loved one a priceless gift. That's how we imagine God felt when Abraham began unwrapping this precious gift placed in his hands by the very heart of God. Abraham was not seeking God and we think he was a moon worshipper. In this unique conversation (Genesis 12:1-3) God says (my translation), "Abraham, you're my child now. I chose you. From this moment on, I am binding you to me, I will walk with you. As we walk through life together, I will teach you what it means to be my child. When you are faced with difficult choices and painful circumstances, remember this. I am with you always. I will bless you. You in turn will be a blessing to others. Through you I am creating a community, a family with more people than you can count. You will be a blessing to others and this covenant community will be a blessing to many because of my Presence."
In Genesis 15:1 God continues this conversation with the words: "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward." In response to Abram's fear, God promises His Presence which is the greatest protection and reward of all. So what does this have to do with my life choices? Or what to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? I have often said that when Mark went to heaven, he took my mind with him. I couldn't think straight and to this day admits I have trouble making quick decisions. But God did not leave us without a grid through which to push life decisions. In Galatians Paul declares, "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
I Belong to Jesus
Our decisions start with this truth: I belong to Christ. That makes me Abraham's seed which means I am part of the fulfillment of God's promise to build a huge family from the seed of Abraham. Therefore, the same promises He made to Abraham are part of my eternal inheritance. Every promise God made to Abraham belongs to me and to you if you know Jesus as your Savior. What are those promises? God promises me His Presence, that He will bless me, that I am part of a covenant community (spiritual family). It's in that family that I will experience blessings and learn how to be a blessing. Because of these promises, we look forward to being with our church family on Christmas Eve and family on Christmas Day. We know that being with them will nourish our souls and encourage us to believe that God is sovereign and we can trust Him. It's because of God's promise to make me a blessing to others that we choose to celebrate Christmas with loved ones rather than isolate ourselves in sorrow. These choices are sometimes difficult when our spirits are overcome by longing for Mark, but choosing to walk by faith in these moments often soothes our souls and supernaturally restores our hearts.
Stop for a moment and let this truth sink in. In the middle of your deep grief, daughter or son of the King, when you are so afraid of the future that you can barely breathe, so terrified of another phone call or knock on the door that could change your life forever, listen to the words God speaks to you through the promises to Abraham. Trace this promise throughout scripture:
Abram, Do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Isaac, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Jacob, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Joshua, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Gideon, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Jeremiah, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Paul, do not be afraid, I will be with you.
And Jesus to His disciples as He descended into heaven,
Do not be afraid, I will be with you.
Each one of these individuals had genuine reason to be afraid. God's call on their lives required them to do very hard tasks, to suffer deep pain, to walk by faith when all they could see was darkness. God's antidote to their fear was not to explain the why or how or even the solution to their challenge. He didn't tell them not to worry, everything would work out ok. No. God's response to their fear was the promise of His Presence. His method of comforting our broken hearts is the same. He doesn't tell us why our loved ones are gone. What answer would be good enough? Instead, He calls out, "Sharon, don't be afraid, I am with you. Trust my heart."
The book of Hebrews was written to frightened believers who were ready to give up. The writer uses every truth possible to encourage them to trust God with the unknown and in the last chapter he proclaims:
God Himself has said, 'I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any way or degree leave you helpless nor forsake you nor let you down, relax my hold on you. Assuredly not! (Hebrews 13:5, Amplified)
As you consider a new year, set aside time to reflect on this great gift of Christmas Presence. Ponder that first Christmas, the joy God experienced when He unveiled the fulfillment of His promise to Abraham, when He wrapped up His Son in the package of human flesh and delivered Him through the body of a young girl. And realize that He was thinking of how much you would need the reality of His Presence as you walked by faith in the pathway He has marked out for you. Give yourself permission to laugh, to share memories. And when that pathway takes you to broken places, lean into the pain and as you weep, listen for the whisper of God,
My child, do not be afraid, I am with you.
In His Grip,
Sharon W. Betters
Executive Director, MARKINC Ministries
For more from Sharon, subscribe to her blog at www.treasuresofencouragement.org