There’s an old joke about a man who jumped out of an airplane only to discover that his parachute was jammed. As the wind rushed by him, he took the thing off and desperately tried to untangle it. Suddenly a man shot past him, flying upward at tremendous speed. The man with the chute looked up and yelled, “Hey, do you know anything about parachutes?”
The other man called down, “No. Do you know anything about gas stoves?”
Oh, the ups and downs of life! Seems like we’re always going up or down, doesn’t it? Every day has its high spots and low points, and every year has its peaks and its valleys. Sometimes we’re on the mountaintop; sometimes in the pits. Sometimes we’re high on life, and then we’re down in the dumps.
Christians aren’t immune to life’s alternating patterns, nor were the heroes of the Scripture. Think of any biblical character you want to, from Adam to Zacharias. As you read about God’s people in His Word, each had good days and bad ones.
Take Elijah, for example. In one chapter, we see him calling down fire from heaven on the ridge of Mount Carmel. Turn a few pages and he’s hiding under a juniper tree wishing he were dead.
In the first chapter of Job’s book, we see him rich and respected, on top of the world. Happy home. Happy wife. Good health. Great wealth. A few verses later, he’s sitting in the ashes, mourning his family, reduced to poverty, and scraping his sores with pottery shards.
Consider the patriarch Joseph. He’s pictured in Genesis 40 rotting in prison; turn the page and he’s the Prime Minster of Egypt.
When John the Baptist started preaching, he instantly became the most successful and renowned evangelist in four centuries. But when we next see him, he’s sending word to Jesus from prison, asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
In Matthew 16, Peter heard Jesus saying to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah.” Five verses later, he heard the same voice say, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul talked about being caught up into the third heaven; a paragraph later he’s burdened with his thorn in the flesh.
In Revelation 1, the aged apostle John was banished from church and country, sentenced to lonely exile on a penal island; but by verse 10 he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, caught up in heavenly visions to see the splendor of the enthroned Christ.
Perhaps no one except Christ Himself experienced a greater range of highs and lows than King David, the author of many of the Psalms. We love his writings because he seems to have known all the ups and downs of life as we do; and there’s a Psalm to match our every mood. Psalm 30 is an excellent example. It begins: “I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up.”
The Hebrew term David used for “lifted up” is the same word that was used for dipping a bucket down into a well and drawing up water. David was saying, “Lord, you reached into the grave and pulled me right out. I was almost gone.” Furthermore, notice the word “extol.” It means “to lift up.” The psalmist was saying, “I will lift You up in my praise, Lord, for You have lifted me up in Your mercy.”
David went on to describe how God had taken him from hurting to healing (verses 1-4); from weeping to joy (verse 5); from prosperity to poverty (verses 6-7); from mourning to dancing (verse 11), and from silence to singing (verse 12). He ended by saying, “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You” (verses 11-12, NIV).
Psalm 30 simply reflects Scriptural realism. Life isn’t ideal; troubles hit us hard; we can be cast down. But God is faithful; His compassions never fail, for great is His faithfulness. He is all we need, our All-Sufficient Savior, our All-in-All. Whether we’re up or whether we’re down, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org
You’ve no doubt heard the story about the two hunters in the forest who were surprised by a huge grizzly bear. They immediately took off running with the bear in hot pursuit. The slower of the two men yelled out, “We’ll never outrun this bear!” The man in the lead yelled back over his shoulder, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!”
Is it cowardly to flee a charging grizzly bear? Not to me! Sometimes “flight” is a much wiser decision than “fight” when it comes to the physical arena of life. But what about the spiritual arenas of life? Sometimes God puts us in fight-or-flight situations so we can learn two things: bravery and trust.Affirmative Action: Discovering God’s Blessings
In the education and business worlds it is not uncommon to hear the term affirmative action, but what does it mean in our everyday life to affirm someone? Basically, it is a statement or action that encourages someone. The Bible is filled with promises that affirm an endless supply of riches, privileges, joys, and blessings that we’ve never appropriated. These are the promises in the Bible we haven’t claimed. There are levels of peace we’ve not experienced. There are joys we’ve underappreciated. There are answers to prayer awaiting us.
Scripture is filled with affirmations about all God has given us. For an interesting Bible study, read the first half of Ephesians and notice how the words inheritance and riches and wealth and blessing fill the first three chapters of this book: [He] has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ … the riches of His grace … we have obtained an inheritance … the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints … rich in mercy … the exceeding riches of His grace … the gift of God … the unsearchable riches of Christ … the riches of His glory (Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11, 18; 2:4, 7, 8; 3:8, 16).
In Christ we’ve inherited a fortune beyond anything this world can imagine, but perhaps we’re largely unaware of it.Fear Nots
At the beginning of the multiple-Oscar-winning movie Gladiator, the Roman general Maximus is readying his cavalry to ride against a Germanic horde in a forest in Europe. He shouts to them, “Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead!”
Elysium was a version of heaven that arose among the Greek poets and philosophers and remained popular in Roman times—a place where the righteous and heroic, and those chosen by the gods, would spend a blessed afterlife. If anyone would qualify for entrance into Elysium, Maximus’ brave cavalry would—so they had no fear in the face of possible death. As mythical as Elysium was, its promise was enough to take the fear and sting out of death. When you can laugh at death, nothing else in life deserves to be feared. Hebrews 2:15 tells us that one thing is powerful enough to hold people in bondage all their lives—the fear of death. But the apostle Paul spent an entire chapter of 1 Corinthians explaining how Christ, by His resurrection, defeated death: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) If Roman soldiers had no fear of death by hoping in a make-believe place called Elysium, how much more should we Christians not fear death based on the documented reality of the resurrection of Jesus? And if we don’t fear death, why should we fear anything else?
If you’ve ever been able to help someone in need, then you know the truth of Jesus’ words: “It is better to give than to receive.” Dr. David Jeremiah continues his focus on stewardship by sharing some tools and tips for becoming an enthusiastic giver, so you can enjoy the many blessings that result.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah