As I write this, I have friends and colleagues affected by “downsizing” in the difficult economic environment, and there seems to be bad news all around in the workplace. How are we to respond as Christians when we feel burdened by bad news or see difficulties ahead?
I was reminded of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. This is how the conversation went (its in John’s gospel)
“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 4Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ 9Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ 10Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? ”
11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (NRSV)
Jesus is saying that two processes happen to make us believers. The first he explains in verse 5- we need to be born again in the Spirit and by baptism in water. The second he explains in verse 14. Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the Israelites and the snakes which is told in the book of Exodus? After the Israelites repented of complaining, Moses made a bronze snake, and if anyone was bitten, they simply looked at the snake and were healed. Looking is a simple act of faith, and Jesus says it is the same for us- whatever we face, when we are tempted, when we don’t know what to do, we must look to Him with simple faith, just as the Israelites looked to the snake. And that’s a process which needs to happen day by day, after we are born again.
As we do this, there is a promise in scripture- it is in Proverbs 4:
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (NRSV)
Just at the moment, it is dark when I get up to feed my sheep, and dawn breaks whilst I’m working outside. I moved one of the sheep yesterday whilst it was still dark and was worried afterwards whether I had moved the right one- it wasn’t until dawn broke that I could be sure. I do think our lives can be like that sometimes- we can be in a place or a situation that seems quite dark and we are not sure where or how to go, but the promise of scripture is that if we trust and obey His guidance, no matter how dark it can seem, the dawn will come and our right steps will become clear, and He will keep us safe through the dark times.
So my prayers for myself, and for all my friends who are perhaps going through difficult times at the moment, is to keep our eyes on Jesus, look to Him in every situation, and know that He will illuminate our path and take us on a good route.