Faithfulness in the Face of Challenges

Embracing God’s Confirming Work in Our Lives

May 30th, 2024

“Let Your work appear to Your servants and Your majesty to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.”
Psalm 90:16-17

Every day we face challenges. We are challenged from within and we are challenged from without. Sometimes the challenge is just simply getting out of bed, sometimes it is standing for what is right when no one else agrees. The simple truth is that we are challenged. God did not promise us anything less than this. In fact he told us that “In this life you will have trouble” (Jn 16:33a). So we shouldn’t be surprised. We should prepare by bathing ourselves in faithfulness so that no matter what, we can finish what we started, or better said, what He started.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue”…Philippians 1:6a

We prepare students for a life of service at HCA. That life is found in Christ who taught, modeled and encouraged this servant paradigm for all of us. If we and our students have any hope at achieving this we must have a living relationship with Him. Essentially we can’t do it if we have never begun. All our doing will be stymied and hopeless. So before we find meaning in the second part of HCA’s mission which is pursuing academic excellence, we must first start our mission in Christ. This will confirm the work to be good and carry the tired, the broken and the weary in the light of His good faithfulness, Jesus knows we are going to struggle and He calls us to come to Him in this state (Mt 11:28-39). I often find this promise of rest in the arms of my Savior as I cry out to Him to finish the work.

The other day I found the perfect example of this. I was reading a sermon on the Song of Songs by the 12th century pastor, Bernard of Clairvaux. He wrote a total of 86 sermons in the book and I am currently beginning sermon 24 in the series. There is unknown tension that is spoken of between sermon 23 and 24. Bernard does not explain it, but what has happened was the top leadership of the church had fallen into a great rebellion.

Power, money and greed had crept in, and Bernard took it upon himself to go and stand against the apostasy. I am glad to say his stand was successful, but the success took several years. It is these years that are represented between the pause of sermon 23 and 24.

As I began to read Bernard’s opening words to his 12th century congregation, I heard the words of a man who had faced immense challenges. Though he had come out victorious, he echoed the pain of the challenge and the distraction that it caused to the sermon series he was invested in with his flock.

It is in this heart that Bernard pens the early lines of the sermon, “But I fear that my mind, alienated all that time from a doctrine so sublime and preoccupied with manifold affairs of much less consequence, may prove inept for the task [of once again preaching on this book]. But if I give you what I have, then God can take all my well meant effort and enable me to give what I have not. If events should prove otherwise, the fault will lie in the skill and not the will” (Bernard of Clairvaux Song of Songs Sermon 24.1).

“If I give you what I have…”Faithfulness. At the end of the day faithfulness is often all we have to offer to the challenges we face. Is it enough? Most certainly not. But this should not cause our hearts to break or our wills to be shaken.

If God wills anything you or I do to be done, He will see it to an end and confirm it in His hand. It is important that we do what our eye and mind have found favor in our hands to do, for this is what is called our skill. But to whatever degree it is worthy, it will be worthless without the confirming work of the Lord. For we truly can only start things…

This coming weekend we look fresh again upon the reality that it is only the Lord who gets to say, “It is finished.” I pray the good work that has begun in us all continues, and that no matter what we do in our secondary mission here on this earth, we will all one day stand together as we see the King return to tell us the temporal work is done and now the eternal work is fully begun. Until then, let’s be faithful!