The Adversary

The Adversary

The evil one seeks to trap you and keep you from being productive in the work that God has called you to do. God is not the only one who has a plan for your life. Oh, we have an adversary, Satan, who has schemes, traps and tricks. He tries to get us off track and prevent us from completing the work that we have been called to do by God.

His primary tool is the temptation of self-sabotage. Remember when the Devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Jesus to throw Himself off? He challenged Jesus to take a suicidal self-destructive leap! How many times do we self-sabotage? The evil one does not change his tactics. He is always trying to move us in to self-destructive behaviors. The problem is that we fall for it.

Some of these temptations come in the form of opportunities, actually. They can be distractions. He tries to get you to do things in improper timing. Remember when Jesus’ mother tried to get Him to do the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and He had to say, “Mom, it’s not the right time?”

When Jesus was very clear with his disciples what He had to do, the work that He had been called to do? When he said “I am going to suffer at the hands of the chief priest and the scribes. I’ve got to go to Jerusalem. I’m going – I’m going to die and then three days later, I’m going to rise from the dead.”

What did His best friend say? “This should never happen to you, Lord.” In other words, “I’ve got some advice and my advice is that you should just call off the Crucifixion. That doesn’t sound like a good idea Jesus.” Those who love you the most can be like that– they’re looking out for you, but sometimes they can take you off task for fear of risk. Jesus threw Peter’s words off instantly.

Get behind me, Satan.

Yes, Peter was a friend, but at that moment, Peter was a friend speaking the Devil’s sabotaging words into Jesus’ life. His words come in the form of human solutions, earthly kingdoms, quick fixes, and even protective concern. Sometimes Satan’s sabotage comes through our own fears, our own avoidance of pain, hard work and struggle.

He is sneaky and tricky and he wants to tempt us so that he can stop us from fulfilling God’s call in our life, and he does it in very subtle ways. The bottom line for Satan is that he does not want us to finish. Don’t ever underestimate him or deny him. He does not want you to finish, he will stop at nothing to stop you!

“Save yourself,” they said to Jesus on the cross. “Save yourself if you are the Son of God.”

Rather they should have encouraged the One running the ultimate race on behalf of all humanity: “If You are the Son of God, finish the work that You have been called to do! Go Jesus, Go!”

The voice of Satan is always tempting and taunting you to quit. How is Satan tempting you right now to give up on the race that is set before you? What are the things that Satan is using, his strategies, the little temptations to sin in your life? What is he doing to distract you from fulfilling your call?

Let the words of James encourages you…

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. –James 4:7-8

It is finished, not I am finshed.

It is finished—not I am finished

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
–Hebrews 12:1-2

Consider Jesus as the supreme example of a finisher.

Notice that our Lord did not say “I am finished”. Jesus had that pure undivided heart focused on the joy that was set before Him. He would not be hindered by the “sin that so easily entangles,” but rather was able to say in victory:

It is finished.

Jesus demonstrated a focused heart that would not be sabotaged by His own pain, struggle, weakness or distraction. His deep desire was only to please the Father and win the prize.

Paul called a young leader Timothy to have an undivided heart for God like a soldier whose aim is only to please his commanding officer. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) because Satan wants to capture Timothy to do his will! (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26)

Get rid of all the things that might entangle, especially your own sin.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews describes it as that “the sin that so easily entangles,” it is so easy to get caught up in the weeds of our own untended sin garden. A trait of a finisher is the undivided heart.

How many times have you said: I am finished. I am done. I just cannot do this anymore. I quit.

Having the undivided heart to please only Jesus will free you to see clear to a focused pursuit that never quits. How can you regain that pleases God alone? What sin in your life is so easily entangling your heart? Is it your own sin? Or is it the sin of others? The Lord would hear you say with Jesus: “It is finished.”

Finishing Well

It is Finished

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
–John 19:28-30

On Finishing Well

I want to explore with you the traits of one who finishes well reflecting on Jesus’ words: “It is finished.”

Don Sweating, the new president of Reform Theological Seminary has a pastor’s heart. His dad is also a pastor like he is only his father is in his 80s. Don went to him and said, “Dad, I want you to write a book.” His dad said, “Oh, I’ve written books.”

Don said, “No, you need to write another book”. His dad had written two books already. One was how to begin the Christian life. The second book, how to continue in the Christian life.

