August is almost over. Where did the time go anyway?! We are in what is known as the doldrums of summer. Here in Phoenix there are actually a couple of days where the forecast is below 100 degrees!! Only in Phoenix do we celebrate when it is 100 degrees! We have set records for the highest low temperature, the most days over 115 and the most days over 110. We continue to fight the good fight against COVID-19. We wear masks even in the heat. And we have washed our hands more in the last six months than in the last year. We have persevered, and we continue to move forward.
Our worship life has continued, even in quarantine… or maybe especially in quarantine. Even when we could not gather in person, we still gathered around our technology and worshiped. I give thanks for our tech folks, especially Emily who spends hours each week making sure our recording is good to go. We have persevered.
And this family of faith… has been faithful. Every year, when we prepare the budget, we budget for low giving and attendance during these months. Anyone who has the means and a place to go leaves the heat of the valley. Who wouldn’t… right?!! This year was no different. But because of your perseverance and faithfulness, our numbers are less worse than we planned. And for that we are so very thankful.
Perseverance is a gift God gives us, and scripture is full of verses… encouraging verses about perseverance. We persevere in all kinds of circumstances. Some through loneliness, others through health challenges. Some of us persevere when our relationships hit a rough spot and others when their kids have challenges. We have brothers and sisters all over this country who are persevering. California is on fire and once again people have had to evacuate. Hurricane Laura has wreaked havoc in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and several other states. We are bone dry… a non-soon people say. There are COVID outbreaks here and there and people hunker down once again. School kids are trying hard to learn online and teachers are learning more about technology than some of them ever wanted to know. And we persevere.
We read in Exodus 18:23 these words, “God will direct you; you will be able to endure.” None of us travels this life journey alone. Not only has He promised to never leave us or forsake us, but He brings people into our lives to travel with. The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about perseverance. Listen to what he says in 2 Corinthians 4:8. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Some of us may be at the end of our ropes… or at least it feels like it. Perhaps we feel like we can’t take one more step forward. We are just done. But with God on our side, nothing can break us. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.
Paul reminds of this, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. His strength is made perfect in our weakness, and the weaker we are as humans the stronger God is in our lives. God does not set us up for failure. He may stretch us a bit now and then, but He will not give us something to do that we will not be able to complete. However, we have to trust Him and let Him help us. God will give us the strength to persevere in whatever is set before us.
The writer of 1 Chronicles tells us, “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually.” We have much to persevere through these days but if there is one thing we cannot let go of; it is turning our attention towards the Lord. He is here for everything in our lives and we can call on Him anytime. And this is because of love. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7. This isn’t just about our love for one another. It is also about God’s love for us. He continues to love us in spite of ourselves… our impatience and fears and frustrations. God is there. Jesus warned us we would have troubles, and He was right. Not just troubles with those who do not believe but troubles in the world.
Paul says this…”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5. Never have we been promised that believing would make our lives smooth sailing. The promise has always been that He would walk with us through all the good, the bad and the ugly. And because of Him we can persevere. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need Jesus, and He will be here… just like He promised.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W