Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Steadfast Love

           For about a month and a half I have suffered from a significant increase in pain.  Providentially scans I had last week showed no return of the cancer!  Apparently the pain is  a result of degeneration in several joints and in the spine. I am very grateful to God that He still has use for me on this earth!

              During this same period of time I was doing a word study of the word "hesed" in the Bible; a word translated often as steadfast love or mercy.  It is used over 200 times in the Bible, usually referring to God's great love for His people.  As I studied all the places the word is used I was humbled thinking of God's great love for me.  The thought that His steadfast love for me endures forever and is higher than the heavens above touched my soul deeply.  As I reflected daily on His love I started noticing great cloud formations. Each time I saw their magnificence I was in awe of the fact that God's love for me went beyond what I could see in the skies above!  To this day, I sometimes have to pull to the side of the road when driving to contemplate this message. As I did this word study, and at the same time wondered if the cancer had once again reared its ugly head, I wrote some personalization of several passages in the Bible which I include below. 

Prayer requests:  Praise God with me that this was not a return of the cancer.  I also covet prayers as I seek to find ways of relieving the pain without depending too much on medication.  Also pray with me that God would glorify Himself in me and use me well in this added time He allows me to remain on this earth.

God is my refuge and my strength
A very present help in the time of trouble!
Though my body may fail me,
Though the cancer one day rise up against me,
Though pain should overwhelm me,
Yet He will never leave me or forsake me. (Psalm 46)

I will be still and know that He is God
He will be exalted among the nations
And He will be exalted even in me!
He is the LORD of Hosts,
He is the God of His people. (Psalm 46)
He will never leave me or forsake me. (Hebrews 13:5)

He surrounds me with His steadfast love.
Totally undeserved, it is abounding,
His mercy is great beyond all understanding.
It is inexhaustible. (Numbers 14)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

His steadfast love extends
As high as the heavens above.
It causes me as one of His children
To rest under the shadow of His wings. (Psalm 36)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

I will not hide His steadfast love
From His people.
I will declare it all around me,
For in His faithfulness He preserves me. (Psalm 40)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

Though, at times, tears flow day and night, (Psalm 42)
Yet I  remember He who collects them all in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8)
He is the one who surrounds me with His steadfast love
And gives me a song when I lay awake in the night. (Psalm 42)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

In my time of distress
I will sing of His steadfast love
As it is my fortress and my refuge
From a faithful God who has all power. (Psalm 59)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

I will bless the name of the LORD
For His steadfast love
Is as high as the heavens are above the earth
It is from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 103)
I will give thanks and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever.

For me to live is Christ
And to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
Whatever God intends for me,
I know He means it for good. (Genesis 50: 20)
So I will give thanks always and bless His name,
For His steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 107)


Thursday, June 30, 2016

What Next?

