April 16, 2020

By Rev. Maria Szabo Berces

Beloved Carstairs Bancroft United Church Members,
I appreciated the title and the experience behind the Our Daily Bread devotion that I would like to share with you today. As you will see it is “From Pity to Praise”.

I think we don’t necessarily need a pandemic to be exposed to neediness or vulnerability, though rough times like these may amplify our wants and helplessness. This is why I love to read those parts of the Bible in which the writers honestly talk about their dire situation, then they are able to move from “pity to praise”. You will notice it in many of the Psalms. Just few examples:

In Psalm 77 we can read: “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. … Then I thought, … I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Your ways, God, are holy. … With your mighty arm you redeemed your people” (v. 1-2; 10-15)

Or read Psalm 102: “Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. … But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. … He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” (v. 1-2; 12; 17.)

If you look at Apostle Paul’s life through the Book of Acts or his letters, you can notice that he could be content and grateful in all circumstances. As he wrote to the Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
How was it possible? He tells it in the next verse: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
These words echo in his very last letter to Timothy. May we also experience the strengthening presence of the Almighty, Holy Trinity God, even as we struggle with the disrupting effects of the invisible enemy of our times.
Grace and Peace to You All,
Rev. Maria

From Pity to Praise
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.
2 Timothy 4:17
At a coat drive for children, excited kids searched gratefully for their favorite colors and proper sizes. They also gained self-esteem, an organizer said, with new coats boosting their acceptance by peers and school attendance on winter days.

The apostle Paul seemed to need a coat, as well, when he wrote Timothy, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas” (2 Timothy 4:13). Held in a cold Roman prison, Paul needed warmth but also companionship. “No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me,” he lamented, when he faced a Roman judge (v. 16). His words pierce our hearts with the honesty of this great missionary’s pain.

Yet in these final words of Paul’s last recorded letter—his closing thoughts after an astounding ministry—he moves from pity to praise. “But the Lord stood at my side,” he adds (v. 17), and his words rally our hearts. As Paul declared, “[God] gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death” (v. 17 nlt).

If you’re facing a crisis, lacking even the right clothing for warmth or close friends to help, remember God. He’s faithful to revive, provide, and deliver. Why? For His glory and for our purpose in His kingdom. – By Patricia Raybon

Our strong God, when life’s circumstances overwhelm us, stand with us, stir our praise, giving us Your strength to overcome. Amen.
In what “cold” area of your life do you need God’s great and warming strength? As you praise Him, how does your outlook change?

The book of 2 Timothy was written from Rome as Paul was awaiting execution. The clear sense of his impending death is seen in 2 Timothy 4:6: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.” His tone is very different in his prison letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), where he’s under house arrest awaiting trial (see Acts 28:30-31). This difference of tone contributes to the view of many scholars that Paul experienced two imprisonments—the first leading to trial and the second (seen here) leading to execution. – By Bill Crowder