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Looking Up When You Feel Knocked Down

Looking Up

“But at daybreak on the first day of the week, they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee; that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others”. (Luke 24:1-9)

Apart from being the story of our salvation, the whole Easter Triduum (the three days leading up to Easter) combine with the event of the resurrection as the greatest motivational story of all time. It holds a lot for us and our lives as human beings. Beginning from Palm Sunday (the Sunday we celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem), everything looked bleak for Christ, the Son of God. He was betrayed by the one whom He chose to be His disciple; jeered by the very ones He fed, cured, healed, saved, and preached to; rejected by the very ones he defended; cursed by the ones he rescued; belittled by the ones he elevated; and vilified by the ones he defended. He even felt rejected by His father as He cried out: “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). All these seemed true until that holy night, that fateful Sunday when God spoke the last word in favor of His own Son by raising Him from the dead. By this last word, God also revealed to us principles for successful living.

1. Believe that God is on your side

The experience of Christ tells our story full time. There are too many forces in life that surge at us with the vengeance of Terminator II; forces that are against the spirit of Christ being made flesh in our communities – attacks and disaffirmations from those with whom we live; broken promises and betrayals; emotional and physical violence from loved ones; drug and alcohol problems in families; unemployment, financial problems, and unpaid salaries; academic and school problems; marital problems and family discords; mental and physical illness; harassment and victimization by security forces; intimidation and exploitation by public officials; devaluation and depreciation from others; etc. In the maze of these principalities and powers of darkness, we are sometimes moved to ask, like the Israelites, “Is the Lord still in our midst or not?” (Exodus 17:7).

The good news of the resurrection is that God is still in our midst and that He is on our side. God’s promise is clear as the prophet Jeremiah tells us: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope” (Jer. 29:11). The apostle Paul tells us that, “God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also raise our mortal bodies through His spirit that dwells in us: (Romans 8:11). The resurrection, therefore, is God’s way of unleashing the power of faith necessary for us to counter our fears, reevaluate our dreams and potentials, and reclaim our purpose and value in life. Christ’s resurrection is God’s way of turning those things that break us into things that make us; those things that destroy us into things that bless us; those situations that weaken and despair us into situations of opportunity and hope. The resurrection is God’s counterattack on the efforts of the devil to abort our anointing. It is God’s power to clean out the toxic agents that Satan uses to pollute our promises. It is God’s power to protect us from all evil powers and forces that work to destroy our future. All we need to do is to hold onto this hope and believe that God is on our side. God has promised you: “When you call me when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot” (Jeremiah 29:12-14).

2. Let Go of the Past and Focus on the Future

The resurrection is a declaration of present and future blessings and a letting go of the past. “He is not here, He is risen” declared the angel. Christ’s death took our ugly past with Him! His resurrection announces the brightness of our tomorrow. As St. Paul says, “forgetting what lies behind [let’s] strain forward to what lies ahead, [and] continue [our] pursuit toward the goal, the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-15). Christ’s resurrection is an invitation for us to press forward no matter what the adversity may be; to hold on to hope, in the face of hopelessness, to forge ahead no matter what the obstacle may be. There is always a detour in life as long as you are with Jesus Christ and this detour to your blessing lies not in the past but in the future. As the Lord God has instructed: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert, I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers” (Isaiah 43:13-14). Yesterday is gone; you will not find God there. “He is not in the tomb; He is risen!” The resurrection calls you to focus on what God is doing right here and now. The windows of opportunity are all around you. If you keep looking in the past you won’t see them. Move into your present. God’s activity is going on right there, right now. Therefore, let go of past hurts, your bereavement and grief, your anger and wrath, your disappointments and broken heartedness, your failures, and insecurities, and embrace the Alleluia of this Easter Sunday.

3. Your Anchor determines your strength.

The power of the resurrection to move you past your trials and tribulations depends on where you anchor your hope. Too many impostures offer themselves as perfect anchors for our lives. But we shall know them by their fruit. Many people have been hurt and crushed in life because they put their faith and hope in their own strength, abilities, and achievement. The gospel of Luke tells the story of the rich man who anchored his hope on his achievement only to receive this message: “This night your soul will be all of you and what are you going to do with all you have achieved.”

Many have been crucified, nailed, bashed, and destroyed because they put their hope and faith in others. We all know too well what human beings can do, how their desires and wants can compromise even the most sacred of things. They can do you good and they can do you bad and they can do you so bad that you are forced to agree with Thomas Hobbs that “Man is nothing but wolf unto man.” Many have been disappointed and devastated, imprisoned, and lost their lives, marriages, relationships, and their faith because they anchored their hope on material possession. Many have been broken, torn to pieces, and even killed because they put their hope and faith in human love and promises.

