Words Unfading and Unchanging
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35 NIV).
The scrumptious fruit-bearing fig tree undergoes a remarkable rate of seasonal change. Like other deciduous trees, the fig tree loses its leaves each year. During the late fall and early winter, its plush green leaves fade to yellow and drift to the ground. Come early spring, the leaves reemerge, and the tree shimmers green again. As summer rolls in, so does the tear-shaped brownish-purple fruit of the tree. The delicious fig, in the Northern Hemisphere, is in season from late summer to early fall. This versatile fruit can be eaten or prepared in various ways—enjoyed fresh or dried or processed into jam, rolls, biscuits, and other desserts. As fall ends, the enchanting seasonal cycle of the fig tree repeats itself.
In Matthew 24, Jesus describes the annual coming out of the fig tree’s fruit as a sign. Just as the tree’s tender fruit serves as a sign that summer is here, so will many signs presage Jesus’ Second Coming. While the precise day and hour of Christ’s Return remain unknown (v. 36), He encourages the disciples to be alert and stand guard. Before Jesus’ glorious return, there will be an escalation of war, famine, earthquakes, persecution, false messiahs, and false prophets (vv. 7, 9–11, 24). God’s people today still await the culmination of history. We ready ourselves for adversity of many kinds and guard ourselves and those we love against those seeking to lead us astray.
Alongside Jesus’ warning, however, are words of profound consolation. Although the events of history—even heaven and earth—come and go, Jesus’ teachings and promises will “never pass away” (v. 35). The permanency of Jesus’ words harkens to His eternal and unchanging character. The One whom we await is Himself the God of history. Everyone in heaven and earth, and under the earth, will one day bow at His name (Philippians 2:10). Jesus’ everlasting Word propels our mission on earth forward. Indeed, He describes another sign of the end as the global, all-encompassing reach of the Gospel:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).
Jesus’ use of the fig tree analogy is even more impressive when one considers the tree’s seasonal nature and the incredible amount of change it undergoes. The signs of the times, like the fig tree, serve a purpose. Yet, as with everything else, they come and go, bud and fade, linger and “pass away.” However, those who have placed their faith in Christ can confront adversity and change with the confidence that His guiding words remain a beacon to see us through.
Lord, we treasure Your abiding words, for every one of them will endure. No matter what lies ahead, we thank You for, and place our trust in, the words of Scripture that promise Your victory and ever guide us onward as we await that day.
Letting Go of Lonely
FEBRUARY 8, 2023
“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” Psalm 38:9 (ESV)
Reaching for the tub of ice cream in the freezer, I settled for a movie night to soothe my lonely soul. But extra calories and escaping into someone else’s story could not satisfy the ache in my heart.
Loneliness was still waiting for me the next morning. Comfort food was not what my soul needed. I needed God to be my comfort.
Loneliness relentlessly followed me wherever I went — because it was in my mind. Loneliness surrounded me even in a crowded room and made me feel like everyone knew I was alone.
Then I saw her. Another lonely woman like me: Hagar. Running away from her lonely, harsh circumstances, she found herself alone in the desert yet seen by God. “You are the God who sees me …” she said (Genesis 16:13, NIV).
Then God sent her right back to the lonely place she came from. (Genesis 16:9)
What?! (Insert tire screech.)
That kind of deliverance does not make sense to me. I feel God’s rescue should have removed her from the lonely place she escaped and should have surrounded her with people who loved her. But there in that holy, lonely place, Hagar let go of loneliness and held on to God.
God’s deliverance is often through life’s pain rather than around it.
What can we learn from this? Loneliness is not a place. It is a state of mind. God wants to meet us in our loneliness just like He met Hagar.
God’s deliverance wasn’t just that He saw her; it was that Hagar was no longer alone. God’s presence gave her strength to return to a hard place. She could live loved, knowing God was enough.
Similarly, King David knew God saw him in his suffering too. His friends had abandoned him, but God hadn’t. David wrote our key verse, which says:
“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9).
David did not give in to his loneliness. He fought through it by crying out to God and found himself comforted.
So how does being seen and known by God help us?
We are never alone.
We are significant.
We are accepted unconditionally.
We are loved by God.
Living loved isn’t a matter of location or situation — it is a matter of the mind that impacts our souls.
Now, rather than feeling lonely, I feel cherished. Lonely moments are now embraced places of solitude where I run and hide away with God. I have learned that nothing can comfort me like being still in His presence.
And I’ve also learned that loneliness is not dependent upon a relationship status. We can be lonely when we are single or married, divorced or widowed. Loneliness is not a respecter of persons.
But, friend, the good news is that our loneliness is seen by God. So we are never truly alone. Let’s live loved — because we are.
Fix Your Gaze Ahead
From: Today Devotions
SCRIPTURE READING — PROVERBS 4:25-26
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.
Regret is something that everyone struggles with. Depending on the situation or circumstances, the emotions of regret can linger for months or even years before one is able to refocus.
Many of us are inclined to look back on what could have been or should have been. People can also tend to look behind them to “the good ol’ days,” when life may have seemed sweeter, simpler, and less frantic.
But whatever might cause us to fixate on the past, Proverbs encourages us to look ahead. This is not because it’s bad or inappropriate to look back. We can learn a lot from our past mistakes, trauma, or the good times we enjoyed. However, Scripture calls us not to linger in the past but rather to glean from it (however long that takes) and then look ahead.
The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Set your gaze on the road before you and follow Jesus steadfastly. Let him be the focal point of your pathway in life. Run the race knowing that his Spirit is running with you and that he is ahead of you, waiting at the finish line.
“Guide me, O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand.” Help me, Jesus, to fix my gaze on you. Amen.