The True Meaning of Hard Work

Ecclesiastes 2:20-21, 24-26 “So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune…A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.”

The writer of these words (likely King Solomon) understood the truth that there is no U-Haul behind the hearse. Ancient Pharaohs may have been buried with their royal treasures, even food for the next life. Vikings were buried in their ships with their weapons. You may be buried in your best dress or favorite suit. But all these things must still be left behind, together with the other things that don’t make it into the tomb. No matter how expensive, how useful, or how enjoyable they are, we don’t get to keep the fruits of our hard work forever.

Despairing over our work signals that we are ready to give up on these things to do so much for us. We might even say that it is the logical conclusion. In some cases despair is a sin. Martin Luther says that when we pray, “And lead us not into temptation,” we are asking God to “guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh do not deceive us or lead us into despair…”

But when God is using it to rearrange our priorities, it is a wholesome thing. When it is teaching us not to put so much trust in our human efforts or perishable earthly possessions, he is blessing us. Despair hurts, but so does pulling an infected tooth. There is a reason that the Bible describes repentance–and confessing our false hope in hard work and possessions is certainly repentance–as a kind of death. It hurts. But the rotted tooth needs to go, the sinful nature needs to die with its evil desires, and we need to despair of the idea that there is any lasting comfort to be found in our earthly labor and its results.

Solomon did not intend to discourage work altogether. He simply wants to help us keep it in its place. Has it kept us clothed and fed? Do we have enough for today? Do we have a way to serve God and serve our neighbor? Then our labor has done all God expects it to do.

But how can we be satisfied with that? “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness.” Such a satisfied and happy life is a gift from God. He gives it “to the man who pleases him.” But doesn’t that exclude us, since instead of pleasing God, we have been trying to replace him with our work and with our things?

No, pleasing God is another place where our hard work does not apply. If we think working to build a lasting legacy, or have our daily bread, is hard, that would be just a drop in the ocean compared to the effort required to secure God’s smile. We could work from now until eternity and never do enough to secure forgiveness for even a single sin.

The one who pleases God is the one who has put his faith in someone else’s work–the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ faultless work led the Father to say at his baptism, and again at his transfiguration, “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well-pleased.” Jesus’ death on the cross was the pleasing sacrifice that pays for all our sins. Jesus did the hard work of fulfilling God’s demands. Jesus did the hard work of dying the death that sin demands. So it is that pleasing God is not our hard work for him. It is Jesus’ hard work gifted to us by faith.

More than anything else, that truth transforms our work. God has already given us all we need. We can trust him to bless our work the way he determines will serve us best. We can work hard, not to get, but to give–give him our best. That’s a joy. That’s a satisfying life. When we are satisfied by results like this, then God has shown us the true meaning of hard work.

Your Servant Is Listening

1 Samuel 3:9-10 “So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”

“Speak, for your servant is listening” is a refreshing response from Samuel. God’s very first words for Samuel were going to include some unpleasant news. The Lord was about to bring his judgments against the family of Samuel’s friend and teacher Eli. But Samuel understands the right attitude of God’s children to God’s word. There is not a hint of Samuel wanting to debate the Lord, as though Samuel were his equal, or even his superior. “Lord, let’s discuss these ideas of yours. Why don’t you sit down and let me tell you what makes sense.” He doesn’t try to offer the Lord advice.

No, Samuel is merely a servant, who is listening. It is not a servant’s place to lecture his master, nor to follow his own ideas. It’s not a servant’s place to search for new and different meanings for his master’s words, to fit them to his own preferences, so that he does not have to believe or do what they plainly say. A servant has set aside his own ideas. He listens. He believes. He obeys.

Why? Because those same words have won us as his servants. He doesn’t drive us to serve him with threats. He woos us to service with his promises. For Samuel, living at the tabernacle, the daily sacrifices were another word. They introduced him to a Master who would not make us pay for our own sins. He is the Master who provides the way out himself, because he loves us.

For us, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the dead communicate the same thing. We have a Master who gave his own life to pay for our sins. We have a Master whose love for us has won our trust. When his word comes calling, we are his servants, who listen, believe, and obey.

God was on speaking terms with Samuel. Though his means are different, he is still on speaking terms with you and me. That is not a burden. It is a privilege. Listen, when his word comes calling.

