Matthew 28:20b

A. INTRODUCTION

Like all things in life, all good things come to an end—and life is full of things that we enjoy. As a consequence, when it comes to parting, it can be very difficult to let go. And yet, at some stage, we have to set certain things aside—we have to move on and do other things. And not necessarily because of our own choosing.

And the things we have to move on from can be our schooling, our job, a relationship, being a member of a particular club, or any number of other things—and events—that may come our way.

Having said that, saying goodbye to something is not necessarily the end of the world—even if it feels like that at the time. Indeed, it can open up a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities, that we may not have previous considered.

So for you and me—for all of us—there are times of transition and change. And it may not always be easy. It can include a time of dreaming of what could be, but it can also be a period of uncertainty about what lies ahead.

So with this in mind, I thought today that I would provide you with some thoughts. Thoughts that are just as appropriate to me as they should be to you.

B. SOME THOUGHTS

1. Always Seek God’s Leadership and Guidance
And the first thought is about God’s leadership and guidance.

Because, contrary to a fairly common belief in our society, God has not just created the world and left us to fend for ourselves. (Although, when we are struggling, when we’re finding it difficult to cope, and when we just don’t know which way to go next, it may seem like that at the time). No, that’s not the case. God very much wants to involve himself in every aspect of our lives.

And how do we know? Well as Christian’s we have several promises to consider. For instance, Jesus promised never to leave us, and that he would be with us, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things (Jn 16:13). And in Revelation we’re told that the faithful will be led to springs of living water. And the reward for being faithful, would be the end to suffering, hunger, thirst, and tears (Rev 7:17). And of course these are just three of the many promises of God.

However, if that is not proof positive that God wants to lead and guide us—and particularly through the difficult times of life—we also have the experience of the faithful.

For example Moses, under God’s leadership, was instrumental in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt; God used Moses in persuading Pharaoh to let his people go. And even though the people had no real idea of what this Promised Land looked like, or how they were going to get there and what would happen in the meantime, they followed God’s direction anyway.

Indeed, after the parting of the Red Sea, and getting safely to the other side, with not one wet foot, Moses (with Miriam) was so convinced of God’s continuing leadership and guidance, that they re-devoted themselves to God, believing that his leadership would continue on (Ex 15:13).

King David is another example. Because having experienced God’s leadership and guidance on a number of occasions—and, at the time, going through one of the rocky periods of his kingship—he wrote, in what we know as Psalm 23, about his confidence in God’s leadership to see him through the most difficult of times.

God, then, wants to lead and guide. Our God is a God who cares, comforts, and leads. And we have the witness of some very faithful servants to back that up.

Having said that, we need to back that statement up with some provisos: He’s not our puppet and we cannot pull his strings. His plans may, at times, be different to ours; so too his timing. So having God as our leader and guide does not necessarily make it easy. But then I’m also sure that we don’t always make it easy either, particularly when we don’t listen to him, or even want to listen.

Nevertheless God is with us, and wants to be with us. And he has promised that he will see us through. So we should always seek his leadership and guidance.

2. Expect the Impossible
The second thought is to expect the impossible.

When things seem utterly hopeless, and everything is going wrong, it’s helpful to remember some of the things that God’s already done. Because, as the angel said to Mary, prior to the conception of Jesus: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).

At times, when we feel numb or just plain dead on our feet, we can recall the story of Elijah (1 Ki 17:17-24), who when faced with the Widow of Zarephath—whose son had become ill and had died—was used by God to restore the boy back to life. And there’s the story of Jesus and Lazarus, where Lazarus had died and was four days in his tomb, before Jesus raised him from the dead (John 11:38-44).

When we are hungry or thirsty (physically or spiritually), we can remember the miracles of the feeding of five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand (Mk 6:30-44,8:1-13). And we can recall how Jesus took small amounts of bread and fish, with the result that everyone had their fill. And then we have the story of the wedding at Cana, where the wine ran out (John 2;1-11) and Jesus ordered that six stone jars capable of holding twenty to thirty gallons each, be filled with water. And in this case, he didn’t just change the water into any old wine, this wine was the best they had served all day.

And, at times when we feel continually tested, when we feel as though we’re getting very little or no support, we can think of Job. How he was tested by Satan, and how he suffered dreadful losses to both property and family, and whose friends basically sat down and told him he only had himself to blame. But then we can also recall how God saw him blameless, and restored him to new fortune, with even greater riches than he had before.

Furthermore, when the church seems to be going nowhere, we can remember the Israelites in Egypt. How they suffered terribly—through slavery and the harshness of Pharaoh—and how God called Moses to be his instrument, and the miracles that were performed in the plagues that were sent to Pharaoh to let them go, in the parting of the Red Sea, and in the provision of manna and quail in the desert. And even though they wandered around for a while in the desert—forty years in fact, for being less than faithful—they did reach the Promised Land.

And when those times come (as they do to all of us), when you’re really not sure where you are going yourself, we can remember the call of the disciples—a motley crew of people, many lacking in education, and certainly not the sort of people that would have been recognised as having any leadership potential. And yet, Jesus taught, guided, encouraged, chastised, and led them to become some of the greatest leaders of the church that history has ever known.

God is therefore not beyond doing the unexpected. Indeed, there are numerous examples recorded in the bible where God did the unexpected and the miraculous. He met the needs of his people on a number of occasions. And although these stories are past history, as a people of faith—with a God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow—we should not discount the impossible from the way God helps us, even today.

3. Be Encouraged in Difficult Circumstances
And the third thought is to be encouraged in the faith.

The Apostle Paul, having visited and spent some time with the church at Corinth, wrote to the church there, to encourage them in their faith.

Now the church at Corinth faced big problems. Big, big problems. There was infighting with various groups going different ways, there were moral irregularities, they were suing one another, they were abusing the Lord’s Supper, they had entertained false teaching and false teachers, and they weren’t over generous in their assistance to other churches either.

And even if that list is not the same in the church today, there wouldn’t be many churches that didn’t have a few problems of their own. Indeed, the most common problems seem to be people intent in holding back—as though everything was good in the past; poor attendance at services; lack of commitment by some; and the lack of young families worshipping on a regular basis.

However, even with their difficulties, Paul saw that the church at Corinth had a future. He believed that, with God’s help, they could be led out of their current predicament. He didn’t give up on them, but encouraged them in their faith.

In other words, the problems that any church faces are not insurmountable. And Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church—a church in desperate trouble—may be just as applicable to us as it was to the church back then: “Be alert! Stand firm in the faith! Behave like men! Be strong! Let everything be done in love” (1 Cor 16:13-14).

C. SUMMARY

Three thoughts then that can apply to us all:

Firstly, always seek God’s leadership and guidance. Things may seem difficult on occasions, but God wants to lead and guide. He may not always do it the way we envisage, but he does want to be with us, and to see us through.

Secondly, expect the impossible. God is concerned with the welfare of his people, and the welfare of his church. But he doesn’t necessarily conform to the standards of the world. He picks people the world wouldn’t choose, and he is not beyond the miraculous to suit his purposes either.

And, thirdly, be encouraged in the faith. If the Corinthian church was in a bad state—and Paul was still able to offer much encouragement—then how much more should we be encouraged in our walks with God?

D. CONCLUSION

Like everything in life, all good things come to an end. Life moves on.

In one sense these times of transition can be unsettling—things often don’t happen in the way we want, or at the pace that we want them. But rest assured, God will be with you and me, and if we let him, he will help us through.



Posted: 6th May 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis
www.brianacurtis.com.au