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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reflections on the Year

I started the semester with “Ten Things I Wanted My Students to Learn This Semester.” While I had goals for the students with whom God had entrusted to me, God had things He wanted me to learn, and in many ways it has been life changing. This year has been a difficult one, which included the passing of my father in January and other major struggles throughout the year. There have been many passages from God’s Word that have been instrumental in this year’s survival, but I would like to focus on just a few.

A song that ministered greatly to our spirits this year has been Dr. Benjie Harlan’s paraphrase of Psalm 139 entitled “Know My Heart,” which was recorded by the ministers of music of Louisiana. Out of the notes of this anthem came the assurance of God’s presence and His watchful eye. There were many times this past year when all I could do was listen and cry. Maybe the first lesson God was trying to teach me this year is God not only is aware of what I am going through, He is there, His Spirit lives in me.

Philippians has always ministered to us in so many ways. There really isn’t space to reprint everything God has taught us from Paul’s letter. Let's at least look at 4:4-9:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Just a few points:
-Rejoicing is an act of the will, not emotions.
-There is a choice to respond in gentleness.
-There must be a constant awareness of the presence of God
-We must exchange our fears for gratitude and prayer
Then God’s peace guards our hearts.
-We must learn to direct our thoughts, choose to focus on
what is the real truth of the situation,
and focus on what is good.
-We can take encouragement from godly mentors.
Then God’s peace will be with us.

Another passage that has been helpful has been Psalm 73. Again, I won’t try to go through the entire psalm, but just focus on a few points. The psalmist is questioning why it seemed that good people suffer and evil people don’t. We don’t have to read far in any newspaper or other news source to be able to identify with the psalmist. Why doesn’t God just wipe these evil people out? [This is not the place to try to deal with the problem of suffering and evil. There are some wonderful resources, such as Ravi Zacharias and his apologetics ministry that I would encourage you to follow.] The basic issue is there are times when the things that are happening around you do not seem fair or seem consistent with the character of God. In those times we need to ask to see things from God’s perspective. The psalmist, confused over such problems, finally enters the temple to mediate on the nature and character of God and realizes that [1] God is still in control and [2] He will bring things to a final justice. His final conclusion is found in Psalm 73:28: “But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter, as I declare all the things you have done.” [NET]

We begin and end with trust in God’s nature and character, His presence, His love, and the promise of His provision. So if I were to summarize what God has been trying to teach me this year it would be found in this statement: “Responding as He desires is more important to God than what I may be going through, for His desire is to make me holy, not happy.” Our true happiness can only be found in Him. God doesn’t leave us on our own, He is with us, He loves us. Remember the promise of Isaiah 43:2-3: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”

When all else seems to fail, we need to go back to the truth that we know: God is love, God is in control, what may happen will be for His glory and my ultimate good.

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