Archive for December 5, 2011
Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
Today we encounter the “seventh word” of Jesus on the cross, his last word in the Gospel of Luke before he died. Jesus said, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands” (23:46). Faithful to the end, he counted on his Heavenly Father to take care of him in life beyond death.
It’s striking to me that Jesus’ final words from the cross were borrowed from the Psalms. In Psalm 31:5, David prays, “I entrust my spirit into your hand. Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.” Like many of us, in a time of great suffering, Jesus turned to the Psalms for comfort and for words to express the deep yearning of his heart.
As Jesus quoted a small portion of Psalm 31, it’s likely that he remembered the whole psalm. This fact may show us what Jesus was thinking in his last moments before dying. Psalm 31 begins with a cry for protection (31:1-3) from pursuing enemies. Then, with confidence, David shows that he trusts God even in such difficult times, “I entrust my spirit into your hand” (31:5).
Yet, a few verses later (31:9-13), David once again cries out to the Lord for mercy. Tears blur his eyes. He is dying from grief. He is scorned by his enemies. Even his friends are afraid to draw near to him. His enemies conspire to take his life. It’s easy to see why Jesus was drawn to Psalm 31 in his time of persecution and pain.
But Psalm 31 moves from desperation to confidence. David knows that his future is in God’s hands (31:15). He celebrates the Lord’s goodness and protection (31:19-20). Thus, David exalts: “Praise the LORD, for he has shown me the wonders of his unfailing love” (31:21).
Thus, as Jesus said, “I entrust my spirit into your hands,” he was doing more than merely offering his soul to his Heavenly Father. He was also demonstrating his supreme confidence in the Father, his belief that the Father would ultimately deliver him and bless him before the whole world. Thus, the seventh word of Jesus points, not only to his death, but also beyond death to his resurrection.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have there been times in your life, weighed down by discouragement or defeat, you could do no other than entrust your life into God’s hands? How is it possible to cry out to God with desperation and also to confess his goodness and faithfulness?
PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, as I pray today, I echo the “seventh word” of Jesus as he echoed the prayer of Psalm 31: “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.” Though I am not in a place of suffering today, I realize once again that my life belongs to you. You have saved me for relationship with you and for participation in your kingdom work. You have adopted me into your family. I belong to you.
On that day, long ago, when I first “accepted Jesus into my heart,” I entrusted my spirit into you hands. Time and again, I have reaffirmed that commitment. I have given myself to you and relied on your strength to hold me up.
Once again, Lord, I entrust all that I am to you. I give you my spirit, my physical life, my family, my work, my dreams, my fears, my hopes. I entrust all that I have and all that I am into your strong, faithful, gracious, loving hands.
All praise be to you, dear Father, because you hold me, heal me, and protect me. Amen.
In the church many are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. If you do not like what I am saying, I want to ask you something. Think about the company you run with. What do they talk about most? God and the love of God, or other things? You decide that. Many Christians today will not endure sound doctrine. Paul described these people as having “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3). They did not like sound doctrine, but they were Christians. They called themselves Christians, but their ears were itchy. A commentator I read some years back explained this. In Paul’s day the pigs had a disease called “itching ears.” The symptom was that their ears got inflamed and itched terribly. The only way they could get relief from these inflamed ears was to go to a pile of rocks and rub their ears earnestly and vigorously. The stones scratched their ears for the time being. Paul saw that, smiled a sad smile and said, “I am running into Christians here and there who are just like that. They love pleasure more than God and will not endure sound doctrine. They have itching ears so they will be eager for something else beside the sound docrine and holy ways. They will pile up teachers everywhere and rub their ears for dear life.” That is a most dramatic and colorful illustration. A lot of so-called Christians have to have piles of rocks to rub their ears. They will not endure sound doctrine. I think that is a description of the churches, Protestant and evangelical. In the light of New Testament predictions, teachings and standards, is what I just said about the prevailing religious mood untrue? Is what I have said about the prevailing religious mood uncharitable? Is it extreme? I do not think it is, but I only ask you to do one thing: Look around you and look in your own heart. See which of these pictures describes the churches you know.
Early Wednesday morning, Homer Paulson–my dad, my hero, my encourager, my laughing buddy, my Mr. Fixit, and my model for faith and conservative living–died at the age of 93.
Dad didn’t take a lot of time to tell us how to live. Instead he lived, and let us watch him do it. He seized life and let people know he was enjoying the ride whether he was working, playing cards, engaging in one of his many hobbies, traveling the world, watching sports, or making a difference for his faith or family. And through it all, he had fun. It’s hard to remember a time he didn’t have a smile on his face and a spark in his eyes.
Growing up during the Great Depression, he had more than his share of hardships, but he and his family were never victims. Dad always played with the hand he was dealt, and by making the best of what he faced, developed a rock-solid optimism that never left him. If something broke, he’d fix it before he’d buy a replacement. No loans; you save until you can afford to buy it. Working as a child wasn’t abuse; it was a privilege to learn the importance of hard work and to contribute to the success of his family’s farm.
During the depression, whole families who had lost their homes were living in the Paulson homestead. The Christmas dad most remembered was the one where his father took money set aside for gifts to help a poor family that needed it more. To dad, charity wasn’t the government’s job; it was our job to help.
At Kirkland High School, he was on every sports team, but confessed that they had so few boys in the school that everyone had to play every sport just to field teams. He challenged us to participate in sports to learn about teamwork and how winning and losing was part of life.
To dad, faith was more than going to church. He headed building and stewardship drives, served as church treasurer, and loved making a difference. When the newspaper noted that the education building dad helped support at Los Altos Lutheran looked a lot like an ark, he laughed, “They’re worried that we Lutherans know something the others don’t!”
Long before civil rights were politically correct, he showed by his actions that every man is a child of God and worthy of respect. To dad, titles, race, degrees, and riches didn’t earn respect; how you treated the least of these mattered more.
He treasured the freedoms and opportunities we have as Americans. He voted his conservative principles in every election and volunteered in his local church and community.
He lived life with passion. He enjoyed every hobby or craft he took on. From coin collecting to tile art, from silver jewelry to collecting Heisey cruets–there was no half-way commitment. To dad, every day was a gift; he opened it looking for the present it could become.
When mom became pregnant with Patty at 42, they embraced the surprise. God had given our family a gift. When they asked if dad was her grandfather, he just smiled, then dyed his hair, and went on living young at heart.
Cousins would call him “Uncle HoHo.” Because of dad, we laughed everywhere we went as a family. He showed us how to take our faith, family, and work seriously, but ourselves lightly.
In short, he lived the principles that made America great—treasure your family, work hard, spend wisely and save for the future, take responsibility for yourself, provide charity to those in need, respect your elders, don’t covet what others have, earn your own way, and believe in God’s providence and grace.
I once played for dad Dan Fogelberg’s song, “Leader of the Band.” The words still touch me every time I hear them:
The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old…
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.
When he listened to the song, he just said, “I don’t play in any band!” I was in tears, and he was laughing. As usual with dad, laughter won the moment.
He’s gone now, but there’s no man I’ve ever respected more. I just hope to be half the man–half the father, believer, and citizen–dad was. For those who say that fathers aren’t necessary, they never knew my dad. I already miss him. I’m grateful for his love, his discipline, and his wisdom. And I will leap for joy when I join him again in paradise.
May we never forget that fathers matter, and may we never stop letting them know that they do.
Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.
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