What’s Following You?

On Tuesday of this week, I walked the hallway of three different hospitals. My first stop took me to the room of a man who is ravaged by cancer.  I saluted him earlier this year when he was the Parade Marshall of the Celebration of Freedom Parade.  Will’s heroic deeds during World War II helped to pay for the freedoms I enjoy today.

My second stop took me to the room of a man I’ve know all of my life. I’ll always be grateful for his friendship and his help.  Johnny was one of the first people to come to my house when I was a 12 year old boy and my dad had just been killed in an oil field accident.

My third stop was the most difficult because it took me to the room of a blonde-haired and blue-eyed little girl.  At the age of 2 1/2 years she is fighting an inoperable case of cancer, a neuroblastoma.

Yesterday, I conducted the funeral of a man, I worked with my last two summers of high school.  Ralph’s face was usually marked with an ear to ear grin, and I will remember the mischievous sparkle that colored his eyes.

The sadness that has filled the lives of each of these people and their families can only be tempered by the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  A foreshadow of that hope is see in the verses of Psalm 23.

If you feel like you are living under a cloud of despair, and walking a path full of worries and problems, you might find some comfort in the words of this Psalm and the declaration of David: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (23:6).

I think it is important to note that David did not say that every waking moment of your life will be filled with good times and happy days.  He did say the goodness of God and His mercy are resources that are available when needed.

Unless you have given some consideration to the meaning of mercy and its close cousin, grace (goodness), you may think they are synonymous.  To help you distinguish one from the other, let me define them:

  • Grace is when God gives you something you do not deserve.  Salvation is a good example of this.  I do not know of anyone who really deserves it.
  • Mercy is when God does not give a you what you deserve.  When a righteous God judges sinful man, He can either punish him or extend His goodness and mercy.

I’ve heard people say:  I just want what I deserve and what I have coming to me.  Not me, I want the mercy of God.

David said the mercy of God is a given, and we see this in the word surely.  It isn’t a hope so or maybe so proposition: It’s a guarantee from God.  In the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the prophet said:  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed; they are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

In the shepherd/sheep analogy of Psalm 23, we have the Good Shepherd who leads us, and guarding the back of the flock are His two sheep dogs.   One is named Goodness and the other is called Mercy.

Remember the promise of this Psalm:  Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.  Think of Goodness and Mercy as your lap-dogs who are just a whistle away.

The Human Element

As I was doing a mental thumb-through of some biblical stories, the human element was center stage time and time again.  In this human element, we can find encouragment for the daily trials of life.

As most of us know, life can be full of challenges.  The next time you are faced with one, think about Moses.  He had the challenge of leading over a million people out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and to the promised land.  Throughout this difficult journey, we see that provisions were provided for each step he took.

Has anyone ever betrayed you?  Do you still have a desire to even the score?  If so, you might identify with the story of Joseph.  He was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and imprisioned.  Joseph’s faith never wavered, and it was God who evened the score.

How about disappointment?  Have you ever been disappointed by some person or some thing?  The air was full of disappointment on that long-ago Friday when Jesus died.  All of the hopes and dreams of the disciples were focused on this radical, new-found Messiah.  Some of His followers had been ostracized by society and others had been shunned by their families.  And now,  their dream had become a nightmare on the cruel cross of Calvary.

This disappointment had caused some of disciples to leave Jerusalem.  As they walked the dusty road to Emmaus, heavy hearts and a spirit of dispair overcame them.  They thought their lives were changed forever because Jesus had died.

They were right, but only half right.  Thinking the play was over they left at intermission, and they missed the final act.  A few days later the disappointment of these Christians vanished with the appearance of the resurrected Saviour.

The next time life starts to kick you and drag you down, remember there is a very human element in the pages of the Bible.  Remember that the God who did great things back then, is the same God who is at work now.  He has promised us the present of His presence in our darkest hour.

I hope this is enough to keep you thinking.