‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.’
Dickens might have been writing about life before the French Revolution, but I’m writing about our lives. About my life. Best and worst, wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity, Light and Darkness, hope and despair, everything ahead and nothing ahead, Heaven and the other place (and this time I don’t mean Oxford!) can all seem to mingle together at times in our lives. Something happens to make it the worst of times and so we foolishly focus our attention on the worst. Instead of trusting in Christ in the situation, we turn our gaze to our disaster. We despair. We see nothing ahead. And it all feels much more like the other place than it does like Heaven.
And yet, there’s an alternative. The worst of times can be the best of times. How? Through the presence of Wisdom, faith, Light and Hope. Through the knowledge that we have everything before us and that we are going ‘direct to Heaven.’ And that all can only mean one thing: through Christ. Christ is Wisdom, Light and Hope. In Christ we really do have everything before us, for He is our eternal inheritance. He is our heaven. Only in Christ can the ‘worst of times’ be the ‘best of times’.
And yet, He doesn’t zap us out of the worst into the best. He meets us in the worst and brings the best into it. (That ‘best’, by the way, being Him.) And so ‘it [is] the best of times, it [is] the worst of times’. One day the worst will be no more. But for now Jesus enters into our sufferings and hardships, big and small, and walks with us.
But how? By faith. And so by hearing. We need to hear His Word, His gracious gospel Word. We need to speak the Word of Christ to one another. And that’s not just about formal sermons from the front. We build one another up as we speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) – that’s Jesus! We need to speak Jesus to one another. It doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be fancy. It doesn’t need to be new. It just needs to be Jesus. He is Wisdom, Light, Hope and Heaven. In Him everything is before us. In Him we can know the best of times even in the midst of the worst.
You see, it’s not knowing that brings faith. It’s hearing. Sometimes we need to hear again what we already know to be true. Often we need to hear it again. And again. And again. In fact, not just sometimes, not just often, but all the time. And when we hear it again, the Best steps into the worst. Christ comes to us in His Word.
And that’s the sort of weekend I had. One where God very graciously sent friends old and new to tell me what I already knew but needed to hear. People who simply chatted about Jesus. Different people, different conversations. Whether over musical instruments on Friday morning, over coffee on Saturday afternoon, over a meal on Saturday night, over Sunday lunch, or over cups of tea on Sunday afternoon. But all those people spoke to me about Jesus. Simply chatting about who Jesus is and what He’s done. Simply chatting about the wonder of Christ’s love and the riches of His mercy. Simply chatting about Christ in His Word. And in those chats Jesus was present in His Word.
So, anyway, my message is simply this: let’s talk more about Jesus. The weather and the cricket can look after themselves, but what we need to be hearing about is Jesus. He is powerfully present in His Word.