Genesis 28:10-19a The Lord confirms to Jacob the promises that he made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, including the promise, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” God is with you is a promise we can all lean on.

Jacob has seen the vision of the stairway between heaven and earth and recognizes that God is present in that place. In the narrative of Jacob’s life, we will never see him abandoned by God, even though he later describes his life to Pharaoh, “Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life.” (Genesis 47:9)

God continues to reveal his presence and providence in Jacob’s life. Jacob experienced an ongoing connection between heaven and earth.

Through the work of Jesus by the grace of God, Paul assures us that those who have believed in Jesus and received Him have received the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son. By that Spirit, we know that we are His children, and we know He is with us. Through the Holy Spirit, we not only dwell in the place of God; we become the place where God dwells.

Paul writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:14-17)

Jesus tells his disciples that evil will continue to exist in the world, and the evil one will sow his seed and grow his weeds. Jesus suffers this evil for a while. He promises that at the proper time, “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will collect out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:41-43)

Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit and all of creation, including ourselves, groan for the coming of that time when evil is discharged from creation and all things are renewed for the glory of God. This glory will overshadow any hardships we have suffered during our pilgrimage on earth.

In the meantime, we can have the assurance, as we go through any trials, that God is our “Abba, Father,” and he is with us to bring us into his kingdom.

I think we, as preachers, have a calling and anointing from God to encourage people to have courageous faith that overcomes the fears that can rise up to undermine the sanctity of life. Too many members of our congregations are led by their fears and anxieties and a desire to avoid suffering rather than being led by the Holy Spirit. The same is true for us.

I think it is important for us to demonstrate courage in challenging, even confronting, listeners about whom they follow-the Spirit of the Lord or fear.

Written by: The Rev. Craig Stephans

Editor’s Note: Throughout the summer, we are thrilled to be able to reintroduce to you a number of Life Lectionary lessons we’ve gathered over the past few years. You can look for these passages and teachings that affirm and celebrate life biweekly.