         Recently I had my routine visit with my oncologist.  In the absence of new symptoms we once again made the decision to hold off on routine scans unless, or until, they occur.  That visit made me realize that, despite the fact that the cancer has not reared its ugly head again in the last three years, that "normal" will never again look like it did before the diagnosis in 2010.  Today's normal includes not being able to work as I deal with symptoms that weren't there before: chronic pain, limited mobility, fatigue and chemo brain - a very frustrating but often humorous symptom.  In addition it also includes a greater appreciation of the awesomeness of God's steadfast love and the simple joys in daily life.  The new normal includes great pleasure in interacting with three grandchildren whom I (humanly speaking) was not supposed to live to see.  It also includes a backdrop of apprehension as I live with the tension of wondering if the cancer will return before my latest grandbaby is born in November.  Daily life has changed greatly for me in this new normal and has caused an underlying frenzy that asks, "What now?"
              Not long ago, for the umpteenth time, I finished reading the Psalms while at the same time I completed a study of Hebrews chapter 11.  I have always marveled that the Psalms are full of lament, frustration and fear.  That in itself gives me great hope.  In an odd way I found that  my study in Hebrews followed very closely with the Psalms and helped to answer my question of "What now?"  The last part of Hebrews 10 shows that the eleventh chapter was written to a church that had been through a great deal of suffering.  Then come the examples God chose to give of those who followed in faith in chapter 11.  The beginning of chapter 12 explains that He gave us those examples so they could be a great "cloud of witnesses" to us and encourage us to endure and run the race with patience.  Many were the lessons I was able to glean from my reading and studying.
              One of the most notable lessons from this "Walk of Faith" was that each and every one of those whose faith was considered worthy to be testified of, suffered.  Their suffering was in various ways and to different degrees, but they all suffered.  As Christians we are promised we will suffer as well as be tried for our faith (see James 1, Philippians 3:10, Luke 9:23-24, Romans 8:17 to name only a few).  Looking at these individuals lives alongside the Psalms (and Job) it seems that the suffering can include much more than ridicule and persecution for faith.  I think it is fair to say that physical and mental health issues, heartbreak, relationship struggles, financial issues and so much more can be included.  More than that it seems that God's agenda is not just to relieve our suffering, but to redeem us through suffering which should cause us to look not only for symptom relief but for the fruit of the Spirit in the midst of hardship.
              Looking further at these individuals it is fascinating to see that they all had weaknesses.  Moses complained that he couldn't talk, Gideon repeatedly questioned his calling and Rahab  made her living as a harlot. All were sinful.  All were weak.  Yet God used their weakness greatly.  He didn't just use them despite their weakness. He used them through their weakness.  Paul says, "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). Here is where the Psalms of lament come alongside Hebrews 11.  The Psalms make it clear that we can cry out to God with our fears and frustrations in our weakness and suffering and this passage in Hebrews shows us that God can and will use us in the same weakness and suffering.  It is a great comfort to me as I relate this to my own life and see that God is greater than my cancer and its effects.  It gives me great hope that He will use that and my many weaknesses for His kingdom.
              Another major lesson I gleaned from Hebrews 11 was found as I looked at the vision each of those testified of had.  They all looked in faith for something far off that they would never see in this life.  The end of that chapter and beginning of chapter 12 makes it clear that we have much more than they did since we can look back to Christ's great sacrifice and life even as we look past our time on this earth to the glory that will be ahead.  What is so marvelous is that the vision we have in Christ is sure and doesn't depend on us!
              Lastly it is very clear in Hebrews 11 that God wants it plain that, while He uses His people, it is His might and not our faith that accomplishes.  Sarah's plan to produce a son failed and God waited past her childbearing years to fulfill His promise. He caused Gideon's battle to be won with only 300 fighting men against a large army to show it was His hand the battle was won. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry land as God held back the waters.  What peace it gives me to know that Jesus is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2)!  There is great security when my faith feels weak in knowing that I don't hope in my hope or my faith, but instead I hope in God who gives me that hope and faith.
              So, while my "What now?" question in my "new normal" is not specifically answered in Hebrews 11, I am encouraged to follow the examples in that passage and run the race with endurance.  For me - today - all I know is that means striving to reflect Christ every day in my thoughts, words and actions.  As He himself set the prime example before me, I pray daily that He will help me to befriend the unfriendly, help the weak, love the unlovely, give mercy to those in need walking beside those who suffer greater burdens than mine helping them to carry their load.

John Calvin says we should pray to God that He "would increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and that he would even raise it up when it is overthrown."

"The practical belief of the existence of God, as revealed in the word, would be a powerful awe-band upon our souls, a bridle of restraint to keep us from sin, and a spur of constraint to put us upon all manner of gospel obedience." (Matthew Henry on Hebrews 11)

Now, the metaphor of a race is often to be found in Scripture; but here it means not any kind of race, but a running contest, which is wont to call forth the greatest exertions. The import of what is said then is, that we are engaged in a contest, even in a race the most celebrated, that many witnesses stand around us, that the Son of God is the umpire who invites and exhorts us to secure the prize, and that therefore it would be most disgraceful for us to grow weary or inactive in the midst of our course. And at the same time the holy men whom he mentioned, are not only witnesses, but have been associates in the same race, who have beforehand shown the way to us; and yet he preferred calling them witnesses rather than runners, in order to intimate that they are not rivals, seeking to snatch from us the prize, but approves to applaud and hail our victory; and Christ also is not only the umpire, but also extends his hand to us, and supplies us with strength and energy; in short, he prepares and fits us to enter on our course, and by his power leads us on to the end of the race. (John Calvin on Hebrews 11)


