Summer’s End

Summer’s End

The arrival of autumn spells refreshment for the likes of me, for whom the “dog-days” of the entire summer, let alone merely of August, are simply untenable to my fragile existence.  I welcome the refreshingly more temperate, even at times chilly, temperatures, the vibrant colors, the coziness of shortened days and the scent of forthcoming holidays.

Autumnal refreshment is rivaled only by the spiritual refreshment of God.  It is unequalled by any human or natural parallel.

Christians are a refreshed people:  Repent and turn back so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19, 20).

The presence of love is always refreshing.  There are, for instance, the things that we love.  I love to read, and have just spent a delightful half-day reading by a sun-lit window with a soft early-autumnal light to the tune of crickets playing amidst nature.  It was as refreshing a way to spend a day as I know.

Love’s presence brings refreshment by its very nature.  New-found love even puts an extra spring in our step.  Our hearts are made warm and our minds are made light when love’s subject is before us, when it is even in our thoughts.  

It is an extraordinary thing that God loves us so much that He allowed His only Son to die (John 3:16; I John 5:9, 10).  The New Testament is replete with texts that speak to the reality that God loves us so much that He was willing to surrender His own Son over to death – How grateful we should be and how pre-eminently refreshing to know!  

He is love in His very nature:  God is love (1 John 4:8 and 16).  He is a true thoroughbred – of love!

This is why we are told that we find healing in His presence (Exodus 15:26 and Malachi 4:2), as His refreshment pours forth onto our bodies and into our souls and throughout the sinews and fibers of our lives.  It is also why, if we run to Him, we will be our fortress, our deliverer and our strong tower (Proverbs 18:10) – There’s nothing quite like the vigor of full health!

The blood of Jesus, which was shed in love and out of regard for truth, cleanses us of all sin (I John 1:7) and, as anyone who has ever taken a much-needed shower after having been working amidst heat or filth, which is eminently refreshing!

The Spirit of Christ brings forth the refreshment of His special fruit, the first of which is love (Galatians 5:22, 23).  His love always fills our lives because His Spirit has been given to us for enlightenment, empowerment and for His own residency.

And His people must offer refreshment, both to non-believers and to believers.  Peter’s aforementioned sermon in which he calls people to find refreshment through repentance is a much-needed clarion today, as apostasy and rejection of God’s authority is rampant.

Paul applauded Philemon for his Christ-like expression of love on behalf of God’s people, a love that proved eminently refreshing:  “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints” (Phil 7).

It should also be noted that truth is not always refreshing, as it bucks against our comfortable flesh, and as it can hurt, but its effects are always salutary when truth commingles with love.  We are set free by the truth that we come to know (John 8:32) and, as anyone who has ever been set free, from whatever form or mode of bondage, freedom is profoundly refreshing at the most visceral level.  

Can we begin to imagine the refreshment that poured into and through the sinful woman (Luke 7:47) as she gratefully and tearfully recognized how much she had been forgiven by Jesus?  She sought to refresh Jesus with her effusive tears and her crown of hair.  Refreshment is always best served within the context of mutuality and reciprocity.

Christian:  Have you been refreshed by God today?  If so, to whom are you offering the refreshment that you have come to know?

Christians are a secure people:  My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand (John 10:27, 28).

Israel never had to worry; unfortunately, Israel was prone to a stubborn and stiff-necked rebellious streak.  The Church need ever fear those who come against her; Jesus is on record that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her, which is especially comforting and bracing in this era of persecution in which we live.

God is a God of covenant, and His covenant is inviolable.  No one and nothing can force Him to break it, and He Himself won’t break it, as He is always true to His word; it is a word that can be implicitly and thoroughly trusted because it is a word that will endure forever and that will accomplish its purpose, both broadly and specifically.

His commitment to His covenant is starkly and stunningly described in Scripture:  “This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name:  ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.’  This is what the Lord says;  ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 32:35-37).

The point should be obvious and well-taken:  We are secure in God’s loving hand.
Christians are a fruitful people:  The fruit of the Spirit is … (Galatians 5:22, 23)

We will be known by our fruit.  I used to think that this meant that I had to be accomplishing a great deal and saving more and more souls, but all that was actually accomplished by this line of reasoning was that I was putting more-and-more pressure on myself and proving to be less-and-less of an effective servant of the Gospel.

