"They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious & merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them." — Nehemiah 9:17; ESV
Boy, did I need this reminder this morning. Seriously. I honestly feel that for the past month or so I have been in a battle to be true to Jesus. I understand that every day is a battle, but this season of the battle seems to be pretty fierce. And in that battle there are times of retreat and times of discouragement, and even times when it feels like defeat has become the reality. But I press on. I keep going. I want so much to bring honor and glory to my Jesus that I keep going. But after the times of failure hit, it is so natural for me to imagine God's judgment and frustration with me as a result of my mistakes. It is so easy for me to see him as irritated with me, always wondering if I will ever get it together. And when those thoughts and feelings flood my mind, defeat leads to despair.
This morning I was going to get right into studying for the different teaching opportunities I have coming up this week. As I pulled out my preaching Bible, all that I heard in my mind was, "What about hanging with God first?" Seriously. Over and over and over again. There was no rest from hearing those words. So, I reluctantly (because I am so busy and important - or something like that) grabbed my Bible and my journal. And what God said to me through his word brought peace to my heart.
The people of Israel had become stiff-necked and rebellious. They knew the commands of God but didn't want to obey them. God's response: quick to forgive. Steadfast love. Grace and mercy. And it made me stop and think: I really do want to bring honor and glory to Jesus. Why would he be irritated with me in my efforts when he remembers that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14) and sympathizes with us in our weaknesses because of being tempted in every way yet being without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16)?
I needed this reminder. God is not against me. He's not angry with me. He's never had a second-thought about redeeming me. I needed to hear Jesus say to me this morning: "Brian, I know what you're dealing with. I know you're struggling. But remember this: I am your God who is ready to forgive you, gracious and merciful toward you, slow to anger and abounding in love for you. And when I told you that I would never leave you nor forsake you, I meant it. Nothing can keep me away from you. Not even you."
Be encouraged today. I know that I have been. I welcome this very much needed reminder.