Friday, February 12, 2016

Cloudy Days

Ten years ago today my husband, surrounded by family and friends singing hymns and praising God, went Home to glory after a three year battle with lung cancer. Five years ago this month I was going through chemotherapy for the first occurrence of my cancer.  More recently I have  had good friends in the church body and family members with various afflictions and needs, some very overwhelming. One day recently these thoughts were weighing on my heart and mind and I thought how appropriate it was that the skies were gloomy and the clouds dark and ominous!  A few hours later, however, there were rays of the sun shining from behind the dark clouds.   By the afternoon the clouds were a wondrous sight to behold with some settling in a misty haze close to the earth while others were high in the sky. The colors in the clouds were indescribable with a multitude of different colors (some of which I wouldn't even know what to name) and varying shades of each!  It gave me pause to contemplate in wonder the Creator of those clouds.  Searching Scripture I realized that these clouds, and what God has to say about them, speak a great deal of theology.

Truly the heavens do indeed "declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Psalm 19). Nahum 1: 3 says, "His way is in the whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." The Psalms talk about God speaking to His people, Israel, in the cloudy pillar (99:7), making the clouds His chariot (104:3) and giving the clouds as a covering (105:39).  If the clouds are but the dust of God's feet, what does that say of the magnificence of the God behind them as well as how obscure  His ways are to our vision and understanding.  C. H. Spurgeon said, "Any more than an ant can ask an eagle why it flies in the sky can we look at the clouds and ask why God does what He does." What do we have to fear as we see great clouds when we know how small they are in God's view?  What cloud hanging over our heads is so big that we fear it when God Himself rides in the clouds above?  Those are the same clouds that can't hold back the sun!

Those clouds that seem so gray yet shine forth the rays of  the sun also bring us showers of rain to sustain us.  God places in those same clouds the rainbow which is His eternal reminder of His covenant promise to us (Genesis 9:16).  As William Cowper says in one of my favorite hymns,
             
              Ye fearful saints fresh courage take;
              The clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy,
              And shall break in blessings on your head.
              (God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform)

That being the case, should we not welcome everything God sends our way; and though we may fear as we enter into the cloud, believe in faith we will find God there where we will hear no voice but that of steadfast love! Whatever the cloud, the voice of the Lord speaks in it--"Fear not! when you pass through the water, I will be with you" (Isaiah 43:2) and "I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). Our believing souls will be brought into perfect peace as our  faith anchors itself on God--the tempest will subside one day, and there will be a great calm.

To all my dear friends who are presently overwhelmed by the clouds of affliction or trials of whatever sort in your lives, may you remember today, the One who sits on His throne Whose feet stir up the dust of the clouds!  May you remember that He is the one who orders those same clouds and will also make them your sustenance from which come showers of blessing.  May you rest in the "shadow of His wings until these calamities have passed by," crying out to the One who "performs all things" for you (Psalm 57: 1-2).
 

"I Sing the Almighty Power of God" by Isaac Watts
              There's not a plant or flower below but makes your glories known;
              And clouds arise and tempests flow by order from your throne;
              While all that borrows life from you is ever in your care,
              And everywhere that man can be, you, God are present there.


Isaac Watts
              COME, we that love the Lord,
                And let our joys be known;
              Join in a song with sweet accord,
                And thus surround the throne.
             
              The God that rules on high,
                And thunders when He please,
              That rides upon the stormy sky,
               And manages the seas . . .
             
              This awesome God is ours,
                Our Father and our love;
              He shall send down His heavenly powers
                To carry us above.
             
              And here—before we rise
                To that immortal state—
              The thought of such a world of bliss
                Should constant joy create.
             
              God’s saints have ever found
                Glory begun below:
              That heavenly fruits on earthly ground
                From faith and hope may grow!

              

Friday, September 18, 2015

Joyful In My Barrel



Several months ago I developed severe pain shooting down my right leg.  The pain became constant and so severe that I was convinced the sarcoma had returned. Subsequent scans showed a slipped disc in my low back.  What the scans did not show was a return of the cancer!  What a relief that was!  It caused me to stop and think, however, how much of life with cancer is waiting; whether waiting for its return or waiting for a year to go by without it's return.  There are days since that I have little pain and days when I have severe pain.  Despite not living in fear of the sarcoma, every pain becomes a question: is this just the normal ache and pain of a rapidly getting older body or is it a return of the cancer?  Statistics predicting it will be back add to the constant feeling of waiting.

