Near yet global: Our Father in heaven

Girl on beach: Nik Radzi, Unsplash

People with a missions mindset often care about both loved ones nearby and multitudes beyond their own borders. In a global health crisis, we can feel deeply grieved yet powerless to help.

Who’s in charge matters. Pandemics and the way they are handled in our country, state, or locality can prompt us to ask who is overseeing relief efforts and how much we can trust those people. When we see a worldwide biological threat enter developing nations that we know have limited hospital resources, we may lose hope for them.

Our Father both sees what’s going on and can do something about it.

Abba: Our Father in heaven

Jesus gave us a clue about our Father as part of His sermon on the mountainside. When He tells His followers how to pray, He begins, “Our Father in heaven.” As our Father, God loves us deeply and unconditionally. In his book, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth Bailey notes that in teaching prayer to “our Father,” Jesus chooses the Aramaic word “abba.” Bailey writes that that very Aramaic word survives in parts of the Arabic-speaking Middle East today as one of the first words parents teach their babies. This word, Bailey says, “affirms both respect in addressing a superior and a profound personal relationship.” Our Father who knows what’s going on around the world cares personally for each of His children’s needs yet remains big enough to do something about what He sees.

We see a picture of God’s care and His heavenly power in Isaiah 40, which opens with God comforting His people, speaking tenderly to them (vv. 1-2). The Shepherd tends His flock and gathers His lambs in His arms close to His heart, paying gentle attention to nursing mothers (v. 11). This same God, “enthroned above the circle of the earth” that He created, tirelessly oversees its people (vv. 22-27). We can’t face a difficulty without His knowledge.

Global but tender

In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, “Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent Creator.” The Father knows us intimately. As Packer says, it’s false “to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of His own people.”

Whether you’re concerned about a family member nearby or the global scourge of COVID-19, you can take those concerns to our Father. Try praying Matthew 6:9 and the rest of Jesus’ prayer just as He taught it. Start with “our Father,” who sees us and knows the needs around our world, who’s powerful enough to act and tender enough to care.

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