Coping in a 24/7 World

When Mrs Thatcher was our Prime Minister I remember hearing, for the first time, that Cabinet meetings were being held on a Sunday. The emphasis was that we all had to work hard and follow the example of the successful Japanese economy. Later the Labour Party began to prescribe how many hours homework secondary school children should do each night. It was said that A level students should do 3 to 4 hours per night, after a full day at school. Between 9 and 10 on a Saturday evening Tesco apologises to its customers that, “because of current government legislation”, the store will close at 10 o’clock.

It seems we have lost sight of the importance and benefit of rest. The book of Genesis describes how God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh day. It says, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done.” In this way God established the pattern for our lives. It is also enshrined in the 10 Commandments, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God, on it you shall not do any work.”

God’s laws are not arbitrary rules, but are all for our good. We all need times of rest and recreation. Working long hours every day, without a break, is not good for our health or our effectiveness. A young teacher I knew was considering becoming a Christian. She was worried that, if she did, she would need to keep Sunday as a special day. She was caring for her elderly father and used Sundays to catch up on house work and prepare for the coming school week. She felt she wouldn’t cope if she rested on Sundays. After she became a Christian she found, to her surprise, that when she began keeping Sundays special, she was able to complete all her work in the other 6 days. She also felt far more relaxed and less stressed.

Many of us need to break out of our 24/7 world, which creates so much pointless stress. A weekly day of rest gives us the opportunity to change the pace of life, to have time to think and focus on God and the ultimate spiritual realities of life.

Fabrice Muamba – walking proof of the power of prayer

Fabrice Muamba, the super fit Congolese footballer who plays for Bolton, has come home from hospital and been reunited with his fiancée, Shauna, and 3 year old little boy, Joshua. Many people around the world share their joy that Fabrice is alive and well. On 17 March Fabrice suddenly collapsed during an FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur. His heart stopped for 78 minutes.

His life was saved by Dr Andrew Deaner, a cardiologist and Tottenham fan, who rushed from his seat in the stand to help. Dr Deaner organised paramedics resuscitating him, then insisted he was rushed directly to the London Chest Hospital for the best possible specialist care. It took 15 defibrillator shocks from paramedics, 2 on the pitch and 13 in the ambulance, to bring him back to life. Fabrice said, “I owe him everything. He is the reason I have been able to hold my son again and continue my life. I would not be alive today if he’d not been at the game.”

Fabrice is a Christian and has spoken about his faith in God, “I am walking proof of the power of prayer. For 78 minutes I was dead and, even if I lived, was expected to have suffered brain damage. But I’m very much alive and sitting here talking now. On the morning of the game I prayed with my father and asked God to protect me, and he didn’t let me down.”

Fabrice’s father, Marcel, came to Britain from Congo in 1994 during the terrible civil war which claimed 4 million lives. While Fabrice lay unconscious in hospital his father prayed for him. Marcel said, “I was obviously very concerned that Fabrice would not make it, but our faith is very strong and I really believed God would answer my prayer to save him. Somehow I just knew Fabrice would be safe in God’s hands. I said to God, ‘You are the one who resurrected Lazarus from the dead. Now in this moment glorify yourself.’

Many Congolese people have suffered greatly and are very poor because of the civil war. Congolese people follow premiership football, and especially Fabrice, who is one of their heroes. He has achieved success and is rich. His true riches, however, are found in his relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus has truly been glorified by the remarkable recovery Fabrice has made and we rejoice with him and his family.

The Water of Life

Half of Britain is now in drought as we face the most severe water shortage since 1976. More than 35 million people are now living in drought-affected areas. Parts of the country are already drier than they were in the summer of 1976, when Britain experienced its worst drought for more than 100 years. Restrictions on the use of water have been imposed in many areas.

The water shortage presents us with a big challenge. Water is essential for life. We need it and so do our animals and crops. One of the reasons our earth abounds with life is because of the abundance of water. In the past we may have taken for granted the fact that we had a reliable supply of fresh drinking water, but now we have become aware how precious water is.

