A team of botanists were exploring the Alps in search of rare flowers. One scientist spotted a beautiful specimen in a deep ravine. The chasm was too tight for a grown man. Just then a young boy walked by. The scientists asked the boy if they could tie a rope around him, and lower him over the edge to collect the flower. The dangerous challenge excited the young man. He said, “Wait here, I’ll be back.” He returned with an old man and said, “I will go, but this man must hold the rope.” They asked, “Why him?” The boy replied, “He’s my dad!”
It’s amazing the risks you’ll take and the remarkable things you can accomplish when someone you love and trust goes with you. That is the truth that emboldened the early disciples. Jesus gave them the most demanding task ever given, but then He made a promise that changed everything.
He said, “19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
The disciples were few in number, weak in understanding, short in talents, and full of imperfections, but they changed the world because they trusted in the presence and power of an Almighty God.
The first thing Jesus did after choosing these twelve men was to send them out to proclaim the good news to Israel. Shockingly, He commanded them not to take any money or food. He wanted them to learn that success was not due to their resources. “Just do the work, and I’ll make sure you have what you need.”
They eagerly returned to tell Jesus what God did through them, but then the multitudes came. Jesus taught them all day, and the people became hungry. The disciples faced the issue of insufficient resources again. “How can we feed all these people?” they thought. Jesus showed them, “With Me you are more than sufficient for the task.” He took their inadequate offering and made it more than enough to meet the need.
That night Jesus put the disciples in a boat. The water was the place where this bunch of fishermen felt most capable, but the winds blew, the waves swelled, and they thought they would die. All of a sudden Jesus showed up, and with one word displayed once again He was sufficient to supply their needs.
They had insufficient resources and inadequate power, but Jesus taught them, “Just do the work. I’ll make sure you have what you need.” Their first three classes in Discipleship 101 could be entitled, “I Am with You!” (see Mark 6:7-44). And with that promise they changed their world.
His promise will make you courageous. Does your faith ever drive you to take a risk? Probably not if you don’t believe God is with you. Yet, God always blesses those who trust Him enough to follow His word even when it appears risky.
Confidence in the Lord’s presence launches the people of God into deeper waters of faith. Abraham obeyed the life changing command to “go” because he trusted in God’s promises, “I will show you…I will make you…I will bless you.” (Genesis 12:1-3). Reluctant Moses delivered a bunch of slaves because he believed the promise, “I will certainly be with you.” (Exodus 3:12). Joshua conquered a vastly superior enemy trusting in the promise, “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). The youth of Jeremiah, the timidity of Gideon, the suffering of Paul, all powerfully overcame because each relied on the promise, “I will be with you.” (Jeremiah 1:9; Judges 6:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
Do you think it’s possible we focus so much on our work, that we forget the necessity of God’s work? Do we look so hard into Scripture for our responsibility, that we fail to see God’s activity? Do we set our hope on our efforts, rather than trusting God to give the increase? When you believe the promises of God you have a courageous faith.
His promise will make you pray. If your goal is to move a molehill, you have little incentive to pray. You can do that with human effort. But the mountainous goals of Scripture drive you to your knees to seek God’s help. A bold faith accepts the big challenges of God. Those challenges stimulate prayer, and prayer results in the powerful help of God. John Newton wrote,
You are coming to your King,
Large petitions with you bring;
For his grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.
His promise will give you peace. Our world is full of uncertainties and our bodies are weighed down with weaknesses. However, knowing that the God of Heaven and earth is with us provides a tremendous peace. It enabled the Psalmist to write, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 116:8). In uncertain times you can, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
His promise will help you face death. No believer ever dies alone. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Ultimately God is asking us to live the rest of our lives in Christ the way we started it. We began our walk in Christ by obeying the Lord and trusting in Him to do what we could not—forgive our sins. And now, we continue to surrender ourselves to His will and trust He will do immeasurably more than we can do ourselves (Eph. 3:20).
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
Often our study of Biblical narratives suffers from what Robert Deffinbaugh calls a “Pious Bias.” We try to make the human characters into spiritual giants. We infuse the characters with godly motives which arise from our imaginations, and we carefully excuse any moral shortcomings in their behavior. However, in elevating the human characters we often eclipse the activity of God (see Daniel 1).
Perhaps no Biblical narrative suffers from this “Pious Bias” more than the story of Esther. The Jewish characters are often praised as models virtue, even though some of their behavior is deplorable. The end result is we think the story of Esther is about the greatness of the people, when in reality it is about the gracious provision of God.
Nathan Ward in his book, “God Unseen” provides a beautiful prism through which to see God in the story of Esther. If you think Esther is simply secular history, this book will challenge your premise. If you think Esther is for woman’s studies about beauty and courage, this book will help you see God is the central figure.
“God Unseen” will help you assemble the puzzling story of Esther to see God behind the scenes. Nathan Ward accomplishes this by introducing the student to the historical, narrative, structural, and Biblical imagery that weave together to make Esther a book about God, even though the name of God is not found in its pages. I recommend it for your study.
God With Us…the Message of the Gospel
The first name Jesus is given in the gospel of Matthew is, ““Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23). The last thing Jesus told His disciples in the gospel of Matthew was, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). When Jesus ascended into heaven it was not to leave us, but to assume the authority with which He could help us. “God with us always!” is the message of the gospel.