Lately as I have contemplated my journey with cancer as well as other hardships over the years in my life, I have thought of an analogy that, while definitely not perfect, has something to say about where I am today.  In a certain sense I think we as Christians are like a person in a barrel floating on the ocean of life.  Each person's barrel is different as the sides and bottom are the circumstances specifically ordained by God to mold each into the likeness of Christ.  We fit tightly in the barrel and often the sides pushing in on us are difficult to bear.  Those sides change over time as God grows us and brings new circumstances our way.
             
If we choose to attempt to chip away at the inside of the barrel we run the risk of making a hole in which the ocean waters threaten to come in and overwhelm us.   If we attempt to escape the barrel we find ourselves floundering in the ocean waves.  If we focus on the sides of the barrel, we will become despondent.  Our only hope is to look up through the top of the barrel and see the almighty hand of the One who has ordained everything that happens in our life.  Our joy is to know that His purpose is to perfect us, and that He never fails to accomplish His purpose.  Our comfort is found in knowing that these hardships and difficulties are not obstacles but instruments in God's hands.
             
 My faith is being tested by this time of waiting.  I take hope in the fact that God's providence is not tested, but simply and wonderfully IS.  His providence is as an unmoving rock.  Tested is my faith to wait with absolute assurance that He will do only that which is good for His people and glorifying to Him.  It is rather ironic as all of us are in a waiting pattern, no one any less or more than myself, because we do not know the plans God has for us.  Cancer simply seems to make it more visible.  I've come to realize that the real focus should be, what will I do in this period of waiting. 
             
As I Peter 1 (quoted below) indicates, these trials (even the trial of waiting) are to test the genuineness of my faith and to purify it to the praise, glory and honor of Christ!  I'm told in Scripture to wait on the Lord and see that He is good.  As I wait I am convinced that the most blessed joy in my relationship with God has been, and is, grown in the soil of my deepest trials and struggles.  I have come to understand that these trials are instruments in God's hands and an opportunity to experience more of God's grace and spread it to those around me.  I am learning to stop focusing on the wait for the return of the cancer and instead wait with joyful expectation to see how God will work out these trials in my life.


I Peter 1: 3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

From a letter from the late Pastor Jack Miller in discussing our focus in life,
...there is nothing that can clear the vision faster than the discovery that all things are temporary and so am I.  So what I do with my life should center on working with matters that will remain unshaken at the return of the Lord Jesus.  Get a good view of the temporariness of life and - believe it or not- you will enjoy it more.  When we get our footsies so mired down in time that we think it is eternal, we become subject to all the ups and downs, the vagaries, of time.  Our loves are so easily disturbed because we are loving only what is changing and finally will be replaced altogether.  But to see this temporariness of  many of our dreams isn't bad.  We cannot remain adolescents forever.  God's will is for us to become adults, and the heart of being an adult is the capacity to put away the toys and put on the love and joy and peace of Christ.  The mind of Christ brings such quietness where otherwise the life would be ruled by discontent and all kinds of defenses and ambitions.
              But then Christ gives the surrendered Christian good dreams, beautiful visions of His glory working in lives, and gives us a simple trust that He will grant us the deepest desires of our hearts. (C. John Miller The Heart of a Servant)
             

Monday, June 1, 2015

What My Mother's Life Taught Me



Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
(Be Still My Soul verse 3 by Kathrina von Schlegel)

I am a very blessed woman to have been born to Arlena Mahaffy, my dear Mother who went Home to her Savior on April 30, 2015 after ninety-seven years on this earth.  When she departed I lost, not only my Mother, but a woman who had become one of my best friends.  The last few weeks as I have contemplated how much she has meant to me, I realized that the best way for me to honor her is to learn from her and follow as I can in her footsteps, as her footsteps definitely followed the Lord's.  Like no one else I have known on this earth, her life was about serving her Lord.

Chiefly she served Him by being selfless; giving of herself for others.  As a new wife many years ago, she gave up the life she had known, her family and friends to go with her husband to the depths of Africa where she served the people she came to love.  What was needed she cheerfully gave:  phonics charts for her husband to use as he put a language into writing, medical care which she learned as natives showed up with a variety of serious ailments, meals to any who dropped by and in endless other ways.  She gave up much to teach her seven children and several others.   When needed, she set up teaching curriculum for other missionaries.  Back in the states, she taught school to subsidize her husband's income never stopping fulfilling the responsibilities of a pastor's wife and a mother at the same time.  When a neighbor needed food, she was the one to bring a meal.  When visitors came to church they were always invited home for dinner.

