An encouraging word

By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston

“Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! Only God is my rock and my salvation—my stronghold!—I will not be shaken. My deliverance and my glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. All you people: Trust in him at all times! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our refuge!”—Psalm 62:5-8 (CEB)

Anticipation abounds in uncertain times. We want to know what to expect, what the prognosis will be—and we want to know now. In the face of the unknown, we can find ourselves overcome with fear and helplessness.

But what if the waiting provides an opportunity for us to learn and grow? What if we choose to live like we truly believe God is certain of our future even when we are not?

Theologian Oswald Chambers names the tension between certainty and uncertainty succinctly, writing, “To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises.”

To remain focused on following God’s plan for our lives rather than simply our own plans requires discipline, dedication and a commitment to prayer. This shift in focus requires a deep well of faith. God promises to direct our steps, not to provide us a detailed map in advance. And so we move forward in faith, finding strength and refuge in God’s grace, hope, mercy and love.

In May, delegates and church leaders from around the world will convene in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the 2020 General Conference. Much has gone into the preparations for this global gathering, and significant work is before this body when they meet May 5-15.

As we journey through Lent toward the cross and the promise of resurrection, let us remember those who serve in leadership throughout The United Methodist Church.

I invite you to join me in a season of focused prayer between now and General Conference.

When we join together in prayer each day, we remember who we are and whose we are as disciples of Jesus Christ. Each day we have the opportunity to be for someone the Gospel that they may never otherwise hear. As United Methodist sisters and brothers, we will continue our kingdom work to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, sustained by hope and our faith in God’s promises. We cannot avoid uncertainty, but we can respond with faith rather than fear.

Together each day, let us join one another in prayer, trusting that God hears every word:

  • Sunday: Eternal God, we give thanks for the sacrifice you made for us. Help us rise up to the challenge of living as your disciples. Focus our minds on divine things rather than human things. We willingly pick up our cross, ready to follow you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
  • Monday: Loving God, open our eyes that we may see you. Open our hearts, abide with us. Use our lives to share your good news with a world in desperate need of you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
  • Tuesday: God of glory, your love and grace are sufficient. Use our times of suffering to build endurance, character and hope. For what more could we ask? Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Wednesday: Almighty God, we know that nothing can separate us from your love. Focus our hearts on your will and your purpose so that our lives can be a testimony to the love and grace that you freely give. Through your Son, Amen.
  • Thursday: Living God, turn our focus toward heaven. Show us how to walk in your way—by faith, not by sight. Increase our confidence as we strive to serve you faithfully. Amen.
  • Friday: God of hope, you shine light out of the darkness. All power and glory belong to you. We are yours. Use us so the life of Jesus will be made visible through our words and actions. Amen.
  • Saturday: Covenantal God, we hang on to your promise of hope, and it carries us toward the future without fear. Guide us so that we might endure patiently to overcome adversity while pursuing truth. Use us to make a difference in this world. Amen.

Friends, prayer is powerful. When our hearts and minds are engaged in a prayerful focus, we begin to see situations from the perspective of hope. There is not magic that erases our uncertainty, but in the midst of it all, a life of prayer shifts our perspective from a spirit of despair toward a spirit of hope. We truly trust in God’s promises.

May our focus turn away from anxiety in the face of uncertainty and turn toward trusting God—our rock, our hope and our refuge.

My prayer for you is that this season of focused prayer will instill in your hearts a spirit of hope.

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