This past weekend we celebrated Easter and remembered the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes we can forget that the events that happened on Easter weekend 2000 years ago, didn’t just affect this guy named Jesus, but us as well.
I find myself often relating to the disciples on the day after Jesus was crucified. They were disillusioned, discouraged, and without hope. They couldn’t see the bigger picture, just the events right in front of them. They didn’t remember or understand all that Jesus had told them would happen. For them, it felt like they lost the one thing worth fighting for.
They didn’t understand that Jesus came not only to help them in the here and now, but to win their hearts and souls for eternity. They didn’t see that there was a war involving humanity and that we were all prisoners who needed a rescue. God’s love for us propelled Him to send Jesus from heaven to do just that. This battle was real and our very lives were at stake, but He came to bring us victory. Through the cross and resurrection, Jesus won the victory and triumphed over death itself.
At the moment that Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. Once Jesus came back to life, many godly men and women were also raised from the dead and went into the holy city of Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50-5).
Can you picture this scene? It’s like the fireworks after the battle is won–it is a holy celebration! Can you even imagine what elation the disciples must have felt when Jesus came back from the dead? A situation that seemed completely lost and hopeless turned into their biggest victory!
…he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:8-9
“Death has been swallowed up in victory. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
We cannot forget that Jesus’ victory is also our victory! Because of His victory for us, we are free from the hold of sin and death. It is a victory that cannot be undone. No longer can anything separate us from the love of God. The victory won through Christ is so great and monumental, that even the calendar flipped! There was life before and life after. We live in the life after the resurrection, so we can now we live in victory!
We can stand victorious even when we feel like we are in a losing battle. Whatever battle you are facing, whether it is for your marriage, the salvation of a loved one, an addiction, your health or something else, know that you are no longer powerless. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil 4:13). You can stand victorious in the power of the Holy Spirit–this is Christ in you. You are victorious because He is victorious!
Easter can be a perplexing time of year. It is both joyful and somber. With springtime in the air, Easter egg hunts, and church worship services, we celebrate the joy and celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and triumph over sin and death. But there is also the week leading up to Easter, Holy Week. It’s a time of reflection and remembrance that before the victory, God chose to sacrifice and Jesus chose to suffer. He took on our sin and paid the price for it. It is the most expensive ransom ever paid, and it begs the question, “Why would he do that for me?”
Recently, I was sitting in the prayer room at my church with a friend who was wrestling with this very question. She was struggling to understand how God could love her this much, or that He would go to such lengths just to be with her. We were about to take communion together, and as she held in her hand the tiny piece of cracker and little plastic cup of juice that represent Jesus’ physical sacrifice, her sorrow was palpable.
What she couldn’t see in that moment, is that she is worth it. God loves her so much that He dreamed of her, planned ahead for her, and created her for a purpose. Jesus willingly gave up His life for her because He believes that she is worth it. And He believes that you are too.
God created you to know Him, love Him and have fellowship with Him. He calls you His daughter, and co-heir with Christ. He is proud to be seen with you and looks forward to time with you. If He had Facebook you’d be in his profile pic. If he had a fridge, your picture would be on it.
After sin entered this world and separated us from God, His singular focus became to make a way for us to be with Him again. He has been working tirelessly ever since, pursuing you, loving you in every moment, good and bad. He gently whispers his promises and sings over you with love. (Zephaniah 3:17). In every moment, in every circumstance, he keeps on loving you, because you are worth it to Him.
God’s love is not just lip service. “He demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) This is love beyond comprehension. He himself went to the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, to bear our shame and take our sin. But He didn’t stop there. He rose from the grave, He conquered death and broke sin’s hold on us forever, so we we will never be separated from His love again.
God’s passion and love for us for us led him to the cross for the purpose of redeeming us. When the ground shook and Jesus conquered death, He declared our worth right then and there, once and for all. Because of Christ, we can lean against the very throne of God as his beloved daughter, redeemed and made whole.
I imagine the voice of our Heavenly Father, calling out, “I love you! You are my precious daughter and there is nothing I would not do for you. I went to hell and back to save you and I would do it again. There is no height, nor depth that will keep you from my love. There’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from my love. (Romans 8:31-39) In your darkest moments, when you are at your worst, you are worth it. In your victories and triumphs, you are worth it. I am here with you. I will guide your steps and guard your heart. I love you daughter. You are worth it.”
Have you ever wondered, “Where is God?” Does He ever seem to have disappeared or gone missing? I know I have! There are times when He feels far away and I have trouble feeling His love and presence.