Don said, “Dad, you need to write a third book, finish the trilogy: How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I already wrote a book on the joy of getting older,” and Don said, “No, that’s not it. It’s a little too self-help.

Dad, you need to finish the trilogy, “How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I don’t even have a computer to do any of that and I don’t know how to use them, but I’ll do it.” So they wrote it together, a great little book, called Finishing the Christian Life.”

Americans are not finishers anymore. We used to be. We used to be very strong finishers. We would finish everything that we started. In these last decades even, we don’t finish well. We don’t finish well like we used to and it’s the great generations that understand how to start things and finish them.

Many of us have a multiple projects that we have started and they just keep growing in numbers, projects that we’ve started that is. But, do we finish them? In Jesus, we see a driving intensity. In Luke’s Gospel we read an interesting verse about the resolve of our Lord:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. –Luke 9:51

Jesus is a person of steel and backbone. He would go to the Cross and complete the work that God had given Him to do. He had a determination to do it. If we are to be a person who finishes, we must be like the Energizer bunny. We just keep going and going and going.

The Apostle James calls it “steadfastness”:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4

How do you see the traits of a steadfast finisher in your life? Are you “lacking” anything?

Reunion with God

Reunion With God

My fondest memories of my childhood are of huge family reunions. My great-grandfather Holt was a father of six children. They and their progeny would gather ever year for a massive tubing party down Santa Fe River at my Uncle Manuel and Aunt Virginia’s house. We had great food, fun and fellowship–for me it was a glimpse of the reunion of heaven.

Jesus informed his disciples that the was leaving them to go be reunited with the Father:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. –John 14:1-3

Jesus knew that the days, weeks and years ahead for the disciples would be incredibly difficult. Not only was he leaving them, but they would undergo the same persecution–the ruler of the world would marshal his force against them. Jesus said,

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” –John 15:20

In this world there will be trouble, trial, temptation, and tribulation. Jesus has overcome the world in his cross and resurrection. What awaits those who commit their lives completely to him is a joyous reunion. In my Father’s house are many rooms. Jesus is preparing a place to receive us when it is time to be home.

Do you long for reunion? Every Sunday morning, we gather corporately in worship and fellowship for a brief time of union with God and one another. Those moments of gathering are to be times of joy and mutual strengthening as we go through the time of trial.

The Scripture promises that one day we will be reunited in the great multitude of our eternal family. It says that the reunion will be a joyous celebration like Wedding Feast. Only at that Wedding Feast, we will be the ones getting married and will be drawn right into the center of the celebration. Jesus will be united with his Church for eternity in the home where righteousness dwells.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
–Revelation 7:9-10, 13-17

The Father’s Good Gifts

The Father’s Good Gifts

I love the TV show Extreme Home Makeover.

Our lives are like a multi-roomed house, a house made disorderly and run down by the sinful destructive forces of the world and our own unhelpful stewardship. God would have us surrender our homes over to him in order that he might give us a spiritual Extreme Home Makeover.

Now, we may let him on the front porch, or even in the front door. It may be that we give him a little latitude to rearrange a few pieces of furniture in some of those more public and unsightly places. But, the Lord purposes an extreme renovation of the whole house beginning with the renovation of the most secret recesses of the heart–the back rooms, the ones where the doors stay shut so no one can see the mess!

The silly thing with our closed doors to God is that He knows the secrets of our hearts. Every Sunday we pray at the beginning of worship: “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit…”–BCP, p. 355.

Even though, he sees and knows the secrets, we still hold back huge portions of our lives from his transformational will. Why is it so hard to trust God with ALL of our lives?

It has a lot to do with the pain from a myriad of betrayals of trust by other people, and it has to do with the many experiences with hurt and violations that everyone incurs. People become very guarded after being hurt. Intimate relationship is risky. The issue is control, or should we say, we all have control issues. Letting in and letting go of control of our lives to The Lord, especially the secret places of our lives, is scary, because it opens up to tremendous life change.

Paul succinctly sums the call to completely and totally surrender all of our lives to the will of God and his transformational process:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
–Romans 12:1-2

God’s design is for us to commit to him alone like a living Sacrifice—total surrender. That is what Jesus models to us on the cross,

Father into your hands I commit My Spirit.

