Reflection

Previews of Heaven: Wanting More

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

A good movie preview will be so impressive that it will almost distract you from enjoying the movie that brought you to the theater in the first place. The preview will be tattooed in your mind and the daily countdown to the release date will move slowly. A good movie preview will always leave us wanting more.

The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a process of daily transformation. We often do not see ourselves progress, but, at various moments in our walk, we realize that something in us is changing or has already changed. There comes a point where reading the Sermon on the Mount no longer feels like a list of impossible demands placed upon our limited human hearts, but rather realistic expectations of a renewed heart. The more one becomes recreated in Christ through his sacrifice and grace the more one begins to reflect his nature.

The more we let Jesus into our lives, the more he is revealed in and through us. We are born again in him, and therefore we find unity in our character with his.  At this point we no longer view certain things in the same light as we used to. To begin with, troubles no longer seem like the end of the world. Our jobs cease to define us.  Our relationships cease to guide us.  Our money ceases to control us. The more we become privy to the foretastes of heaven, the more we realize that all earthly things do pass away but the joys of heaven are ongoing, without end. As we walk deeper into this new life and existence in the Holy Spirit, there emerges a push and pull on the heart of two very different worlds.  While we value the time and opportunities God has prepared for us in this world, we anxiously anticipate finally seeing and being with the Lord. Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Philippians:

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (Philippians 1:22-26)

The words “death” and “the end” loom over our lives, applying pressure in one direction or another. We know how fragile this life is, and how with each passing day we inch closer to the end and further from the beginning. Many people are scared of death. This fear is completely understandable. Life is enjoyable, but more than that, it is known. Death is an end we know nothing about.  We never like to see the end of something familiar and good and death signals such an end. With the knowledge of death constantly looming overhead, we feel pressure to achieve or become something in the time we have left. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that breaks that chain.

Jesus proclaims that to believe in him is to have life, not death. And in his words we come to the understanding that this life is simply a preview for something else, something wonderful, something confidently promised and assured. Whenever Jesus speaks about heaven in the Gospels, he always says that it is “like” something. The reason he teaches about heaven in this way is because to describe heaven accurately to a human mind is impossible. A human mind cannot fully understand it. He uses the word “like” because heaven is “like” nothing else we totally know of yet.  There exists no true comparison for us to appropriately use.

In his brief, powerful dialogue with the thief hanging next to him on the Cross, Jesus clearly believed in the place he so confidently promised to lead the man after their suffering was to end.  Jesus described it as “paradise,” and so we must believe it to be, a place of life in Jesus that does not come to an end. Forever enjoying the presence of the Savior. For the Christian, this desire for Heaven isn’t about what we will get or see or do there, but about knowing Jesus completely. This process begins here in this life, but not until Heaven will all the work of God in us be made complete.

Reflection Series: The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

From the beginning, the church has had questions concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, these questions have often led to debate and division, ultimately fracturing the Church. While the debate continues among Christians concerning the precise nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it is my belief that there are more important issues concerning the baptism, issues that edify and glorify the church in the unity of all believers in Jesus Christ rather than create divisive standards to outline the way in which all must undergo this baptism.

Whether an individual experiences the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the same way that the Apostles did in the Upper Room through the speaking of tongues or not, I believe that there are five truths that can validate the baptism being truly of the Holy Spirit and not simply a response based on tradition, emotion or presupposition.

These five truths are all based on the foundation of “power.” However, the power is not in the experience of the individual for self-glorification. Rather, these five truths glorify the power of God and God alone. For the next five weeks, we will be considering these truths.

  1. The Power of the Promise
  2. The Power of the Cross
  3. The Power of the Creator
  4. The Power of the Mission
  5. The Power of the Victory

The experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit can vary depending on the individual but the truths that emerge upon being baptized must not and cannot differ. These are truths, and all who have been baptized by the spirit must proceed to build the new life in Jesus Christ upon these foundational pillars of power.

