The prophet Isaiah often preached about God’s vengeance against sin. He spoke of the day of doom and despair coming upon those living in rebellion, yet in the midst of one of his most frightening messages about the Lord’s day of wrath, Isaiah stopped and cried out, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord … according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7).
In the midst of all the sin, apostasy and rebellion in Israel, Isaiah looked deep into his own heart and recalled a revelation of what God is truly like. He essentially cried, “Lord, have pity on us and save us again. We have rebelled against you and vexed your Holy Spirit, but truly you are full of lovingkindness.”
God’s lovingkindness is one aspect of the Lord’s character that many Christians know little about. When David looked back at God’s past dealings with his beloved children, he tells us that it is possible to understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. The key to understanding this aspect of God’s character was simple and uncomplicated — God extended his mercy because the people cried out to the Lord. “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord” (Psalm 107:5-6). When God’s children wandered away from him, lost because of their sin, they cried out to him and “He sent His word and healed them” (107:20).
Once more, when God’s people came to their wits’ end, what did they do? “They [cried] out to the Lord in their trouble” (107:28) and he brought them out of their trouble and calmed the stormy sea.
The Lord was teaching David that he could take a look at his record of dealings with the children of Israel and discover his nature. This lesson holds true for us today. “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:43).
You have a loving, tender Father who cares about you. He has bottled each of your tears; he has seen every need; he has known your every thought — and he loves you!
God created man for fellowship with him. His eternal intention was that man would share in his Triune community of love, acceptance, tenderness, and true knowing of one another. Sin entered the world and shattered this whole relationship concept, and with sin came shame, alienation, separation, hopelessness. But then Christ appeared on the scene!
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace … So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:12-14, 19).
Paul addresses the personal transformation that comes by the power of the cross of Jesus Christ. But he also talks about bringing peace and restoration to broken interpersonal relationships. Where you once related to others with hostility, fear, separation and anxiety, you are now able to walk in reconciliation, peace and love. You are made righteous in Christ, and that wall of anger and resentment is gone. From now on you will walk in love and peace and acceptance and freedom and healing. Words that are said toward you may still hurt, but you will not build up a wall of hostility as you have done in the past.
The Word of God addresses it this way: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). In other words, God will give you grace to forgive and extend mercy to others but it may not be well received. Nevertheless, you are able to “remember that you were separated from Christ” but that is in the past. You are now a member of the household of God and you are free because of the sacrifice of Christ. In this wonderful new place, you now walk in his victory!
“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” (James 1:2-4, TLB).
James gives a command here: “Be happy when the way is rough.” He goes on to reason that if you obey this imperative, your patience will have a chance to grow and you will be ready for anything!
Everyone is looking for a way to live a happy life. In fact, when Yale University offered a class in its curriculum called “How to Live a Happy Life,” half the student body signed up to enroll. That class, Psych 157, became the most popular class in the history of the school.
One version of James 1: 2 reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (NIV). The word consider literally means to think forward. Don’t get stuck in the now — the present; think about what you’re facing in the future. This is huge because what James is saying is, “I want you to realize that the end of where you’re going has a purpose. Something good is on the other side.”
Peter says, “So be truly glad! There is a wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here” (1 Peter 1:6, TLB). What we can learn from both James and Peter is that heaven is not a location. Heaven is a motivation for us right now; a future thought when we are in present struggle. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.” If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better.
It is vitally important to understand that when you are tested, your trials are not taking from you, they are producing in you — which is pretty amazing.
Pastor Tim pastored an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years before serving at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years. He and his wife Cindy presently pastor in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The cloud, that misty covering that ofttimes falls upon God's people, is not a blot in God's handwriting. With Jesus, clouds come as a part of His train of glory. Clouds are really not our enemies; they do not hide His face; they are not warnings of an approaching storm. Once you understand that clouds are instruments of divine love, they should no longer be feared.
You will never understand your trials and sufferings until you understand the meaning of holy clouds.
"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in the way..." (Exodus 13:21).
Can you picture God's people, day after day in that horrible wilderness, staring into a cloud? I am sure the enemies of Israel went about saying, "If their God is so powerful, why do they not have sunshine all the time; why do they suffer daily under that gloomy cloud? Everywhere they go, the cloud appears."
Not to worry, my friends. That cloud others thought to be so unwelcome was their daily scout. When the cloud moved, they moved; when it stalled, they stood still.
God has good reason to stall our cloud. God proved His children, to see if they would run ahead of Him, forgetting to wait for His leading. He waits until we come to the end of our patience and are willing to cry out, "Lord, I'll wait in this wilderness forever, if that is Your will. I'll do it Your way; I won't move until You give me the word."
If you knew the good that will come out of your cloud, you would not ask for its removal.
I am convinced that every true Christian would choose the very course God has chosen for him, if he knew all that God knows. Life is like a beautiful tapestry, but the Master Weaver only shows you one strand at a time. If you could see the wonderful plan He is working out, you would rejoice rather than recoil.
King David said, “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order” (Psalm 40:5).
“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” (Psalm 139:17).
God thought of you before you were born! He thought of you when your life was breathed into a cell — when you were still in the womb. It is hard to comprehend that our Father would think of us so highly. He thinks of us when we lie down in bed and when we rise. He thinks of us with every step we take. He also knows and understands every thought we think: “Jesus perceived their thoughts” (Luke 5:22).
Heaven is populated with highly intelligent beings — angels, seraphim, cherubim — who are witnesses to the faithfulness of our God. They know of all the promises he has made to us concerning his attention toward every minute detail of our lives. If God failed in a single one of these promises, all heaven would become chaos and ruin, for the heavenly host would say, “God failed to keep his Word! He can’t be trusted.” Yet, the fact that all heaven praises God, throwing their crowns at his feet, is proof that they behold and believe in his faithfulness. God can be trusted to do all he said he would.
The world is not looking for more doctrinal proof of the reality of God. The world is looking for Christians who can stand up to every crisis, trouble and difficulty, and remain calm and at rest in the midst of it all. The world needs to see God’s children trusting wholly in their Lord.
Beloved, trust in the Lord with all your heart. Freedom from fear and worry comes when you rest confidently in the very One who created you!