Today’s Text and Thoughts of Encouragement:
“Remember, our Message is not about ourselves, we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ; the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us – trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, He does in us – He lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we are going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!...So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The thing we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
II Corinthians 4: 5-12, 16-18
The Message Bible
All For The Best
“Things mostly happen for the best.
However hard it seems today,
When some fond plan has gone astray
or what you’ve wished for most is lost
And you sit counting up the cost
With eyes half-blinded by tears of grief
While doubt is choking our belief,
You’ll find when all is understood
That what seemed bad was really good.
Life can’t be counted in a day.
The present rain that will not stop
Next autumn means a bumper crop
We wonder why some things must be
Care’s purpose we can seldom see
And yet long afterwards we turn
To view the past, and then we learn
That what once filled our minds with doubt
Was good for us as it worked out.
I’ve never known an hour of care
But that I’ve later come to see
That it has brought some joy to me.
Even the sorrows I have borne,
Leaving me lonely and forlorn
And hurt, and bruised, and sick at heart,
In life’s great plan have had a part.
And though I could not understand
Why I should bow to Death’s command,
As time went on I came to know
That it was really better so.
Things mostly happen for the best.
So narrow is our vision here
That we are blinded by a tear
And stunned by every hurt and blow
Which comes today to strike us low.
And yet some day we turn and find
That what seemed cruel once was kind
Most things, I hold, are wisely planned
If we could only understand.”
Edgar A. Guest
Today’s Study Text:
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’”
Matthew 25: 6
“The Midnight Hour” – Part 6
“The Lord’s timing is not ours. His is perfect.”
How have I found that God has worked in my life, even during the very darkest of times?
Have I ever wondered why God’s answers appear to come at the very last minute?
“God is never late, but neither does He seem to be particularly early. He waits until we know we need His help, and then He opens His generous hand.”
It was dark. Quiet had fallen over the village. Because of the unexpected delay of the bridegroom, the weary bridal party fell fast asleep. But at midnight, as Jesus told the story, a cry rang out, “Behold, the bridegroom! Go out to meet him” (Matthew 25: 6, Amplified Bible). In his commentary on the parable of the “10 Bridesmaids,” Professor Thomas Stegman points to several important elements:
Element #1:We are never told why there was a delay or what caused the delay. We just know the delay was lengthy enough that it caused great weariness.
Element #2:We know that the delay was not planned. It took everyone off guard.
Element #3:We know that the delay caused the bridegroom’s arrival to be at midnight which is often the darkest time of the day.
I don’t know about you but I have found that delays which are unexpected, lengthy and hit us at the darkest and most foreboding times in our life can be the most frustrating and discouraging as well.
Many years ago, when Jim and I spent over 60,000 miles every year on the road visiting our clients, if we got caught in parts unknown at the end of the week, I’d try to find some interesting place where we could lodge over the weekend. One particular trip still sticks in my mind above all others. I had heard about an old mansion that after years in private ownership was purchased by a company which turned the facility into a beautiful hotel with just 10 suites. While we had never been to the resort before, we did know where the retreat was located. So with MAP in hand, I guided Jim up a dark, winding road that went on and on and on. Finally, after having Jim ask me repeatedly, “Is this the right road? Are you sure we are going in the right direction?” I must admit that I began to question my own navigational skills. And I was the one with a map in my hands.
In case you are wondering, after slowing down to a snail’s pace as we drove along the crooked, dark road – we came upon a sign on the right side of the road. It was buried among the vines that edged the roadway but at last we had arrived at our destination, or so we thought, for we found out that we had another five minutes on a dirt road before we were at the front of the hotel.
Here’s the interesting part about our little excursion, when the morning sun came flooding in the windows of our room and we decided to take a walk after breakfast, everything began to look familiar. As we drove back toward the main highway toward town, we were laughing to think we ever could have thought we were lost. But that’s what often happens when we are tired, confused and alone in the dark. And I’ll add, spiritually the combination of these same circumstances can leave us questioning God’s ability to guide us, especially when we find ourselves waiting in the dark for who knows how long on a pathway we can’t figure out.
One of my favorite authors to read during times when I feel the darkness of life encompassing my life is Amy Carmichael. She and I have several special links in our lives. For the last twenty years of Amy’s life, because of a capricious accident which happened at night, Amy was confined to her room in constant pain. But during this long painful time in her life, she wrote colleagues and friends, encouraging them during the darkest times in their own personal journeys. This was also the time when Amy penned some of her most uplifting books.
It was one of Amy’s letters to a friend in desperate pain which really has encouraged my own heart on more than one occasion: “I have felt much with you during these days. Pain is never easy to bear, and you have had so much of it. But help comes, doesn’t it? Strength for the day, strength for the minute. And it will never fail us if only we look up. Perhaps His word to you just now is the word He has often spoken very tenderly to me.” And then Amy quotes one of the most beautiful passages from the Song of Solomon 2: 14, and I am using the Amplified Version because of the depth of loveliness in this verse, “so I went with Him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved Shepherd said to me, ‘while you are here in the seclusion of the clefts of the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.’”
In those times of great darkness in your own life – at the midnight hour of your steep, rocky climb or in the midst of your dark, windy trek, I encourage you to lift your eyes on high and sing with praise in your heart for “One” walks with you who knows the way and the delay you are enduring with perseverance will end in the morning as the “Son” fills your life with His ever abiding presence.
The great Scottish poet, author, and preacher, George MacDonald, while one of the 1800’s best-loved writers, also holds a special place in my heart nearly 200 years later. In the book, Knowing the Heart of God, which is a compilation of MacDonald’s writing, under the title of “Trusting God in the Darkness,” contains a selection from “The Landlady’s Master”. This conversation takes place between Dawtie and Andrew:
“How are you, Dawtie?”
“Well enough. God is with me, but sometimes it is hard to feel Him.”
“I cannot always see God’s eyes looking at me, Dawtie, or feel Him in my heart. But when we are ready to do what He wants us to do, we can know He is with us.”
“Oh, Andrew, I wish I could be sure!”
“Even if He showed Himself to us in person, the sight of Him would make us believe in Him without knowing Him. What kind of faith would that be for Him or for Us! We must KNOW Him! And we come to know Him by trusting Him. It is hard on God that His own children will not trust Him, when His perfect love is our perfect safety. But one day we shall know and trust Him, Dawtie. When we do, there will be no fear, no doubt. We shall run straight home!...God hasn’t forgotten you…He’s still all about you and in you, Dawtie, and this has come to you just to let you know that He is.”
“But it’s a sore trial, Andrew, hearing (someone) lie about me!”
“Did Jesus deserve what He got, Dawtie?”
“Not a bit, Andrew!”
“Do you think God had forgotten Him?”
“Maybe (Jesus) thought it for just a minute.”
“Well, you have now thought it just for a minute, and you must think it no more.”
“But God couldn’t forget (Jesus), Andrew; He got what happened to Him all from doing His Father’s will!”
“Evil may come upon us from other causes than doing the will of God. But from whatever cause it comes, the thing we have to see to is that through it all, we do the will of God.”
“What’s His will now, Andrew?”
“That you take it quietly…He has you in His arms, Dawtie! It’s all right.”
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Is that what you would have me remember, Andrew, like you’ve said to me before?’ Said Dawtie, with a faint smile.
“Aye! We can always trust Him!”
During the delay. Through the doubting. When there’s despair. And even in the darkest hour:
“We’ll follow wherever He leadeth,
Let the path be dreary or bright;
For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort;
Our God can give songs in the night.”
“I waited for the Master
In the darkness dumb;
Light came fast and faster
My light did not come!
I waited all the daylight,
All through noon’s hot flame;
In the evenings gray light,
Lo, the Master came!”
Knowing the Heart of God
Jesus, Your Light
“Jesus, Your light is shining within us,
let not my doubts and my darkness speak to me;
Jesus, Your light is shining within us,
let my heart always welcome Your love.”
Brother Roger of Taize
“In the fertile darkness of soil,
the green of life bursts out of its shell;
in the fertilized darkness of womb,
the flesh of life builds cell upon cell.
Those born in darkness have seen life.
Out of dark soil sprouts new life,
from dark wombs springs embodied hope.
Both stretch for the illumination
of the cosmic kaleidoscope.
Those born in darkness have seen life.
we seek Your Word embodied
in life rooted in fertile darkness
In life stretching for illumination
we await Your transforming Word.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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