Paradise

By Don Rivers

Answered prayers hold the promise of hope. They let us know that God hears our requests and provides for our needs. Last week the first words Christ spoke from the cross involved a prayer for those who crucified him. This week as he spoke he answered a prayer. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate Easter there is no greater hope found than in victory over death. That is what Christ offered as he hung on the cross. It what we might interpret as a sign of weakness in reality is the greatest demonstration of strength. Christ accomplished what we cannot and he offers it to us as an answer to our prayers.

When things are hopeless, when the future looks dim, when we cannot see what tomorrow holds for us we turn to God and ask for his help. That is prayer, a conversation with God. Does he hear them? Does he answer them? That depends on if you have a relationship with him.

You and I both know it is easier to receive help from someone you know. I have said it many times at the track, the willingness to help one another makes the racing community a special group of people to be around. I have seen it many times, teams helping teams so that they could race. We all understand the challenges to get to the track and have your car ready. Then something breaks and you don’t have a spare. That is when you know who your friends are.

That is the key; those who know us and care about us are willing to help us. If you walked up to a total stranger and asked for twenty bucks, how likely would you be to get it? On the other hand if you walked up to a friend and asked the chances are they would give you whatever you needed, probably forty or fifty.

Jesus found himself nailed to the cross, enduring its pain for you and me. He was there between two thieves, one on his right and another on his left. He was there for us, they were there because the deserved it. Even in that moment of grief we see that Jesus still had compassion for those who sought him out.

Luke 23:32-43, Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus speaks from the cross a second time, this time he answers a prayer. Look at the contrast of the criminals on the crosses, one belligerent and hurling insults, the other had a fear of God, a respect for Christ. Together they sum up the two options, for or against. There is no middle ground. We either honor God or we don’t.

The thief on the right asked Jesus to remember him when He came into his kingdom. Look closely, not if you come into your kingdom, when. He had done some terrible things in his life, terrible enough to be sentenced to death. He understood that that was unacceptable to God and he prayed to the only one who could save him, Jesus.

Jesus responded, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Salvation is that simple, acknowledge God and ask for his forgiveness. God will receive you into His kingdom. Jesus still wasn’t focused on his needs he was focused on the needs of those around him.

How easily are we distracted from the needs of those around us? How easily do we get lost in our own difficulties and challenges that we forget what is going on around us? How many times do we push someone away because we don’t have time? How often are we so wrapped up in ourselves that we cannot see the needs of those around us?

Jesus wasn’t too busy or distressed to hear the prayer of a lost soul. He has set an example for us to follow. Let us take some time and listen to those around us. Let us make every effort to focus on the needs of others and not on our own.

This Easter season let us turn to the cross and listen to the words of our Savior. Let those words make an impression on our hearts. Jesus, even in His suffering set an example for us. Let us make the effort to follow that example. Until next time, remember God loves you and Jesus is Lord over Auto Racing! God Bless. Remember, that your prayerful support helps us continue this ministry. Thank You.

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