Every U.S. President has had one major defining issue. For Herbert Hoover it was the Great Depression. For FDR it was that and World War II, which ended under Harry Truman. President Eisenhower dealt with Soviet tensions and the Cold War. These continued into the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, which also faced the civil rights movement and the Vietnam conflict. And of course Richard Nixon had Watergate.
In the Bible, King Saul’s defining challenge was from the neighboring Philistines. Saul was selected and coronated with hopes that he would end the threats and violence (I Samuel 9:16, 10:1). But war with the Philistines was a recurrent problem that did not go away under Saul (14:52). Have you ever had something like this? The same problems keep recurring over and over, and try as you might you can’t shake them.
The cross of Jesus serves as a powerful reminder that even when the scariest possibilities are realized, we know it’s not the end of the world. Jesus went through the worst thing that could possibly happen: He was arrested, subjected to torture, and put to a violent, agonizing, and brutal death. And yet we know from the resurrection that it was not in vain. It paved the way for our salvation and for hope beyond the grave.
It also empowers us for life in the present. It’s good to remember this in light of all that the world that can bring us in worry or fear:
So often in life the problems we face are just like this. They create more noise and distress than they’re worth when we let them. But fortunately we have a big God and He has His ways of helping us face these challenges. Sometimes God uses other people to bring relief from the experience of spiritual distress (16:23). And other times he meets us in our fears so we can challenge them (17:11). As Christians we can remember that Jesus helps us to conquer fear because of His victory over the powers of death. The violence of the cross was not the final word. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow, some way, God’s kingdom will prevail in the long run – even if wars persist and giants are shouting in our midst.
God bless you,
Andrew McHenry, Pastor -- First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.