Water Baptism: the Global Baptism

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on water baptism.  For the rest of the series, go here.

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This week we’ll be thinking about global baptism as represented through the Flood that covered the earth in the days of Noah (found in Genesis 6-9). Three aspects of water help us to understand the Flood’s significance in the gospel narrative: water removes what is corruptrefills what is empty, and revitalizes what is dead.

Removes what is corrupt

The Flood was a result of the unleashing of sin onto humanity through the Fall, because the sinfulness of man had thoroughly consumed the hearts of men. In reading the chapters in Genesis about the Flood, we find what was at one time pure and powerfully made in the image of God reduced to utter filth and nothingness, resembling the dust of creation more than the breath of life from God himself:

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they Created by Mobile Word Ministry married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Genesis 6:1-7

While many find the complete destruction of the Flood offensive due to the thought of “innocent” lives lost, this reaction fails to recognize the corruption in the preflood state of humanity. This corruption was born out of addiction to sin. This addiction, as addiction tends to do, placed the needs of self over all else, regardless of the methods by which it sought to find satisfaction and gratification. This hunger to please the self had no regard for the well being of others, had no consideration of the rights and feelings of others and no care for the impact their selfish behavior had on others.

This corruption was not simply a sin here and there, or simply not being perfect. This corruption was like rust that quickly eats through the shimmering exterior of the brilliant finish to a vintage automobile. This corruption was akin to the power of weeds to completely overpower a pristine, pruned flowerbed overnight. The corruption was like a cancer persistently eating through the healthy cells of the human body. Once one comes to the realization of the depth of the corruption, then the frantic search for a cure begins. Whether in the example of rust, weeds or cancer, the search for an immediate cure or solution is the primary concern for reversing the destruction. If there is a way to stop the corruption, the owner of the car, the garden or the body will do just about anything to fix the problem.

In the case of the world before the Flood, God knew that the only way to reveal hope for future generations to live in his peace and love was to cleanse the world through the power of the mighty floodwaters from below ground and above. Although the floodwaters took life, the floodwaters ultimately cleansed the world to reveal the lives of many more to come that would find the hope of living in the Lord’s presence, free from the clutches of sin, as a result of the flood.

Refills what is empty

When considering how sin had overpowered righteousness in the days of Noah, we must not merely understand the depths of sin in the human heart at that time but must also understand the vast expanse of sin present in the world. The corruption of sin in the days of Noah was not confined to a certain sect of society or to a specific portion of the population. The corruption of sin was complete. The entire world was so consumed by sin that in order to start anew, the cleansing had to, in its turn, consume the world. In the presence of sin, one cannot simply remove the sin without filling that now empty space with the righteousness of God. Upon being emptied, without the presence of God’s righteousness now taking up the space previously occupied by sin, the space quickly yields itself to sin once more, thus continuing the spread of destruction.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Luke 11:24-26

For the world then, the only way to reveal the hopes that find completion in Jesus thousands of years later was to move from a state of complete ruin to a state of complete purity. While sin still existed in the hearts of man post-flood, the earth was thus relieved of the burdens of sin for the time being, given a new beginning and a new endurance to bear the burdens of human sin until the coming of the Messiah in Jesus Christ.

Revitalizes what is dead

After the Fall, God made it clear to Adam and Eve that the penalty of sin is death. Thus, in the state of the world at the time of Noah, it is clear that the entire creation was charging violently and destructively toward one destination. The hunger for sin in the heart of man was so quickly consuming every inch of the human heart and the world that without cleansing the world of this blight, the entire creation was destined to die with and in its sin. The floodwaters filled the entire world, taking the place of the sin and preparing the new foundation for God’s work to be revealed and refilled. The floodwaters also gave new life to the world and to the human race in the same way that water in the human body works its way through the human system, reenergizing and reintroducing life where there was previously an utter lack. The floodwaters slowly receded, revealing the plant life created by God. The floodwaters supplied the animals alive in the ark with the water necessary to live and thrive in the new creation. The floodwaters also revealed a world to Noah and his family that was reborn out of the grip of sin and ready to be populated once again. This time it would be with the righteousness of God born out of his love and grace, by cleansing the corruption unleashed by sin in the attempt to destroy the image of God in man and replace that image with the image of sin and the human self.

