This post is now incorporated with 22 other similar ‘reflections’ in my book, Facing Cancer with Faith.
There are two words in the Bible that, for the Christian, make a huge difference – a huge difference to the way we live, our motivation, our strength in suffering.
If someone were to ask me to sum up in a few words what enables me most of the time to be content and joyful in the face of my illness I would say, “our Father”.
Those words are found at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9). Most of the time they just fall off the tongue without registering in the brain. But their significance is far reaching. So far reaching that they ought to wake us up every time we say them.
We take it for granted that a father is someone who provides his children with protection whilst they are growing up, who gives them the food they need, the clothes they need, the home they need. He provides his children with wise words and education, he cares for them when they’re injured or sick, he shields his children from danger.
There are some people who, tragically, are bad fathers, or who have had bad fathers, but the point is that in spite of that, we know instinctively what a good father looks like. And we know that small children feel safe and secure with their fathers around. “I don’t need to be afraid of anything, my daddy’s with me”.
The reality of that safety and security increases with the actual power and strength of the father. A poor man may be able to protect his children only so much, and may struggle to provide. A rich man will be able to provide more. A strong man will protect better than a weak man. And a king, with armed forces and riches, will be able to protect and provide for his children much better than almost anyone else.
“Our father in heaven” is God Himself – the Creator of the entire Universe, the provider of everything, the sustainer of everything, the King over all Creation. Children of the Almighty God must, therefore, have the greatest security and certainty of provision.
Jesus, God’s only Son, tells his followers that we must address God as “our father”. This isn’t an isolated statement. Have a look at Matthew 23:9, and throughout the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7; also John 20:17.
The apostle John says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
How is this possible? This is what Jesus’ death and resurrection has done for those who have faith in him. Not only are we redeemed, forgiven, set free from sin. We are adopted as children of the only real God. The apostle Paul says, “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Galatians 4:4-6) The footnote in the NIV points out that the word translated “adopted to sonship” is a legal term, meaning the full legal adoption to the position of male heir in Roman culture.
So whatever pains, problems, hardships and afflictions we suffer in this life, we know that we are sons, heirs of God. Not only will that suffering end, but we will come into an inheritance that will make this world’s riches look like small change. That’s why the apostle Peter can say that God “has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Peter goes on to say, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (v6)
Paul, in Romans 8, speaks of the incomparable glory we look forward to because of our position as children and heirs of God:
“… Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…. we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” (vv14-25)
And Paul brings the chapter to a climactic conclusion by saying, “If God is for us, who can be against us?… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv31-39)
We can look forward to an inheritance that makes all our troubles pale into insignificance, with a certainty that cannot be shaken, because God is our father through the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christian, next time you say the Lord’s Prayer, pause when you say the words, “Our father in heaven…” And flood your mind with what that truth means to all the things you worry about in your life, your afflictions, your fears, your hopes, dreams and desires. God, the Almighty, loves you with a fatherly love that cannot be shaken and is infinitely greater than any earthly father’s love. And He is infinitely richer and more powerful than any human being imaginable.
Those two words really do make a huge difference.