July 25, 2011

Summer Sabbath Devotional- Week 4

Grace and Peace
July 25, 2011

I know a woman. Her name is Karen: mid-forties, she went to Northgate High School, single, an ordained Presbyterian minister with a big smile. While on staff at a Presbyterian church on May 29th of this year, she gave a sermon. Not much outstanding about any of that; there’s nothing out of the ordinary about her description and ministers give sermons. It’s their job. But I want to share this benediction that she prayed over her congregation at the end of the service on May 29th.
“Indeed, God’s grace is enough.
Now friends…
Go in peace, and may the grace of our mighty God go before you.
May the hand of our Lord Jesus rest upon you,
And, may the power and love of the Holy Spirit fill you,
now and forever more.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that, I can literally FEEL the peace of her words. Her peace: contagious. I can feel the strength of her sincerity in these words. She obviously knew them to be true personally.

She calls the congregation ‘friends’ as Jesus called His disciples. And there was a tenderness and truth to addressing them this way. Again, not much astonishing about this, as a believer we are supposed to believe these things. As a minister of the gospel, we’d assume she knew these truths.

But the reason these words have stuck with me so profoundly, the reason I experienced such tremendous peace reading these words is that this woman, Karen, died on June 17, nineteen days after she gave this benediction. She had been battling ovarian cancer for months and without a doubt she knew as she gave this sermon, it would be the last sermon she gave, the last opportunity she had to pray a blessing over these people she called friends, she knew, barring a miraculous intervention, the end of her life was very near.

And yet, she opens with: “Indeed, God’s grace is enough….” She knew her God to be mighty even in the face of certain death. She was living in and by His grace and it was enough. She knew His rest in the midst of incredible pain. And she knew His power and love as absolute truth. And there is no hint of fear.

And isn’t that the faith we all signed up for? When we became followers of Christ, isn’t this the faith we wanted and hoped for? A faith that moves mountains and a trust in God that is unshakeable regardless of our circumstances. A faith so strong that fear has no place. Karen’s words inspire me, they encourage me, and they remind me of my own young faith. They also challenge me to live in the authority and confidence of someone who believes these words. To pray, knowing He is faithful. To live knowing His grace to be enough.

Karen stood firm in her faith until the end.

Abraham believed God… Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed….
Rom 4:1,18
By faith Abraham … obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going … because (he) considered Him faithful who had made the promise … And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11

God promised Abraham that he would have more descendants than the stars in the sky. And this elderly man, married to an elderly and barren woman, believed God. Abraham didn’t believe his eyes over God’s promise, Abraham didn’t believe his body, or the calendar of years or anything else. Abraham’s hope and trust were squarely in God’s promise. He didn’t even engage his own doubts. He believed and trusted in God.

Abraham so many years ago and Karen in 2011; neither got what they expected or deserved. But both trusted their God to be good and faithful to His word. So, like Abraham and Karen and so many believers between these two lives, I want to take God at His Word. I want to believe Him, and trust Him to be true to His promises to me, to all of us. Even against all hope, in hope we can believe. Even when everything seems to be going against us, we can have peace, because the One who promised is faithful. And He is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever more.

So as we slow down our minds and quiet our hearts before Him, may we know that His grace is enough, may we live in His peace,

Questions to think about this week:
1. Think about it, what is the first thing you’d like answered when you are with God face to face? (or first several things you’d like to ask and understand – I can never pick just one thing )
2. Do you think you could say the words of this benediction knowing you were dying and dying as a young person, dying before you hoped or ever thought you would?
3. The challenge is for all of us to live this way, to live the truth of these words so that when faced with challenges, trials and even death, we will have peace knowing His grace is enough. Ask yourself what you might do to make this truth more alive in your life? And by His grace may you do it.

Romans 11:29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.
May you recognize His call and live committed to it.

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