From the account of the first sin, I’m aware that one of Satan’s main strategies is telling me that God really does not want the best for me. This lie is easy to rebuff when all goes well, but a few events in life have pounded me suggesting that the lie is true, God does not care, and I am alone in these tragedies.
Yet the Word of God persists. In the very beginning of my Christian life, God gave me a wonderful truth . . .
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)
For nearly fifty years, these verses have sustained me in good times and even in those horrid days when it seemed like God was gone and everyone had stopped praying. He continued to whisper that what was happening would make me more like Jesus, and that is a good thing. The next verses repeat this truth, verifying its reality . . .
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:31-34)
Even if God seems gone, Jesus Christ is an historical reality. He came, He died, and He rose from the dead. God gave Him that I might live — and what then could He withhold? Not only that, even if the whole world stops praying, Jesus continues to pray for me!
This New Testament reality is also an Old Testament truth, a promise to Israel, and to all who believe:
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:1-13)
Simply put, nothing can thwart the love of God and His gracious care for His own.
Jesus, I’m emotional this morning. Part of it is that we are leaving Italy, a fascinating place with a gamut of memories. Part of it is that we are going home. I miss my bed and my bathtub! But an even greater reason is that You have reminded me once again that You love me, gave Yourself for me, and nothing can change that or stop it from continuing. Life here has its quirks, challenges, changes, and trials, but You remain the same yesterday, today, and forever.