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Doubters and Skeptics Take Note

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankel argued that the “loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect on man.”  As a result of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankel contended that when a person no longer possesses a motive for living, no future to look forward toward, that person will curl up in a corner and die. “Any attempt to restore man’s inner strength in camp,” he wrote, “had first to succeed in showing him some future goal.”

For Isaiah of the exile (Isaiah 40), the rise of Cyrus to power was a sign of God work in the world preparing to fulfill his promises.  Many of the Judean’s refused to believe that God could be at work through the actions of a pagan idol worshipper like Cyrus, but the prophet knew that God could work for good in any circumstance and through any person.  Despite the darkness and despair all around him, the prophet proclaimed a message of hope because he knew that God’s activities in the world filled the future some astonishing potential.  God was on the verge of fulfilling his promises.  The signs were evident for all people of faith to see.  The future was filled with wonderful possibilities.  God was about to rebuild the nation.  The temple would be restored.  There was going to be a revival in the land.  The prophet invited his hearers to enter a new reality based upon the hopeful promises of God.  The situation may have appeared hopeless for the people, but true reality should not be based upon how things appear, but rather upon God’s promises and active presence.

Now let me suggest there is an important lesson here for the churches in 2011.  Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the challenges of the present (like budget, resources, membership decline, complex social issues) that we find ourselves cut off from God’s promises and incapable of seeing visions of what God is doing in His church and in the world. A congregation seeking to be faithful cannot wallow in its present.  It must trust in the provisions of the Trinity and move forward into the future with faith.  My friends, if we trust in the Triune God’s promises and we believe t God holds the future in his hand, then we can live in the present with a sense of comfort and  hope.

The good news of Isaiah 40 is this:  “God is about to make an appearance!”  All you doubters and skeptics take note: Nothing is impossible for our God.  The  wilderness of our existence may appear a little rough at times, but God is coming to smooth out the wrinkles and soothe our sorrow.  “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

 

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