No change my heart shall fear

We live in a world of change. In the sphere of technology once state-of the art gadgets are suddenly out of date. Great changes have also taken place in the moral sphere. In Britain the absolute standards of the Ten Commandments have been set aside in favour of “British values” – democracy; the rule of law; individual liberty; and mutual respect for and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. People do things because they believe it is “the right thing to do” rather than because it is the morally right thing to do. Relativism rules.

Change also impacts our personal lives. People who have worked for decades for the same company suddenly find themselves being made redundant because a decision has been taken “for economic reasons” to relocate production to another country. We lived in Deeside when, in 1980, the Shotton Steelworks closed putting 6500 people out of work in a single day. People’s financial future became uncertain because finding another job was very difficult. Life for many would never be the same.

Change can also suddenly come through illness or death. People experience life-changing events when they receive a diagnosis of cancer or have a heart attack or stroke. There are people now lying on hospital beds who have lost the use of an arm and leg and cannot speak. Or someone we have loved and shared our lives with dies, and we have to face the finality of death. Friends and family gather round to provide loving support, but it is not long before we must face the pain of loneliness and loss.

When life-changing events happen, we can find peace and hope as we trust in God and his Son Jesus. A well-known hymn expresses it well, “In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear; and safe is such confiding, for nothing changes here. The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid, but God is round about me, and can I be dismayed? Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back; my Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack. His wisdom ever waketh, his sight is never dim; He knows the way He taketh, and I will walk with Him. Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen; bright skies will soon be o’er me, where the dark clouds have been. My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free; my Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.”

Finding God when we fail

In 2011 the Coalition Government in Britain defined what they saw as fundamental British values. Schools are now at the forefront of promoting “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” The values are all important, but are they succeeding in making us more tolerant of other people?

Whilst we all know that others must make allowances for our failings, the standards we demand of others are very high. We don’t tolerate failure. Politicians who fall short must resign. Heads of large organisations, both private and public, must be held to account for the failings of everyone under them. Managers of football teams who do not deliver the success the owners and supporters demand are sacked. Yet all who resign, or are sacked, are replaced by equally fallible people!

Jesus gave special encouragement to those who had failed. He was severely criticised, and ultimately condemned to die, by self-righteous, hypocritical religious leaders. They were extremely intolerant of those who failed to keep the man-made rules they had imposed. But people who knew they had failed by breaking God’s commands were drawn to Jesus. He gave them hope of forgiveness and a new beginning.

Jesus told them a story to show what God, his heavenly Father, is really like. He is wonderfully gracious and offers us a second chance when we seriously fail and mess up. In the story a son rebelled against his father, took his share of the family inheritance and went to a distant country where he threw himself into wild living. He denied himself no pleasure but soon spent all his money and was struggling to survive. Then he came to his senses and realised he had to go back to his father and admit that he had sinned against him and against God.

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet and kill the fattened calf. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.”

Jesus came that we may have abundant life

The visit of the Pope to the UK has been in the news. His visit has been surrounded by controversy, but his presence and his speeches have brought spiritual and moral issues to the fore. Some prominent individuals have taken the opportunity to attack the privileges they say are enjoyed by some churches in what, they claim, is now a secular society. The Pope spoke a number of times about the growth of an aggressive secularism in Britain, which seeks to deny people of religious faith the freedom to believe and propagate their views.

Secular thinking has certainly become more prominent in Britain and often displays a high level of intolerance of other views. Secularists seek to promote a way of life that has nothing to do with God, religion or the spiritual nature of human beings. Belief in God is declared to be “unscientific” and irrational. Secularists believe in the hypothesis of evolution and believe that the universe evolved over millions of years by a series of chance events. They totally reject any claim that there is a divine mind and hand behind this wonderful world in which we live, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Secularism flourishes most in prosperous societies and is also propagated in communist countries by atheistic regimes.

The Bible teaches that our lives on earth have real meaning because of who God is. In him we live and move and have our being. He “knit us together” in our mother’s womb and made us the people we are. He blesses us every day and provides for all our needs. In his great love he sent his only Son into this world to save us by dying on the Cross to pay the penalty our sins deserve. He rose again to give us hope that though we die, yet shall we live. Knowing Jesus as our Saviour and Lord brings us new life.

So the challenge to each one of us is, who will you believe? Will you believe the secularists’ message, as they proclaim that there is no-one there and that life ends in nothingness? For them life is ultimately meaningless. Or will you believe in the living God, revealed in his amazing creation and, most clearly of all, in his Son, Jesus Christ? Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full. As we walk though life in fellowship with him, everything is meaningful.