Several years ago at The Cove, we had the privilege of attending a Military Marriage Seminar with Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church in Texas. You might have heard of this great man of God—he is the one who has taught lessons from the Song of Solomon to many young people (and us older folks, too!). When the weekend together was drawing to a close, Pastor Nelson ended with ten admonitions to the 125 military couples gathered. The points were, in part, a summary of the seminar, but also a strong closing challenge for all of us.
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The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace. — Psalm 29:11
Perhaps it is because I’m in my older years, but I particularly appreciate studying the benedictions in Scripture. I also appreciate reading biblical “last words”—such as Paul’s final letter to Timothy. Since our seasons of life are really seasons of worship, I believe these final blessings are instructional and encouraging as we give praise and honor to God.
I recently studied five favorite benedictions, or blessings, and believe they have something to say to us at the end of 2016. And they may even have an inspirational message for those experiencing deployment!
1. Facing Challenges
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24, 25).
As we face the new year of 2017, it’s possible that this year will bring an unexpected change of assignment—or even an expected one. Jude’s benediction reminds us that it is God who will keep us on a steady path of obedience and purity. And it is Jesus Christ we are to serve . . . not just in 2017, but for all of our days.
2. God’s Sovereign Plan
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
We make our career plans, but it is God’s perfect plan which prevails in our lives. Paul’s reminder that He alone is in control –for our own good—is one we need to keep before us. It is His Holy Spirit power at work in a Christian’s heart and life which gives us confidence in 2017.
3. Peace for the Journey
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
This particular levitical blessing is one our pastor pronounces over our military members as they head off to war. The Lord’s blessing, sustenance, presence, grace—combine to be the perfect pronouncement for the heart of a soldier/airman/Marine/sailor/guardsman. Launching into the new year, or launching into a deployment, begins well with this commissioning.
4. Growing in Relationships
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” I Thessalonians 3:12-13
Times of geographic separation, as demanded by deployments, can challenge any and all relationships. Keeping up the lines of communication requires planning and intentionality . . . and is ultimately motivated by an ever-increasing love for one another. In 2017, or in a duty assignment, may you call on the Lord to be at the center of your relationships to His glory.
5. The Legacy
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21
A year from today, Lord willing, we will have yet another time to look back at opportunities and ponder. The end of the year can be the perfect time for self-evaluation. How did the Lord shepherd me this year? How did He equip me for doing His will? Did I mature spiritually in ways that pleased Him? Can I give Him all the glory for what happened this year, or throughout this deployment? How will what I have learned this year, or through this experience, be a model to pass on to future generations?
Whereas these benedictions, or blessings, can encourage us . . . they can also be used for our own personal prayers. For example, fill in the blanks with your name or the names of others for whom you pray:
“Now to him who is able to keep ___ from stumbling and to present ___ blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24, 25).
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that ___ ask or think, according to the power at work within ___, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
The LORD bless ___ and keep ___; the LORD make his face to shine upon ___ and be gracious to ___; the LORD lift up his countenance upon ___ and give ___ peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
“May the Lord make ___’s love increase and overflow for ___ and for everyone else, just as ours does for ___. May he strengthen ___ hearts so that ___ will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13).
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip ___ with everything good that ___ may do his will, working in ___ that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21
And may the LORD continue to guide and protect you throughout 2017, in whatever lands He takes you according to His will and for His glory, both now and forevermore. Amen.
Questions to Share:
1. Which of the five benedictions particularly speaks to your heart today?
2. If you are facing a deployment in 2017, print these blessings onto index cards to carry with you in order to pray for each other.