I have come to realize that my conception of fruit-bearing was faulty.  The fruit of which Jesus was speaking was the fruit of the Holy Spirit, a fruit that will actually parley into fruitful effect upon the lives of those around us.

It was the presence of the fruit of peace at work in the loves of the Moravian believers aboard a storm-engulfed ship in the middle of the Atlantic that spoke volumes to a young John Wesley.  Wesley was returning from a failed ministry in Georgia when he found himself facing near-certain death.  He survived, but life was now lived with a new perspective – and we don’t mean by this the fragility of life!  He saw the peace that the presence of the living God brings even to those amidst a terrifying storm.

We are living in a dangerous world, and our particular corner of that world is facing the dramatic and debilitating results of the law of diminishing returns, both economically and socially, the latter as the direct result of our very conscious and intentional act of breaking from God and His law.

It will not be government or education that brings ultimate solution to our problem-ridden society, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Christians are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), with some going amongst societal elites and others amongst societal outcasts, while the greater proportion will be representing Christ in the more normative contexts of the community and the workplace.  And it will be there that we have the privilege of manifesting Jesus, a compulsion to which we lovingly lend ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:14).

It will not be what makes us the same so much as what makes us different that will have everlasting effects.  It will not be our looks or our personalities or our degree program or our personal advancement and personal satisfactions that will make a difference in any but our own lives; rather, it will be the palpable presence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that will speak volumes to, and direct other people to, Jesus Christ.

Faithfulness is a significant one for me.  We live in a throw-away society.  We throw away everything, or in the very least we turn the channel to one of the innumerable other channels that are readily available.  It does create a mindset.  

We throw away people, thinking that we can find better people elsewhere.  We throw away spouses, thinking that another will make us happier, failing to reckon with the unhappiness that we ourselves may have been or are promoting - even Christians often throw away their fellowship, thinking that they can find better fellowship elsewhere.  
Think of Ruth in the Old Testament.  He husband died and she was free to re-marry, but she chose instead to remain faithfully present in the life of her mother-in-law.  Another might freely and rightly pursue a second marriage; still, Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law and her welfare is a laudatory example of biblical faithfulness.

Would that Ruth were still around for Jesus and Paul!  Jesus was forsaken by almost everyone, including that braggadocio named Peter who pronounced of himself that he would never abandon Jesus though everyone else would.  Paul found himself abandoned, too, by almost everyone, save for Luke, though apparently Mark proved faithful in the end and Timothy was en route to be by Paul’s side (2 Timothy 4:18).  

Jesus was always intimately and integrally in communion with His faithful Father, and Paul well knew that his safety rested in his faithful Savior:  “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom.  To Him be glory for ever and ever.  Amen” (v.18).

Christians are called to be faithful, just as our God is faithful, and He is faithful even when His people are faithless!

Faithfulness is not always sexy or exciting, and can often be monotonous and seemingly frustrating, but it is always edifying and will reap a harvest of rewards, courtesy of divine favor!  And we have a reason, if we need one, to remain faithful:  It is that God is faithful, and that He is pleased with those who are faithful like and for Him.

Christians are a trusting people, having been given concrete reason to utterly and completely place their trust in God through Jesus Christ:  Your loyal followers trust in you, for you, Lord, do not abandon those who seek your help (Psalm 9:10).

We make ready now, not simply for fall, but for winter.  Will it be a rough one?  Can we afford to heat our homes?  Will our health hold up?  These are very real and excellent questions; aren’t they?  Our answer is to trust in God, who has never failed us.

My fellowship was blessed earlier in the year with a visiting pastor from Indonesia.  His presence shone with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, thereby bringing refreshment to our Christian family.  He talked about the difficulties of gathering, let alone serving and witnessing, in the name of Jesus Christ.  But he gave testimony through his message of the security that belonged to his fellow believers and himself because of their life in Christ.  The title of his message was Trusting the Trustworthy.

I had to trust Him through an arduous summer that included a schedule that at times felt like a sick joke.  He showed Himself to be faithful to me and proved Himself to be worthy.  I have every reason to trust Him now as autumn commences.  He is indeed worthy of my trust and therefore also of my praise.

Bradley E. Lacey
September 15, 2013