Our natural tendency is to conform to the worldly patters around us exemplified by our friends and family, by the cultural environments we live. He would see us transfigured into his good, acceptable and perfect will.

Will you please trust him with every room of your house? His will is good. In order for you to receive His total transformation, you have to welcome the Holy Spirit of God into the deepest and darkest places of your life–no closed doors to the ugly places. Let him in!

Jesus promises that the Father only purposes to give you good things. He has no intention of killing, steeling or destroying you (that is Satan’s plan for you). Jesus came that you might have life, abundant life (John 10:10)! The key to receiving the life of God is in surrendering our spirit to his Spirit that we might be mysteriously united in the wonderful mystery of his will.

Jesus taught us how when he said,

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
–Luke 11:9-13

The Father loves you and has good gifts for you, he desires to fill you with his presence—every room of your life transformed! Entrust him with all of your life, today!

The Spirit of Man

The Spirit of Man

In the beginning, when God created man He formed him from the dust of the earth and the text tells us that “He breathed life into him.”

Scientists have never been able to figure out the origin of life. Students of the Bible know the answer: Life comes from God. The Lord is the Author of life. He breathed life into the dust of the earth and the man was filled with the life of God. The word for breath is the Hebrew word ruach. It is onomatopoeia like its English equivalent, the word spirit. It sounds like it is said; ruach, breath, life. When you expire, you give up your spirit.

Your spirit is your life, but that life is derived from a source. It comes from God.

My kids like to tell a little joke. “Is your refrigerator running?” “Yes”, you say. They reply, “Then, you better go catch it!” Have you heard that one?

Here is the truth about your refrigerator. It will not run for very long if it runs too far past the outlet in the wall. That is where the appliance gains its power. The truth is—and this is no joke—like an unplugged appliance, your spirit has no life unless it is tied into the source of life: the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Source of all life and being.

Switching metaphors, Jesus compares us to branches needing to be connected to a life giving vine:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Apart from unity with Christ, we can do nothing.

We gain our power when we commend our spirits to Jesus. For Jesus it is union with the Father –“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”– the power, drama, life, resurrection – from that moment on everything is unleashed! He will be raised from the dead. New life – it’s the same for us. In offering of our lives and our spirits to Christ Jesus, New Creation breaks forth! Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation! The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. –2 Corinthians 5:17

Will you commend your Spirit to the Lord Jesus Christ? Unite with him! Pray, “Lord Jesus into your hands I commit my spirit.”

In Good Hands

In Good Hands

How is it that Jesus could willfully and obediently make such a commendation of Himself to such a difficult and brutal plan from the Father? Because He knew with faith and certainty that in entrusting of Himself to His Father’s will and obedience, He was in good hands –

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

We are all familiar with the commercials from Allstate Insurance advertizing slogan “You’re in Good Hands with AllState.” The slogan has served the company well since 1950.

In the spring of 1950 the youngest daughter of Allstate general sales manager Davis W. Ellis was stricken with hepatitis a few days before she was to graduate from high school. Arriving home from work one night shortly after she had been hospitalized, a worried Ellis was greeted by reassuring words from his wife, who told him, “The hospital said not to worry. We’re in good hands with the doctor.”

Later that year, Ellis and a marketing team were locked in an all-day brainstorming session to develop a slogan for the company’s first major national advertising campaign. When the group was about to give up for the day, Ellis remembered the reassuring remarks. It was then and there the slogan was born. (PR Newswire)

What does it mean to be in good hands? Do you believe that you’re in good hands with your insurance company? When we say that kind of thing – and this is the gist of the commercial – it means something like: This company is a good place for you to put your trust.

When we talk about a person in this way – you’re in good hands with him – it means something like this person is going to look after you and take care of you. They’re going to take responsibility. They know what they are doing. They are an expert in their field. You’ll be safe with them. They have your best interest at heart. They are going to be there for you when it counts. You can trust them with your life.

We put our lives in the hands of so many people that are finite and fallen, so many institutions, so many organizations – we put our trust into the hands of so many human, frail, and sinful people, and indeed, we do that with some pretty important things. We trust the good hands of the surgeons and doctors with our bodies. We trust the advice of the financial planners. We trust the minds of our precious children with teachers. We trust realtors with the sale of our most significant assets, our homes.

