Trusting God and loving others
21st June 2019
Having written about the essential Christian virtue of love for God and for others, Paul continues his teaching on healthy Christianity with these words:
The first three of these encouragements are about trusting God. First, he says "Be Joyful in hope". Your life is not what you wish it was. Perhaps it's not bad, but you're aware it could be an awful lot better than it is. But we all know as Christians that one day our lives are going to be absolutely, blissfully wonderful. This hope is sure and certain. The day will come when you stand in the immediate presence of Jesus and look into his face. When you can't be joyful in the present, you can still be joyful in hope.
Hopefulness is a Christian virtue. There is always hope that things can get better, on earth as well as in heaven, for others as well as for ourselves. A Christian can always be positive about the future, and our confident hope is good for other people.
Let your attitude of Christian hope inspire others to be positive about the future. There are some people who, if you say "It's raining today", will reply "Yes, but it'll be sunny tomorrow". There are other people who, if you say, "It's sunny today" will respond by saying "Yes, but it'll be raining tomorrow". Be the first sort of person.
Your eternity will be unutterably glorious. Hang in there; it is worth it.
Next, "Be patient in affliction". I don't enjoy confirming this, but affliction will come to us all, sooner or later. When affliction comes, we can be patient actually in the affliction, by God's grace. Trust God that He's doing some important work on your soul in the midst of the affliction, because He is. He is shaping you through the affliction. He is doing you good. Or, to be more precise, God will do you good in affliction if you let Him.
The important thing about affliction is how we respond to it. If you shake your fist at God, you will diminish. If you somehow how cling on to God, despite all the pain and bewilderment, you will grow in God.
And Paul urges us to "Be faithful in prayer". I've said this many time before but the most important thing you will ever do is pray, so do a lot of it. Be faithful in it. God does answer, not always the way you expect, but he always answers.
Paul then returns to the subject of loving others. He tells us to "Share with God's people who are in need" because otherwise our love is hypocritical. We can't tell God that we love His church and we love His people, and then say "This brother or sister in Christ is really suffering but I'm can't be bothered to help him". Help one another because that's real love.
And, Paul says, "practise hospitality". I think Paul is talking here about welcoming strangers. If someone wanders into your church or into your life, buy him a coffee or cook him dinner or something, to include him in God's community. That's the kind of church you want to be part of, isn't it? A community of God's people who reach out to those who need our love and Christ's love.
I'm sure you get all these ideas. They're all common sense. They're all obviously right. They describe what a beautiful, healthy church looks like. And we all want to be in a beautiful, healthy church.
We'll never be perfect, but we can be kind. Our love can be genuine. Our spiritual fervour can grow and grow and grow, if we'll look after ourselves.
Some of my readers may, perhaps, feel really hurt by their previous church, or their current church. My church will do our utmost to never hurt anybody again, and I hope yours has the same desire, and will make you as safe as they know how. Some people in your church may be going through a difficult time. I hope you and others in your church will help them in their need as much as you can, whatever that looks like. No church on earth will ever be perfect, but be the kindest, gentlest, most godly church you can be.