Last October I was stunned by the news that two great friends of mine, Chris and Susanna Naylor had been killed in a terrible car accident, taking them immediately to God, but leaving behind three children and so many grieving friends. And their death was while they were serving the Lord, with the wonderful Christian environmental charity A Rocha. The founder Peter Harris was badly injured and his wife Miranda killed in the same tragedy.
How very strange that Chris, who was my roommate from university, and a wonderful Christian and human being, should go to be with the Lord before me, when over the past few years he had been so kind to me when I thought I would die in a few months. How mysterious and strange are the ways of God. Life appears so uncertain and seems random. The future seems very fearful.
But then again as I pondered my mind was once again cast back to the Bible, to a verse in Psalm 31 which simply says "I trust in you O Lord, I say my times are in your hands". I found this verse very helpful when I was first diagnosed with incurable cancer. I looked up a sermon on this text from the Victorian preacher CH Spurgeon. Together with his friend Bishop JC Ryle these great men of God feed me with his word today.
Here are some of the things Spurgeon said,
‘The great truth is this - all that concerns the Christian is in the hands of Almighty God. "My times" change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love. "My times", that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth - all those are in the hand of the Lord.
Whatever is to come out of our life, is in our heavenly Father's hand. We are not in our own hands, but we are under the skilful operation of hands which make nothing in vain. The close of life is not decided by the hand of fate, but by the hand of love. We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long.
Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. We dwell within the palm of God's hand.
Our times are in the Lord's hands, because we are one with Christ Jesus. Everything that concerns Christ touches the great Father's heart. He thinks more of Jesus than of all the world. Hence it follows that when we become by belief one with Jesus, we become conspicuous objects of the Father's care. He takes us in his hand for the sake of his dear Son. Your Father comprehends all things, though you do not: let his wisdom be enough for you. Everything in the hand of God is where it may be left without anxiety.
"My times are in your hand." Does not this reveal the condescension of the Lord? He has all heaven to worship him, and all the universe to govern; and yet "my times" - the times of such an inconsiderable and unworthy person as I am - are in his hand.
Yes, God considers our times, and thinks them over; with his heart and soul, planning to do us good. That mind that made the universe, out of which all things spring, bows itself to us; and those eternal wings, which cover the universe, also brood over us and our household, and our daily wants and woes.
Do you believe that God's hand is working with you and for you? We feel we are immortal till our work is done; we feel that God is with us, and that we are bound to be victorious through the blood of Jesus. We shall not be defeated in the campaign of life, for the Lord of hosts is with us, and we shall tread down our enemies. God will strengthen us, for our times are in his hand; therefore we will serve him with all our heart, and with all our soul. He that takes care of our times, will take care of our eternity. He that has brought us so far, and wrought so graciously for us, will see us safely home’.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards mankind sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature and to suffer death upon the cross so that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility, grant that we may both follow the example of his patience and also have our part in his resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.