Do you see God, the Father, as imminently trustworthy? Would you commit your spirit into good care of His hands?

Do you trust him completely even when He asks you to do something difficult? Do you trust yourself to His care when He calls you to a calling that would demand of you your very life? Will you trust Him with your spirit? Do you believe that you are in good hands with the Lord?

Jesus did, completely. He trusted the Father for something that will never be asked of any of us.

Now, we’re called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing in His sight. Our offering is of our lives in response to this sacrifice of Jesus, in light of His mercy and His grace. Is there something preventing you from fully committing your life to His hands? What would that be? Why do you not trust God with your life? Why do you not trust Him with your spirit?

He is good. He has done everything for you, so why would you trust people ahead of Him? Why would you trust your doctor before consulting the Great Healer? Why would you trust your financial planners before asking God what to do with your money? And why would you trust your teachers and your government ahead of God?

And yet, so many of us do. Not only do we fail to commend ourselves to the good hands of the One that is entirely trustworthy, the Lord, we also entrust our most precious jewels to sinful people who may inevitably trample those jewels under their feet?

What precious jewels do you need to entrust the Lord with today?

The Innocence of Jesus

The Innocence of Jesus

One of the main emphases in the Gospel of Luke is the innocence of Jesus. In the other gospels this really isn’t as prominent a theme, but Luke really picks up this theme and the way that he tells the story, he emphasizes this over and over again. In the dialogues with Pontius Pilate he’s always emphasizing – “I find no basis of any charge on this man.” I want to release Him. Let me let Him go. Pilate and Herod – neither one of them, it says, find any basis for any charge. Jesus is innocent, is what Luke is trying to get across. Remember when the thieves are talking with one another on the cross and the one thief is deriding – “Save yourself. You saved others. Save yourself.”

But then the other thief corrects him and he says: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41)

Consider even the Centurion at the foot of the Cross. In Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospel – do you remember what the Centurion says – “Truly this man was…” was what? “The Son of God.”But Luke has him saying this – “Truly this man was innocent.” But, why? Why the emphasis on the innocence of Jesus for the Gospel writer Luke?

Reflect on the name Barabbas. It literally means “the father’s son.” Bar is the word for “son” – in both the Hebrew and Aramaic language. Abba means Father. Jesus is the Bar Abba. He is the Father’s Son. But there are two “Father’s Sons” in this story. One is guilty as a murderer, an insurrectionist and a violent man. The Other is innocent. And yet, there is an exchange that takes place with these two men and it is the very exchange that we receive because of the freewill offering of the Father’s Son.

The Father’s Son, in giving up of Himself to His Father’s will, substitutes Himself in the place of the other father’s son, the murderer, the violent, the angry—and you and me. He takes our place and bears the punishment that we justly deserve by dying on a Cross in our stead.

Indeed, this is precisely what God, the Father, had prophesized that His Son would be called to do in Isaiah, Chapter 53. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet did not open His mouth. He was led away by oppression, by a perversion of justice He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants for He was cut off from the land of the living? For the transgression, which is the sin of my people, He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death.”

Listen to this: Though He had done no violence nor was any deceit in His mouth…. In other words, though He was innocent, the prophet Isaiah says, it was the Lord’s will to crush Him, to cause Him suffering. Why? Because the Lord makes His life a guilt offering and for that reason He will see His offspring and prolong His days and in Him the will of Yahweh will prosper in His hand. Think again about what Jesus has said in his sixth last word from the Cross.

“Father, into your hand I commit My Spirit.”

Certainly, entrusting Himself to God meant that He was entrusting his Father to set things to right through this “perversion of justice.” He was trusting God the Father for ultimate vindication, as if to say, “I can go through with this because I know Abba Father will deal with it.”Jesus completely trusted the unjust scales and the unbalanced equation of the Cross knowing that somehow in the Divine economy all would be right, good, and correct.

Overlook an offence. Bear up under unjust suffering. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile. Love your enemies. Forgive those who trespass against you. Pray for those who persecute you. Jesus calls us to live the way that He lived. trusting God with the foolish way of love and forgiveness. There will be many times in this fallen world where the scales of justice will be unfairly tilted away from us. The call of the Christian is not just to passively accept it, but to see it as an opportunity to share in fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. All the while, we are taught to entrust ourselves to the justice of the One Who entrusted Himself:

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. –1 Peter 2:20-25

It is never for another person to say, “Today is your day to suffer unjustly.” Such commitments are made with deep prayer between God and the Christian.

