Never Alone

Sunday August 9, 2020 The Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

The tie in between today’s readings: Always here for you!

Psalm 85:9-14, 1 Kings 19:9-13, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33

Christianity is about one thing: God will never abandon us. From the beginning until now, we are not cast aside by the Almighty, whom we have aggrieved by our sins. Instead of letting us languish in our estranged situation, the Lord says, “Come and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). However, there is a problem. We cannot pay for a sin with a good work, if for no other reason than we are called to virtue by God as a matter of course. We cannot erase the corruption in our nature on our own and so our iniquities are always with us. The, so to speak, hard attributes of God: Holiness, Justice, Righteousness, and Truth condemn us to eternal separation from Him in Hell. It’s the softer sides of His character: Love, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness that plead for our way back.  But even the Almighty cannot contradict nor compromise one aspect of His nature against another. Justice must be served. Mercy must be extended. What’s a God to do? Our reading in Psalm 85 illustrates that the reconciliation of the Lord’s hard and soft sides is found in Jesus Christ, where Mercy and Truth meet and where Justice and Forgiveness kiss each other. It is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that opens a path by faith back to God. But we see that even though salvation is a gift from God, living the born-again life asks everything from us. There will be anguish, fear, and exhaustion. He does not abandon us there either.

The mark of true believers is their concern for the souls of others. In our reading in Romans 9:1-5, the Apostle Paul declares his distress over the lostness of his fellow countrymen. Having received his commission, Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) travels the known world spreading the gospel of salvation to all that would hear it. But to the Jews, his newfound faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has made him a national traitor. They have the Law of Moses! They have the temple! They cling to their identity in Jehovah and will do all they can to stop this missionary of the Way from turning their belief system upside down! Despite this, the Apostle would gladly face damnation in exchange for their redemption. This is the greatest example of Christlikeness in loving your enemy that you will ever come across. Even though Paul’s heartfelt request is impossible, it should demonstrate the importance of soul winning and the deep burden that we should have over a person’s eternal destiny. God is with us in this endeavor and promises results for our efforts in the gospel, as it says in Psalm 126:5-6:

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Our gospel in Matthew 14:22-33 give us the account of our Lord walking on the water. Evening was coming on. Jesus had just finished His miracle of the fishes and loaves, when He sends the disciples out in the boat to cross the sea of Galilee. A vicious storm comes up and, at 3 A.M., we find the twelve still battling the waves. These guys are terrified! Just as the disciples are going through their trials, we find that life can be exceedingly difficult for us also. Doing the right thing is not always easy. God will put us in challenging situations. The Bible encourages us to stay with it. Help is never far away. Then, through the darkness, the disciples cry out in astonishment! It’s impossible! Can it be? Jesus is coming toward them walking on the water. “Don’t be afraid,” He reassures. Seeing Jesus, Peter wants to do the impossible too. The Lord grants permission and Peter steps out of the boat onto the water. It’s all going so well. He’s almost reached Jesus, then fear takes over and starts to drag him down. He cries out and the Lord catches him. Disappointed in the result, but probably encouraged at the attempt, He takes Peter back to the boat. The storm abruptly stops. The test is over. It’s all a matter of fear vs. faith. Fear happens when we cannot control the situation. Faith is giving control over to another and following their lead. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Any one of those guys could have asked to walk on the water, but they didn’t. If you want to follow Jesus, you need to get out of the boat. It is scary, but don’t worry. He’s got you!

Our Old Testament reading is about the prophet, Elijah. Now, here’s a man of great faith, fresh off a demolishing showdown at Mt. Carmel between himself and the 450 priests of the false god, Baal, in 1 Kings 18:20-40. But instead of this victory leading to a national revival back to Jehovah, he finds himself on the run for his life from the vengeful queen, Jezebel. It has been a long road for Elijah, and he is exhausted. Our reading picks up in 1 Kings 19:9-13, with the depressed prophet in the back of a cave.  “What are you doing here?” God asks. Elijah regals the Lord with a laundry list of poor me’s. The Almighty leads him to the cave’s mouth where the He puts on a tremendous display of power. Impressive, but it is God’s gentle voice that makes the impact on His prophet. “Elijah, what are you doing here?” He asks again. Serving God can take its toll on us, but it doesn’t have to. I’ve heard some people in their religious zeal boast that they would rather burn out than rust out. Great intentions, but in the end, you are still out! Don’t neglect time off. Take your Sabbaths. You’ll be much more useful. Along with overworking, unrealized expectations lead to depression. It is not unusual for us to project fantastic outcomes in our vocations and we feel let down when things don’t go according to our plan. God wants you to serve Him with joy. So, shelve your ego. There are two lessons here in our reading. First, the Lord knows your limits, let Him do the heavy lifting. It’s His work! Second, listen to His still small voice for guidance. Stay on course. It’s His plan and whenever things go off track, ask yourself, “What am I doing here?”

The God who gave His Son for us will freely give us whatever we need to live for Him.  He promised to never leave or forsake us. So, trust Him for salvation in Christ, step out in faith, and listen to His voice. Let His power accomplish His results in you. He didn’t bring you this far to drop you now. 

2 thoughts on “Never Alone

  1. Farmer

    Well written explanation and use of the verses. I appreciate the time put into these and just to prove I read it I found the typo, (reading in Romans 85:9-14,). Still praying for you and the family.
    Best regards Farmer


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