With Easter coming up, I have been thinking a lot about what those days following the crucifixion must have been like for the followers of Jesus. They had just spent several years with Jesus, he knew them so well and they knew him well. He was the one they left everything for, the one they believed save the world, the one who they would follow to the ends of the earth. Yet they had just witnessed the one they loved, die on a cross and be buried in a tomb and with him, their hope. This was their darkest hour. Can you even imagine how confused and sorrow-filled they all must have felt?
Recently when I was reading the book of John, the story of one woman in particular caught my attention. It was Mary Magdalene. Mary was one of the women that traveled with Jesus and financially supported him in his ministry. Jesus delivered her from a life of misery by driving seven demons out of her. She is mentioned by name twelve times in the gospels, showing the important role she had in the life and ministry of Jesus. Not only was she present to see all his ministry and miracles, but she was standing there at the cross (John 19:25) grief-stricken and heart-broken. As a final act of love, she purchased burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early the next morning, she went to the tomb with her spices only to discover that the tomb is empty! Jesus was missing. Can you imagine her horror and confusion?
Now Mary [Magdalene] stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. – John 20:14-18
Mary Magdalene was the first person to discover Jesus was no longer in the tomb. She was devastated and confused to see that the tomb was empty. She did not know what had happened, only that her Lord was missing. Even when Jesus appeared and spoke to her, she did not yet recognize him. Was she too caught up in her grief or maybe in the task of trying to find him? I wonder how many times I have not recognized Jesus when he was right next to me all along?
Jesus simply speaks her name, and instantly she recognizes him and calls out to him. She turned to him, so excited to be with him. He was there all along. This tender moment when he simply says her name, shows how much she meant to him. Jesus had just gone through a torturous and horrible death, descended into hell itself and conquered death to come back to life. He was about to gather his followers to pass on the great commission and ascend into Heaven, yet he stopped and took the time to come alongside Mary. In the midst of her grief, he took the time to comfort her and let her know he was there. He chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to see him after His resurrection and share the most important message of all time. Jesus reassured her of her place in God’s family. All it took was her hearing him say her name, and she saw him for who he really was–her Lord and Messiah.
Dear friend, Jesus knows you by name as well. Even in the times when it seems like He is nowhere to be found, He is with you and calls you by name. Turn your face toward Him and recognize He is right there with you. He longs to comfort you and remind you that you are loved and so very precious to Him!
We have been talking about purpose a lot here at Revive Ministries. It is a topic that is popping up everywhere because, as humans, we long for purpose and direction. It is how we are put together. No one wants to feel like they are just a proverbial hamster on the wheel of life. But it can feel really challenging to find your purpose, let alone live it out. Hopefully the last couple of “Revive Your Week” articles have given you a solid place to start to prayerfully discerning your purpose. (You can read the previous articles on purpose here: “Made For Purpose”and “Living On Purpose”)
Sometimes in seeking our purpose we often fail to thrive in our purpose because we have not taken care of our heart. We are all living in different seasons of life and each season has its own purposes, but many times our hearts still don’t feel content or fulfilled. We find ourselves longing for something more or something different, even when our purpose is clear. I believe this is the heart-piece of all this purpose-talk and the root of finding peace and joy in every season to which we are called.
When we look back at the book of Genesis, we see that God made people on purpose and for a purpose. When he created Adam and Eve, He made them stewards over all of creation. He gave them specific tasks to care for the world around them and to make something of it, and He invited them to enjoy their calling. They had a sense of purpose and the benefit of God’s eternal perspective guiding them. They didn’t have to “play the game” or engineer their own success, because they had God right there before them, showing them the best way. They had peace and fulfillment, living purposefully in God’s daily presence.
In Genesis chapter 3, we meet a new creature, the serpent. The serpent was described as more crafty than any of the wild animals. (Genesis 3:1) I’m kind of a word-nerd, and the word “crafty” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “clever at attaining one’s ends by indirect and often deceptive means”. The serpent’s agenda is not God’s agenda. He intends to corrupt peace and derail purpose. The serpent deceives Eve, telling her that if she eats from tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, her eyes will be opened, and she will be like God. He plants a seed of doubt in her mind by twisting the truth and making her question God’s goodness and sovereignty. The serpent convinces Eve that God is intentionally withholding something good from her. As she bought into that lie, an initial seed of doubt grew into an ugly weed of discontentment. Eve decided to take matters into her own hands, and in her fear of missing out, she relied upon on her own understanding and lost sight of what was true.
