EASTER Makes All the Difference – When The End You See’s Not The One You Foresaw

How come it’s 4 weeks past Easter Sunday and we’re still singing Easter songs? Maybe it’s because our leader’s the same soul who keeps out the Christmas lights until April! (That’s messed up!) Or, better, because for centuries the Christian Church has understood every Sunday as a little Easter. (So resurrection songs are always in season and in order.) Or better still, maybe it’s because we sing to remind each other: Easter makes all the difference; it changes everything. Especially when the end we see is not the end we foresaw. Let’s talk! How do we hold onto our faith when the end we see is not the one we foresaw? ‘When things just aren’t going to end up the way we thought when we signed on for the journey?

Some of you have asked, “How do we keep our faith when things don’t turn out as planned, when life throws us a terrible, high, hard curve? Then what? How do we hang in, and hold onto believing? The one we married was a wonder. Now we wonder, “What was I thinking?” Our kids were a joy-to-behold on the day they were born. Now they’re a-sight-to-see (and not in a good way). My child is not well, not with the flu, but with a diagnosis and treatment that comes like a lightning bolt out of the blue. The job or career that was more than just-a-living, I can no longer live with. The promise I was in my youth, the beauty I was, has sagged, bagged, bloated, broken, wrinkled, curled up in a ball. I need only look in the mirror to want to say the heck with it all. Our golden years become goldenrod. We appear allergic to them. They eat our joints, clog our arteries (not just our noses), and require pill upon pill. “On the Road Again” is no longer our national anthem. Not at $3.42 a gallon and climbing. And whoever envisioned the right to vote would mean voting for these folks, whatever the election at hand. Whew! Lord, help us. Help us, p-l-e-a-s-e!

He already has. And long ago. Even long before Jesus. Enter Jeremiah. It’s nearly 600 years before Christ. Jerusalem is surrounded. The enemy’s at the gate. (It feels like that with us sometimes, too.) Those not about to die are about to be carried off into slavery or God-only-knows-what. You think we’re in a housing slump. Long & Foster didn’t look too busy back then either. Well, right then God has a word for Jeremiah. Your cousin’s comin’, with a crazy idea. (Sounds like my cousin, how about yours?) “Jer…, buy my field at Anathoth so we can keep it in the family.” Smooth move! Great timing. “We’re about to be hauled off for 100 years and you want me to land a land deal?” He does. We have the legal details. This is a real deal. Amazing. Jeremiah is taking a huge leap of faith here, an act of profound trust. In the face of everything he and everyone around him can plainly see in doubt or decline, he acts. He goes against the grain, the tide, the best practices of administration and finance. He receives a vision. He hears God’s promise. He trusts God’s word. The only thing more “not what we expected” than Israel lost to the Babylonians-at-the- gate, is God making a promise: houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. There will be a come back! God keeps his promises. Trust them! Jeremiah puts his stake in them! Why, this would be like, like us committing to a Family Life Center when the plan to finance it is incomplete. Or when current finances are challenged, or the growth we’ve been told is coming to our community isn’t yet reflected in our church. But a vision and a promise are before us. It would be like pouring yourself into a relationship, not because the other deserves it, but because you sense God has prepared it. It would be like trusting your kids with an important decision about their future… say, going off to school, not because you’re certain of their judgment, but because you trust in the promise of their character.

Oh, Jeremiah’s real estate adventure is a great story. But what’s it really got to do with us? Especially when things aren’t ending up as we foresaw when we started out? There are lessons here that can help us hold onto faith in hard and uncertain times. Let’s focus on just two. First: even in the hardest times, we can trust in the promises of God. (Of course, to trust them, we need to know them. More about that in a minute.) One of the things that makes hard times so hard is asking, “How long will this go on?” Jeremiah’s story reminds us God promises to put a fence around tough times. Chaos can be chronic, but can’t be forever. Suffering may seem endless, but it will end. Doubt lingers, but love triumphs. “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30) Now,

