Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2: 16, 17

 

The thermostat of our world seems as if it is broken, for there is very little comfort to be found in these environs today. One moment there is a chill wind blowing and that icy breeze is shredding its way through every layer of clothing that we can find to put on, and then, in an instant, it has switched over to being an inferno of wind and grating sand that is blowing at us from the heart of the Sahara or the Gobi. It is no wonder that it can be so hard to remain encouraged and heart-strong throughout the journey that God has set before each of us. We walk out into a place that has become alien and that is battered by a relentless wind of brokenness that came into the atmosphere when people departed from God’s will for our lives. This is not the world that God created for His people to dwell within, but it is the one that we devised for ourselves.

 

Now we get to continue along our ways in this place as we are forced to survive and to aspire to thrive in the midst of all that is hard, harsh, and challenging. It is the condition of this world, in its physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects, that drives me toward Christ. He provides answer to life’s unfathomable questions, and it is my Lord alone who stands above this world’s most unconscionable acts of greed, violence, and oppression. Christ speaks grace, mercy, and love over and into all of this destruction and the terror that comes from inside of its engulfing cloud of hardship. In Christ I can journey into places where my natural self would never set foot. He provides the strength and the courage to take the risks that can lead to contact with those who our world has attempted to set aside and to bury under its drive for dominion and power. This contact, these relationships, is what Christ uses to make Himself known to the people of our world and to also grow each of us in our faith in Him and trust of His plan and purpose for our lives.

 

So, in Christ we can find the sort of comfort that does not lead to complacency and to self-satisfaction. Through Christ and by the leading of His Spirit people are lifted out of the relentless search for safety, security, and ease that is our natural condition, and we are taken into the world around us with an adventurer’s heart for the daily quest. As we follow Christ into living out His Gospel and delivering its saving truth to the world around us, comfort is redefined so that it is no longer established through control of the air around us; instead, comfort is experienced by virtue of the peace that we know in our hearts and the confidence that our minds receive from the Lord’s eternal word of truth. In Christ, I am transformed from being a person who seeks after comfort as an external aspiration into one who desires to serve my Lord with all that I am. This happens as He implants His eternal presence, word, and purpose into my heart and mind.

And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them?

Luke 18: 7

 

Delay has become the normal state of things is our over scheduled and underserved world. We can almost plan on our doctor being behind schedule, on traffic delays, that the check will still be in the mail on the date that it is due to us, and on the dreaded “Flight Delayed” message beside our connection. The streets are full, many people are sick, and airlines are cutting flights in order to become profitable. Some of these things make sense and others really don’t. When it comes to time and timing, the application of reason is more often frustrating than it is informative. Although all of these regular life events can be frustrating, existence becomes truly hard when it is justice that is delayed. Then days can become interminably long and oppression hangs over life like a dark curtain.

 

The justice that we seek may be for ourselves, for people who we know and love, or for people in our world. Whatever the situation and whoever is the object of our concern and focus, waiting for resolution is never easy. The harm that injustice has caused seems to continue to increase. Pain and suffering remain on their destructive course so that it is easy to lose faith and to enter into despair. In Luke’s account, Jesus has just told the story of an unrighteous judge who eventually relented and granted due justice to a relentless widow. The contrast that Christ set out for us is that if even a judge who “neither feared God nor respected man” would be moved to bring about justice, then we can certainly have faith that God, who loves us totally and who is concerned for our well being will provide it to us.

 

Christ is telling us that we need to remain faithful and that we also need to trust the outcome and its timing to God. Like the widow in the story, we should never stop in our appeals to God. For it is in our sincere prayer and our willingness to remain vulnerable and yielded to the timing and the nature of God’s response that we grow in our understanding of God’s view of our world. God works in our hearts during these times of waiting and trusting. His Spirit speaks to or impatient souls, and He leads us into the peaceful rest that is found only in abiding continually in Christ. God has promised that His justice will prevail in the world of His creation. He has given us Christ as the only true and effective means to that justice. Now our Lord desires for us to remain committed to Him. Christ calls upon us to speak out confidently about our desire to see His truth prevail over evil in our day and to act on behalf of the weak and the oppressed with the assurance of God’s promised victory.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you,

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

 

It is interesting and strangely contradictory how that area of life that we call human nature can lead to some very serious questions regarding who God is and how He wants me to relate to Him. I think that almost everyone at one time or another struggles with being able and willing to do the things that we think that God requires from us. We begin to think things like, He wants too much, His standards are too hard and constricting, and these requirements are simply not realistic. So what exactly is it that God does require from people? What is it that is so hard to follow?

 

Perhaps God does get it that I am too often understanding challenged and that I need things presented to me in a straight forward and easily grasped manner. Thus, He gave me this very direct and truly simple statement of what His heart wants to see out of me. We all desire justice, at least until we are the ones who are on its receiving end. It is justice that produces a solid, trustworthy foundation for truth in life. God’s justice is always closely linked to His kindness or, as stated in other versions, His mercy, for justice without kindness is like the Law without grace; its effectiveness and its ability to truly change lives is very limited. These characteristics are bound together in our lives by staying close to their source and by surrendering our own predetermined understanding of them to His perfect one. That humble, openhearted and continual walk with the Lord is what affects the type of change in our hearts that makes this Christ-like justice with mercy a personal operating platform for life.

 

Still, what we do with this understanding is the thing that matters. When we enter into lives with an open-hearted willingness to walk through this day with others and with a preset determination to value them and to actively listen to the story that they have to tell, we bring Christ into their lives. Humility before the Lord brings us to a place where we are compelled to follow Him and to fulfill His desire to put feet to justice and loving compassion into its application. When this happens the world is touched by the redemptive hand of God, and The Spirit of Christ touches the doer with an anointing of grace.

 

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for Him.

Isaiah 30: 18

 

The prophet gives us a very interesting thought here in that God is shown to think and to act in ways that are truly foreign to my way of viewing life. Over the first seventeen verses of this chapter Isaiah has been discussing an on-going and reoccurring theme. He has described the ways that God’s people have chosen to abandon their faith and trust in Him and do what God has told them not to do. In this case they have actually aligned themselves with their historic captors, the Egyptians. They have placed their safety and security in the hands of the bearers of the whip of their humiliation and entered into a treaty with people who worship many gods but not the one true God.

 

Yet, God waits for His people with a heart of grace and with hands of mercy. In fact, Isaiah is pointing to the reality that God is prepared to extend this grace and mercy to them because of their rejection of His way and their resultant rejection of Him. I fear that this is not how I would react to the same circumstances. It is hard to imagine that I could see the treachery of others, especially those who are close to me, as a reason for me to prepare to extend grace and mercy to them. Yet, God does this very thing, and He has done exactly this for me on too many occasions to count.

 

God brings about justice, and He is just. There is order in the universe that He devised. Although we people do so much to disrupt God’s design with our head strong and self-determined actions, God will prevail. The timing of His establishment of His just order is in the Lord’s hands and serves His holy purposes. So, God sees our rebellious acts of rushing off in our own direction with worldly allies as opportunity to demonstrate His unquenchable love and His unending grace. As for my part in this, I think that God wants me to do two things. He is saying to trust Him totally and to wait on Him always so that I do not tempt His justice, and He desires for me to allow Christ to penetrate my heart to such depths that I can always hold out God’s grace and mercy to people who need to know the source of all true blessing.