Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: relief

Still searching for comfort

Last week I wrote about finding comfort in God.  It sounds “spiritual”.  It sounds “Christian-y”.  But is it possible?  In this up-side-down, hyper-political, messed up world we live in – life can feel overwhelming, even too big for God to step in and fix.  Every day, we get more than our fill of discouraging news from around the world.

It’s not only us modern-day believers who look at the state of the world and struggle with God’s apparent…(dare we say it out loud?) ...absence?  …lack of involvement?  …delay of justice?

We saw last week that Paul counseled the Corinthian believers regarding God’s involvement in their afflictions.  But we can go further back and still see similar questions being asked of God.  When the psalmist who wrote Psalm 94 looked around at the state of the world and how his fellow Israelites were treated, he had this to say:

Psalm 94:3-7
Lord, how long will the wicked – how long will the wicked celebrate?
They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers boast.
Lord, they crush your people; they oppress your heritage.
They kill the widow and the resident alien and murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord doesn’t see it.  The God of Jacob doesn’t pay attention.”

What he sees seems a lot like what we see – wickedness and arrogance ruled the day.  People selfishly acting as if God doesn’t notice or doesn’t exist.  Although he doesn’t see an immediate end to the state of affairs, the psalmist knows where to find some measure of relief…and he still believes, that at some future point, God will come through for Israel:

Psalm 94:12-15
Lord, how happy is anyone you discipline and teach from your law
to give him relief from troubled times until a pit is dug for the wicked.
The Lord will not leave his people or abandon his heritage,
for the administration of justice will again be righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.

And while looking forward to a God-fixed future can provide some measure of hope, he didn’t end the psalm there.  The next part of the psalm is what caught my attention:

Psalm 94:16
Who stands up for me against the wicked?
Who takes a stand for me against evildoers?

The emphasis is personal now – Who stands up for me…Who takes a stand for me?  The psalmist knows that rescue and justice and right-ness are all coming at some point, but what about me: right-here, right-now, in all the mess I’m living with?

He continues:

Psalm 94:17-19
If the Lord had not been my helper, I would soon rest in the silence of death.
If I say, “My foot is slipping,” your faithful love will support me, Lord.
When I am filled with cares, your comfort brings me joy.

Earlier, the psalmist acknowledged that God’s discipline and teaching from the law gave him relief from troubled times.  Now, the psalmist affirms that if not for the Lord’s help, he would be overcome by the wicked and evil present around him.

Lastly, we can all identify with the feeling of being filled with cares.  We even have phrases to describe this – When it rains, it pours | Bad things come in threes | That was the straw the broke the camel’s back.  But the psalmist has shown us that it is the culmination of God’s discipline, teaching from the Scripture, and trustworthy help that brings us supernatural comfort and joy.

God will fix it all in the future, but He hasn’t abandoned us.  He hasn’t left us to go at it on our own until the time He finally brings justice to the world.  His comfort is here for us now.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Providing relief

“I need a break.”

How many times have we walked into our home or sat at our desk…and muttered that phrase?

We recognize the value of getting even a few moments away from our normal daily activities and responsibilities.  In sports we see this concept clearly.  Backups – second and third string players – have an important role on the team.  A baseball team will pull the starter and bring in a relief pitcher to close out the final innings.  This isn’t usually a commentary on the starting pitcher, but a strategic choice to rest the starter to ensure that he will be recovered and ready for his next game.  A backup running back may only get seven scattered carries a game, but the carries are timed so that the starter can catch his breath off the field.  On any team, when a starter gets injured, the common phrase uttered is “Next man up!”, and the backup is expected to step in and fill the starter’s role for as long as needed until the starter has recovered from his injury.

We see this in business as well.  Before a manager goes on vacation or to a conference, she will delegate her responsibilities to those who have been prepared to “hold the fort down” and keep the department running.  They aren’t expected to perform the manager’s job forever, but just until she returns.  This same concept is also necessary, but not seemingly practiced as much, within the church leadership.  Some lead pastors never take a Sunday off, and most do not take all the vacation time allotted by the church.

As Paul closes out his letter to Titus, he gives the following instructions:

Titus 3:12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decide to winter there.

There are several things worth noting here:

First, Paul was training others to step in and lead so that Titus could have a break.  Paul had other trusted associates and people he had mentored who could step in and lead for a little while.  Titus needed a “season” to rest.  Even if it is just the boat ride from Crete to Nicopolis, Titus would have a break from the day-to-day pressures and responsibility of leading an island full of churches.

Second, Titus’ rest wouldn’t be just lying on a beach without having responsibility, but would be found in facetime with Paul.  Titus would be poured into instead of constantly being poured out of.  He would continue to work for God both with Paul and in other missionary assignments (2 Timothy 4:10).  However, ancient writings tell of him returning to Crete, finishing his life’s work among these people that he loved.

Third, Paul wanted Titus to make this trip away from Crete a priority.  Paul specifically stated do your best to come to me at Nicopolis – the Greek phase for do your best means to be eager to do something or to make every effort to do a task.  Getting a break was to be part of Titus’ mission.

If you are in ministry, when was the last time you had a break?  Are you training others to lead and allowing them to relief-pitch for you?

If you are not in ministry, how can you help your pastor?  Look for ways to take the pressure off of him for a little while.  Volunteer to handle something he normally would do but doesn’t necessarily have to, cook his family dinner one night, and definitely encourage him to take a vacation that includes a Sunday away.

Keep Pressing,
Ken