by Tom Ellsworth
Have you ever been asked, “What’s your favorite Scripture passage?” As a preacher, I don’t enjoy being asked that question. I hem and haw for just the right answer. I begin the self-debate the very moment the question strikes my auditory nerve.
John 3:16? No, be original.
Philippians 4:13? Overused.
Old Testament – Psalm 23? That’s a funeral text.
Revelation 3:20? Am I sure a prophecy is my favorite?
The inner debate rages while I try appearing thoughtful outside. How does one choose a favorite passage? That’s like asking which of my grandmother’s pies was best; it was the one I was eating! Similarly, my favorite passage is typically one I’m “chewing on” at the moment.
I marvel at the impact of God’s Word on our lives at every sector. Old passages take on new meaning at various times. A passage I’ve read dozens of times can jump right off the page as if for the first time. I’m always surprised by such freshness, but I shouldn’t be.
Jeremiah wrote: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:21-22)
If His compassion is new every morning, I can expect His Word to me to be new also.
Elders often face tough situations; ministry throws us curve balls. A young wife with a new baby mourns the loss of her husband on the battlefield, a father of four unexpectedly loses his job, a child dies of an inoperable brain tumor… Families turn to us expecting an answer as to why God seemed absent at the moment they needed Him most. My empty words bring no solace, but God’s Word is a fountain of hope. It can touch our hearts as nothing else can.
When we need solace, Isaiah 40 is brimming with it: Comfort, comfort for my people, says your God… He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (verses 1, 28, 29).
When I find myself at wits-end, Job reminds me that God doesn’t owe me answers. I step into Job’s sandals and listen as God thunders. For four whole chapters (38 through 41), the Divine Prosecutor puts a trembling Job – and me – on the witness stand while exhibiting Creation. I shudder – and slip away quietly – sufficiently reminded that God is in control; I’m not. Once again, I’m content to let Him run the universe without my “help.”
Last winter, one particularly clear night was breathtaking. As the celestial lights twinkled above me, Psalm 147:4 raced into my mind: He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Ever since taking entomology in 4-H, I’m fascinated by butterflies. But I believe God created the life cycle of butterflies to illustrate something much greater. At the right moment the eating-machine caterpillar attaches to a tiny branch, entombing itself in the chrysalis. But what emerges is far more glorious than what went in. From the stillness of “death” comes an explosion of life. The caterpillar’s transformation echoes “cocooning” in a tomb.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die…” (John 11:21-26)
Moments later, out of the stillness of actual death came an explosion of life.
I can’t imagine facing the future without the assurance that Jesus has the monopoly on resurrection. If He can raise the dead, He can handle any crisis that stumbles across my path. Who knows what tomorrow may bring or what Scripture we will need to get us through another moment? Take heart, elders; God always has the right word for us to share. And undoubtedly, that one will become my new favorite Scripture.