Jesus once met a woman at a well. She had come in the middle of the day with her water jar to draw water for her and her family and to carry it home. Many people in the world today still have to carry water to their homes. It is a tiring job which has to be done every day in order to sustain life. This woman spent most of the day doing the things necessary for her and her family to survive. Many times as she walked to and from the well she must have wondered what life was all about? How could she find meaning in her life amidst the drudgery of her everyday routine.

Many people today ask the same questions. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Our secular society tells us there is no ultimate meaning to life. We just have to make the best of it. I’m so glad that isn’t true. Jesus knew the woman’s life was hard and that she didn’t know deep inner fulfilment. He said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Taking up this theme, Horatius Bonar wrote, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, Behold I freely give the living water – thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live! I came to Jesus, and I drank of that live-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.”

The Lord is Risen!

The resurrection of Jesus transformed his first disciples from a spirit of defeat and despair into men of joy and hope. This transformation explains why they changed the world as they proclaimed the wonderful message of Jesus and the resurrection. They faced great opposition from their own people, and from the Roman world, but were unafraid. Some of them died for their faith, but the number of Christians grew as people from all backgrounds found new life in Jesus.

Christianity centres on the person of Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again to give us hope. Christians put their faith in Jesus, not in their religious observances. They don’t think they are better than other people, but are deeply conscious of their personal failure and need. They rejoice that Jesus has done everything to secure their salvation and gratefully rest in him as their Saviour. They have been delivered from the need to achieve their own salvation and are free to live for Jesus and to tell others about him.

We live in a sceptical and cynical world in which many people are too sophisticated to believe in God and Jesus. Evolutionary theory dominates. It offers no hope to the human spirit, but declares its doleful message, “When you’re dead, you’re dead!” Yet the evidence of our wonderful creating God is plain for all to see. He created this amazing universe and our earth, which teems with life. He created each of us, and put eternity in our hearts. We were made to live with him for ever.

I recently attended a funeral of a very good friend, who had died after a short illness. Together with the family we gathered on a sunny afternoon to bury his body. It was a time of real sadness, but also great joy. As we sang around the grave we were surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. We could see the daffodils and hear the birds. Our friend’s body was lovingly laid in the grave, just as Joseph and Nicodemus lovingly laid the body of Jesus in the tomb. We did so in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through Jesus. We sang, “When I stand in glory, I shall see his face, and there I’ll serve my King forever, in that holy place.” Our dear friend had died but now, because of the risen Jesus, he is more alive than he has ever been.

Love so amazing, so divine

More than 2000 years ago a young man died on a Roman cross outside the city of Jerusalem. It seemed even to his disciples, who loved him deeply, that his death was the end of all their hopes. For 3 years he had travelled throughout Israel preaching and teaching the people and healing many sick people. Just 5 days before he was executed large crowds had acclaimed him as their king, but then had turned against him and demanded that he be killed.

As he was nailed to the cross he didn’t look like a king. The Romans knew how to humiliate and eliminate those who offended against their laws and their Emperor. A mock crown, made of thorns, had been pressed on his head and blood ran down his face and neck. His back was a mass of bleeding flesh from the scourging he had endured. As the nails were driven through his hands and his feet the Romans were making sure that this would be the end of him. Jesus of Nazareth would not be causing them any more trouble. But how wrong they were!

This Easter millions of Christians around the world are remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus. They see his cross, which was a place of curse and shame, as a glorious demonstration of God’s love. Through Jesus’ death in their place, and for their sins, they have found forgiveness for all their sins and have been reconciled to God. Like the Roman centurion who stood at the foot of the cross, and saw him die, they say, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Like the criminal who hung on a cross next to Jesus they have heard his promise, “I tell you the truth, you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Roman Empire disappeared long ago, but the kingdom of King Jesus has spread around the world. This Easter many Christians will be singing with solemn joy the words of Isaac Watts, “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet; or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”