Last week was a hard week. Having 10 youth out in 100 degree weather doing construction and clean-up projects is tough. Add on that a bad reaction to a wasp bite by one of our youth, some issues with discipline around camp, and then tending to a diabetic who didn’t bring his blood sugar monitor, and it was not only a hard week, but a long week, too. But it was a good week, too. Three of the 10 accepted Christ. One other rededicated her life. Now I understand that each of those four will require follow-up, to ensure that these are lifelong decisions. However, at least two of them give me hope that they are permanent based on some of the circumstances of the week. I must confess that even with the good, I have found that I have been having a hard time pushing aside the negative things that happened. And that’s something God has been working on with me. We potentially have three new Christian brothers and sisters, youth who have made choices for all eternity! And that should outweigh anything negative from this past week. Admittedly, because one negative hit very close to home, it’s been a struggle.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. – 1 Peter 1:3-6, NIV
This quote from Peter really defines last week. We have three youth who have potentially gone through this new birth and into a living hope that all Christians share. It is to be a time of great rejoicing. And Peter reminds us that this rejoicing should be done even as we suffer through all kinds of trials. We’re going to suffer trials. Life isn’t fair. And if we try to pretend that it is, we’re going to be sorely disappointed. But none of that matters because there is an eternal inheritance promised to those who believe. If we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, He promises a reward that will not perish, spoil, or fade. It’s waiting on us. God’s keeping it safe for when He calls us home. Nothing anyone can do, even the Devil, can take away this permanent reward. If that’s not something to rejoice over, I don’t know what is.
The neat thing about seeing folks accept Christ and begin to walk in a relationship with Him is that it serves as a reminder to me that I was there once. I was on the wrong side of a decision to accept Him. And yet, He persevered, He did not give up on me. He called me to Himself. And once I understood my great need for Him, that I would only be whole with Him, that ultimately all would answer to Him, then began a beautiful relationship with my Savior. I know that reward is promised in heaven. But there is a relationship promised here, first. And those two things together bring me a joy that I cannot find in anything on this earth. Fame, fortune, pleasure, even friends and family do not compare to being able to walk with my Lord and learn from Him, hear His words of encouragement (and His sterner words of discipline when I fall short), and see Him at work in my life and around me. This should bring us all joy that overwhelms and overcomes our circumstances, no matter how dire they may be.
But I’m admittedly human. I make mistakes and sometimes my focus is off. I understand that I need to let go of the negative things of last week and rejoice in the positive. And I know that left to my own efforts, I’d fail. But I know I serve a Savior and Lord who can help me fix my focus. He can do what I cannot. He can make me put aside the negative and rejoice in the work that He has done. Are you in that state today? Are the negatives of life weighing you down? Take a deep breath and a step back. And start thinking about the blessings the Lord has showered upon you. Dwell on the fact that your salvation is assured and that you have a reward in heaven that no one can take away. Ponder how the God Almighty, Creator of all things, has made it possible for you to walk in relationship with Him. And look around you and take a moment or two to consider how God is working in your life and in the lives and circumstances all around you. These are the things He is telling me to do, especially through passages like the one I’ve given. This world is filled with evil. But our God has not departed from it. He has not forsaken us. And ultimately where He is, He will bring about good. Trust in Him to see it. I know you won’t be disappointed.