His Word Finds Us

1 Samuel 3:2-8 “One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.”

 Many important characters of the Bible received messages from the Lord in the middle of the night–Abraham, Jacob, Solomon, Daniel, Joseph, Paul. Maybe it doesn’t strike us as unusual that God’s word came calling on Samuel after he had called it a day and gone to bed.

But it does say something to us about who was looking for whom, doesn’t it. It’s not that Samuel was looking for a message from the Lord. Samuel was going to bed. The Lord was looking for Samuel. He was choosing him to hear his message and carry out a special purpose. It is another example of his grace that the Lord comes looking for us this way.

He made the same point through Isaiah: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” (Isaiah 65:1) Jesus impressed this on his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) The hymn Amazing Grace celebrates it, too: “I once was lost, but now am found.” We are found, not because we searched for God, but because God found us.

His voice didn’t speak to you and me audibly, directly, out of the darkness. But the Lord still went looking for us, because he had chosen us to be his hearers. His word came calling through parents, friends, an evangelist, teachers, or a pastor. There are many people he could have chosen to hear him. But he must have wanted you, because here you are today, reading what he has to say.

His purpose in choosing Samuel was a vital one. At the end of this chapter we read, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.” Samuel was going to be God’s man to lead this nation to a more faithful walk with God. He was going to anoint the first two kings of Israel. In that way God was using him to set the stage for the future King of kings, the Savior King whose death on a cross would defeat Satan and set us free from sin and hell. God needed Samuel to pay close attention to his word, if he was going to serve the purpose for which he was being called.

God’s purpose for choosing you and me may not look so impressive at first. It is highly unlikely that the entire Christian world will be reading about our service to God’s plans for generations to come. But we were still chosen to be holy and blameless, because Jesus’ blood has washed all our sins away (Ephesians 1). We are still a chosen people so that we can declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2). Jesus still calls us the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Hearing God’s word is still important if we are going to carry out the purpose for which he came looking for us.

The Word Becomes Rare

1 Samuel 3:1 “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”

When Samuel says that the word of the Lord was rare, he is not noting a lack of Bibles, or even preachers. His Bible consisted of 6 books, not 66 books as it does today. As important as those words were, most people did not expect to have their own copies. Still, it was not difficult for people to have a working knowledge of the contents of those books if they desired. Samuel was learning from Eli. The opportunity was there for those who wanted to know.

But the Lord had much more to tell his people than those 6 books contained. Through Moses he had promised to continue to send them prophets. They would receive his word more or less directly from him and pass it along to the people. This went on for thousands of years. The author of Hebrews notes: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways…” He may operate differently today, but we have his entire message in writing, and almost all his work in fulfillment.

At the time of Samuel, God wasn’t talking much. Why? You know how frustrating and irritating it is to talk to someone who doesn’t listen. Maybe you can tell by the lack of eye-contact. Their eyes wander while you to talk to them. Maybe you can tell by awkward silences, or strange responses to something you have said on the telephone. Maybe it’s because they don’t do what you ask, and are even unaware that you asked. Wives, parents, teachers–you know what I am talking about.

For hundreds of years Israel hadn’t been listening to the Lord. Samuel was the last of the judges to lead Israel. The book of Judges describes the times this way, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Finally, the Lord stopped talking. He stopped sending prophets. If the people were going to do their own thing, he would let them see how that worked out for them. His word became rare. There were not many visions.

Does that sound scary to you? It should. It is hard to imagine a more severe judgment. Calling God’s word “rare” reminds us not only that it became scarce. It is precious, like a rare jewel, or coin, or antique. Faith comes from hearing the message. Without the word there can be no faith, no life, no salvation. The word becoming rare is like water becoming rare, or air becoming rare. Without the word, our souls, our spirits, will surely die.

Are our times so different from Samuel’s? “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Even professed Christians find themselves putting their own ideas ahead of God’s word. Even churches deny, overlook, or criticize what God has to say about sex and marriage, riches, the only way to heaven, men and women, or how he made us. Eighty percent of our American neighbors don’t consider God’s word important enough to attend worship on any given weekend. Should we, then, be surprised if he decided to stop sending us preachers and teachers, if he let the Bible go silent among us, since so few want to take his word seriously anyway?

This is why it is exciting, and comforting, to see God’s word come calling on Samuel. The Lord was ending his silence, not because his people had changed, but because his love remained the same. He still wanted their souls to live. He still wanted their sins to be forgiven. He still wanted to tell them about Jesus and the wonderful things he was going to do for them.

