Read: Colossians 3:1-4
Before turning a corner to discuss biblical truth today, may we pray together for Ukraine and the people who are in such peril even now?
“Lord, I like many others who might see this small devotion have never known anyone from Ukraine. Even so, their country is suffering greatly now, a fact that is not hidden from You. Lord, You see what is going on right now, Proverbs 15:3. You know how each circumstance will affect the days to come. Your wisdom, power and knowledge have no limits, Romans 11:33-36; so, we ask You to pour out Your strength and kindness into the lives of those Ukrainians who need Your help even now, Psalm 46:1. We ask that evil plans would be brought into confusion and that You will help those who are bringing aid to the suffering. Lord, please comfort loved ones who are already grieving the deaths of their precious family members and friends. Father, make Jesus known to many people who don't yet know His saving and seeking love, Luke 19:10. Please Lord do even more than we know to ask or think, Ephesians 3:20-21. Lord, May Your Name be honored. Amen.”
As my husband and I watched some of the unfolding coverage in Ukraine on TV this week, I found myself frequently asking a question I have posed many times. What time is it in Ukraine now? After thinking through the time difference, I then mentally thought about whether it was dark or daylight in Ukraine and how that might effect what was going on.
This isn't the first time I have done this. When a family member was deployed, I used to picture what he might be doing, depending on the time of day it was in Iraq. In another case, when my sister and brother-in-law went on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Hawaii, I often thought of them on the beach or possibly reveling in the beauty of a Hawaiian sunrise or sunset. All these circumstances share one thing in common. When I thought of those far away, my mind was in "two places at once". There was nothing mystical about it. I simply set my thoughts on another place without leaving our home and the every-day duties that are part of life.
I thought about that in light of Paul's admonition to set our minds on things above and to remember that our lives are hidden safely with Christ. Don't we truly live in two places? Paul also reminds us that even now, we are citizens of heaven, Philippians 3:20. Sitting at the computer right this moment, I am already in Christ, a citizen of heaven. Because of that, placing my thoughts on heavenly things should be more and more a natural thing for me. Why did I think of Hawaiian sunrises and sunsets and beautiful walks on the beach? Because people whom I loved were there, and I liked to think about them enjoying those lovely sights. What about heaven? Jesus is there interceding on our behalf, Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25. That's something to ponder. The One Who watched over our formation in the womb, Psalm 139:13-16 is still caring about what we face even now. We are known and valued by Him, Luke 12:6-7. He will complete the work He has begun in us, Philippians 1:6. That's the One Who is even now praying for us, and He has been seen by a reliable witness!
Imagine it. Stephen, the first martyr we meet in the book of Acts saw our Intercessor, and we have his testimony to remind us of that truth, Acts 7:54-57. Before he was taken out to be stoned by the religious leaders, Stephen saw the victorious Savior standing at the Right Hand of God. Though Stephen was experiencing the wrath and scorn of those who opposed Jesus, his life was hidden in heaven. He saw the One Who was there to greet him when his earthly work was completed. What a joy for him to see his Intercessor. Another truth about Jesus' intercession. It comes from a heart of understanding because He experienced both the sorrow and joy of doing God's will, Hebrews 5:7-8; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:44; Hebrews 12:2. Let's look at the sorrow first and leave the joy for last.
In these scriptures, it is clear that Jesus experienced great pain as He cried out in the Garden. He desired the earthly closeness of His friends as we often do, as part of His humanity. His obedience to His Father's will was not stoic; instead, He cried out. He experienced strong emotions. He experienced pain as part of His choice to do His Father's will. An Intercessor Who truly understands that it is sometimes very difficult to say yes to God's will. He knows that we face circumstances that we can't understand.
How good it is to know that we are not expected to receive circumstances as God's will without expressing normal emotions. Sadness or confusion doesn't mean rebellion. Jesus showed us through His earthly walk that we can cry out to God. That is why as He intercedes from heaven, He can pray for us with compassion because He truly understands how we sometimes feel, Hebrews 4:14-16.
Now for the joy! Let's not forget the joy! In Hebrews 12:2, we are reminded that Jesus knew that the unspeakable pain He endured didn't have the last word. No, there was the joy that He would experience after the pain. Now we come full circle to discover why Jesus could stand to welcome Stephen and how He became our High Priest. He endured the shame and pain of the cross in order to receive the joy of redeeming us and all who have and will come with empty hands to Him, Luke 18:9-14.
What about us? Where is the joy for us? There is joy in knowing that behind all that we don't understand, there is a God Who isn't standing back merely observing. The truth I'm about to share isn't a little bandage that gets tossed over a gaping wound. Instead, I mean it as a blanket to enfold us. It is God's strong and tender arms around us that are strong enough to carry out His complete plan. We can receive this truth with tears, knowing that God's plan will provide more joy than we can fathom, Romans 8:28; Romans 8:18. Until we experience this ultimate and unfathomable joy, we can come at any time to the Intercessor Who truly has walked in our shoes and will never disregard our pain, Hebrews 4:14-16.
While we live here on earth, may the Almighty One show us how to live in two places at once.