PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 42)

 

PREPARED TO TAKE ON GOD’S STRENGTH

 

June 20, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 33:12-22

 

 

God is consistent in His prophetic and guiding word. Through the years from the crisis of 2007, God has spoken to us strongly, preparing us for the greater work that is to come. Now, on the eve of our 30th year, in the same way that He summarized our CFC history through Isaiah 49:1-6, from where we get our theme for this year, God now summarizes our themes from 2007 to the present in one psalm. This is God showing us how He knits together the themes during the crucial restoration years of 2007 to 2011, affirming to us those critical aspects of our life and mission that He emphasized in these five years, and assuring us of His continuing and consistent call.

 

Our themes for 2007, 2008 and 2009 were hope, joy and trust, taken from the books of Lamentations, Zephaniah and Isaiah, respectively. Here they are in the psalm.

 

“For in God our hearts rejoice; in your holy name we trust. May your kindness, Lord, be upon us; we have put our hope in you.” (Ps 33:21-22)

 

These three virtues are crucial to our life and mission. Properly understood and lived out, they enable us to weather any storm, withstand any onslaught, and endure through any oppression. Mind you, there will be plenty of such challenges, especially as we continue to assault the dominion of the evil one.

In 2007 we had the crisis and split. Many thought the “future (was) lost, all that (they) hoped for from the Lord.” (Lam 3:18). But God gave us the theme of hope. “My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lam 3:24). No matter how bad things are, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, we learned that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23). Thus we simply prayed and hoped: “Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old.” (Lam 5:21). God heard our prayers and answered. He raised a remnant, the restored CFC, now called CFC-FFL.

In the first half of 2007, our situation was dire. “The joy of our hearts has ceased, our dance has turned into mourning” (Lam 5:15). In an instant, in the second half of 2007, the Lord turned that around. He turned our mourning into dancing, and planted joy in our hearts.

 

And so it was that for the next year, 2008, God gave us the theme of joy. God had restored CFC to its authentic charism, through a remnant that had been humbled by the crisis and that earnestly sought His help. “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.” (Zep 3:12). Suddenly, from despair there was hope. From grief there was joy. From lamentations it became celebration. “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” (Zep 3:14).

But more amazingly, it was not only we who rejoiced, it was God Himself who was rejoicing. “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you” (Zep 3:17b). Why was God rejoicing? Because He was back on track with His eternal plan for CFC. Because the enemy was not able to destroy CFC as he intended. Because by raising CFC-FFL, He had restored His authentic work. God forgave any transgressions we might have made, and removed those who persisted in their infidelities and veering away. “On that day you need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me; for then will I remove from your midst the proud braggarts, and you shall no longer exalt yourself on my holy mountain.” (Zep 3:11).

We have hope because God can turn our mourning into dancing. And we have joy because our life and mission are in His hands, and He is about accomplishing His eternal plan. Whatever is happening in our lives, if we live our lives according to God’s ways and commands, we can always have joy.

 

At the core of our work is Jesus the Savior. He has won salvation for us on the cross, he continues to save us in this life from all that would bring us down, and finally he will bring us to eternal salvation. Our work of evangelization is about proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus. We look to the salvation of souls.

In 2007, God reminds us of this. “It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.” (Lam 3:26). In 2008, God reiterates this. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior” (Zep 3:17a). In 2009, God enables us to affirm the reality. “God indeed is my savior” (Is 12:2a).

And if God indeed is our Savior, we are to trust fully in Him. And so it was that God gave us our theme of trust. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid” (Is 12:2a, RSV). Whatever happens in our life and mission, no matter what affliction we suffer, no matter how adverse circumstances might be, however low we are brought down by the slings and arrows of the enemy, we are simply to trust God. We trust in His eternal call to us, we trust in His saving help, we trust in His love by which He withholds no good thing from us.

 

Now we come to 2010. In that year our theme was “The Almighty: Just and Righteous is He!” (from Job 37:23). God is the Creator, the Omnipotent One, on whom everything depends. The years had been building up to this. In 2007 God asserts that He is in control. “Who commands, so that it comes to pass, except the Lord ordains it” (Lam 3:37). In 2008, God stresses His awesome power. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, God ordains that His awesome name is to be proclaimed to all the nations (Is 12:4-6). Now, in 2010, we simply are called to marvel at His awesome splendor. “From the North the splendor comes, surrounding God’s awesome majesty!” (Job 37:22).

