This week’s blog is provided by our good friend, Joy Haines. She gave this message on July 15 as her first sermon as a United Methodist Lay Speaker at Magnolia Road United Methodist Church, Pemberton Township, NJ.
Grace and peace, Patty and Ray
—————————————————————————————— A Shelter in the Time of Storm
By Joy Haines
Have you ever been frightened by the sound of crashing thunder? I remember as a child, I was terrified of the sudden clap of thunder that shook my world. I would run to find my father and jump into his lap. He would circle his arms around me as I buried my head into his chest to try and get away from the sound. I was absolutely terrified. My father would tell me it was only noise, and not to be afraid. He would hold me until the storm began to dissipate, and finally he gently helped me off his lap, put me back on my feet, and away I would go. I knew I could run to my dad, and he would help me get through my fear.
As I remember those childhood days, I also remember how I began to realize how Jesus loves us so much that he wants us to turn to Him in the storms of our life. I remember how I came to believe without a doubt that Jesus is the Hope we need to sustain the hardship of life circumstances that come our way. Today I’d like to share what I have come to believe with you, hoping it will encourage you in whatever your storms of life might be facing from time to time.
We often find ourselves in situations very painful or stressful. We cry out “How can this happen to me??!! Why did I lose my job?? Why is my loved one sick!! What have I done to deserve this? Why am I having this terrible storm?” Have you ever felt this way? I know I have many times. We live the good life, ethically and morally. We believe in and pray to God. We wonder “why is this happening to me? Why would God let this terrible thing happen?” There’s nothig new about that. For example, One of the books of the Bible, called Job (pronounced Jobe), is about how a really good man named Job deals with the reality that bad things do happen to good people. Job was honest, inside and out. A man of his word. Totally devoted to God. He hated evil with a passion.
The story begins with a conversation between Satan (also known as the devil, the evil one, the Prince of Darkness, and some other sinister names) and God. Satan says to God, “You have put a hedge of protection about him and his house and all that he has, on every side. You have conferred prosperity and happiness upon him in the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. No wonder he is so faithful to you. But if you take all that away from him, he will curse You to Your face. God replies, “We’ll see. Go ahead— I’ll let you do whatever you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him.”
The next thing we hear is the news about one diaster after another happening to Job. He loses everything he had. His farm, his animals, his children, and his health. Even his friends blamed him for all this travesty in his life. His wife isn’t any comfort either. She tells him to curse God and die. If even a small part of this happened to any of us, our response would probably be to believe there was no hope for us. We would feel as though we were totally and forever doomed.
But that’s not Job’s response to his so-called friends. Instead He says to them. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God. He endured the hardship. He held on to his faith in God. He was in the middle of a terrible storm. But he clung to the only shelter he knew, that of his God in heaven. The story doesn’t really explain why God allows bad things to happen to good people. There are good explanations, but that’s another story. The message of the book of Job for us today is the same as it was to those who heard this story a few thousand years ago. No matter how good and faithful you are, there will be storms in your life. But with God in your life (specifically God in Christ) you can endure your storms. God will get you through them. It doesn’t mean bad news or hardships won’t come your way. The storms is are out there. But God has provided good news in the midst of the bad news. And the best place to find out about the good news is the Bible.
Among other thngs, the Bible tells us that regardless of what the eye sees, or the ear hears, we need to place all our faith and trust in God, who promises that all who trust in Him will find new strength! “They will soar on high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint”(Isaiah 40:31).
Since we have this good news, why do we all too often still lose hope? What makes us worry? Where do the negative emotions of fear and hopelessness come from? Jesus says “the thief (Satan) comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (that includes you and me) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows”(John 10:10).
As long as you are feeling lost, lonely, depressed, and hopeless, it will seem like the devil is winning his fight against God (and you). But I am here to tell you that Satan has not won and will not win. The victory has already been won for us at the cross with Jesus shed blood, shed for you and me! He conquered death and destruction! And he gave us a gift- peace of mind and heart. That peace is a gift the world cannot give, Jesus says “don’t be troubled or afraid. Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance make your needs known to God (John 14:27)
2000 years ago The Aposltle Paul wrote to the church, which was under some degree of persecution, “and God’s peace shall be yours. That peace being that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ. That peace which is fearing nothing from God and is content with its earthly lot. That peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. So Don’t worry, and do not lose hope.” (Philiappians 4:6-7). Those words are also meant for and apply to us today.
Our hope lies in trusting in God’s word. Read His word, believe and profess His word. Act on His word. Because it is written that God promises that He will never leave us. The Holy Spirit of God will be with us always. Hear God’s word from Isaiah 40:28-29. “Have you heard the good news? Have you understood? Have you understood? The Lord is the everlasting God. The Creator of all earth. He never grows weak or weary. No on can understand the depth of his understanding. He gives strength to the powerless. Do not allow the evil one to steal your hope, your peace or your power to overcome the hopelessness the world portrays. Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength!” You have the power through Christ to overcome whatever storms you face, now and in the future. Now use that power!
The next time the booming thunder strikes, and begins to fill your heart with fear, remember that Jesus has overcome the world. He said “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted)! For I have overcome the world. (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.) “(John 16:33).
Take heart, and run into the arms of Jesus. Jump into his lap as you read His Word and let His arms embrace you to carry you through. Feel His presence as the words in the Bible become your words of life, peace, and hope. Experience the love of Christ, that will make you complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Feel the supernatural power that only comes through the Holy Spirit in you. Allow that Spirit to lift you above your circumstances, give you strength to stand in the middle of the storm on wings of eagles. To fly with courage the race set before you. Let the world see your strength and give God the glory and honor He deserves!! May the words of Jesus, always our shelter in the storm, fill you today and always with His peace, His hope and His Love.
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray