Boast In The Lord January 16th, 2023

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  

There is no doubt in my mind that it is on the spiritual mountaintops where we truly experience the glory and majesty of God.  And yet I am equally certain that it is in life’s valleys where we truly come to know the grace and mercy of God.

For me personally, 2022 has been the deepest valley of life that I have ever walked, and I could never have made that journey without the assurance that the Lord was by my side: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  These words of comfort and assurance from the 23rd Psalm have always struck me as a transition from knowing God as your Guide and knowing Him as your Father. In all of the preceding verses, David speaks of God as his Shepherd in the third person:  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters,  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  And now this:  “For You are with me.”  In the face of fear, darkness and death, as the threats become more palpable the relationship becomes more personal.  It is moving from the infinite to the intimate, from shepherd to friend, from the master/servant relationship to the master/friend relationship which Jesus promises those who follow Him: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).  
With this deeper knowledge comes a deeper and more personal relationship with the Master.  And it is this personal relationship that gives us the courage to go forward in and through the most trying times we face.  Which brings me to the passage which opened this devotion:  Our God is the God of eternal encouragement – the One who inspires us with courage, spirit and hope that can be found nowhere else in this life.  It is eternal encouragement that is found only at the Cross where Jesus gave us victory over fear and death by His sacrifice born out of unconditional love for us.  
And as the Body of Christ, we as His Church have the power and the privilege to speak His encouragement into the lives of those around us.  I thank Jesus for all of you who have poured that encouragement into me this past year.  And why is this important?   Because it was that God-inspired encouragement which helped give flight to the fears and darkness which surrounded and challenged me.  By reminding one another of God’s eternal encouragement which flows from His perfect love and grace, we all gain strength to overcome the sin and darkness which threaten to undermine our faith and our future.  
In this life we face a choice:  to be hardened by a sinful world or to be heartened by a loving God.   In making that choice, let these words from Hebrews guide us in all of our relationships as brothers and sisters in the Lord: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:12-14).  There is no greater source of encouragement than our confidence in the One who gave everything for us.

God of Eternal Encouragement,    
Even in our journey through life’s valleys, may we always take courage in the truth that You sent Your Son Jesus who walked those same valleys, emerging victorious over death so that we might have life in a restored relationship with You.  Give us loving hearts that we might be Your light to those around us, encouraging one another and proclaiming the Gospel truth that has the power to set us eternally free.  In the mighty Name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Bob Blickens

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