How are you being called today to love others in the exceptional way of Christ Jesus? Through your time of prayer ask God to show you the clear way though the inequities and injustices done to you in this life. The Lord knows your pain; He has been there too.

The Offering of Self

The Offering of Self

“Father into your hands I commit/commend my Spirit.” The verse is translated in different versions using both words. They are both instructive.

The Oxford Dictionary defines commit as “to bind (a person or an organization) to a certain course…,” and it defines commend as “to entrust someone or something to.”

Whenever we have a funeral service at the church followed by the interment of the body at the graveside or in the memorial garden, we go through two liturgical acts: the Commendation and the Committal. The Commendation is where we entrust our loved one and our grieving hearts to the Lord. The Committal is where we bind our loved one’s body to its final resting place in the ground or some other resting place.

The action of commendation and committal are both taking place on the Cross in Jesus’ prayer. In absolute faith, Jesus is entrusting Himself to the Father’s good hands. By entrusting Himself, He is also committing or binding Himself in mystical reunion with the Father. In commending Himself, He is committing himself.

Jesus’ dead, fleshly body would be committed to a stone-cold tomb.

Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. –Luke 23:50-53

But, in His prayer Jesus is not speaking of the commitment of His Body to a grave as we do in the funeral service. The focus of Jesus is on the continuance of His Life! He is committing His Spirit to reunion with the Father. The body of Jesus is mortal, but His spirit is not.

The same is true of us. Our bodies are mortal. No matter how committed we are to proper stewardship of the body, to keeping them healthy, strong and alive, they are finite, limited in use and doomed to fail us. However, we are more than mere bodies. We have a spiritual nature, given to us by God.

The care and stewardship of our spirit is of much greater importance than the care of our physical well being. Our spirits are made for eternal life! This is why Paul writes to his young protégé Timothy:

…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. –1 Timothy 4:8

Soul care begins with a commitment. Have you made the first commitment of completely and totally entrusting your spirit to the good hands of the Father and His covenantal love? Total surrender is difficult.

Trust comes hard for human beings, especially for those who have been hardened by the sufferings of this world. Total trust of the Father will then require your total commitment to union with Him, His Holy Spirit united in purpose and character with your Spirit. Today ask the Lord to renovate your heart beginning with commending and committing your life to God.

Hope on the Cross

Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit!

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things. –Luke 23:44-49

Hope on the Cross

Jesus sixth saying from the Cross is a prayer of surrender and trust. Jesus prayed:

Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit

His cry is found in Psalm 31:5: “Into your hands I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, Faithful God.” Out of a place of deep distress of body and soul, the Psalmist prays in lament and petition: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.” (Psalm 31:9) Out of the anguish of the Dark Night of the Soul, Psalmist’s Spirit is liberated to be completely and totally surrendered to steadfast Love of God.

Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love! –Psalm 31:16

Out of the depths of Spiritual Abandonment, God brings the soul of the believer to a place of surrender and Divine Reunion. The word translated in our English versions as “steadfast love” is the Hebrew word Chesed, (pronounced with a hard “h” from the back of the throat: khesed, or ẖesed). Teachers of the Old Testament have long recognized this as the primary posture of God toward humans, and the essential virtue to be emulated in our lives. The Jewish Rabbi Simlai expounded: “The Torah begins and ends with chesed.”

God is absolutely faithful and steadfast in His covenantal love toward His people. As Paul reflects on Divine Love in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Out of the deep anguish of His soul, Jesus arrives at a place of absolute confidence in the Father’s steadfast love for Him. He places His total trust in a posture of surrender and absolute trust. Through the Cross, Jesus understood God to be imminently trustworthy and good—worthy of trust.

Though you may be going through a time of evil and difficulty, God remains steadfast in His love for you. The very sufferings that you are going through can and will be used by God to pour out His abundant love on you. This is why Paul encourages us to rejoice in our sufferings knowing the ultimate outcome for us in them:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:3-8

The ultimate act of chesed, covenantal steadfast love, is in Jesus’ surrender unto death for you. Christ died for you. He absolutely surrendered His Spirit to His Father for your sake, so that you would absolutely surrender your Spirit for His sake.