I do not need to say that good times are good and difficult times are difficult. This life includes both, and it almost seems that they follow each other like the hills and valleys of a summer road trip. What is harder is when in the valley of difficult times to see God’s hand of encouragement.
Difficult times do not need to be illustrated. Like potholes all our lives are rattled by them. There is a truism that goes something like this: “You have just come out a hard time, you are in the middle of one, or there is one heading your way!” Now those are not encouraging words, but they do seem to present the reality of life. It is worth noting that the opposite is also a truism, “You have just come out of a good time, you are in the middle of one, or there is one heading your way!” So, what is the difference? It is perspective.
I think we could agree that the Apostle Paul stands out for the number of difficulties he faced. Recently reading through Acts 27, I was reminded of a significant truth. A truth that encouraged the Apostle Paul and also every follower of Jesus. These valleys were part of God’s plan for Paul. Right in the middle of an ordeal at sea, when all was thought to be lost, including the lives of all on the ship, an Angel delivered a message from God. “and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’” Acts 27:24 ESV
It is a message that reminds us to hold onto God’s promises instead of fretting about the coming storm clouds. Like most journeys the scenery eventually changes. The exhilarating mountain top views are the reward of the trek through the valley. It is easy to celebrate the high points and ignore the valleys in life. But God’s words of encouragement reminds us that the Lord has a purpose for each in our life. The statement “You must stand before Caesar,” goes all the way back to the first revelation of God’s will for the Apostle, ““But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15) And we see this trajectory restated throughout Paul’s ministry. It is here on the precipice of death; he is reminded that this is not the last chapter of the book!
It seems that all to often we forget that our lives are a journey, and the Lord is going to see us through to the destination. One of my favorite verses reminds us to hang in there. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We also know that, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Our Bible contains many precious promises that God has given to us to remind us, like Paul’s message from the Angel that, “You must stand before Caesar!” God is in control and we can trust Him so “Do not be afraid!”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson