It seems like every article I have written this year starts off with the idea that things have changed from what we are used to, to uncertainty about the future and what it holds. We have known those who have been affected by coronavirus; we know that the problems of racism still exist (despite our best efforts?? to work through these problems); we have the presidential election, and there is drama with that . . .
Our hope is waning, we struggle with disappointment and depression, we struggle with . . .
One reason why God gave the church, his kingdom, here on earth is to share the gospel with other people, to show the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, and to encourage one another to model that hope before an unbelieving world. Another reason why God gave us the church is because HE knew that we would need one another here on earth. Yet another reason is because he wants his people to come together to praise and worship Him.
Sometimes we lose sight of this! When we come together to worship, we remind ourselves:
Of the glory and majesty of God, and how he deserves all glory and praise for his immeasurable gift.
We sing to honor him, because singing helps cement some ideas in our minds that we might lose otherwise.
We give to remind us how much he has given us – every material blessing – yes; but more importantly, forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope of something better in the future.
We partake of the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the cost of our salvation, and to remind us that he is coming again.
We pray together to beseech God for his forgiveness, for his grace, and for us as we deal with life, and with death. Death will always help us remember the frailty of our lives, further, it will help us to honestly look at our lives and spiritual well-being and see if we are where we need to be with God!
We listen to preaching in the hopes that the preacher will say something to encourage us or provoke within us a desire to do better – God deserves the best of us daily!
Why should we listen to preaching? We know that sometimes it is hard to listen to the preacher, because we didn’t sleep well the night before, or we have a burden we are carrying that no one else knows about. And sometimes, we hear so much bad news that we wonder – is God still in charge? Do you sometimes, as you are listening, find the gospel hard to believe?
Do you believe God is still in charge of the cosmos?
Do you believe that God sustains the world and gives us what we need?
Do you believe that, when you sin, God will forgive you of sin and, while we may have to deal with the consequences of said sin, still give you hope of eternal life?
Do you believe that God loves the world?
Do you believe the promise of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28:20 “and I will be with you to the end of the age?”
Do you believe that God knows what you are going through and cares deeply about you? Our successes and failures? Our sadness and sorrow, and gladness we experience?
Do we listen so that our faith may be stirred, and our hopes renewed, in the midst of hopelessness?
Could it be that God wanted his children to be encouraged by preaching and to look with hope because we need it?
How often do we walk out of worship services with hope in our hearts and joy in our steps, just to go back in the world, listen to all the various versions of the “bad news,” and be discouraged by Monday afternoon? Is it sometimes hard to continue to believe in God’s word? Could this be part of the reason why the church met on the first day of the week, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together top break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message to midnight.” (Acts 20:7). Did that help them get through another week – another week of hatred and outright persecution just because they believed in and obeyed the Lord? Perhaps preaching is “bread for the journey” as we walk in a world that has disregarded God and cares not one whit for him.
Are we desperate to hear the word of the Lord?
Does the gospel seem too good to be true?
How will the answer to that question affect your thoughts and lives daily?