a second lesson here: it’s safe to invest in tomorrow because God can do what God promises to do. God himself asks old Father Abraham, “Is anything too hard (or wonderful) for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14) Answer: no! Jeremiah literally bets on that. (He was not a Methodist.) Ezekiel, just like ole Jer… is asked, “When the faithful cry out, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost,’ can these bones live?” And the answer comes back, “Lord, only you know.” And the promise is, “Yes!” And so they do. (Ez. 37) And Luke will tell Mary and tell us at the coming of Jesus, there’s a word from heaven’s highest angel, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” When you put your substance and your soul down on tomorrow, this is no blind wager or stock exchange “educated guess”. It is an act of trust that God CAN do as God has promised and WILL do all God can. And there is nothing God cannot do. And God will do for you! …Enter Jesus… the Christ, the best promised, least expected glory of God.

When the end we see’s not the end we foresaw or signed on for…Easter makes all the difference. Enter Jesus Christ, indeed. Hear what he says within sight of the cross, and shows with the gravestone shattered behind him. “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms…. I go to prepare a place for you…. I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jn. 14 You see, God has a preferred future for us all. And for each of us. Like no other moment, the cross pictures God Almighty, rolling up his sleeve (gesture), and reaching down and down through time and space, through sin (ghastly sin, sin as sinister as yours and mine and all time’s rolled together) and sorrow, too, yours, mine, ours. And God sees to it that all of it is nailed to the cross with his Christ. He won’t come down. And that awful, evil, broken stuff-of-ours will not get away. And God will wait with us three days. And then God will lift up Jesus and make good on his promises, “He who has seen me has seen the Father… Believe me…I am in the Father and the Father in me…. Truly, I say, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and greater… because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” A preferred future, for you & for me. And note this: on earth as in heaven in his service. He has said so!

How do we keep our faith in trial and trouble? Few questions are more urgent or demand such practical answers. Jeremiah can help.

God’s promises are trustworthy and true. Know that, and we can wrap every hard time with hope, and act in defiance of every apparent defeat. God has put a fence around every torment/doubt. God can do as God wills to do. And God’s will for us is good. Jesus’ Easter seals the deal! God has a preferred future for us all, purchased by the cross and guaranteed by the resurrection for all who believe. So… here are a few tangible take-aways in the light of these glorious graces of God…

1. To hold onto faith, it helps to have some golden texts for tarnished and troubled times. We need to know the promises while standin’ on these premises. I’ve listed just a few on the little slips we’ve given you. You might have others, more, better for you. But if you don’t, commit a few of these to memory, and carry them. They’ll carry you when you don’t know what to believe or do.

2. To hold onto faith, it helps to have someone in your life who knows and lives the promises of God in Jesus Christ. Get yourself near to someone you can see walks near to God. They’re all around you. Here. (I could name so many.) In your family. At work, school, among your friends. Look. See. Get close. Talk. Listen. Follow. Whenever you can, be that person for someone else.

3. To hold onto faith, it helps to have an ongoing conversation with God. Don’t ask so often for God to promise what you want as for you to come to want what God is promising! Let me tell you a little secret. I have learned it the hard way. Sometimes, it’s not what God does to the enemies outside the gates that helps the most. It’s what God does to awaken the power and the possibilities inside us. We are changed by grace. And every thing around us changes!

4. To hold onto faith, it helps to know God’s compassion outdoes your computer! Control/Alt./Delete helps. God’s forgiveness heals.

Align right & left are good. Justify will straighten both your margins. But God in Christ can put your past behind you and fix the future in front of you. ESCape can be a mercy. But Christ is an unexpected glory and an undeserved but sure salvation!

His Easter changes everything!

Some Golden Texts
For Tarnished and Troubled Times

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
  • "LET NOT your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:1-2
  • “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
  • GOD IS our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Ps. 46: 1, 11
  • He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield…. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day… A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. Ps 91:4, 5, 7
  • They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31
  • I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39
  • To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. I Peter 2: 21-22
  • He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21: 4-5

You will likely have other favorites. You may wish to share them.

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