This morning as I listened to the radio I heard a plea for help for orphans in Guatemala. James 1:27 was quoted, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." So many children in need. At the same time I heard that there was another earthquake in Guatemala. The earth seems to be groaning.
Last Thursday our ministry to those in need fed nearly 120 families. We work with others and offer free food twice a month. It seems that more and more families are in need. I saw a woman on a busy corner today with a sign: "Family in need ... any help will be greatly appreciated. God bless!" This week we are gathering clothes for children who don't have winter coats as the temperature dips below freezing tonight. James 2:15-16 says, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" The needs all around us are great, and getting greater.
In January a family from our congregation is moving to Haiti to help those in need there. It has been nearly three years since the major earthquake and thousands are still living in tent cities. Hurricane Sandy went through and flooded much of the area again, destroying homes and washing tents away. The need is great and the ministry they founded, Ebenezer Discipleship Training Center, is training and equipping pastors to lead people to Christ and offer people hope. The physical needs are great; the spiritual needs are even greater.
I have been in touch with a pastor in Pakistan for more than a year and two families have lost father and mother in these months, leaving ten orphans. A few weeks ago the pastor suffered a heart attack requiring heart bypass surgery and now his ministry is deeply in debt because of medical expenses as he tries to recuperate. His Bible school had to close for lack of funds. The needs are great.
Meanwhile, back at home, the needs in the congregation I serve seem to be endless. Some are looking for jobs, some marriages are struggling, we are trying to raise money for a downpayment on some property that it seems the Lord has put in our path ... We have another ministry to children who may not get a meal in the evening because their parents can't afford it. Last year we had just over a hundred children receiving meals during the school year - this year it's up to 160. The need is getting greater.
I was reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul when he was talking about the trials he had faced in ministry - trials beyond anything I have ever experienced. And then he says, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?" (II Corinthians 11:28-29). Paul felt the pain of those around him and those who are filled with the Spirit care for those around them and when one part of the body hurts, we all hurt. The physical needs are great; the spiritual needs are even greater.
There are a lot of hurting people around us today. It's hard ... and it's getting harder. Natural disasters like the hurricane that hit the northeast recently seem to be happening with greater and greater frequency. The news we hear on the TV is more and more about desperate people doing desperate things. Sin has so affected our world that the time has come when things are going from bad to worse, just as God said they would.
So yesterday I was moved to remind people as I preached God's Word that our hope lies not in the things of this world but in the God who has promised to establish His eternal kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth. I quoted I Corinthians 15:19, where Paul writes, "If only for this life we have hope, we are of all men most to be pitied." God never promised life would be easy - quite the contrary. Jesus said we would have troubles, but He told His disciples not to be afraid, for He had overcome the world for them (John 16:33).
It is easy to get discouraged when looking at the world around you, but when you know the God who promises to be with those who believe and to save us from His wrath and judgment that are soon to come upon this world, and to bring us into His eternal kingdom, the burden gets lighter. He has put us here to be a light to the world, and when we give ourselves in the service of others, He is glorified and we find satisfaction in knowing that our lives have meaning.
Maybe, like many, you are waiting, hoping, praying for your life to get easier, for things to get "better." Our God is able to do more than we ask or imagine. We need to know that He is with us and we need to believe the impossible, because God does miracles every day. Trusting God means KNOWING that He can do the impossible, but trusting Him also means that we love Him and serve Him, even when He allows the evil in this world to run its course, for He is at work in our weakness and through our struggles in ways we cannot possibly understand. May you find joy in God today, no matter what your circumstances. May He give you hope and strength in knowing that through faith in Jesus you are one of His dearly beloved children and that nothing can ever separate you from His love - NOTHING! (Romans 8:37-39).
The good news is still good news: our God reigns!