Never Alone

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb. 13:5

We waited to hear from Mr. Yung. A serene man in his seventies, he had been confined to the cruelest of solitary confinement for two years for his faith in Jesus Christ. Locked in a tiny cell without light, with no contact with visitors or other inmates, Mr. Yung sat day after day, week after week, month after month for two years in total darkness (Except for brief and rare walks outside). Who wouldn’t want to hear what he learned about life, death, fear, faith and suffering as he languished in cramped darkness for two years?

Looking Up

When the moderator asked him what he had learned, Mr. Yung simply stated, “This is what I learned. I learned that Jesus is always with me.”

That’s it? Two years of inhumane treatment, both physically and psychologically, and what you learned was, “Jesus is always with me”?

The moderator rephrased the question, thinking he could coax a bit more from Mr. Yung.

He replied, “That Jesus is always with me is what I learned. He was with me when I was hungry. He was with me when I was cold. He was with me when I was hot and delirious. He was with me when I was afraid for my family. He was with me when I was sick. He was with me when I was beaten. He was with me when I was hopeless. He was with me when I was confused. Jesus was with me when I was sure I was dying. Jesus was always with me. Jesus IS always with me. That is what I learned.”

Christians rightfully focus on what the Lord has done for us. Yet Mr. Yung’s rather anticlimactic reply to the question was actually a most profound one. The knowledge that Jesus is always with us is equally necessary to walk whatever walk the Lord has prescribed for us. Jesus for us and Jesus in us. These are the two truths that help Christians put one foot in front of another, day by day, regardless of what our darkness consists of.

Do YOU believe this?

Ponder for a moment that Jesus who died on the cross for your sins is also present in your life, closer than a shadow and more intimate than a breath. He is with you right now, in your heart and soul. Your ever faithful friend, “Jesus is always with you”. Jesus is with you when you wonder if you have the strength to make it through work one more day. Jesus is with you when you fear the path your child has taken might ruin their lives. Jesus is with you when you drive to AND from your doctor’s appointment. Jesus is with you when you sit down in front of your computer. Jesus is with you when you think there is no other solution to your marriage than to end it. Jesus is with you when your boss says your position has been replaced by a teenager working in a call center in Malaysia. Jesus is with you when the doctor takes your child and says, “we will see you in five hours.” Jesus is with you when you review your life and wonder, “how did I wind up here?” Jesus is with you when your temptations attack you with the fierceness of the Orcs on Frodo. Jesus is with you when you feel the outcome of your life has been shaped by the choices of others. Jesus is with you when you have nothing but darkness surrounding you. JESUS IS ALWAYS WITH YOU.

There is great power and strength that comes from reflecting on what Jesus has done for us. AND, there is great power that comes from reflecting on Jesus in us. Moment by moment, his spirit in us, comforting, challenging, directing, warning, empowering, consoling and emboldening us.

He is with me, even to the end of the age.

He will never leave me nor forsake me.

United to a living Christ, living in and through me now. If you are a Christian, that is your testimony.

This instant, in the midst of your scrambled thinking, your fractured friendships, your uncertain future, Mr. Yung’s testimony is true of you. “Jesus is always with me.” The one who for hours was THE MOST alone person who ever trod this dusty orb says to you right now, I will never leave you. I am with you. I am in you. Moment by moment, event by event, trial by trial, temptation by temptation, step by step, you are not left to your own strength. You are not left to wield the sword alone. I am ALWAYS with you.

So, weak one. Remember, your weakness is to direct your attention to the strong one. Jesus, who is always with you, living in you by His Spirit. The next step? No one knows. Who will be with you when you take it? You do know, because if you have learned anything from Mr. Yung, it is this, “Jesus is always with me”

This post was written by Steve Shank. Steve has served in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and is the author of First Steps of Faith.

If You’re Waiting on God, You’re Not Alone

Leaning against the tall, black signpost at the 5-point crosswalk on 5th and Main Street in downtown Franklin, my eyes move upward toward the walk-sign, my feet eagerly anticipating the indication that it is safe to cross the busy intersection.

Don't walk New York traffic sign

Even as the church bells ring softly in the background, an automated voice commands me through the warm summer air to wait.

“Wait”… “Wait”… “Wait”… “Wait”…

And finally,

“Walk sign is on”… “Walk sign is on”… “Walk sign is on”…

At the prompting of this sophisticated crosswalk, I amble along the street joyful but contemplative. I can’t help but wonder how much of my life has been spent waiting.

Waiting to get married. Waiting for children to come. Waiting for the doors to open for pastoral ministry. Waiting to plant a church. Waiting for a financial breakthrough. Waiting for progress in so many life-long prayers, dreams, and desires.

Waiting on the sign that says it’s safe to proceed.

It’s a brief part of every short jaunt from my office building to the local coffee shop just to snag a shot of espresso for the morning’s push. But it’s a major part of our lives as a whole. So much of life is spent in waiting.

And it’s easy to grow weary while you wait.

On This Side of Heaven, We Wait

The truth is, for the Christian, all of life is one big, steady wait.

There is a groaning and anticipation, an expectation, a longing, and a yearning that is natural for the believer on this side of eternity. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God”, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:19; 23)

In this world, we will never outgrow our waiting. The pain of it is with us at the dawn of every new day even as the dew kisses the grass and the birds greet the morning with melodic singing.

Every day arrives holding some new measure of waiting. Yet, God’s mercies are also new every morning, which makes the waiting worthwhile. God upholds us with sustaining grace when He calls us to stand in line and wait.

As we manage our way through the fits and starts of our everyday lives, it’s helpful to know that waiting is a major part of God’s plan for us.

If you’re waiting on God, you are not alone. The Lord enrolls each of His children in this university. Abraham was promised a son at 75; God delivered on the promise when Abraham was 100. Joseph was given a dream and then sold into slavery; it was decades before his vision became reality. Moses wandered in the desert 40 years before seeing the Promised Land. David was anointed king of Israel and then spent years narrowly escaping death at the hand of Saul before the promised kingship was finally granted to him.

Even if you have your desires delivered, ultimately God has placed eternity into our hearts and we are in a constant craving for the future day when his glory will be fully revealed in us and through us.

One day, the complete realization of our inheritance in Christ will finally be ours. On that day we will be fully redeemed and there will be no more waiting. For now, we live with the reality that our best life is future, not present. Our best life is then, not now.

If you’re growing weary in your waiting, remember that you’re not alone. The LORD works on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).

And He, also, is waiting… to be gracious to you:

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”
(Isaiah 30:18 ESV)

This post has been adapted from an excerpt in the book What Thirty-Somethings Need to Hear: When Age Meets Grace.

Breathe

Pleasure of a life

In a recent sermon at Redeeming Grace Church, Dave Odom communicated that “grace is like an oxygen mask for the soul.” When we receive God’s grace, our souls can breathe again, and we begin to truly live – maybe for the first time.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God loves to bestow His grace on needy sinners, and He is rich in mercy.

It’s one thing to be rich, it’s quite another thing to be rich and generous. Not only is our God rich in mercy, He is also generous with His mercy.

Because of his great love, He lavishly grants His mercy and grace to desperate sinners in need.

He takes us from being dead in sin, makes us alive together with Christ, raises us up with him and seats us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Through no merit of our own, God graciously redeems us from death to life to royalty as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). That’s amazing grace and mercy.

This is what causes the soul, even the dead soul, to breathe again.

And the good news is that there is enough mercy and grace for all of us in Christ.

Enjoy grace, and breathe!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23:6)