Genesis 19:26 NKJV
Before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, angels of the Lord rescued Lot and his family. “When they had brought them outside…he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed'” (v. 17 NKJV). But the record reads: “His wife looked back… and…became a pillar of salt.” There’s an important lesson here for each of us: Resist the temptation to linger in the quicksand of past mistakes – either your own or other people’s. It can be hard to see ahead when horrendous things have happened to you in the past. But when you get bogged down in the past, you miss what God has for you in the present, and fail to see its connection to your future. The good news is that it’s not too late to allow God to use you and move you forward on your journey. He can heal the wounds others have inflicted on you. He can make you wiser as a result of the poor decisions you made in the past. It’s not too late to become who you might have been. God delights in transforming our weakness into strength. He can create treasure from what you’ve discarded as trash. Even if you’ve backslidden and detoured from the path you know He wants you to follow, now is the time to return to His highway. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT). So move forward – and don’t look back.
Soul food: Rev 15-18; Mark 15:1-20; Ps 132:11-18; Prov 13:7-8
James 1:2 NLT
When difficulties come to us in life and in our relationships, we have a choice. We can either go down the path of despair, or the path of hope. The first path takes us from disappointment to discouragement, then to despair. We feel powerless and hopeless, and we don’t know how things will ever get better. If we’re honest, we can often find ourselves heading down that path, especially if we’ve been struggling for a long time. But in Romans 5, we find an alternative path. It says, ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (vv.3-4 NIV). In order to choose this path, we need to trust that God will stay with us in the hard times, and that He’ll bring something good from them. The Bible says, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28 NIV). Often when we can’t understand life’s circumstances, we limit our expectations of who God is and what He can do. But we must try to see Him at work in any trials that come our way. And more than that, we need to rejoice in our times of trouble. This may seem too difficult, or even an impossibility, but James writes, ‘when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing’ (vv.2-4 NLT). When we remember the amazing things God can do in and through us while we’re facing trials, it’s easier to have joy, trust in Him, and choose the path which leads to hope.
1 Kings 8-9; Mark 12:28-44; Ps 113; Prov 12:15-17
John 16:33 NIV
Good Friday is a day when we tend to focus on the suffering Jesus endured. And it’s an opportunity to remember the importance of the cross in our times of struggle. When we go through traumatic events, are hurt by others, or walk through dark valleys, we can feel like we’re walking alone. But the cross reminds us that we have a God who understands. Jesus walked through suffering too. He was betrayed by a friend, had to walk a path that He didn’t want to, was mocked by crowds of people, and faced death on the cross. The Bible tells us that Jesus even felt abandoned by God: ‘Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” This means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”‘ (Matthew 27:46 NCV). Whatever we’re facing, we can know that Jesus understands. We’re not left to struggle on our own. We have a God who walks every step with us. The psalmist wrote: ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me’ (Psalm 23:4 NIV) and in Deuteronomy it says, ‘the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you’ (31:6 NIV). It’s also important to remember that the cross we’re focusing on is empty. Jesus’ death wasn’t the end. God raised Him back to life again. And now we can have hope for the future, even if we have to walk through suffering right now. Whatever we’re going through, we can know that Jesus has already overcome. He said: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ So let’s ‘take heart’ and remember that the cross is empty. We have hope because He has overcome.
Gen 22:1-18; Matt 27:45-56; Ps 22; Isa 53
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV
We don’t have to watch or read the news for long before we see how much darkness and suffering there is in the world. But God is light, and His light shines brighter than any darkness. The Bible says: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5 NIV). However much darkness we see around us, we can still have hope because we know Jesus’ light has overcome. And we can be part of bringing His light into the world. As His children, we’re children of the light. ‘You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness’ (1 Thessalonians 5:5 NIV). By living in this world, we’re going to come into contact with darkness regularly, and we can counteract this with light. We’re supposed to shine. The Bible says: ‘You are living with crooked and mean people all around you, among whom you shine like stars in the dark world’ (Philippians 2:15 NCV). As children of the light, we don’t need to be intimidated by the darkness around us. Instead, we need to hold on to the fact that through God, we can shine brighter. Shining in a dark world can feel scary because we’re on show. It might even make us a little unpopular with others. But we can know that we’re doing exactly what God wants us to be doing, and by shining we’re glorifying Him. Jesus said: ‘You are the light that gives light to the world…Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14-16 NCV). Are we prepared to shine today?
Exo 22-24; Matt 7:15-29; Ps 79; Prov 2:9-10
Romans 12:12 NLT
What do we do when we have been waiting a long time for God to move in our situations? Do we pray for a while and then give up because nothing seems to be happening? Do we walk away from God because the wait has caused us to question His goodness and love for us? Or do we patiently wait for Him to do what He has promised? We’d probably all like to say that we wait patiently, but if we are honest do we actually respond differently? The Bible says: ‘Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.’ So how can we be patient? It’s all about perspective. Once we know and believe that God’s ‘grace is sufficient’ (have a look at 2 Corinthians 12:9), we can patiently endure any situation. It’s not going to be easy, but we know that God’s in control and that we can trust Him to come through at just the right time. Joseph certainly experienced his fair share of troubles. His brothers threw him in a well, sold him as a slave, and pretended he was dead. He was falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison for many years. He probably thought he’d never get through it all, but in the end he could say, ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good’ (Genesis 50:20 NIV). We might think that we are not going to make it through either. But we can wait patiently for Him to do something because we know He will bring good out of it. The Bible says: ‘Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’ (Romans 5:3-4 NIV). We can let the things we go through bring us down, or we can let them develop perseverance and patience in us.
1 Cor 12-14; Matt 2:13-23; Ps 139:13-24; Prov 31:28-29