|Volume 18 Number 4 April 2016||
Turn on the television on any given day and you will see news of terrorist group activity. It might be at a movie theater, a restaurant, a school, a business, a marathon or even a church building. This can lead one to think there is no safe place in this world. Just taking care of one’s day to day responsibilities can end in tragedy. This may make one feel insecure, lost and nervous. Where can we go from harm? Where can we find a safe place?
We can find safety in God Almighty. When we are afraid, we must go to God. When we are unsure of our future, we must go to God. Psalm 46:1-2 refers to God as our refuge. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” This is such a reassuring Scripture to the Christian! It reminds us that the Creator of the earth and mountains is in control. He is our refuge. God will be present despite whatever comes our way. Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God.” This reminds Christians there is no need for panic, no need for anxiety and no need to get upset; be still, be calm. He is God and is in full control. What comfort! What a feeling of safety and security!
We can find safety in God because He is our Shelter. My first grade child is learning at school about the basic needs of life verses wants. The list of basic needs are food, water and shelter. Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary defines shelter as, “a position or the state of being covered and protected” (1085). God in His wisdom inspired David, the writer of Psalm 61:3, to refer to God as his Shelter – a basic necessity of life. “For you have been a shelter for me. A strong tower from the enemy.” V.J. Charlesworth and Ira D. Sankey have combined their talents to create the well-known song, “A Shelter in Time of Storm.” “The Lord’s our Rock, In Him we hide, Secure whatever ill be tide. A shade by day, defense by night, no fears alarm, no foes affright… A shelter in the time of storm.” The metaphor of calling God a Shelter delineates the idea that God is there to cover us and keep us from harm. Those of us who are parents can easily understand this metaphor. Imagine you are with your child and suddenly danger is present. What do you do? As a parent, you put yourself on top of your child, covering him or her with your body in order to protect your child from harm. The same goes for God with His children. He is our Shelter. Jesus, in Matthew 23:37, conveyed the same message. “How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”
Lastly, we can find safety in God because He keeps us in His shadow. “This word has often the rare meaning of a shelter” (Cruden 588). Psalm 17:8 is a prayer of David. David, through the inspired pen of God, wrote, “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” This metaphor gives me a picture of an eagle spreading wings over her young. When we are in the shadow of God’s protection, we are covered, protected, sheltered and safe. Again, in Psalm 91:1-4 we read, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God in Him I will trust. Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.’”
Christians can find great comfort and consolation through these words of God. In times of insecurity, we can be certain that God is with us. Scripture tells us that God is our Refuge, our Shelter and He keeps us in His shadow. I can’t think of a safer place to be!
Cruden, Alexander. Cruden’s Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988.
“Shelter.” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam Webster, 1986.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. and Everett F. Harrison. Eds. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1962.
Life’s Not Fair!
Have you ever heard yourself or someone else, especially a child say, “That’s not fair!”? As a teacher, I hear this frequently. My usual response is something like, “Life’s not fair, get over it.” That may sound harsh, but it is the truth. Besides that, I usually hear the comment from a student not getting his way about something. However truthful or harsh it may be, we all need to understand, life is not fair…but eternity is.
Life is not fair…
It is evident in our world that life is not fair. Many honest, moral, hardworking individuals receive little for their efforts except pain and suffering. On the other hand, others whose lives manifest corruption, selfishness and laziness appear to prosper and to be at ease. To the family that loses everything to a natural disaster or to the individual who loses his life when someone else chooses to drink and drive, life is not fair. How ought Christians to respond to the unfairness of life? How should Christians respond to those who claim there is no God based on the unfairness of life?
We must realize the Bible does not promise the Christian a life of peace, ease and fairness. Christians in the early days of the church suffered greatly from persecution (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:1-2). Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even today, faithful Christians suffer for their convictions. In Western cultures, persecution usually takes the form of rude or hateful comments, but it also may result in legal and financial penalties. However, in Eastern cultures persecution similar to what first century Christians faced still exists. Christians in these areas may suffer the loss of jobs, homes and livelihoods; their families may consider them dead or even try to kill them. Governments may throw in prison or execute anyone who stands firm in one’s belief in Christ. Certainly, in this respect, life is not fair.
The Bible offers numerous other examples of God’s people facing an unfair life on this earth. Consider Job. Was it fair that he lost his children and all that he had in one day (Job 1:13-19)? Think about young David. Was if fair that Saul tried numerous times to kill David (1 Samuel 18:9-11, 25; 19:1-15), even though David chose not to harm Saul when he had the opportunity (1 Samuel 24)? Remember Joseph. Was it fair that his brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:12-28), Potiphar’s wife lied about him (Genesis 39:1-20) and the butler forgot to mention Joseph to Pharaoh while Joseph continued to sit in prison for two more years (Genesis 40:23; 41:9-13)?
The root cause of all the unfairness in this life is sin. The sin of Adam and Eve, and later the sin leading to the universal flood of Noah’s day, changed the world from what God created (Genesis 3:17-19; 7:11). Tragedies from natural disasters now plague mankind. Other unfair circumstances may come as consequences of other people’s sins (e.g., drunk driver causing a crash, children in poverty due to parental drug abuse, etc.). Satan can be blamed for all the unfairness in the world. According to Scripture, he was the direct cause of Job’s circumstances (Job 1:6-12), and indirectly, he was the cause of the circumstances of David and Joseph. Furthermore, Satan is blameworthy for individuals today when people choose to give in to temptation (James 1:13-15). When life is unfair, blame it on the devil. However, do not forget to acknowledge human responsibility, too, as well as sometimes personal responsibility.
…but eternity is.
No matter how unfair this world can be, eternity will be fair. The Bible reassures us that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9). In other words, God is fair. He has given us everything we need to be pleasing to Him (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). God has already determined who will spend eternity in heaven and who will spend eternity in hell (Ephesians 1:3-14) – two groups contrasted by obedience and disobedience. Those who obey His words will spend all eternity in the glory of heaven (Matthew 25:34; 7:14, 21). Those who reject His words will spend all eternity in the torments of hell (Matthew 25:41; 7:13, 22-23). Since God has given us the criteria for each destination, no one can say “That’s not fair!” on receiving an assignment to hell.
God has done His part in determining our final destination. He provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16) and gave us the Bible so we can know how to please Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Now, we must do our part. We must hear and believe God’s Word (Romans 10:17), repent of our sins (Acts 2:38), confess our belief before others (Romans 10:9-10), be immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21) and live in faithful obedience to Christ, even if it leads to death (Revelation 2:10). Part of our job as a faithful Christian includes sharing the Gospel with others (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).
For many in this fallen world, life is not fair, but eternity is! Let us share the Gospel so those without hope in this life may have hope in eternity. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).