Claiming Biblical Promises in Times of Change
posted on January 19
Claiming Biblical Promises in Times of Change
And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,
so that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
My mind does not often naturally drift to the Pastoral Epistles. It’s not that I don’t learn from them, it’s just that I tend to stay closer to the Gospels. Of late, God has guided me to the Old Testament Prophets (particularly Isaiah) and to the First and Second Letters of Peter.
For me, reading the Prophets and the Pastoral Epistles is like riding a wave of both comfort and confrontation. God is reassuring us in one moment, correcting us in the next. I find this particularly true in Isaiah 43, which awakened me during the night over the weekend. I heard God speak to my deepest concerns about our nation, just as God spoke of old to the nation of Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:1a-3)
I awakened to read the whole chapter, where I was reminded that God loves us, honors us, gathers us, but also forcefully reminds us of those powers that are uniquely God’s to wield: “I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is no one who can deliver from my hand. I work and who can hinder it?” (43:13) The chapter goes on to gently remind us that it is God who delivered the people through the sea, and that it is God who is about to do a “new thing” among the people. (43:19) God’s simple complaint against us, the people, is that we did not call for help. We who call ourselves faithful have not asked God to do what God does best; instead we have been a wearisome burden. Ouch. How often have we watched news, reviewed statistics, scrolled social media, without pausing to ask God to intervene, or to reflect on our own personal unfaithfulness?
Similarly, the Pastoral Epistles jar us. Because of when they were written, they are full of true-to-life examples of how hard it is to be a Christian in a world of empire. They speak specifically of humility and suffering. Humility is a trait of all faithful Christians, and suffering is a reality for all faithful Christians. I have told those under my care many times – “Jesus suffered. You will suffer. If you do not believe this, you need to go back and re-read the New Testament.”
As Bonhoeffer more powerfully said in his classic Life Together, “the cross of Christ banishes all pride.” Sometimes we are afraid to let our pride be banished. As humans, we instinctively seek power and pleasure and avoid pain and peril. But God’s people are always called to seek God’s help. 1 Peter 4:6 delivers good news, but keeps us humble. God’s hand is indeed mighty, and God’s timing is always perfect. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Do you know how much you are cared for by God, how much God wants to keep you out of the deepest waters and safe from the fires of this difficult season? We must call upon God for help. The moment we think we know everything and are beyond appealing to God, that moment we place ourselves in the judgment seat, we descend to the depths of sin and God must correct us. God is always willing to correct us. If we are humble, we receive this correction and the good and comforting news that accompanies it.
As we move into 2021, into a new day of leadership in our nation, into what we pray will be the last months of this raging pandemic, let us move forward with a mindfulness of the power and the strength of God. God can handle all of our anxieties, and God will correct all human pride.
I encourage you to seek passages of scripture that will both comfort and challenge, not just the ones that will simply affirm what you believe to be true. God’s love for us is boundless, and God has an unyielding desire for us to live in alignment with Kingdom values. God’s promises are for our well-being, and for peace.
This week, cast all your anxieties upon God, for God does care for you. God has been there; God is there; God will be there. These are biblical promises. And we must claim them, even as God gently corrects us all.
Rev. Bev Coppley