If It's Not Alright, Then It's Not the End

October 26 Day 299

If It's Not Alright, Then It's Not the End

There is a line in the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: ‘Everything will be all right in the end… If it’s not all right, then it is not the end.’ Way beyond its context in the film, these words convey a profound theological truth.

Run the race to the end

Psalm 119:105–112

Be determined, like the psalmist, to stay faithful to the Lord to the very end of your life. Say, ‘My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end’ (v.112).

In some ways, your life is like an obstacle race. There are snares along the path (v.110a). There is a temptation to stray (v.110b), and there is suffering (v.107).

How are you to avoid stumbling or making a mess of life? Wandering around in the dark is frightening and dangerous. The psalmist’s answer is that, in the darkness of the world around, the word of God provides:

  1. Guidance
    The word of God sheds light in the darkness: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (v.105). It enables you to see the obstacles in your path, and hopefully to avoid stumbling over them. Study God’s word regularly and he will guide you one step at a time: ‘By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path’ (v.105, MSG).

  2. Sustenance
    You need spiritual sustenance to keep going and God’s word is ‘sweeter than honey to my mouth’ (v.103).

  3. Wisdom
    You need wisdom when you face stressful situations and decisions, and God’s word provides ‘understanding from your precepts’ (v.104).

  4. Encouragement
    It is not easy. He writes, ‘I constantly take my life in my hands’ (v.109). You need encouragement to keep going and God’s word is ‘my heritage forever’ and ‘the joy of my heart’ (v.111).

God is faithful and will help you. The psalmist writes, ‘Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth’ (v.108). He is determined with God’s help to keep going ‘to the very end’ (v.112b).

Lord, there is so much to praise you for. Accept the willing praise of my mouth. Your words are the ‘joy of my heart’ (v.111). I set my heart on keeping them to the very end.

Pass on the baton to the next generation

Titus 1:1–16

In some ways leadership is like being in a relay race. Succession is key. Pass on the baton to the next generation because your part in the race is not the end.

The apostle Paul’s life changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He realised in that moment that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and therefore death (the ending of this life) is not the end.

He sees himself as ‘Christ’s agent for promoting the faith’ (v.1a, MSG). Jesus has sent him out to proclaim the message ‘getting out the accurate word of God and how to respond rightly to it’ (v.1b, MSG).

One day, Jesus will return and that will be the end of the world as we know it. However, even that will not be the end. Paul’s aim is to ‘raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end’ (v.2, MSG). This amazing good news is the message that inspired and drove Paul’s ministry.

This is the foundation of your faith. This is the truth. You can be absolutely confident about your future because of this hope of eternal life. This is a hope that was promised by God from the beginning of time (v.2), and which you can be sure of because ‘God… doesn’t break promises!’ (v.2, MSG). This is the message that Paul has ‘been entrusted to proclaim… by order of our Saviour’ (v.4, MSG).

In the end, you have the sure hope of eternal life. In the meantime, your task is ‘unfinished’ (v.5). Paul gives instructions to Titus whom, like Timothy, he seems to have led to Christ (v.4).

Paul is coming to the end of his part of the race. But the end of his part is not the end of the race. He is passing on the baton to Titus, ‘so you could complete what I left half-done’ (v.5, MSG). At the same time, he is urging Titus to pass on the baton to others by appointing ‘leaders in every town’ (v.5, MSG).

The key to succession is finding the right leaders. Paul gives a similar list of qualifications to the ones we have already looked at in Timothy (vv.5–9).

He contrasts these high-calibre, godly leaders with those who ‘claim to know God but by their actions deny him’ (v.16). These people, under the guise of being ‘religious teachers’, ruin whole households. They do it for dishonest gain. They are not convicted by their sin. They do not understand that what they do is evil (vv.10–16).

The task of a good church leader is not only to ‘encourage others by sound doctrine’, but also to ‘refute those who oppose it’ (v.9). This should not be an excuse for criticising and judging other Christians, or churches, who are slightly different from us. Rather, verses 10–16 show us the types of behaviour that church leaders are called to refute – for example, those ‘disrupting entire families with their teaching, and all for the sake of a fast buck’ (v.11, MSG).

The ultimate purpose of this strong leadership is to protect the people of God from being blown off course. Paul’s opening vision of eternal life should still be in our minds here as it shows us why it is so important to remain ‘sound in the faith’ (v.13). The hope of eternal life is our goal, our message and our motivation.

Lord, thank you that this life is not the end because of all that Jesus has done for us on the cross and through the resurrection. Help me to lead well and pass on the baton to good leaders for the future.

Never give up hope

Jeremiah 52:1–34

Sometimes the circumstances of our lives can seem very bleak. Everything has gone wrong. Darkness has set in. And yet… God never leaves us without a ray of hope. If it is not all right, then it is not the end.

Jeremiah had the unenviable task of proclaiming judgment. His name has passed into the English language as meaning ‘a person given to lamentation or woeful complaining, a denouncer of the times, a dismal prophet.’ And yet… even the book of Jeremiah ends with a hint of hope.

Jeremiah’s words were fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem. This was one of the most terrible times for the people of God. Their king, Zedekiah, was captured, blinded and imprisoned (v.11). ‘The summary murder of his sons was the last thing Zedekiah saw, for they blinded him... The king of Babylon threw him in prison, where he stayed until the day he died’ (vv.10–11, MSG). The temple was destroyed by fire, as was the royal palace and every important building (vv.13–14). Many of the people went into exile.

Then, in 562 BC, in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, a new king arose in Babylon who released Jehoiachin and freed him from prison (v.31).

‘The king treated him most courteously and gave him preferential treatment beyond anything experienced by the political prisoners held in Babylon. Jehoiachin took off his prison garb and from then on ate his meals in company with the king. The king provided everything he needed to live comfortably for the rest of his life’ (vv.32–34, MSG).

This is the slight hint of hope with which the book of Jeremiah ends. It is not all over for the people of God. This restoration had actually been prophesied by Jeremiah (chapter 24), along with a prophecy that the exiles would one day return to the land. With this first sign of restoration, the book comes to an end on a note of hope. This is a foretaste of the return from exile, which was to take place in 537 BC.

This in itself was only a foreshadowing of the restoration and renewal that would come through the kingdom of God, with the coming of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Even in Jeremiah the end (the fall of Jerusalem and the exile) was not the end. The people of God survived and would return to the land, rebuild the temple and restore the city. But this is also a picture of something far greater. Jesus proclaimed the end of the exile. In him, we have a new temple and a new Jerusalem. God raised Jesus from the dead. You have a new hope beyond the grave.

Father, thank you for the hope of the return of Jesus and for eternal life. Thank you for the hope of a new earth and a new heaven. Thank you that the end is not the end.

Pippa Adds

Psalm 119:105 (MSG)

‘By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.’

I need to read the Bible more, and then I might know where I’m going!
 

 

Verse of the Day

‘Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path’ (Psalm 119:105).

References

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, (20th Century Fox, 2012).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.