Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
I saw it coming the moment the calendar page turned from September to October. Yes, Memorial Day officially comes in May when Americans honor the men and women who died while serving their country in the United States Armed Forces. This day is important to me, too. My father served many years ago, thankfully making it home from foreign conflict and my son proudly bears the title of American Soldier as well. This is not the memorial day that I am referring to but comes at the end of October. Today marks two years since our youngest son was diagnosed with cancer for the very first time. That day would change our lives forever and remain etched in our memory. Last year as the day rolled around it was difficult to face as I was certain the Lord would have healed our son completely by then, but still in the midst of battle I had to really search my soul. What is this thing called endurance? Why must we suffer for the cause? I marked the day with a tattoo which reads “faith” and “hope”. I needed the reminder that God is using every instance in my life to turn my small measure of faith into confident hope that allows me to endure. Today is that day all over again. But this time, there is no sadness or disappointment just reflection. For those who are unaware, our boy has been diagnosed with cancer four separate times in four different locations over the last two years. He has not gone six months without a recurrence. Yet, our God has healed him completely every single time. I must choose today my perspective from which I will view this day. Disappointment would love to take hold of my heart and tell me that my God has forsaken me. It would like me to believe that this disease is winning. Doubt wants to challenge everything that I know about God to exchange the Truth for a lie. But something happened this year that I did not expect! My sorrow has been turned to joy. My mourning has become dancing. In the midst of the circumstances and trying situation, I have discovered something more valuable than gold, silver or any other precious metal or stone. I am learning to endure.
Problems and trials develop endurance. Endurance becomes strength of character that is essential in securing confident hope in Jesus Christ by faith. You will never know how strong your connection with Jesus Christ is until you witness firsthand the unseen reality of God in your life. After all, isn’t that what hope is all about. Waiting and watching for the Lord never wavering from our position of confidence in our Creator’s Intentions for His People. To create a memorial where we remember something that we do not want to forget. Memorials are places of remembrance. They are significant in reminding ourselves of that is important. A memorial is nothing more than a reminder…this is very important in a world that has forgotten the One True God and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Hope will never lead to disappointment. Do you know today that God loves you? He has given you His Spirit to fill your heart and remind you. It is in times of testing that the superficialities of life are stripped away to reveal what is important and worth your time and attention. It is in this moment that faith is turned to confident hope for those who will stick around to find out what God is up to and make it a point to be a living, breathing memorial of His Great Love.
Genesis 28:11-22 (NLT)
At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz. Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
For the last few days, the story of Jacob has been rolling around in my mind. I am very familiar with this story and have studied it many times. I have quietly pushed it back in the recesses looking for something else to calm my quaking heart and mind as this day approaches. Tossing and turning in sleep, there is no fear, worry or distress. Waking up throughout the night for no reason at all, wandering through each room checking on our kids. Today I could not avoid it any longer, so I read this account once again. Jacob was running from Esau who wanted to kill him for stealing his birthright. Alone in the wilderness, Jacob is tired so he makes camp choosing to rest his weary head on a pillow made of stone. It doesn’t really say what his mindset was or his thoughts at that moment, but I would imagine it was great distress. He made it out alive but had a long way to go. Could he make it on his own? What would become of him? What good was his “birthright” in this situation? Jacob was send to Laban for his protection. Little did he know that years of labor and treachery would be turned into God’s Blessing? Jacob was tired. He was tired. Life was not turning out as he expected as the favored child of his father. What was next? Out of his comfort zone in the middle of nowhere exhaustion took over and Jacob collapsed in the mist of his circumstances. (vs.11) Now what?
The Lord came to Jacob in that place giving Him a glimpse of his future and plan for this man’s life. He could see the unseen reality of God which is our hope. The angels moving between Heaven and earth as the Lord spoke over Jacob, He blessed Jacob but then made a promise worth having more than anything else that we will ever possess. “What’s more, I am with you…” You will never know the value and worth of such a promise until you step outside of your comfort zone to walk by faith and not by sight. It is the realm of hope that few discover because no one is willing to leave “home” (the things of this world) to discover the unseen Reality of God! The Lord didn’t stop there. He went on to say, “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you EVERYTHING I have promised you!” (vs.11-15) Thank you, Jesus that as Gentiles we can still get in on that blessing handed down from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob.
