Hi Tim have just listened to today's talk. I do appreciate the way you put us in Paul's situation and then draw lessons from that and apply them to our own situations, which on the surface are very different.
We are not faced with the prospect of being stoned, or hopefully not being put in prison, but all the issues of lives being spoiled and ultimately ruined are still there and once they are challenged the same forces of evil and mischief are at work. So as you say we need to take our calling seriously, be clear what it is and put our lives in it. May I/we do just that.
'Yesterday morning, having had to call in at work, I decided to take the opportunity to go to the harbour at Southwold and get a coffee. Instead of sitting in the car I thought I'd go and sit on a bench looking across to Walberswick. As I sat there I thought 'Brian (my late husband) should have been sitting next to me and us enjoying the time together'. I quickly told myself there's no point going down that route and told myself I wasn't sitting there alone because God was sitting next to me. My immediate thought was to ask God what he thought about me, but didn't and rather asked him how he felt about the state of his world.
I was reminded of John's Bible insight that I'd read that morning entitled 'When it all goes wrong' and how it had all started off so well for the early church with thousands saved and many miracles and then it took a turn for the worse as Stephen was stoned and Saul began to destroy the church and terrible persecution followed. But that was the beginning of the fulfilment that the good news about Jesus would be spread across the world. As I sat there I had a real sense that God is with us in all our suffering and knows and feels our pain, but he has the bigger picture which is so beyond anything we could even begin to comprehend and it was alright, we just need to have that quiet confidence and trust in him. We were reminded on Sunday that "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well" (Julian of Norwich).
I got up and walked to the end of the harbour and remembered the time when I stood there on a beautiful sunny day with my mum and we sang her favourite hymn together 'How great thou art'. I thought of the second verse which is:
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin
I thought of how much it must have hurt God to send his Son to suffer on the cross and be separated from him and the pain and suffering that Jesus took upon himself because they had the bigger picture - our redemption. We have been bought with the highest price possible. No matter what comes our way we are safe with him and his love is everlasting.
"So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; and he has showered down upon us the richness of his grace - for how well he understands us and knows what is best for us at all times. God has told us his secret reason for sending Christ, a plan he decided on in mercy long ago; and this was his purpose: that when the time is ripe he will gather us all together from wherever we are - in heaven or on earth - to be with him in Christ forever." Ephesians 1:7-10 (TLB)'
Today I lost a scarf - yes and so what? It's true I often lose things, but losing this scarf was serious. It had been a present from my sister and so not any old scarf, it was all tied up with my affection for her, so the loss of it, and I looked in all conceivable and inconceivable places for it, left me bereft. In the end I had to leave it with the Lord, perhaps I wouldn't find it and would have to let it go and get on with my day. Deep down I knew I still wanted to find it and later in the afternoon, retraced a few places where it might be hidden. No, not there and then suddenly Yes, it had been tucked up a sleeve all the time. Surprised and delighted joy! We sang the lovely song whilst church zooming on Sunday, the Goodness of God by Bethel music, which delights in the goodness of God throughout life. There's one line that I couldn't stop thinking about 'your goodness is running after, its running after me ...' That speaks of an energetic, eager pursuing us to bless, It speaks of an abandoned love that won't give up, that longs to bless. May we always let ourselves be found and blessed by God.
Halesworth Community Church