A Stone of Remembrance

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“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.'” ~ 1 Samuel 7:12
I’ve heard it said many times before (and I believe it) that this will be a time we will remember for generations to come.  Even when everything returns to normal, that “normal” will look different than it used to even a month ago.  Covid-19 is continuing to spread, and many are still becoming infected.  The death toll in our country and around the world continues to rise, and everyone is wondering when this will all come to an end.  Some would ask the question, “Where is God during these times?” or “Why doesn’t God put an end to all of this?!  He’s all powerful, right???”
I want to point you to the book of 1 Samuel for a minute.  The people of Israel had suffered severe loss.  30,000 foot soldiers have died, and now the ark of the covenant was in the hands of the enemy.  That would be the rough equivalent, in our day, of losing millions of our loved ones and having absolutely no way to worship the Lord.  Ultimately, the Israelites overcome their enemy and they are saved.  It is at this time that Samuel sets a stone in the ground and calls it “Ebenezer.”  He then makes the statement “Till now the Lord has helped us.”  This monument didn’t serve as a simple reminder of the victory they obtained.  It served as a remembrance of what the Israelites had to endure to achieve that victory.
Last week I celebrated my 36th birthday.  As many of you know, four weeks ago I suffered a knee injury that left me with a torn ACL, partially torn MCL, and a laundry list of other things.  I am able to get around, but it’s incredibly inconvenient, it hurts and is sore, and now with our new social restrictions, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to have surgery.  So, here I sat at home with my bum knee elevated.  Usually from the start of the day to the finish, I would have made plans to celebrate with tons of people, eat lots of junk food, go out for dinner, and come home exhausted to the welcome sight of my comfortable bed.  However, 36 was a different year.  Instead of busyness, I sat at home with no plans, no parties, no restaurant outing, no celebration.  However, it was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.  I played board games with my son, watched shows with my wife, and played Yahtzee over Facebook messenger with some friends.  In an ironic way, my injury did something good.  It forced me to slow down and take stock of what really counts and what really matters.  In order for this to happen, I had to suffer.  In order for Israel to experience victory, there had to be suffering.
I hate suffering, and I hate death.  Yet those would have been my eternal song had my savior not suffered.  Had Jesus not died on the cross, I would not have hope today.  What the Bible teaches us is that victory always comes at a cost, and the most crucial lessons are learned in the hardest ways.  While I can’t give answers for why we are suffering the sting of the corona virus, What I can say is that God is trying to teach us something in the midst of it.  Much of the world will turn their backs on God in moments like these saying, “If God exists, I don’t want anything to do with Him.”  My rebuttal to that is “What’s new?”  Our world has constantly and consistently turned its back on God, His Word, and have resorted to blaming God rather than faithfully trusting God.  Instead of asking “Where is God?” we should be asking, “What is God trying to teach us/me during this time?”
As a nation, what is God trying to show us?  As a church, what is God trying to teach us?  What is God trying to show you, personally, during this time?  Like the Israelites, is God asking you to lay down your idols and give your devotion and allegiance to Him alone?  Like me, is God forcing you to slow down and consider what’s really important in this life?  Lastly, is He potentially asking you to serve in ways you never thought possible, to pray more than you ever have, to trust Him more than the worldly vices around you, or to lean on Him like never before?
God has not left nor forsaken you Christian.  However, He is absolutely trying to refine you.  One day, we will lay a stone down in remembrance of these events, and in that place, we will know exactly what the Lord was doing.  We will say in that day, as Samuel said, “The Lord has helped us thus far.”  That day is coming.  Until then…
“we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Be Encouraged <><
Pastor Chris

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Pastor Chris Ridler

Pastor Chris is married to his beautiful wife Becky and has a precious son named Noah. Chris received his Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern State University and is currently working on his Master’s of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary. Chris has served in full time ministry for over 13 years – as either a Youth Pastor, Worship Pastor or House Parent and is passionate about seeing people grow in their walk with Christ and disciple others for the glory of God’s kingdom.