Reflection: The Virgin Birth

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 

Support for belief in the Virgin Birth can be traced backwards through five important events in the history of the Christian Faith:

  1. The Ascension
  2. The Resurrection/The Crucifixion
  3. The Gospel
  4. The Virgin Birth

In our final week reflecting on the virgin birth of Christ, let’s consider what that event means for faith in Jesus.

 

After tracing the story backwards from the Ascension, to the Resurrection and Crucifixion, to the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, we find ourselves at the place where the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus can be believed, where the Gospels and the writers of Gospels begin in the flesh.  Whereas Matthew and Luke both include the story of the Virgin Birth in their narratives of Jesus Christ, the prophecies that the Messiah would born to a Virgin in the specific town and from the exact line that God had guided and blessed since the first man of Eden no longer seem historically unbelievable. The impossible becomes not only possible but plausible, and the life of Jesus Christ stands as the one and only Savior of the world, born to direct us to the hand of God at work in the world we live in. “With God all things are possible,” as the angel Gabriel told Mary, and as one traces these landmark events in the Christian faith back, including the virgin birth, one finds that God does not require belief purely on blind-faith in the impossible, but rather we discover a greater faith in the impossible becoming possible through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Virgin Birth: the Gospel

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 

Support for belief in the Virgin Birth can be traced backwards through five important events in the history of the Christian Faith:

  1. The Ascension
  2. The Resurrection/The Crucifixion
  3. The Gospel
  4. The Virgin Birth

This week, let’s consider how the Gospel and ministry of Jesus support our faith in the Virgin Birth.

For years the Gospels were viewed by many critics and unbelievers as works of fiction compiled by believers desperate to create a story worth believing, hell-bent on forcing others to believe in it. As history has come to validate the life and death of the man named Jesus, history has done the Gospels equal justice. The years in which the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were estimated to have been written have slowly worked their way closer and closer to the actual time of Jesus’ passing in roughly 33 C.E. In the presence of more research and study of the Palestine area, the information in the Gospel of Luke has slowly been legitimized piece by piece as fact, as opposed to fabrication or amateur scholarship. The Gospels as we find them now, of a man who clearly died and must have resurrected in order for the discussion of the virgin birth to be happening in the first place, are not only more evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but included within them are incidences of divine power unparalleled by any prophet, teacher or spiritual leader. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only time in history where the Creator God literally entered into human existence in order to display his unlimited power over creation in the man of Jesus Christ. The Gospels document these moments by those who witnessed the divine power firsthand, as John recounts:

 1 John 1-4:  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Thus we find ourselves in a place where the Ascension, Resurrection and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ have been given solid footing in historical fact. Now we find ourselves in a place where the Gospels and the writers of them have been given historical validation as being the source of a life lived by the man Jesus Christ from a place of eyewitness testimony.

Reflection: The Consistency of the Message

The Reflection Series for this month comes from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re discussing how we can trust the Bible as the inspired Word of God. 

The Christian belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God is rooted in four aspects of the Bible.

  1. The Consistency of the Message
  2. The Consistency of the Effect
  3. The Consistency of the Power
  4. The Consistency of the Promise

This week, let’s look at how a consistent message helps us trust the Bible as God’s Word.

For many people reading the Bible for the first time, one of the obstacles in understanding and enjoying the Word of God is its repetitiveness. The stories are cyclical, and the message remains the same throughout all 66 books of the Bible. The story arc holds steady; it doesn’t waver according to time, place, or person. The truth is believed and repeated, believed and repeated. The ability of the Word of God to seamlessly express the same truths to all people of all languages is unparalleled in literature, and impossible to replicate. The only explanation for such a seamless collection of truths conveyed by different individuals living in different time periods from different backgrounds is that the inspiration and work are of a Being outside of and completely independent of each individual writer, aware of the entire story and thus able to orchestrate words that link past to future, with writing occurring in the present. Man would never imagine such a radically ludicrous endeavor. Thus the impossible consistency of the God-inspired words of the Bible is one of its most powerful proofs.

