In warning us against losing heart, the writer of Hebrews urged Christians to 'exhort one another daily' (Heb. 3:13)
By any standards, last week was a demanding one. First, there was a backlog of timesheets to complete and I was expected to attend a virtually endless number of on-line and face-to-face meetings.
On Wednesday, I also had to travel to Gothenburg, Sweden for a project planning workshop. The next day, I was on a three hour train journey to Stockholm to explain the benefits of our company's software to an audience of 50.
Straight after, I was back on the train to Gothenburg to catch an evening flight back to the UK.
In the midst of all this, there were inevitable panics because, in the midst of hurrying, I'm often forgetful and mislay things.
The overrun of my phone calls meant that I could have missed my train to the airport. As I stepped out of the door to walk to the station, only then did I rememeber the one thing which I needed to travel abroad...My passport!
Also, as I went to check in at Gothenburg airport, I checked all my pockets and couldn't find my passport. As beads of perspiration broke out on my forehead, I walked back towards the bus terminal and checked my pockets once again. It was in my back pocket and I eventually made it home.
The reality is that the Christian life is full of unexpected events and unitended outcomes. St. Paul explained that he was in a constant state of uncertainty about life: 'For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.' (2 Cor. 7:5) Again, he wrote: 'I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers' (2 Cor. 11;26)
The Christian life is characterised by uncertain circumstances. God does not guarantee that we will be insulated from harm and danger. However, as I learnt this week, He does promise that, if we rely upon Him, our challenges will not overtake us.
St. Paul expressed it beautifully when He wrote: 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.' (2 Cor. 4:7 - 12)
The only way that people can see that the power sustaining us is from far above is when our hardships force them to recognise our weakness and the Lord's all-sufficiency in our adversities.
The glory of God is revealed when our human condition has nothing of which it can boast.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.