Strong Shoulders

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Mehdi Dibaj (from Iran, imprisoned, released and murdered for his faith in Jesus Christ), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

What a joy for a little child to sit on the broad and strong shoulders of his father. From that height he watches the passing of people, the business in the streets. He has fun and feels safe. When he does get frightened he clenches his arms even tighter around his father's shoulders. He knows he can trust his father.

Is this not our position in Christ Jesus? In the day of trouble He hides us in His shelter.

'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."' (Psalm 91:1-2) The everlasting Father is our refuge. His immortal arms are our support.

Whatever our situation may be, He is always our refuge. During these past nine years in prison for my love for Him I have had the joy again and again of experiencing His strong arms of support.

Have faith in God.

A moment of introspection: Today, in our world, in our time, in our watchful eyes, adult male figures are derided and abased; the role of "father" in today's "family" is optional and, indeed, one's "father" may be a person who believes they are a male, and whose "mother" may be one who believes they are female. With the institution of the family unit imperiled, in favor of relationships, polygamy, etc., the importance of one's father shimmers and fades. Yet in our Christian homes, our heavenly Father reigns supreme, and we worship and adore Him as Father, as Abba, as the final authority on things familial. Over and over, Jesus referred to our heavenly Father, discussed how fathers interact with their children (Matthew 7:9-11), exhorted children to honor their father and mother (Matthew 15:4-6; 19:19) and thus fulfill the 5th of Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12), taught Christians to pray by addressing their Father (Luke 11:2), and described fathers as compassionate and as arbiters of family disputes (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus' interaction with His own Father would serve our children with a good blueprint or example on how to interact with their human fathers (without praying to them, that is). In His relationship with His own Father, Jesus honored Him, communicated regularly with Him, deferred to His wisdom and will, understood the Father and His purposes, loved Him, and more--showing the importance of the child and father relationship.

Rev. Dibaj understood these human-to-human and human-to-divine dynamics, and reminded us that God does care for us. He knows our frailty, our fickleness, our weakness; yet He called us into faith and offers His undying love to us as believers. He is strong, and we are weak. The Psalmist described this, saying "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26) It is because of our imperfection, our tendency to fall, to stray, to wander, and to err, that we need to experience strong arms and shoulders to carry us through life's trials, struggles and setbacks. Confident of our ascribed position as sons and daughters (Romans 8:14-17), I am reminded of the story of the footprints in the sand:

Last night I had a dream. I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonged to me, the other to the Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."

The Lord replied, "My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of suffering, when you could see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."

The Father carries us more often than we care to admit. He is able to bear up the humbled (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6), for He is strong; He is mighty. Dr. Luke describes God, saying, "He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts." (Luke 1:51) The Psalmist wrote of the same: "You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand." (Psalm 89:13) God the Father created us through His Son, has called us to Himself, and cares for each of us throughout our lives. In her article included in the Preaching Today magazine, Jill Briscoe describes being held "In the Father's Arms":

Though I was barely 6 years of age, I well remember sitting by a roaring fire on a Sunday during World War 2. Our family had fled the bombs that rained down on us one night, chasing us hundreds of miles away to the beautiful English lake district—William Wordsworth country.

The mists were gone, and a storm had broken over our heads. The rain, like giant tears, slashed against the window pane, and the thunder grumbled away as if it were angry it had to hang around all day. I didn't like storms, and I was old enough to understand that a bigger storm was raging, a war involving the entire world. But at the moment, it seemed far away. The fire was warm, and my father was relaxed, reading the paper, sitting in his big chair.

Suddenly, as if he were aware I needed a bit of reassurance, he put down his paper and smiled at me. "Come here, little girl," he said in his quiet but commanding voice. And then I was safe in his arms, lying against his shoulder and feeling the beat of his heart. What a grand place to be. Here I could watch the rain and listen to the thunder all day.

I've realized how my heavenly Father shelters me from the storms of life. When times of sorrow swamped me at my mother's funeral, I sought the reassurance of my Father's presence. When winds of worry whipped away my confidence as I faced gangs of young people in street evangelism, I glanced up to see my Father's face. When floods of fear rose in my spirit as I waited in a hospital room for the results of frightening tests, I sensed my heavenly Father saying, "Come here, little girl."

I climbed into his arms, leaned against his shoulder, and murmured, "Ah, this is a grand place to be."

And as I rest in that safe place knowing that my Father is bigger than any storm that beats against the window pane of my life, I can watch the rains and listen to the thunder, knowing that everything is all right. Here I can feel the beat of my Father's heart.

(Jill Briscoe, "In the Father's Arms," Preaching Today, Tape No. 141)

Mehdi Dibaj remembered the same situation from his own position of father in his own family. He describes children as able to trust their father, to rely on his strength; likewise, we too can trust our heavenly Father and His omnipotence. When we do get frightened, we clench our arms even tighter around our father's shoulders. We know we can trust our father. How much truer is this when we are beyond our earthly father’s care? How much truer is it in regard to our heavenly Father? The Psalmist described this in a number of ways. "And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10) "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Psalm 20:7) "But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God." (Psalm 31:14) "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4) Solomon too wrote that "Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5) The prophet, Nahum said of God the Father, that "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him." (Nahum 1:7) The author of 2 Samuel concurs, saying, 'This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. "For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless."' (2 Samuel 22:31-33)

The writer of Hebrews describes fleeing to God for refuge: "...so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us." (Hebrews 6:18) If we have any strength in times of anxiety, trouble or peril, may it be strength to flee to our Father; Henry Ward Beecher, exhorts us in saying that "The strength of a man consists in finding out the way God is going, and going that way." Jesus affirmed that He is the way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); He and the Father are one (John 10:30). So, how might we flee to [the way of] the Father? We flee to Him in our prayers (Philippians 4:6-7); in our hearts and minds (Isaiah 26:3); in our reliance on Him (Matthew 6:33) and in so many other ways we flee Him. When do we fly into the arms of our Father for refuge? In times of temptation (Luke 22:40); in our daily walk (Psalm 23); in our calamities (2 Samuel 22:19); in our days of distress, of rebuke, of disgrace (2 Kings 19:1-7); when we "stumble" (Psalm 37:23-24). It is a goodly Father Who opens His arms and says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (read Luke 19:13-15) Let us summarize, by again hearing Rev. Dibaj say "Whatever our situation may be, He is always our refuge. During these past nine years in prison for my love for Him I have had the joy again and again of experiencing His strong arms of support. Have faith in God."

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