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FEAR NOT, ONLY BELIEVE

One of a parent’s greatest fears is that their child will become seriously ill or injured, or that they might even die. I’ve been through that trial many times. Whenever I hear of a parent facing a situation like that I can truly empathize. No matter how great one’s faith, or how spiritually mature a Christian parent may be, it is traumatic to see your child suffering and know that you are helpless to take the pain away. Grief and fear are natural. I’ve struggled with it, even though I knew in my mind and believed with all my heart that God is in control, and that He loves us and wants only the best for us. Guilt then mingles with the other emotions running rampant through you, for you wonder, If I am truly trusting God, why am I so afraid?
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My cousin and her husband were suddenly faced with that kind of situation this week when their not-quite-six year old ended up in surgery for a ruptured appendix. Gangrene had already set in, and if they had not gotten him in when they did, he could have easily died. I have not talked to Wendy yet, but I am sure she and Rick went through all the emotions I have described. Disbelief at first that this is actually happening, fear, worry, grief, helplessness, guilt — the emotions lead to tremendous stress, and the stress leads to exhaustion. Praise God, little Dima is going to be just fine, but I am sure it will take Wendy and Rick just as long to recover from this ordeal as it will Dima!
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We got a phone call yesterday from Ecuador that our nine year old granddaughter Melissa had been injured and was in surgery. I’ve been dreading a phone call like that, hearing that one of our children or grandchildren had been hurt or was seriously ill and we were so far away that we could not go to them. Praise the Lord, though, it turned out to be only a badly broken wrist, and although the recovery may be long and painful, she will recover very nicely in the end.
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Both of these heart-wrenching events this week will be short-lived and in a few months they will simply be distant memories. For the parent of a severely handicapped or chronically ill child, though, the battle goes on – and on and on. For the parent of a terminally ill child, or even the bereaved parent, it can be a nightmare that seems to have no end.
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The Bible tells of a man named Jairus who came to Jesus when his twelve year old daughter was lying at death’s door. “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him…While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.” (Mark 5:22-24; 35-42)
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Jairus was terrified. His daughter was his only child. He was a ruler in the synagogue, and you may recall, those men down at the synagogue weren’t too happy with Jesus – in fact, they were seeking a way to get rid of Him. Jairus, though, believed in Jesus. He may have kept that belief a secret from the other rulers, but still, when it came to his child’s life, he did not hesitate to confess his belief. What were Jesus words to Jairus? “Be not afraid, only believe.”
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Jairus had already realized who Jesus was, and trusted Him enough to come to Him in his moment of great need, but still he was afraid. Jesus recognized that Jairus would naturally be afraid. He did not reprimand him for that fear, but instead was telling him to set aside that fear and cling to his belief in Christ.
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In this account of Jairus’ daughter, and again in the story of the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-53), we see parents who are torn apart with grief and fear at the illness of a child, and whose children did, in fact, die. Again, in the story of Lazarus of Bethany we see a beloved brother who is sick and dies. (John 11:1-45) In each of these cases that daughter, son and brother is raised from the dead because of the belief of those who loved them, and also as Jesus said in John 11:4 “for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” These were miracles that would shine a light on Who Jesus really was for the people of that day and show them that truly, He was the Son of God.
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We still see miracles of God these days even though Jesus no longer walks this earth. Children, and adults, too, recover from their deathbeds, or are even miraculously resuscitated. Why does not God answer our prayers every time, when a believer calls unto Him for the miraculous healing of a loved one? The simple answer is, I don’t know. I do know, though, that He is working in the lives of that one and all those around him or her in His own way and for His own purpose. I do know that He loves us with an everlasting love and hears those prayers and always answers – although sometimes the answer is no. I do know that He knows what is best for us and that He is in control.
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It is not wrong to be afraid. It is wrong to cling to that fear. There comes a time when we must set it aside and cling instead to our belief in Christ and His love for us, regardless of the outcome. Trust Him. Fear not, only believe.

WE AIN’T GOT A BARREL OF MONEY

You know how sometimes a song comes into your mind, and you just can’t shake it? That happened to me this week with the strangest song—“We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money.” Do you remember it? I think it probably came out of the Depression era—and before you say it–no, I’m not that old. That was before my time. I probably first heard this song from my mother when I was a child. Anyway, the words go,

Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money.
Maybe we’re ragged and funny,
But we’ll travel along, singin’ a song
Side by side.

The words conjure up in my mind the picture of a couple of happy hobos, strolling down a dusty road, sticks slung over their shoulders with bandanas tied to the ends holding all their worldly possessions. They remind me also of a “hobo party” we threw back in the 80’s for a family in our church that was going through a rough patch after the husband lost his job. We all came dressed as hobos, roasted hot dogs on sticks, ate beans out of tin cans, and drank out of mason jars. We also gave them a wonderful food shower. That was the last time I remember singing that song. Why it would suddenly pop into my head this week, I don’t know.

Unless… Could it be that all this unrest in the economy is weighing on my mind? I think we’d all agree, it’s getting scary out there. We all know people who have lost their jobs— maybe our own jobs are in jeopardy. Businesses large and small are folding. The stock market continues to plunge, the housing market is a mess and every time we walk into the grocery store prices are up—again. The economic stimulus, which is supposed to help, is scary in itself. Will it really work? And at what price? What if it’s a huge mistake?

The media is full of stories like “How to Survive the Economic Crisis” and “Catastrophe Looms!” Every day we are told we are sinking into an ever deeper recession. The word Depression hovers over us like a malevolent specter. Will our economy crash altogether and plunge us into another Great Depression? No one seems to know.

Oops! I take that back! There is One who knows, One who holds the whole situation in His hands, One who is in control. Colossians 1:16, 17 tells us, For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. When we think of the Creator, we think of His creation being the heavens and earth, plants, animals, man and so forth. We tend to forget that He is also Creator of governments and rulers for His purposes. By Him all things consist—that is, they are held together by Him. That includes our nation and its economy.

That is not to say that He will not allow our government to fail or our economy to crash. This country was founded on godly principles, yet as we slip away from those principles and the US turns her back on God we cannot expect that He will not send judgment. As Christians, though, we know we can trust Him regardless of His plan for our nation or our own personal lives. “…All things were created by him, and for him…” As Creator He has every right to do as He wills.

As loving Father, though, He has made promises to His children, those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Matthew 6:25-33 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

He loves us and will always care for us. It may not always be in the manner we would choose, but He, in His infinite wisdom, mercy and love, knows what is best for us, and we can rest when we trust in Him.

II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Philippians 4:6,7 Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I have to confess, in these uncertain days I am often tempted to worry. I have to constantly battle it. Bob’s job has been in the balance for several months. Twice he’s come home from work and said, “I barely escaped being laid off today. My name was on the list, but my bosses talked them out of it.” Then he says, “I absolutely refuse to worry about it, though! God has always taken care of us and He always will!” He means it, too. Bob does not worry. It’s a little harder for me. I’m the one who writes out the bills and faces the checkout counter at the store. I’m the one who tries to make our shrinking dollars stretch. I must often remind myself that, though these days may be uncertain, the economy may be uncertain, our lives may be uncertain, we can, in the words of Oswald Chambers, be certain of God!

When we are trusting in God, when we place our burdens in His hands, when we live by faith, we will not have the spirit of fear or worry. Although the economy may be in recession, or even facing a depression, there is no need for us to be depressed! God has promised peace which passes all understanding when we hand it all over to Him! He’s walking side by side with us – even when we’re ragged and funny!