And in this moment, in this place, he is not silent for us, either. His word has come calling on you and me. We have heard its call to repent of our sins. We have believed its promise that his grace knows no bounds and his forgiveness covers every sin. Let’s hear it while we can. Let’s share it so that its sweet voice does not become rare.

Well Fed

Ezekiel 34:26-27 “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers of blessings. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in the land.”

Our Good Shepherd pours down showers of blessings on his people. Those are not neutral, passive terms. Water is a powerful thing. It can carve a canyon out of rock. It can uproot trees and flatten buildings. It can turn a turbine and light a city. But its most amazing power is its power to support life. That power is present even in a gentle shower of rain. In the desert, a little rain can make the landscape come alive.

“Blessing” is likewise a powerful term. The Bible has a number of different words we translate as “bless.” Sometimes it means simply, “Speak well about someone.” When we bless God, that is what we are doing–we are praising him. Sometimes it refers to a state of happiness. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” in the Sermon on the Mount, he is saying that they are happy.

But when God blesses, as here, he is using his power to give success, prosperity, longevity, even life itself. When God blesses, things change. The situation improves. His people benefit. When God blesses, he is at work on our behalf.

What is that power our Lord uses to shower us with blessings, showers that make life fruitful and feed his people so well? When Jesus was sitting at the well of Jacob, talking to the woman from Sychar, he told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:10, 13-14). What is the life-giving water Jesus gave? Earlier in his book John says, “The Law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” God’s word of grace brings these blessings. It is the message that he loves us though our sins made us unlovely. He has saved us because we can’t save ourselves. It is the good news, the gospel, that is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. That gives life. That feeds faith. That makes things spiritually grow.

Then what happens? “The people will be secure in their land.” His sheep live in safety. Why? “The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops.” After World War I, much of Europe teetered on the brink of famine. In order to give people the illusion of having food, some bakeries substituted sawdust for flour in bread. The people felt full after eating, but they were still seriously undernourished.

Sometimes people eat the spiritual equivalent of sawdust. It gives them the illusion that they are spiritually fed. It may take the form of “God-talk” that is little more than sweet sentiments or speculation. It may be served as moral instruction, loads and loads of it. It doesn’t add strength; it just adds weight. Over time the burden becomes heavier, and heavier, and harder and harder to bear.

But where sins are regularly confessed and forgiven, where God’s grace in sending a Savior is sung and celebrated, where the cross and all it means is preached week in and week out, where Jesus himself regularly offers the forgiveness of sins in his supper, there God is pouring down his blessings. His sheep are being fed, and they are safe from spiritual famine.

That They May Live in Safety

Ezekiel 34:25 “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety.”

Ezekiel was not describing a problem with actual wild animals. Chapter 34 of his book is an extended parable in which the Lord portrays his people as sheep, and their leaders as unfaithful shepherds. He promises to gather his scattered sheep himself. He promises to send them his servant David–that’s Jesus– to tend them properly. Now he pictures the results of his good shepherding for us.

For centuries the wild beasts who attacked his people had been false prophets of one sort or another. Their message destroyed faith and murdered souls. Many of them promoted a religion that tossed out some part of God’s law. Some served Baal, whose service not only ignored the sixth commandment. It even incorporated sexual perversions into their worship rites. Others offered Molech, for whom parents murdered their own children.

Even worse were the prophets who claimed to be speaking for the Lord. Most of them had chosen popularity and acceptance over truth. They would not confront the sins of God’s people. The preached a message that made the people feel good about themselves. “You haven’t done anything wrong. God is not angry about your behavior. You are his chosen people! You have no need to change. You have nothing to feel sorry about. Be at peace.”

The ironic thing about that kind of religion is that, for all its lawlessness, it is really a graceless religion. When people are told they are good enough just the way they are, the actually believe they can please God on their own. They don’t need grace. They don’t need forgiveness. They just need to make God happy. And since his law has been watered down, that isn’t hard to do.

The same wild beasts are at work today. Even inside Christian churches one finds “prophets” approving of sexual perversions, practicing them themselves, or proclaiming that it is acceptable to murder your own children before they are born. The worship of Baal and Molech continue in new clothes.

Others have chosen the path of popularity. They tell their people to feel good about themselves. “God will bless you if you just try a little harder. Here are a few secrets I have discovered to make it easier.” A part of us that wishes they were right. We envy their success. We may lack the courage to say they are wrong.