Serving the King: Strength

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Many characteristics may define a Christian life.  Many things may be signs that someone truly lives their faith in correspondence with the Gospel.  In this reflection series, we’ll explore how different Scriptures emphasize service as a defining character trait of the Christian.

Service can be defined as what you do for something or someone.  But in the Gospel context, service is much larger than that.  Service, according to the teaching of Jesus, is a way of life.  More than an aspect Christian character, it IS Christian character.  In these reflections, we’ll discover five elements of service that please God.

  • Serving with Obedience
  • Serving with Strength
  • Serving with Suffering
  • Serving with Priorities
  • Serving with Change

 

Serving with Strength (Psalm 62)

When it comes to serving people or doing good deeds, the old debate springs up if any truly selfless act exists.  Most people acknowledge that behind every act of goodwill is always some self-serving motivation.  As we do good things or serve others, motivation is always in question.  If our motivation is for ourselves, we negate self-less service for others.

But God in Scripture demands selfless service from his followers. This makes us wonder: does God not understand to whom he is talking?  Does he not understand our limited ability to do such things?  The answer to this comes through the word of God, where we can see that God does know exactly to whom he is talking, and he fully understands our limited potential without him.

Service can usually be divided into two categories.  On one side, you serve to gain something for yourself.  On the other, you serve to pay what you owe.

Serving with the hopes of gaining something in return for the service is, at its core, selfish.  The true motivation behind this has everything to do with you, rather than those you serve, making this so-called “charity” sinful at its core. Unfortunately, this is the outlook of many churchgoing Christians.  Behind the façade of their busy “service” schedule is the desire to ultimately cash in on all of the good deeds for future rewards.  Going to church is a way to gain points.  Sharing the Gospel with people on the street gains points.  Opening the door for a co-worker gains points.  Regardless of the method, selfishness and self-centeredness lurk behind each righteous deed.  Serving God in this way has nothing to do with God at all.  In all honesty, God is simply the man at the carnival stand who cashes in your tickets for stuffed animals and goofy pens.

Serving to pay a debt comes with entirely different motivation.  Serving because we expect something in return allows us to occupy the center of all of our deeds for others.  However, serving because you are in debt puts the focus on the one you are serving, rather than on you.  Awareness that you are heavily indebted to someone adjusts the heart and soul into “payback” mode.  For example, if someone went two hours out of their way to help you on the side of the road because your car broke down, you would naturally have a desire to do something, big or small, to thank them for their assistance and effort.  The most effective way to feel love is to give it. The most powerful motivation to serve is to receive outrageous mercy and love.

In Psalm 62, repeatedly the psalmist refers to God as a “rock” and a “fortress.”  The psalmist repeats that in God alone are safety, strength and hope.  The psalmist has clearly experienced the personal, tangible power and mercy of God, and stands boldly upon this foundation.  It is clear to the writer that it was not in his own strength that he was serving God, and it was not as a result of his strength that he was so cared for and protected.  This individual understood that the true strength came from one place alone.

Each Sunday Christians pour into churches around the world under the banner of Christ.  The question that lies at the foundation of this fact is, “Why?”

For some, perhaps, this devotion is motivated by hope of future reward or praise.  Going to church is simply a requirement by which to garner favor with God and admittance into heaven. But the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, indeed the whole body of the Scriptures, shows that no one person can ever do enough to justify admittance into heaven. Nor can we receive any righteous reward out of human effort.  The truth is that we are ultimately and completely justified only by the perfect sacrifice.  Only by his wounds, his selfless service, are we completely healed.  Serving God can never stem from a desire to earn our reward or our glory.  Serving God the way that Jesus preached is by God alone and for God alone.  It is in Jesus we find a reason to serve. It is in his life that we find the strength to serve.

