January 22, 2016

Lamentations 3:57-58 You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.
O Lord, you took up my case;
you redeemed my life.

When Jeremiah was in the depths of grief and despair because of the destruction of Jerusalem, he remembered how God had saved him out of some pretty severe circumstances in the past. Anyone who has walked with God for any length of time has such times they can remember, if they will choose to do so. The devil tries to get us to forget God’s mercies and remember only the hard times, but that is so he can steal our peace and joy. As I keep remembering, in this world we will have troubles, just as Jesus said. (John 16:33) However, the choice of what to dwell on is ours. That expression, “to dwell on,” is very telling, actually. “Dwell” means live, reside. We have the choice of whether to live in misery or in gratitude; it’s all in where we place our focus. People are amazed at how bright and cheerful my wife is, when she has a list of medical problems as long as her arm. After coming through major back surgery in November, she now faces brain surgery in a couple of weeks, but she is smiling, upbeat, and enjoys the blessings God provides in the middle of all this. That is dwelling on God’s goodness, rather than on temporal difficulties. We certainly have difficult moments, and frustration is no stranger, but when the focus is on God we can recognize and appreciate His overflowing grace and blessing toward us.

There are moments when I am tempted to focus on the negative, but experience has taught me that is ceding territory to the devil, and I certainly don’t want to do that. I am not to ignore difficulties by any means, but they are to be accepted as challenges, with the assurance that since God is for me, anything against me is already defeated, if I will abide in Him. (Romans 8:31) As a pastor I deal constantly with people who don’t yet have that perspective, and they suffer greatly for it. I am not to make light of their circumstances, nor am I to put them down for their spiritual immaturity, but I am to continue to encourage them to lift their eyes to Jesus and recognize His grace and love toward them. There are times, frankly, when I want to grab them and shake them and say, “Snap out of it! Look to Jesus!” However, that wouldn’t accomplish anything good, for sure. I am to express toward them the patience and mercy God has shown to me, so that together we may defeat the devil’s schemes and walk in all that God has planned for us.

Father, this is another message I want to preach! Thank You for the message You’ve given me for Sunday. Guide me in what I am to share when, where, and how, so that Your Word may go forth through me to accomplish that for which You send it, (Isaiah 55:10-11) for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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