Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lord is Our Strength

By Colleen O’Sullivan

I hear the whisperings of many:  “Terror on every side!  Denounce! Let us denounce him!”  All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. “Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.”  But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion:  my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.   (Jeremiah 20:10-11a)

In my distress I called upon the Lord and cried out to my God; From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.  (Psalm 34:19-20)

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.  For which of these are you trying to stone me?”  The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.  You, a man, are making yourself God.”  (John 10:31-33)

Should we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for you are with us. (Adapted from Psalm 23)

Lent is drawing to a close and so is Jesus’ time on earth as one of us.  Enemies lie in wait, trying desperately at every turn to arrest Jesus.  (Little do they know how easy it will be once Judas decides to betray his friend.)   For now, Jesus eludes their grasp and crosses the Jordan, where many who had heard John the Baptist witness about the One to come were gathered.  They realized that John had spoken the truth about Jesus.

Speaking the truth, stating that he was the Son of God won Jesus no friends in many circles.  Proclaiming the word of God caused the prophet Jeremiah to be denounced even by those who were close to him at one time.  Being faithful and doing the will of God may alienate us from family, friends and others.  In many places around the globe, the cost of discipleship is the very lives of followers of Christ.

How is it that Jesus kept going during the last few weeks of his life?  What prevented Jeremiah from throwing his ministry to the curb and doing something less dangerous?  What enables us to prevail in a society full of increasing numbers of people who call themselves “Nones” and a world where terror groups like ISIS would happily snuff us out in a heartbeat?

Psalm 18 provides some answers.  For all of us, from Jesus to you and me, the Lord is our strength, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer.  God is the rock of refuge we seek.  When we cry out to the Lord, he hears our voices.

When you have some quiet time, prayerfully ponder your personal salvation history.  Look for the places where God has been the rock you relied on, your source of strength in times of trouble.  When have you cried out to the Lord and known you were heard?  I think this is a good way to remind ourselves how very much God loves us and to reaffirm our love for the Lord.  Knowing that we are so cherished and cared for is what enables us to persevere in the difficult times.

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