She also served Him by keeping busy.  Mother believed with all her heart that for six days she was to work and then rest the seventh.  In all of my life I can never remember a time when she didn't fill her days with activities directed towards what she thought the Lord wanted her to do. Sometimes that meant spending extra time at school providing materials for a parent.   In her later years, despite often being very tired, it often meant  getting material together so that she could give her best when tutoring.  Sometimes that meant calling (or in her eighties and nineties e-mailing) lonely friends, friends she had been praying for or friends she had promised advice to.  It often meant staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning to complete the day's activities that she felt she needed to get done.  What she did, she believed in doing well.

Mother was uncomplaining despite often having what most of us would consider ample reason to complain.  On the mission field she did not complain about her encounters with deadly snakes and scorpions, bandits shooting over the house, backwards conditions for delivering her babies or having more on her plate than she could do.   As she aged her vision deteriorated along with her heart and her mobility.  Though legally blind late in her life I never once heard her complain about that or her other health ailments.  

She was quite the prayer warrior.  There was no need for Mother to keep a list of those she had promised to pray for.  She had the list in her head and in her heart and would not go to bed before she had completed praying for those in need every day.  Frequently when I happened to get up at 1 or 2 in the morning I would see her light on and find her still in her chair praying for those whom she had promised to pray before allowing herself to sleep. 

Those are just a few of the godly characteristics I saw in Mother.  She was a loving, gracious, merciful and determined woman who delighted to do for others as she did for the Lord.  Many have risen up and called her blessed.  Many are the lives she has touched around the world and is still touching.   As I ponder how to be more like her I have asked myself how she became who she was and I think it is primarily because she saturated herself in the Word.  Even when her eyesight was failing her she painstakingly read the Bible with her magnifiers.  She had rare time for TV or radio, but she always had time to listen to her Talking Bible.  Most nights she went to bed with it being read to her.  During the day as she worked she often had a sermon being played explaining parts of the Bible.  When she woke up in the night she would make herself work on Bible memory bemoaning the fact that in her nineties she couldn't retain as much as she did in her younger years.

I miss my dear Mother and have determined to work harder in my life to emulate some of her wonderful godly qualities.  Oh, that God would use me as He used her on this earth!  What a wonderful thing that would be!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How To Prepare For Death



One of the dearest ladies I know, my precious Mother, at 97 years young became suddenly ill a few weeks ago and was told that medically there was nothing more that could be done for her.  This is a vital lady who was tutoring the week before.  My Mother's life has been an example to me of what a woman of God should be like:  she is gracious, loving, industrious and so many more things.  She lives today, but does not know what tomorrow will bring.  She would love to continue longer on this earth doing the things she enjoys, but is accepting of whatever God chooses for her. 
             
      With my Mother's poor prognosis and my living with cancer we have had many good conversations in the past few weeks, as well as done a great deal of reading on the subject of dying and death.  I asked Mother to tell me what she would say about how to prepare for death and this wise woman shared her thoughts with me.  She asked me to share with her friends and mine what we discussed.   

      She makes a point first of saying that dying is not like birth, a one-time event, but requires life-long preparation.  A Christian's life should be spent living as though they could be called to die at any time.  Well before a person dies they need to ask, "Am I prepared to die?"  You need to think on the mistakes made through life, she says, the sins committed against God and the life not lived for Him and you need to repent.  Constantly evaluate your life in view of Scripture and ask if you are living Christ-like or living for yourself.  Then you need to repent to God Almighty and take great hope in the fact that it is not your faith, your life, your determination that will attain Heaven for you, but it is only the blood of Jesus Christ shed for the sins of His people.  Several friends have told Mother recently that they didn't doubt she was headed to Heaven because she was such a saint.  She is quick to respond that when one is dead in sins, one can't be saintly enough to be alive in Christ!  You can rest in that great hope only if you are His child, knowing that God loves to save His people and then nothing can shake you out of the palm of His hand. 
  
            You must be willing, she says, to accept death because God calls us to die as much as He calls us to live.  Even in dying we do it for Him.  Remember that though the process of death may be difficult the end result is an eternity singing God's praises in a place where there are no more tears, no more sorrow and no more pain (Revelation 21: 4).  She says that she knows Christ will escort her soul to be with Him when He is ready and that she has nothing to fear.

