Last month I entitled my letter ‘Looking Forward’, in order to help us focus on the hopes ahead and not on the concerns and possible failures of the past. This month I want us to ‘Look Up’. On Sunday 14 January I began the message looking at the significant number of difficulties experienced recently by many of our members. It has been a really difficult time and we have rightly spent time making sure that needy people in a number of different contexts are cared for. In that situation it is all too easy to spend time looking down or at our problems.
This reminded me of a bike ride that I took in Canada last year. My son’s father in law took us into a wonderful forest and when we got through the trees and back onto a sealed path he asked “Did you see those wonderful trees?” I had to say “Sorry! I was more concerned with keeping upright as we negotiated a steep decline and many roots.” He took me back, stopped the bikes and pointed out some spectacular trees. He made me look up and I could only do that as I took time to concentrate.
I trust that all of you make it your goal to have a DAILY QUIET TIME and WEEKLY SABBATH, when you are able to switch off from the legitimate demands of life to take time to consider again the wonderful grace of our God. I know that it is not always possible, but it brings its benefits. It was in such a time recently that I read:
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high. (Job 16:19)
Job said this going through a horrendous period in his life, having lost all his children and a large proportion of his assets. He had also become victim of some form of extreme skin infection. All of this was compounded by so-called friends who tried to convince him that he had made mistakes in his life and was probably guilty of unconfessed sin. Job did not always defend himself in the right way, but there are times when he declares such an understanding of God that we have to take time to consider and enjoy his insights. The verse above is one such time and I want us to consider its truth for our personal and church encouragement.
Even though Job is suffering horribly he is still convinced of his present undamaged relationship with God, “Even now”. The Christian life and faith is not something that we will inherit in a future eternity, but is a present experience here and now. At the same time it is not simply an earthbound materialistic experience. Job says “my witness is in heaven.” He knew that he did not have to build his own defence, because God was speaking on his behalf. Although Job was not aware of the actual interaction, Job 1 & 2 clearly tell us that God spoke in his defence. He goes on to say “he who testifies for me is on high”. Sadly there are times in life when people have seen what has happened, but they are not prepared to speak up or get involved in order to help the victim.
This is not the case with Christ, He is totally involved. From this one verse it might seem that he is totally aloof, not involved in our lives. The benefit of Christ’s position is that He is above the immediate circumstances and not threatened by the ‘roots’ that hindered my bike ride. Having walked the path before us He is able to say “I understand. It is not easy as you go through it, but be encouraged I have already completed the journey.” At the same time, He is the eternal God who knows the end from the beginning. He has not only read the last chapter of the story, but He wrote it. He is not a cold, isolated legal expert speaking on our behalf, but is totally involved. Paul tells us that our lives are intertwined “… your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
We are going through a very demanding time, but I urge all of us to look up to our witness and Saviour and to do this together so that we might bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.
In His consistent care and love,
Bernard Lewis Feb. 2018