Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sharing a Devotional by Brett Hilliard - With me, or without me?

I wanted to share this devotional written by the senior pastor Brett Hilliard at our church Island Evangelical Community Church. Both Jong and I were deeply touched by this devotion - I think it is because we did go through a period of time wondering why we had to go through so much pain and grieving, during the early days when Isaac was so tiny and struggling in NICU after losing Rachel. Yet, we were and have been able to cling on to the truth that God is always good, faithful and merciful. And now we are at a point where we could reflect back and and see clearly just how much He loves us and has blessed us through all that we have gone through. It is really, really good to know that Jesus knows exactly how we felt. I hope this devotional can be an encouragement to all those who are going through grief, or a painful or lonely time.

Devotional - With me, or without me?

By Brett Hilliard

I’ve always said that it’s the people I’m with that really make a difference. No matter how difficult a situation, a job, a location – if you are with people that you enjoy, then you can make it. It’s who you are with that matters most.

This personal conviction of mine is certainly even more vivid when it comes to experiencing the presence of God. Knowing God is with you is vital. Now of course we know this intellectually, but there are certainly times in which we feel this reality more experientially.

Knowing God is near can make all the difference. And those times of doubt or when God seems distant can be agonising, and make us vulnerable.

Matthew seems to point this out in the most unusual of ways.

There are only two times in which Matthew actually translates the original spoken language of Aramaic into Greek (the language the New Testament was written in).

Matthew 1.23 says, … that shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us”.

Matthew 27.46 says, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtani?” that is, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?”

These two verses retain the original spoken language, but then provide a translation. The Man who is named, “God with Us”, questions God by asking, “Are you with Me?”

Do you catch the irony?

I’m strangely encouraged by this not-so-obvious point that Matthew makes. Because even though we know that God is always with us, we certainly feel His presence more at some times than others. And we are the most vulnerable to sin when we somehow question whether God is near.

Yet even in Jesus’ doubt, he clung to truth. Even in His anguish, He chose to stay.

As we approach Easter and reflect on the cross, I’m struck by the oft-overlooked aspect of Jesus’ words from that tree – the gritty, raw, words of questioning. The sense of abandonment expressed by Jesus, but coupled with devotion even amid the emotional pain.

Who we are with matters. Or better yet, Who is with us matters even more. And whether we feel it or not, the truth of God’s constant presence in our lives is a grounding truth for our lives.

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