The Impossible Religion: Devotion

This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

  • Impossible Devotion
  • Impossible Standards
  • Impossible Trust
  • Impossible Power
  • Impossible Purpose

Impossible Devotion (Numbers 6)

This particular chapter in the book of Numbers, found in the first five books of the Bible, also known as “the Torah,” discusses a particular vow taken by some, but not all, Israelites.  This vow was “the vow of the Nazirite.”

For the purpose of time we will not discuss the details of the vow in depth. The main idea is that it was a vow of extreme devotion to God.

To many people, Christianity is where you “try your best.” But, deep down, we do this with a prepared surrender to the idea that we cannot achieve the devotion to God that is not merely suggested, but expected.  This rebellion and resignation arises out of a distinct misunderstanding of Christianity and the relationship to God depicted in the scriptures.  This rebellious resignation implies that the purpose of Christianity is to try your best, out of your own power, to please an impossible-to-please deity.

The problem with this perception is that, throughout the entire Bible, God speaks directly to his people, telling them that if they don’t want to serve him, if they don’t want to worship him, if they don’t want to love him, then there is no place for half-hearted attempts.

The Nazirite vow was chosen, not compulsory.  God did not demand this life from all of his people.  However, the heart of the Nazirite vow is a life that God’s people should ultimately desire.  The life of the Nazirite was one of complete and utter devotion to a God that deserved such worship and commitment. The Nazirite understood that living this way was the only way to justify the balance of what God had already done and what we could never do.  The Nazirite vow revealed a commitment to God that seems unrealistic: a level of self-denial that is offensive to some and impossible to the rest.

The only way in which to desire such a vow, such a life, and the only way by which to maintain this level of devotion is to understand the reason behind the choice to take it.

Taking a Nazirite vow does not mean that you try harder than the rest and therefore will receive greater praise from the creator.  Rather, the individual perceived this option as the choice that would best honor the relationship between a “Creator” and his “Creation.”  Taking a vow like that only arises out of the knowledge and understanding that anything less would be unworthy worship and service given God’s sacrifice for us already.

Being a Christian with the commitment like a Nazirite is impossible, if one approaches Christianity from the perspective that following God is simply something to add to your repertoire of good deeds and characteristics.  The vow is impossible from the “point-earning” perspective.

The only way that this level of devotion is possible and, more importantly, acceptable to God, is if it is born out of a new identity that surrenders the heart totally to God, the only one worthy of such praise.  Only a person remade in the image of Christ can willingly and wholeheartedly undertake such a vow.

Born Again: People (Isaiah 20)

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Welcome to Week 3 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Isaiah 20 has to say about “People.”

Read Isaiah 20.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 20, Israel was starting to realize that by this point in the story, their footing as a nation in the face of encroaching powers was less than stable. So, like most people facing trouble, their first instinct was to find something to hold onto.  In this case, Israel was looking to grab onto Egypt, although God, through a naked and barefoot Isaiah, was clearly advising against such loyalties.

The conclusion to this story was that by putting their security in an apparently strong and trustworthy ally rather than in God, Israel ultimately sealed their upcoming invasion by Babylon and Assyria.  But does this passage teach us not to trust people? No.

Trust in people is at the heart of our relationships.  Because we were created in the image of God, trust is at the heart of our relationship with him. Trusting people is not the issue. The issue is that, when we entirely locate our hopes and security in people, the countdown for disappointment and pain has already begun.

We put our hope in people because we believe, for some outlandish and irrational reason, that these particular individuals are not like us when it comes to trouble.  We believe that they are better.  We believe that they are different. Unlike us, they seem successful and strong. Unlike us, they always seem to have a plan B. Unlike us, they never seem troubled by anything. Their glass is not only half full, but will never be depleted.