Yet what does the Lord promise his people through Ezekiel? “They may live in the desert and sleep in the forest in safety.” “They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid.” His sheep live in safety. He protects them. But how can he say that?

He has made a covenant of peace with them. When God sent his Son as the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the sins that cause our greatest safety concern: can I be safe with God? Since God forgives our sins, he is at peace with us. That’s his covenant. Though he is the only truly free being in all the universe, he has contractually bound himself to forgive us and give us peace. He feels no hostility toward us, and we are safe with him.

With the Lord, peace is so much more than the end of hostilities. It’s more than confidence he will not hurt us. When God is at peace with us, all of life begins to fall into place. That does not mean that everything becomes easy. It isn’t the end of all troubles. But by faith we cling to the certainty that the Lord is directing traffic and everything serves us now.

Perhaps the landscape has not been completely cleared of the wild beasts. But if we take these dangers seriously, he may even use them to bring us closer to him, like a frightened child who holds more tightly to mom or dad the closer the frightening thing comes. Godless governments can legislate, intimidate, even exterminate all the Christians they want. They have no jurisdiction over hearts and souls that belong to God’s spiritual kingdom. He protects his sheep. He protects and defends their faith until he brings them to complete safety in heaven.

The King Concealed

Luke 9:51-62  “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.”

I have been wearing eye-glasses since I was in the seventh grade, so maybe this is an experience you can relate to only if you wear glasses. Have you ever asked, “Has anyone seen my glasses?” and someone else responds, “You’re wearing them”? I remember a similar incident in a college Greek class. My professor was holding his Greek text in his hand and asking, “did anyone see where I put my book down?”

Sometimes things become so much a part of us that we don’t realize that they are there anymore. I have been looking at the world through glass lenses for so long that I sometimes forget that they are perched on top of my nose.

Something similar may happen to our spiritual eyesight over time. Many of us have been looking at Jesus and looking at his word through the eyes of faith for so long, that we can’t remember what it was like to look at him without that faith bringing things into focus. Faith has been such a part of our lives for so long that, in a sense,  we forget it’s there, and that without it we could not see.

So it is that we are befuddled by our Jewish friend who can read the same words in Isaiah 53 as we do, words  which describe Jesus’ suffering and death so clearly, to our way of thinking. But somehow he just doesn’t see it. Why doesn’t he get it? There is that neighbor or family member that we have been witnessing to for years. They seem to carry such misery around with them. So many of their problems are self-imposed. Maybe they have even accompanied us to church once or twice. Why can’t they see that Jesus is what they need?

The problem is that they aren’t looking through the miraculous lenses that allow us to see Jesus as he really is. The problem is that so much of who Jesus is lies hidden behind a very plain and ordinary human exterior.

It was no different when Jesus visibly walked through the streets of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. The King and Creator of the Universe lived here incognito. The Samaritans in our lesson could not see his divinity or his charity. All they could see was his nationality. Jesus was too human and too Jewish for them to welcome, and so they passed on the chance to host the single most powerful, most important, and most giving and gracious person in world history.

Even after the Spirit has fitted us with faith-tinted lenses, we have trouble making Jesus out. He doesn’t fit our expectations for heavenly royalty. We expect more as members of his court. Shouldn’t friends of the crown, even members of the royal family like us, find richer, easier, more trouble-free lives in this world? Shouldn’t they be given a little slack when it comes to the urgency of the work of God’s kingdom? Shouldn’t they receive more privileges, and more accommodation, when it comes to their earthly needs, and their earthly relationships? The three would-be disciples in our lesson all seemed to think so. They weren’t looking for following Jesus to get in the way of their earthly comforts or their family relationships.

But the Jesus who makes everything in life more comfortable, who makes every human relationship happier, is a false god who exists only the minds of those who can’t see the real thing. Following the real Jesus means a life of self-denial, and taking up your cross, not a life of self-indulgence on earth. Following Jesus means a life that often turns a man against his father and a daughter against her mother. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Those are his own words. Following the imaginary Jesus of ease and comfort and heaven-on-earth is a sin for which he calls us to repent.

The loving and gracious Savior who promises rest for the weary may be hard to see in the suffering Jesus whose followers suffer with him on earth. But hidden in Jesus’ own suffering is the unconditional love and unlimited forgiveness we seek. And hidden beyond our own suffering is a real heaven, not an earthly counterfeit, which Jesus will reveal at the proper time to those who continue to fix their eyes on him in faith. May Jesus himself continue to fix our focus.