That same seed of doubt pervades our culture today, stirring discontentment and the fear that we are missing out. The enemy still whispers in our ear, “If God really loved you, your life would be easier and your prayers would be answered the way you wanted. Look at your friend over there…if God really cares then why doesn’t your life look more like hers?”
Discontentment is one of Satan’s greatest tools in derailing purpose and destroying peace. It is the same trick we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. He convinced Eve that she was missing out and not living up to her fullest potential. Likewise, he lures us into believing that in our current season of life, our purpose is not enough. While we can often recognize discontentment, we don’t always see that at the root of it is the false belief that God is intentionally withholding something good from us.
This is such a subtle deception that can take hold in our hearts, without even being aware of it. That’s why it is so important to look honestly at our hearts and take any false thoughts captive. Are there areas in your life where you feel discontented? Do you believe God is holding back good from you? When you find yourself feeling like you are missing out on something good, or when it is tough to see how God is using you in your current season, tell God about it, ask Him for what you need. He wants to be in relationship with you, and provide for all your needs. He already knows what you need before you even ask it and He wants to give you good things (Matthew 6:8, 2 Corinthians 9:8). In the book of Matthew, Jesus says…
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
We are human and perpetually get things wrong. Yet, we know how to give good things to our kids and loved ones when they ask for it. God in His infinite wisdom, love and perfection knows even better how to give us good things. And what’s more, he knows when to give them and in just the right ways.
One of my favorite quotes is by Lysa Terkeurst: “God loves you too much to answer your prayer in any other way than the right way, and at any time other than the right time.” This perspective of trust in God and how much He loves us is freeing, and reminds us of the relationship that God wants with us.
Jesus encourages us continually ask and seek good things from our Heavenly Father. We are invited to be in relationship with God so that we can stay grounded in the truth of God’s character, and experience His benevolence and kindness. As we spend time with God, our perspective is no longer limited to what we can see and understand because we have God right there with us, showing us the best way. His eternal perspective helps us to know what to ask for and how to best live out the good purposes He has in store for us.
When we believe that God has intentionally given us good things and put us right where we are for a good purpose, we can begin to see the everyday things, in any season as joy-giving and purposeful.
I worked in healthcare for 13 years before pursuing my dream of doing full time women’s ministry and working in media. During that time, my health care job was important to my patients, and to my family, and helped provide for our physical needs. I enjoyed the work I did and wasn’t unhappy, but neither was I completely satisfied. I always felt like there was more, someday, to be achieved. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, just that there was more. I wanted to feel a greater sense of purpose in my career and in my life so that I could better use the gifts that God had given me. I wrestled with God a lot about timelines and details about what that might look like and when it would be time to step out in faith and pursue the dreams that were on my heart. On more than one occasion, I tried to do things my way, in my own time, only to end up back where I started. I had to trust and wait patiently on the Lord. When the time finally came, God made it clear what He was calling me to and everything fell into place. I have seen God at work more in these past few years than ever before.
My career change was a dramatic shift that left me wondering if the 13 years in health care was a waste. Looking back now, I can see that God was cultivating in me the character and skills that I would need to walk in my current calling. Just like He is preparing me for the next season after this one.
God will use all of our experiences to work out His good and perfect purposes. About two years ago, my mom had major heart surgery. She spent several days in the hospital after surgery transitioning from intensive care to a cardiac surgical unit, and then home. It was no coincidence that the first five years of my health care career were spent in a cardiac unit at a hospital. God had equipped me during that time with skills that I could never have anticipated needing, so that I could care for my mom and support my family when they needed it most. My experience in healthcare strengthened my own constitution, preparing me for what to expect, so I could stay calm and process all that was happening.
Now, a couple years later, my mom is the healthiest she’s ever been, and we are celebrating her new lease on life together. All that time I had spent feeling adrift and wondering what God had in store for me, had culminated beautifully in one purposeful moment that made it all worthwhile. Had God answered my prayer to be an R&B musician right out of college, I would have been ill-equipped and of little service to my family in that time when my mom’s heart failed and surgery was required. God simply knew better.
And that is just the outcome I could see. There are thousands of ripples from thousands of interactions with patients that all impact God’s kingdom. Everything we do, in every season can have eternal purpose.
I want to encourage you to spend some time with God this week talking about your season and your purpose. Let the love of our Heavenly Father bring healing and peace to the places where discontentment has taken root. You can trust that God is not withholding good from you, but He is active and working on your behalf. No matter what season you are in, you have a purpose and God will use this time to bring about good things and blessing in your life and the lives of others.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8