Of course, the reality is that this is not the case. These “superhero” figures in our lives are far from superhuman. These are simply humans. Just like us. And just like us, they experience hardship and moments of uncertainty, and are capable of experiencing pain as well as inflicting it, just as we are.

People will be there for you, but then they won’t. People will love you, but then they won’t. People will understand you, and then they won’t. People have limitations. And when we put our hopes and security entirely in people, these limitations will be unveiled in disappointing and hurtful ways.

In this passage of scripture about Israel’s loyalties, God was trying to shock them to the understanding that only he was enough to rely on. No other relationship and no other fellowship can compare.  He was showing them the wall of destruction towards which they were speeding in the hopes that they would turn back.

We were created to form relationships, to trust those relationships, to make friends and ask for help. But the ultimate relationship, the only one that can and should be trusted to the fullest extent, is the relationship between God and his people. Out of dust he created us for the pure and simple reason of fellowship, so that the love shared within the Trinity could be expressed beyond the triune relationship. Regardless of our behavior toward him, his love and patience led him to ultimately send his Son so that none would be lost.

Regardless of differences of testimony, everyone who has been born again experiences similar spiritual changes. This is because, while all things human and earthly pass away, one thing stays the same.  He is the only ally who will never fail you. He is the only father who will continue to provide for you. He is the only one who whose love is so enduring and pure. He is the only person so close to us that, in him, we never have to feel alone or misunderstood. He has always known us, and he always understands.

Born Again: Trouble (Psalm 102)

Welcome to Week 2 of our reflection series “Born Again.” The born again life is focused on Christ’s power and nothing else. Through this reflection series, we’re looking at the things that try to take center stage in our lives. This week, we’re studying what Psalm 102 has to say about “Trouble.”

Read Psalm 102

When someone is suffering, a typical recommendation is to read the Psalms. While this is an excellent idea that I completely endorse, we first have to realize that most Psalms are separated into two parts.

The primary reason we tend to recommend the Psalms in times of trouble is the “hopeful” sections. It’s great to be able to read how others before us have also suffered and endured pain like our own. However, without the hopeful conclusion at the end of many Psalms, all we are left with are groups of people sharing pain together, which is not that encouraging.

As I read Psalm 102, I wish I knew more about the anonymous psalmist, the “afflicted person” who is struggling and in despair. Why? What happened? What brought this man down to such depths that he feared the absence of God more than anything else?

While this question captivates my attention, yet more astonishing is the eventual turnaround in his spirit. The final two-thirds of the Psalm are nothing but praise for God. Not only that, but this writer is so confident in his hope of a new world with people who will worship and commune with God in new and wonderful ways.

This man didn’t have the Psalms!  Nor did he have the encouraging words of the apostles, and even more, he didn’t have Jesus and the Gospels!  Yet, he believed with his entire being in “the Gospel,” the “the good news.”

Psalm 102 is the prayer of a person in trouble, without a solution or happy ending, without the rich fulfillment of prophecy that would come in the ensuing centuries. Yet we, with our plethora of Bibles and Bible resources, tend to so easily let ourselves be overcome with despair and trouble to the extent that the mere mention of hope in a better future gets our eyes rolling. Many hallmarks emerge from a born again spirit and, while all are important, none amount to much without joy and hope. How often are Bible studies, church services or prayers marked with somber silence and not joyful laughter? Do we run into the future that God has prepared for us with feet like the deer? Do we fly into the unknowable future with wings like eagles?

Whether we do or do not, this man apparently did. And he managed this without the foretaste of the Kingdom of God delivered in full by the Son himself.

As Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5, the process of discipleship starts with suffering, but always ends in hope. And hope never disappoints. Hope brought this man out of the darkness. A person born again by the Spirit has taken hold of the Son and his Gospel never to let go.  Troubles only have the ability to control our lives if we ignore the One who offers us a way out.  Living without the joy of salvation and the hope of heaven leaves us futilely wrestling with our troubles.  When we are born again, we know that trouble will come, but will never be a match for the hope we have found in Jesus.