Just Like Jesus

1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

For all the love that God lavishes on us now, we would not be satisfied if this were all there is, and God himself has promised us there is more to come. I find it interesting to think that as children in our earthly families, we spend our early lives at home, and we leave home when we grow up. But as children of God you and I have spent our entire existence away from home, and we are still waiting for the day when we see home for the first time. It’s almost as if this world were the hospital in which we were born, and the Lord hasn’t taken us home from the hospital yet. As we look forward to that day, we know God loves us as we anticipate what we will be.

Perhaps you have thought to yourself, “Shouldn’t being one of God’s own children make a bigger difference than I currently experience?” And the answer to that question is, “Yes, it makes a much bigger difference, but we have to wait for heaven to see completely what a difference it will make.”

John reminds us that what we will be has not yet been made known. That’s not to say we know nothing at all about the changes in store for God’s children when we reach heaven, only that the picture is still incomplete. Does that trouble you? I don’t think that it is hard to understand if we have ever tried to explain an experience to someone who has never seen anything like it before.

Years ago my wife and I read the “Little House” books to our daughter.  Every once in a while Laura Ingalls Wilder will describe some kitchen tool or piece of furniture we don’t use anymore, and my daughter would ask, “What is that?” Sometimes I’ve seen antiques like it and could explain. But as good as Wilder is at painting word pictures, sometimes I had to shrug my shoulders and admit, “I really can’t tell you what she’s talking about.”

What we will be like in heaven is a little that way. If the Lord tried to give us the details, we wouldn’t be able to understand them anyway. We may speculate about how our bodies will be changed. We would like our nose to be a little smaller, our ears to stick out a little less. We hope, perhaps, that a few of these pounds won’t follow us to heaven, and we are happy that we will be able to throw away our glasses and get rid of all our medications. We know we can look forward to some physical changes, though the Lord never goes into much detail about them. He considers it enough to tell us our bodies will be made imperishable.

But the changes which can fill us with even greater anticipation are those John hints at in the words that follow. “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We are God’s children. Jesus is God’s one and only Son. If we want to know what changes are in store for us in heaven, the best indication is to look at the family member already there. We will be like Jesus–perfect in purity, and perfect in love. That may not seem such a tantalizing existence to those who have never really wrestled with their sins or looked down the bottomless pit of their own corrupt human nature. But for us beginning to see how sin has infected and corrupted every feature of life, nothing could possibly hold out greater promise or appeal.

We will be perfectly pure like Jesus–no lost tempers, no petty self-pity, no secret indulgences: nothing to ever feel guilty for again! Even now, God may love me “just as I am without one plea,” but he loves us too lavishly to leave us that way. He won’t be finished with his children until they are all home in heaven. There we will look just like Jesus, and see him as he is.

A Place in His Heart

1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Now we are children of God. We won’t appreciate what that means unless we take a few moments to consider it for ourselves. First of all, the word “child” used in the Greek suggests an endearing relationship we have with God. Little children have some sort of direct line to grown-up hearts. When they are playful and happy their cheer tends to spread to us and give us pleasure. When they are threatened, we become very protective. When they are sick or in pain we are moved to compassion in an extraordinarily powerful way. How many times haven’t you seen pictures of adults suffering through some famine in some part of the world, and you were concerned? But then you saw the skinny little children with distended stomachs, and it next to breaks your heart!

We are God’s children. As such God has a special heart of concern for you and me. Your plight on earth moves him to deep compassion. David reminds us in Psalm 103, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”

Those are beautiful words, and they’re not just empty sentiments. When God actually came and lived with us on earth, what do we find? When the man with leprosy comes to Jesus to be healed in Mark 1, Jesus is filled with compassion, and he heals him. When Jesus sees the crowds who have no spiritual guidance, no good shepherds, in Matthew 9, he has compassion on them. Then he prays for workers and he sends them his disciples.

When you are overwhelmed by anxiety as you stand next to your child’s hospital bed, as you stare at bills you don’t know how to pay, as you wait for test results from your doctor, as news of your spouse’s unfaithfulness knocks the wind out of you, as you fret about your children’s wandering ways, or as you grapple with the smothering loneliness that fills your life, you can be sure that help is on its way. You are the children of God, and your heavenly Father lavishes his love on you.