One type of Christian man trusts that what Jesus teaches is true . . . but only on an intellectual level. This man appreciates a good sermon, but then goes away and lives out the moments of his life in ways that make it indistinguishable from the lives of those who do not trust Jesus at all. This type of man doesn’t trust Jesus with his life, and so lives “like a shrub in the desert” (Jeremiah 17:6). There is another type of man, though, one who chooses to trust the truth of Jesus deeply, authentically, and practically. This type of man lives the moments of his life in ways that are markedly different than they’d be otherwise . . . because of his trust.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream . . .” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Two brothers went away to college. One brother became a farmer. The other became a brilliant lawyer. The lawyer brother visited the farmer brother on the farm. He said, “I can’t believe you’ve not made anything of your life. You’re out here on a farm. Look at me. Look where I am. I’m on Wall Street. I’m an investor in the stock market. I have clients who are millionaires. Here you are, stuck out here on the farm. I wonder what the difference between us is.”
The brother farmer then spoke. He pointed out to his wheat field. He said, “You’ll see two types of wheat out there, brother. You’ll see the wheat that’s standing straight up. In the head of that wheat, there is nothing. It’s empty. That’s why it’s standing so high. You’ll also see some other wheat that is bent over. That’s because the head is full. It’s full of wheat.”
Some of us are standing straight up. We are walking tall. However, we are only able to do so because we are empty. Some of us walk a little bent over indicating that we are full. The test isn’t what you have in your pocket. It’s what you have in your heart.
The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.
The question the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can’t.
Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children’s future? They can’t.
Negative self-image? It can’t.
Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can’t.
Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can’t.
Persecution by authorities, going to jail? They can’t.
Nuclear war? It can’t.
Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can’t.
The gospel of grace calls out: Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever. In the end, it is the one thing you can hang on to.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV
It had been many years since his people had been released by the great Persian King Cyrus to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and nearly a decade since his successor Artaxerxes empowered the priest Ezra to lead these people in worship and society.
But Nehemiah had remained.
He had what might have seemed to onlookers as a swank palace job, but he brought to it his blue-collar ethic and intuitive sense that work is essentially a spiritual discipline. So day in-and-out he literally risked his life for the sake of the king who had done so much for Nehemiah’s countrymen.
But when his brother returned from the homeland after all those years of new found hopefulness he reported that their beloved city—the Jerusalem they’d heard such fantastic tales about from their grandfather—lay in ruins.
Nehemiah collapsed weeping.
He mourned for days.
Because Nehemiah knew the promises of God. He knew that God had promised to deliver the people from this captivity, and he had only assumed that this most recent return to the promised land must have been the fulfillment of that promise.
But now he didn’t know what to believe.
For decades he’d continued in absolute service of this foreign king, honoring him as an essential piece in the fulfillment of God’s covenant.
But now the covenant, the promises seemed to mean nothing at all.
In the midst of the mourning he let God have it.
Sure, he knew they had sinned. He admitted that. His ancestors had disregarded the Law and followed other gods. They’d even worshiped with child sacrifices and temple prostitutes.
He knew that’s why they ended up in exile.
“But YOU promised!” he cried, ”even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon you’d return them to their promised land!”
So now what?
And even as Nehemiah approached the king for help—this time risking his life from his monarch rather than for him—he exhaled one last prayer to this God that now seemed so distant, who had left him feeling so forsaken, with the hope that maybe, just maybe this God was still real.