Have you heard about the film “A Star is Born”? It’s getting good reviews and I saw it at the cinema this week. I really got into the story and its main characters: A famous country artist goes into a bar to find this unheard-of singer performing a song. He hears the voice and sees her potential, but while he’s trying to draw her out of her insecurities, he has his own issues to deal with. It’s about the music industry; addiction; mental health … and it just highlighted a couple of things for me.
He sang a very melancholy song: ‘No one knows what awaits for the dead’. If you don’t believe in eternity – some rising to everlasting life and others to eternal condemnation (John 5:28-29), then not only do you not have an ultimate end to work towards (Philippians 3:10-14), you also don’t have God to help you navigate this earthly life. No wonder it’s a struggle.
My favourite moment of the film was a song one of them had written. “In all the good times I find myself longing for change, and in the bad times I fear myself.” If ever there was a line in a song that really went with a film, it would be that one. But if we believe in Jesus and are following Him, we don’t have to fear ourselves. We’re assured that our eternity with Him is secure. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
One last point (and I hope I don’t give too much away here): There were several voices speaking into Jack’s life – words of hope, and words of derision. It’s the same for us, and I know when I’m vulnerable and low in confidence, derisive voices shout the loudest. How can we use our voice to make others’ lives better? Would you like your negative words to be the last ones somebody hears?
I’m currently reading a book about Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia. It explains how the Galatians were being tricked. False teachers wanted them to adopt Jewish customs and find security in their own efforts, rather than enjoying the freedom they had when they first put their faith in Jesus.
To the author, that’s real joy. He says: “I don’t mean being happy all the time – sometimes life is painful. But even in those moments we will find comfort in God.”
That quote was such a help to me. I think Peter pre-empted it when he said: “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Believing in Jesus (whom I can’t physically see) gives me a deep-down assurance that all will end well. It doesn’t lessen life’s challenges or the grief that accompanies them, but Jesus is God-with-us and now that He’s in heaven, His Spirit comes alongside Christians to comfort us in those difficulties. That kind of joy is far better to me than being happy all the time.
For anyone interested, the book I quoted from is Tim Chester’s “Rediscovering Joy: The Dynamic Power of the Reformation in Galatians”.
I’m not long back from a week away with the lovely Marilyn Baker and Tracy Williamson. Tracy’s deaf and partially-sighted, and because I’m blind and have recently been fitted with hearing-aids, it’s as if she’s the same as me, but the other way round. More than that, she makes me feel encouraged and I really like being around her. She’s just written a new book, “The Father’s Kiss”, which I’m reading at the moment. In the book, we’re asked to think about the word ‘Lavished’.
In my previous post, I talked about my friends’ daughter. I wrote a song when she was born about God’s great love that kept her safe and brought her into the world. The verse that inspired it (1 John 3:1) says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God”, so ‘Lavished’ always reminds me of her as a new-born, and the love she was surrounded with. I remember her dad saying: “I keep thinking I’ll go home from work, and she’s gonna be there.” I can also remember how she made me feel. If I was despondent, and my friend came to sit next to me with this baby girl on her lap, just hearing her breathe would make me smile and think how God had blessed me.
If only we, myself included, would live our lives with that same passion. “I’ll go and do this today, and God’s gonna be there!” One interaction with our Lord – all it takes to make us smile.
God’s lavished love on us. Isn’t it good for us to lavish love on Him?
Today is my friends’ daughter’s birthday. They lived in my hometown, which they left before she was a year old. These were friends who’d really helped me grow as a Christian and get to know God more. It was very sad to see them go: The first of my close friends to have a girl and I wouldn’t get to see her grow up, so I prayed. “Father, please let me hear her say something, even one word, before she goes.” That prayer wasn’t going to change the world. It wasn’t for anyone’s benefit except mine, but you know, it happened. One day we were in the car and her dad was talking, and she said “Daddy”; not dada, but the proper word “Daddy”, as clear as if you or I had said it. I didn’t hear her talk again until the family came back to visit, much later.
I wrote this just to encourage you to pray. It might be the smallest, stupidest, most selfish prayer you can think of, but what does that matter? If we really have a God who loves and cares for us, He’s going to want to spend time with us – to hear what’s in our hearts; what makes us happy or sad.
I believe in a God who wanted a connection with us so much that He came to this earth as one of us. At Christmas, we’ll celebrate Jesus being born into the human race. At Easter, we’ll remember that He came for one reason: To live a blameless life and to die spotless, so He could represent us before God the Father. When we come to God through Jesus, God’s able to hear our prayers and connect with us, and that’s really special.