I understand (I really do) people’s heart and desire to preach the gospel in light of the tragedy at Newtown. However, please be careful and sensitive in the presentation–saying that it all happened because God has been taken out of schools sounds an awful lot like Job’s friends telling him that God was punishing him for his sins.
We are not obligated nor commanded to explain why it happened (since honestly, we don’t know). But we can say with certainty, Jesus loves with unfailing love. Jesus forgives with everlasting forgiveness. And His promise is eternal life, where there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering.
In this world, no matter what, you will have tribulation. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world. We have a hope that, in the midst of unexplainable, unthinkable suffering, is an anchor for our soul. That anchor is ready and available for any and for all who call on His name.
"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." (Philippians 4:12)
I doubt many of us think of plenty as something that needs to be faced. When we face a thing, we typically consider that thing to be negative. We face adversity. We face trials. We face bad news, unemployment, sickness. But plenty—we embrace that. We pray for it. We long for it. We certainly don’t face it as if it it poses danger or is a difficulty that must be endured.
But we should.
Plenty attacks our hearts. Plenty spoils us. Plenty gives us a sense of entitlement. Plenty makes us want even more. It undermines contentment. It sets itself up as a god to be worshipped. At its worst it chokes out the word of God and hinders its fruit in our lives.
Having plenty is no more a sin than having nothing, but it must be faced head on with a spirit of protection and carefulness. We must rely on the strength given through Jesus Christ to endure the undertow that threatens to sweep even the strongest Christian away in its ease and comfort.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14)
Though some might conclude that our release from the law gives us freedom to sin, the truth is, it gives us freedom from sin.
“The power of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:56)
"And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’" (Luke 19:8-9)
Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, a rich man despised by others, welcomes Jesus with haste and with joy and is received by Him in the same manner: with haste and with joy, quickly and gladly.
But what is it that brought salvation to Zacchaeus? It almost seems as if he offers Jesus a self-righteous, self-justified list of reasons why Jesus should accept him. "Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
But Jesus knows the heart.
Jesus reveals the true reason Zacchaeus was saved: "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham."
Zacchaeus was more than a son of Abraham by birth. A son of Abraham is not an Israelite, but any man, woman, or child in the whole world who puts their faith in Jesus Christ.
"Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham." (Galatians 3:6-7)
But faith is not dead. Zacchaeus’ seemingly self-righteous list of good deeds was not self-righteous at all. Faith like Abraham’s does not lie dormant. Faith works.
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?" (James 2:21)
The little story of the little man Zacchaeus encourages us, encourages me, that Jesus will gladly receive even the chiefest tax collector, and even the chiefest tax collector can be made a new creation, and be lead by the Spirit to do good works in the name of Jesus Christ.
Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. (Luke 17:7-8)
The only specific thing I can think of that the bible says God is slow about is anger. When it comes to helping His children, He will move as fast as possible.
So when it takes a while for Him to act, know that it doesn’t mean He hasn’t heard you, or that He doesn’t care, or that He doesn’t know what to do. He is perfect in His timing, swift in His acting, never slack in His concern.
"Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)
Peace is not easy. It is not natural. By nature we war, we fight, we argue, we compete. We are jealous, we are bitter, we hate, we hold grudges. So it takes work to keep peace. It requires continual effort. It’s hard.
But we approach it with eagerness. We don’t run away because it’s difficult, we attack issues with promptness, diligence, and most of all, assuance that He who calls us to live peaceably, the God of Peace Himself, will give us peace and accomplish the very thing He is asking us to maintain.
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matthew 19:27)
When the prospect of heavenly rewards captures your heart instead of the prospect of the glory of God, your motivation to serve the Lord will be tainted. You might find yourself willing to stop at nothing to do the work you want to do and ignore the work that God wants you to do. To the other extreme, you might be so discouraged by the daunting task of earning what you think you’ll never be able to attain that you will never work at all.
Let us set our motivation right: we do not live for God to earn more favor, we live for God because He has already poured out His favor without measure. We love Him because He first loved us. We serve Him because He first served us. We seek to bring Him glory because He has already promised to glorify us regardless of our performance.
- “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)