Suddenly, the wilderness became a place of worship for Jacob. This time of testing became valuable to him so he would choose to endure. Recognizing God’s Presence in the midst of our situation changes everything. It allows us to accept the garment of praise no matter what the circumstances that are faced. It will change our entire perspective even when the details of our life do not change at all. God uses every detail of our life to make good on His Promises. (Romans8:28) I have held on to this verse for two long years. I will not let it go until it comes to pass in the life of my child. Your situation does not have to change for God’s Grace, Glory and Goodness to reach you. You do! (vs.16-17) Our faith is given to us as a seed to produce confident hope. Confident hope is the anchor for our soul that keeps us safe through every single storm allowing us to sing the high praises of God knowing that He is not only with us, but will remain there until EVERYTHING that He has promised comes to pass! (Hebrews 6:19)
Jacob took the pillow of stone that he slept on and created a memorial of remembrance to pinpoint his discovery of confident hope and mark the pathway of endurance that would lead him home one day. (vs.18-22) God invites you to do the very same thing. He has come to you and tried to reveal His Amazing Love time and time again. It’s what He does from the moment a person breathes in life until his last breath leaves the body – the Lord just wants you to accept His Love enter covenant and have every blessing and promise that is attached! Have you forgotten? Are you blinded by tears? Is your heart overwhelmed with fear? Faith will turn into confident hope if you only choose to trust the Lord right now, right where you are, without a single change in any detail. You can rejoice! It is totally possible even when you have nothing, can do nothing or feel like nobody. You are a Child of God! Oh, you may have lost your way. Or maybe you are in the midst of trial or testing but that does not change who you are or nullify God’s Plan including the future and hope attached according to His Word. (Jeremiah 29:11-14) You just have to put your whole heart into it and build a memorial so that you are constantly reminding your soul of who you are and the potential in your birthright! No one can take it away from you, but like Esau – we can give it away for the things of this world and all its comforts. Our life is our memorial to the Lord. Does it speak of a God who is with us always? Does it boast in the promises kept by His Word? Is your test a testimony of His Great Love for all to see? Have you surrendered your mess to be a message to this lost and dying world? Jacob still had a long way to go! But his encounter with God caused him to become a living and breathing memorial to the Living God!
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NLT)
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
I cannot see the Spirit of God that lives in me, but I know that He is there. Faith allows me to connect with Him and His Creative Power to flow through my life. The Word of God holds me close to Him as it outlines the Covenant in my marriage to Jesus Christ. I am no longer bound by the outcomes and consequences of this world because by His Grace I have been saved and set free from bondage to sin. I can now enter the race of faith and finish with the prize. I am God’s Holy People. My life is consecrated ground. If I choose life and the blessings of God over death and cursing, then I have the potential to live in the prosperity of God in every situation and circumstance that I face. No longer bound by random fate confident hope becomes my dwelling place. Strength of character comes from endurance. The wider my faith becomes the greater my ability to receive from the Lord. Imagine that your faith as a basket, the bigger the vessel the greater the potential to prosper. Strength must be tested, tried, stretched and worked to become more powerful. Just like with physical exercise, spiritual endurance will take you to the end of yourself every time to discover that God is with you and making good on His Promises whether you were watching or not. By increasing the size of our faith, the more room God’s Spirit has to make good on everything as God promised. God is with us. He is helping us every step of the way. He is building our character so that we can rest in confident hope. This hope will never lead to disappointment but will do nothing if abandoned at the side of the road. I will not give up. I will press on. I will embrace the process of God working out my salvation with fear and trembling. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Today, I will rejoice even though nothing has changed. I will choose to walk by faith and not by sight. I will rest in the Promises of God. I will focus all my effort on building a strong and sound temple with my life giving the Holy Spirit room to move and operate taking full control of the renewal, restoration and resurrection processes in my life. We choose what we will remember like birthdays, anniversaries, and other holidays depending on what is important to us. It’s Memorial Day all over again but I am not sad, mad, disappointed or afraid rather thankfully at peace for the Lord is alive and well working in our life. Confident hope is alive and well in my life today! By faith, I see the Lord moving Heaven and earth on my behalf and I hold tight to the keys of the kingdom that Jesus has given me. No weapon formed against us will prosper. Sickness and disease cannot remain as the Lord as stated that He is ready to heal us. I just have to remind myself of who I am and the potential of all God’s Promises until it changes my perception not always the predicament. God is making His Word come to pass in our life today. He is leaving nothing out. I may be weary and need to rest. I may be uncomfortable but remain at peace. The journey seems long and I cannot see the finish line yet I know it is there. I will endure to the end and choose to remember acknowledging the Greatness of My God!
Psalm 118:23-25 (NLT)
This is the LORD’s doing, and it is wonderful to see. This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success.