"I have food to eat that you know nothing about". John 4:32
What food are you eating? During lockdown, some people are experimenting with new recipes, more home made food - and others, I’m sure, are eating far more rubbish than usual, or forming part of very long queues as more places open for takeaway meals! We all have different ways of coping!
But I’m not thinking of natural food. What about spiritual food? If you look around you or watch too many news briefings you may be feeding too much on things that are very unhealthy - there is a lot of worry, anxiety and fear around. There’s also a lot of anger and bitterness and if we feed on these things there is an unhappiness, a criticism and a depression that seeps into our spirits.
When we draw aside into God’s presence it is very different. There is always a calm even in the midst of the storm. There is the sense of a rock beneath our feet and a security that only He can bring. There is the strength that comes from the One with whom we journey. We feed on the fruits of the Spirit - love, joy, peace.....
Yes, there is a great deal of uncertainty around. We live in circumstances that we never imagined could be - but, as Christians, we travel with the One who knows all that lies ahead and who says ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and feed on all that He brings - but , more than that, feed on all that He is. If we do that, we will be strengthened by what we eat and others around us may sense that there is a different way to live and be attracted to the Saviour.
The Incomparable Christ
As I pondered what to put in this week’s ‘Thought for Today’ the words of a chorus came to mind:
Jesus, Name above all names
Beautiful Saviour, Glorious Lord!
Immanuel, God is with us,
Blessed Redeemer, Living Word!
I want you to ponder each phrase of that chorus, linger over it, and let the truth of it permeate your spirit and you will find Christ draw very near to you and minister to you. You will feel your spirit stilled and refreshed - and surrounded by His love.
Jesus - His Name is Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. Forgive you - yes- but also put a barrier between you and these weaknesses within you. He has power over all the power of the enemy in your life.
Name above all names - there is no one like Christ. He is unique, in His power and greatness, but also in His love, His kindness and compassion. Drink it in as you ponder it.
Beautiful Saviour - think of it - He loved me and gave Himself for me. The immeasurable love and loveliness that brought Him down to this world, to you and to me.
Glorious Lord - this same Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, and a clear path opened by Him to take you and me into that glory. Let a foretaste of that glory flood over your soul as you realise afresh where your ultimate home is.
Immanuel, God is with us - in you, in me, all around us, going before us into our tomorrows, being behind us to guard and protect. What a provision! Let your soul be strengthened as you think of Him and let the truth of it fill your being.
Blessed Redeemer - Bought back out of slavery to sin, out of old selfish ways, out of the bondage of this world!
Living Word - He speaks, and His words bring life to your soul. In the Creation described in Genesis, the word Christ spoke (because we read that without Him nothing came into being) brought life, growth, beauty, abundance. And so it can be with you and me - He gives beauty for ashes and the oil of joy for mourning.
Let Him draw near and let His presence minister to you as you meditate on the words of that chorus. Don’t just think of the words, let the person of Christ be your focus and you will find Him very near.
How to experience God’s Peace
‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus’. Philippians (4:6,7)
Don’t rush over these verses too quickly. They are very clear - but very profound. And if we can begin to put them into practice, it will transform our lives!
Firstly, ‘don’t worry about anything - instead, pray about everything’. All too often, we worry, then we pray, and then we continue to worry. That is not what should happen. When we pray, we should find a place where we lay the burden at the feet of Christ and either leave it there, or come away from that place with the awareness that He is sharing that burden with us and strengthening us for the journey ahead. Prayer should change things - it should make a difference, and the difference comes because we draw near to Christ who is the burden bearer.
Secondly, ‘tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.’ You see how the focus changes in this second instruction. It begins by asking us to bring our needs to Him - but it moves on to tell us to think of Him, of all He has provided already, which surely is telling us to trust Him and rest in Him because He loves and cares for us.
And then, if we have done these things we will experience His peace and it will ‘guard’ our hearts as we live in Christ Jesus. That word ‘guard’ really struck me as I read it. It spoke of a strength against the enemy, a defence in a warfare - so different from the usual associations of the word ‘peace’. Surely this is what we need in these times, when there is so much fear and anxiety in the world around us. Follow the steps outlined in these verses, and then find a peace that will be like a fortress around your spirit as you live close to Christ Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace.
The Things that Remain
Over the past weeks people have been sending me texts and video clips of many different kinds. Some of them are jokes or amusing stories - which are always welcome as they add a bit of light relief in these troubled times. Others are serious comments or quotes which can bring comfort and strength. But there have been some others - video clips, often with beautiful background music - which have brought stunning pictures of creation which are majestic and beautiful and so varied that they remind you of the glorious power and beauty that is in God and can only be created by Him. A world that has been in existence for thousands of years and yet there is freshness and beauty, variety and growth every year .
I began to compare this with the things created by man. There have been many fine pieces of architecture, for example, that have lasted for many a long day - but so often there is need for thousands if not millions of pounds to be spent on them to keep them standing. And in other cases, they crumble and disappear after a length of time - the seven wonders of the ancient world are no more.
It reminds us that God is the God of the infinite and the eternal - and man is the creator of the finite and the temporary things in life. And yet we read in the Bible that 'God has set eternity in the hearts of men'. In other words , we were created to know God and there is a part of us that will never be satisfied the things that are simply part of this passing world.
In these days we are living in, many of the things which have been so important in our lives have been stripped away, suddenly and dramatically, and we have been reminded that they can be here today and gone tomorrow . And if our security is in these things, how fragile that security is. But for the children of God, our security is in Christ Jesus and is rooted in that eternal world. We read these words in the book of Hebrews,
...the removing of those things that are shaken... that
the things that cannot be shaken may remain.
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