6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The mood in the church was heavy as believers in my city gathered to mourn the horror of a racist demonstration in America and its deadly aftermath. As we united to grieve and pray, a question seemed to hang in the air: What does it mean to hope during days like this—when evil is on full display and when the justice of God’s kingdom seems far away?
The heavy silence was broken by an invitation to worship. The pastor reminded us that throughout history, God’s people have sung to Him in seemingly impossible situations—in prisons, in wartime, in the face of death. And as broken hearts poured out in worship, something changed. A peace beyond understanding entered the places of pain as the tender touch of the Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3) reminded us that His power and love is indeed far greater than even the deepest evil.
Paul described this inexplicable confidence as God’s light—the light that shines in darkness—shining in our hearts and through the fragile “clay jars” of our lives (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). Because the Spirit of the resurrected One lives in us (2 Corinthians 4:10), even when “pressed on every side by troubles,” “perplexed,” “hunted down,” “knocked down,” believers have a hope that cannot be destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
“That is why we never give up” (2 Corinthians 4:16), Paul concluded. Our transformed lives are living proof that God is at work bringing new creation, justice, and restoration into His world (2 Corinthians 5:17). So even as we “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), we find in Him the courage to witness boldly to our Savior’s love (2 Corinthians 5:20). And we stake our lives once more on the truth of the gospel—that His love will never be destroyed and can never be defeated (Romans 8:25-39).
Ask if you have not received. There is nothing more difficult than asking. We will have yearnings and desires for certain things, and even suffer as a result of their going unfulfilled, but not until we are at the limit of desperation will we ask. It is the sense of not being spiritually real that causes us to ask. Have you ever asked out of the depths of your total insufficiency and poverty? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…” (James 1:5), but be sure that you do lack wisdom before you ask. You cannot bring yourself to the point of spiritual reality anytime you choose. The best thing to do, once you realize you are not spiritually real, is to ask God for the Holy Spirit, basing your request on the promise of Jesus Christ (see Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit is the one who makes everything that Jesus did for you real in your life.
“Everyone who asks receives….” This does not mean that you will not get if you do not ask, but it means that until you come to the point of asking, you will not receivefrom God (seeMatthew 5:45). To be able to receive means that you have to come into the relationship of a child of God, and then you comprehend and appreciate mentally, morally, and with spiritual understanding, that these things come from God.
“If any of you lacks wisdom….” If you realize that you are lacking, it is because you have come in contact with spiritual reality— do not put the blinders of reason on again. The word ask actually means “beg.” Some people are poor enough to be interested in their poverty, and some of us are poor enough spiritually to show our interest. Yet we will never receive if we ask with a certain result in mind, because we are asking out of our lust, not out of our poverty. A pauper does not ask out of any reason other than the completely hopeless and painful condition of his poverty. He is not ashamed to beg— blessed are the paupers in spirit (see Matthew 5:3).
Crabgrass in the Garden
By: Dee Aspin, Author
I gripped with two hands and pulled hard this sunny, after-the-rain, April morning. Still, the green shoots with white suction bumps barely uprooted, laden with crabgrass — cling-ons — the villain in my rose garden. I glanced at my neighbor at work across my backyard patio area.
“You should have seen this plot when I first got here.”
Jill, bent at the waist, hummed as she clipped roots from my thriving acacia bush. Recently, she jumped at my offer to transplant some purple blooms to her yard.
“I spent many a weekend hovered over this minefield …” I held up the unsightly weed.
“Yup,” Jill shook her head. “If you don’t plant something else in soil, whatever is there, will take hold. It’s difficult to deal with.” Because of her childhood on a farm, she knew soil.
No wonder this plot is a nightmare. I shoveled a foot down and hit resistance — little roots. The people who lived here before me did nothing to maintain this backyard. The roots had a deep hold on the soil, and although I weeded every year, it seemed I would never rid them completely.
I long for a weed-free backyard. It won’t happen. Crabgrass comes with this house, in this yard. My last house didn’t have crabgrass. It had deadpan soil that stunted the growth of anything living. Trees died. This move was the epitome of exchanging one set of problems for another.
My new job had some difficult personalities my last job didn’t. I had considered changing jobs, but I liked my work. So, I went to a counselor this week to get advice working with critical people in my life — at work and home. I get crabby just being around them.
“They won’t change at this age,” she frowned. You’ll just have to learn new ways of dealing with them.
I’ll just have to deal with crabby dispositions like this crabgrass, I reflected now, while I tugged on another stubborn weed. Maybe they will irritate me less if I learn how to keep my heart free of a sour attitude. Although this plot is difficult, roses and acacias continue to flourish in spite of the underlying problem. The soil is good. The people with critical spirits are good too.
If I overlook the weeds on my job, maybe I’ll see the beauty of their spirit. After all, I have some ingrained areas too. Hopefully, they overlook my roots of selfishness and pride. We can produce beauty in our lives if we allow God to garden our hearts and minds.
A pastor once preached, “We all have little creatures that like to creep in and gobble up the fruits of the spirit God intends for us to live with through Him — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness … goodness. (Galatians 5:22) Healing starts when we release resentment and unforgiveness.”
“See that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)