Many have put their hope on fitness, on good looks, on body shape and all that junk. The truth of the matter is that it is only a matter of time before aging begins to take its toll on the human body. Plastic surgery and the sought can only go so far to hide whatever is natural in us and in time create a monster look out of our features. I am reminded of the story of a 55-year-old woman who had a near-death experience due to a heart attack. As she was passing from life unto death, she begged God to spear her life for the sake of her children. God acknowledged her request and told her that she had 40 more years to live on earth. She woke up instantly and recovered from her heart attack. She then said to herself, “I have 40 more years to live, I need to get back to the looks of my youth. So she opted for plastic surgery. After her plastic surgery, she looked stunningly beautiful but as she was driving home, she got into an accident and died. She was furious when she met God and questioned: You promised me 40 more years and I haven’t even spent one week of it and you killed me”. God responded; “Oh, I did not recognize you”. What a shame.

Others have tried to anchor their hope on the assessment of their worthiness. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the Pharisee and the sinner who came to the temple to pray. The Pharisee anchored his hope in life on his worthiness while the sinner anchored his hope in life on God’s mercy. The Bible tells that the sinner went home empowered to get on with life.

The question therefore is: where have you anchored your hope for tomorrow? When the rain begins to pore and the sun shines no more, where will you find the strength to challenge your situation, to reorganize, regenerate, and replenish yourself for the better days to come? The Bible tells us, “Blessed is the man whose hope is in the Lord their God” (Psalm 146:5) for “They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3). The resurrection is an invitation for you to anchor your faith and hope in God for He who raised Jesus Christ from the dead is capable of raising you up also. As St. Paul tells us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). When you anchor your life on Christ, your power to overcome multiplies because “He who is in [you become] greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Only God can “fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:9). This is the message of the resurrection.

4. Believe that you will overcome any obstacle to your blessing

God’s promise to supply whatever you need is always on His time, not yours. His grace and blessings for you are meant to bring Him glory and honor. You are only an instrument of that function. Our tendency is to complain and grumble when things get rough and we perceive God as delaying in answering our prayers. Unfortunately, complaining, grumbling, blaming someone, and wallowing in self-pity only serve to paralyze your faith and hope. It depletes the strength and energy you have to deal with the situation, without solving the problem. It blocks the power of the mind to become creative, frustrates the power of hope to anchor the soul, depletes the strength of the body to fight on to victory, and opens the door for Satan to mess around with your faith, your hope, and your love –the three things that the bible tells us abideth forever. Be careful not to give the devil anything to accuse you of. The Bible instructs us to “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent” (Phil. 2:14). Complaining and grumbling focus your attention on the problem, not on the solution. It builds up frustration in the soul and distorts the reality of the true situation. Complaining makes you forget past blessings which are the foundations for future hope. It can lead you to question the very existence of God, His providence, and the reality of his promises. Complaining is actually a sin against God for which He does punish His people as is evident in the 21st chapter of the book of Numbers: “Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray the LORD to take the serpents from us” (Numbers 21:7).

Remember that the crown of the resurrection came only after the affliction of the cross. No Cross, no Crown is an old adage. The Bible encourages us to “boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 5:3-5). God allows us to go through challenges because He knows that it is the struggle of life that builds strength in us. God loves you too much to leave you where you are. He’s preparing you for something better! So, while “weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). That which does not destroy you can only serve to make you stronger! Keep the focus on your hope because your blessing lies on the other side of your pain. Let your problems drive you closer to God for God knows how to turn your negative situations into discovery point for strengths that you never knew you had. Then you can tell Satan “as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). From the experience of Christ, we know that with crucifixion comes the resurrection and with the resurrection, the ascension into heaven and being seated at the right hand of the Father. Satan doesn’t control your circumstances, God does!

It is important therefore that you always look beyond your anguish so that your life does not stop on a Good Friday experience. Unfortunately, for so many people, this is where life stops which is truly short of what God has planned for them. On that fateful Good Friday, many of the people who stood there walked away despaired. But for those who gathered in the upper room praying, the good news was on the way. “He is not here in the tomb; He is Risen”! God always has a plan that goes beyond Good Friday. God’s plan for you includes the crown of glory in spite of the struggles of life.

In conclusion, therefore, I urge you not to let this Easter pass you by with you still down in the dumps. May the Easter Alleluia announce a new beginning in your life! May it rouse you into action and creativity if your life has become monotonous; energize you in the face of depression; give new meaning to things that have become meaningless, revive love where love has deemed, move you to forgiveness where hurts has ruled, bring reconciliation where division and hatred has governed, bring your family together in the face of disunity; empower you in the face of powerlessness; move you to make decisions about things you have remained undecided and to take action where procrastination has retarded your progress. Tell yourself, “This is my Easter to Rise” and tell a family member or friend: “Don’t let this Easter pass you by”.

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