              When death comes close, don't be frightened she says.  Remember the Shepherd who walks through the "valley of the shadow of death" with His people (Psalm 23) but she is quick to point out that you must not forget that this assurance only applies if He is your shepherd.  Take great comfort that He will not take you one moment before your work for Him on earth is done.  Pray.  Take your fears, your pain, your weakness and your sins to the One who loves you with a love that "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from."  (Romans 8: 38)  Read His word and find comfort.  Read what those who have gone on before have had to say (she highly recommends a book we have been reading, O Love That Will Not Let me Go;  Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God edited by Nancy Guthrie).  Call on brothers and sisters in Christ to walk the path with you and to fervently pray for you. 

            A friend of my Mother's, a 102 year old pastor, sent her an e-mail the other day that I hope he doesn't mind my sharing.  The subject line was "God speaking," and the body of the e-mail said, "'I will never leave you, nor forsake you' Hebrews 13:5"  What an apt message when a Christian faces death.  It can be said no better! Thank you for your gracious, loving prayers for Mother and Myself! They are, as Andrew Murray says, the empty hands of faith which reach up to our loving heavenly Father to receive His blessings to bring down to earth--your prayers have obtained many, many blessings for us! May God richly bless you all!

     Below is a quote by Richard Baxter from Directions for a Peaceful Death.  Mother was enriched by his message and encourages you to read more of it in the book noted above or on-line at http://www.puritansermons.com/baxter/baxter17.htm.

 Remember whose messenger sickness is, and who it is that calls you to die. It is he, that is the Lord of all the world, and gave us the lives which he takes from us; and it is he, that must dispose of angels and men, of princes and kingdoms, of heaven and earth; and therefore there is no reason that such worms as we should desire to be excepted. You cannot deny him to be the disposer of all things, without denying him to be God: it is he that loves us, and never meant us any harm in any thing that he has done to us; that gave the life of his Son to redeem us; and therefore thinks not life too good for us. Our sickness and death are sent by the same love that sent us a Saviour, and sent us the powerful preachers of his word, and sent us his Spirit, and secretly and sweetly changed our hearts, and knit them to himself in love; which gave us a life of precious mercies for our souls and bodies, and has promised to give us life eternal; and shall we think, that he now intends us any harm? Cannot he turn this also to our good, as he has done many an affliction which we have complained about?
Look by faith to your dying, buried, risen, ascended, glorified Lord. Nothing will more powerfully overcome both the poison and the fears of death, than the believing thoughts of him that has triumphed over it. Is it terrible as it separates the soul from the body? So it did by our Lord, who yet overcame it. Is it terrible as it lays the body in the grave? So it did by our Saviour; though he saw not corruption, but quickly rose by the power of his Godhead. He died to teach us believingly and boldly to submit to death. He was buried, to teach us not overmuch to fear a grave. He rose a again to conquer death for us, and to assure those who rise to newness of life, that they shall be raised at last by his power unto glory; and being made partakers of the first resurrection, the second death shall have no power over them. He lives as our head, that we might live by him; and that he might assure all those that are here risen with him, and seek first the things that are above, that though in themselves they are dead, "yet their life is hid with Christ in God; and when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory," Col. 3:1,2,4,5. What a comfortable word is that, John 14:19, "Because I live, you shall live also." Death could not hold the Lord of life; nor can it hold us against his will, who has the "keys of death and hell," Rev. 1:18. He loves every one of his sanctified ones much better than you love an eye, or a hand, or any other member of your body, which you are not willing to lose if you are able to save it. When he ascended, he left us that message full of comfort for his followers, John 20:17, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God." Which, with these two following, I would have written before me on my sick bed. "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be," John 12:26. And, "Verily, I say unto you, to-day shall you be with me in paradise," Luke 23:43. Oh what a joyful thought should it be to a believer, to think when he is dying, that he is going to his Saviour, and that our Lord is risen and gone before us, to prepare a place for us, and take us in season to himself, John 14:2-4. "As you believe in God, believe thus in Christ; and then your hearts will be less troubled," ver. 1. It is not a stranger that we talk of to you; but your Head and Saviour, that loves you better than you love yourselves, whose office it is there to appear continually for you before God, and at last to receive your departing souls; and into his hand it is, that you must then commend them, as Stephen did, Acts 7:59.