In 2010, we learned the true meaning of worship. That is very important, because our very proper posture before the King of kings is what brings us into the throne room of grace and enables God to truly form us as His people. We also learned about redemptive suffering, from the story of Job, and we were led to joyfully embrace the cross of Christ. If Jesus is the Savior, and he went to the cross and suffered to win salvation for us, then, if we are to truly follow him as Master and Lord, we too should deny ourselves and carry our cross.

With a proper understanding of redemptive suffering, together with the virtues of hope, joy and trust, we can never be brought down by the enemy. In fact, when things get really rough, that is when we surge on ahead even more strongly.

 

The 2010 theme is reiterated in today’s psalm.

 

“By the Lord’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (Ps 33:6). “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all who dwell in the world show reverence.” (Ps 33:8). “The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness.” (Ps 33:5).

 

Finally we come to 2011. Our theme for this year is “My God is now my strength!” (Is 49:5). This too is reflected in today’s psalm, by way of reminding us that our life and work are not to be accomplished through our human strength. We need to look to the Lord, who in turn is looking upon those who are just and righteous and who hope in Him.

 

“A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the horse for safely; its great strength, no sure escape. But the Lord’s eyes are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for his gracious help” (Ps 33:16-18).

 

In fact, this theme has also been building up through the years. In 2007, God warns us that He cuts down even His beloved people as they have relied on their own strength. “He broke off, in fiery wrath, the horn that was Israel’s whole strength.” (Lam 2:3a). In 2008, God avers that His power is greater than those of the nations. “I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste.” (Zep 3:6a). In 2009, we learned to look to God for our strength. “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.” (Is 12:2b). In 2010, God Himself speaks about His power and strength. “Have you an arm like that of God, or can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9). God affirms that the strength of a war horse (Job 39:19), Behemoth (Job 40:16) and Leviathan (Job 41:4) only came from Him.

 

So today, on the eve of our 30th year, God reminds us of what He has been teaching us over the crucial four years of restoration, through the themes over five years. We will do well to learn and re-learn all the lessons, including the lessons of Lamentations and the lessons of Job.

The lessons are meant to form God’s people, who will relate to Him as Almighty God and Savior. The lessons are intended to prepare His people for the all-important work of this third millennium. This is the work of evangelization and mission. And this work is to proclaim the glory of God.

In 2007, we acknowledged who God is, the King of kings. “You, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your throne stands from age to age.” (Lam 5:19). In 2008, God avers why He raises up a people to serve Him, “that they all may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one accord.” (Zep 3:9b). In 2009, the prophet Isaiah brings these two together, stating that God’s people proclaim God to the world so that they will give praise to Him. “Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. Sing praise to the Lord for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.” (Is 12:4-5). In 2010, we were given the opportunity to look even deeper into who God is, with the end result that humankind would give Him what is His due. “The Almighty! we cannot discover him, pre-eminent in power and judgment; his great justice owes no one an accounting. Therefore men revere him” (Job 37:23-24a).

 

Here we are now, in the middle of 2011, with the lessons of the past hopefully learned (though it is a continuing learning and growing in God’s wisdom), with the prospects for the future bright. And God has brought us to our present theme and its context in a passage from Isaiah.

God reiterates the call and the mission. “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b). We have been through a lot, and all we have been through has been part of God’s formation. God raised CFC in 1981, restored CFC-FFL in 2007, but that is yet too little (Is 49:6a). We are God’s servant, and in doing His divine work, His glory will be shown through us (Is 49:3). When that happens, then we too will be “made glorious in the sight of the Lord” (Is 49:5c).

In learning the lessons God has taught, in understanding and accepting the call and mission, in living out the virtues of hope, joy and trust, in looking to awe of God, worship and redemptive suffering, we are now ready to look to what is beyond our 30th year. And we can confidently and joyfully do so, knowing that “(our) God is now (our) strength!” (Is 49:5d).

 

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