Hello and welcome to another edition of “Miscellaneous Musings” penned by yours truly. The following is an old “sermon” I wrote up when I was called upon to substitute in for my church youth pastor a year or so ago. I post it here for both posterity, and so that it may be beneficial to someone out there who may need to read it.
Often times in life, what we all need most is a ‘reveal codes’ button, kind of like the thing you see when you click the edit profile thing on Myspace. Just because we can’t see God at work doesn’t mean he’s not there working in many various and wondrous ways. Here’s a story from 2 Kings chapter 6 about Elisha and his servant who were surrounded by an entire army. The servant is terrified naturally, Elisha though, being a man of God, and having special vision into certain things wasn’t phased.
The Arameans Plot to Capture Elisha
8 Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, “In such and such a place shall be my camp.” 9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.” 10 The king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice.
11 Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.15 Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
We read a similar tale in Mathew chapter 8. Jesus is in the boat with his disciples when a storm rages. The Disciples panic, Jesus sleeps. The thing that both the Disciples and Elisha’s servant had in common was a lack of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and it is also impossible for God to send his comfort and help down to you. However on these two instances, at the behest of prayers by Jesus and Elisha respectively, both parties were allowed access to a secret that all believers should inherently know. God is in control. Not only was there an angelic army camped around Elisha to protect his life, but also, there are angels camped round about all of us. Have you ever heard the phrase just ‘let go and let God?’? Sometimes that is much easier said than done.
But if we are honest with ourselves we know there is a strong element of truth in that saying that we should all try our best not only to understand, but to apply to our everyday lives. I should start I guess by unpacking the part that says ‘let go’. What does it mean exactly to ‘let go’? Does that mean that I just become a hermit and withdraw myself from any kind of social activity whatsoever and also cease all physical efforts of my own? Is that a free pass for becoming a Couch Potato or a Comatose Christian? Hardly. Letting go is simply a way of acknowledging that there are some things God alone is powerful enough to accomplish.
There are other things menial enough for me handle with his help, but sometimes the only option God leaves you with is just to Trust Him. These are things like unforeseen circumstances, weather conditions, the free will of others, or whathaveyou, that we have no control over whatsoever, and so it does us no good to worry ourselves with them. In fact God never intended for us to carry the burden of worrying about those kinds of things in the first place. That’s why he says ‘be still and know that I am God’. The first thing you have to do there is recognize the simple fact of who is God and who isn’t. If you’re presently having trouble understanding this, we’ll be happy to explain it to you later on.
I remember at my Grandmother’s house there was a little plaque that used to hang on the kitchen wall that had a familiar saying on it. It was simply a prayer that read, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom, to know the difference.’ It is crucial that we not ignore the prayers for courage and wisdom.
It says in the Bible that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. However, in this day and age, as in others, it still takes immense courage to stand up for the call of Christ in a public manner. It also takes much wisdom to know which battles are worth fighting and which are better left to the Lord to sort out. This brings us to the ‘letting God’ part of the equation. In Genesis we read about a man named Abraham who was called a ‘Friend of God’, because he refused God nothing that was asked of him. He wasn’t perfect by any means, he had his faults like all of us, but because of his faithfulness he will be remembered throughout eternity as both the Father of the Faith and the Friend of God.
One of his watermark moments during his walk with God occurred when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. Now I’m sure we’ve all at least got a Sunday School kind of familiarity with this story that we need to shake off. Hearing this story fresh and anew, it’s hard to imagine God, knowing what we do about him, to even suggest this kind of barbaric act to be done. In fact in many other places in the Bible the act of human sacrifice is condemned most emphatically as a heathen practice and something God wants no part of. Almost even more astonishing is the fact that Abraham immediately agrees to this! A few conclusions could be drawn; one that Abraham was an uncaring father, which isn’t true, another that he supposed it really was God’s will to slay his son, which I don’t happen to buy. The third option, which I’m privy to accepting, is this.
Abraham who was as close to God in his walk as nearly anyone you can point to in the Bible, in the back of his mind, knew a few things that perhaps you and me don’t quite fully realize yet. There are a couple of things God has never or will never do. First, he can’t learn, because he already knows everything. Second, he’ll never meet anyone his equal, because he has no equal.
Third, he cannot and absolutely never will tell a lie. It says elsewhere in the Bible that God places his Word even above his own Name, which if we had even an inkling of an idea of how seriously he takes his name; it would probably cause us to tremble. So knowing this, if we look back earlier God had expressly promised to Abraham that through his son Isaac a great nation would come about. So Abraham knowing this simply said to himself, okay God, this is your problem now. I’m going to obey you fully, but you know you’re either going to have to stop me or bring him back to life. This is the attitude that we all need to take sometimes when life throws us a curveball.
You just have to honest with yourself and with God and say, Lord, I don’t understand what’s happening, but I know that nothing can happen that isn’t in the end, worked out for the good of those who love you. So I am just going to patiently endure this storm, or this test, and show you that no matter what may come my way, that I will never leave you or forsake you, just as you said you would never leave or forsake me either. Abraham was called a friend of God, but later on we meet a man named David who was called ‘A man after God’s own heart’.
He like Abraham before him was also an imperfect human being, but it was his devotion to God, in prayer and in obedience that kept him in God’s good graces all throughout the days of his life. He writes many psalms in which he says things like the Lord is my Rock, or my Refuge. He actively clings to the love of God, and even when he sins, once he is convicted of guilt, he repents and God forgives him and blots out the memory of his affair with Bathsheba. Note, he doesn’t take away the temporary penalty of the sin, as from that point on David’s personal life will be a complete wreck.
He will suffer the death of a child, two insurrections, one by his own son Absalom, and in the end, the son born to him by Bathsheba, Solomon will lead the nation of Israel into idolatry and cause them to be split in half. We learn from this, that even though our sins our blotted out, the effects of our actions continue on down here on earth. Indeed, God is not mocked. That what you sow, you shall also reap. It’s interesting to look at the Apostle Paul’s early life. He persecuted the church daily, and was present at the stoning of Steven and even consented to it. Later on, long after his salvation and even though he was a courageous man of God, his former actions caught up with him, as he himself was subject to a stoning that left him permanently disfigured and to the point of death.
As horrible as these things are though, we must remember that it is not God who is causing this to happen, we through our own free will chose the sins we indulged in at one time or another. And for those of us who continue to indulge in sin, I advise you to be very careful. Remember the first law of holes is this: stop digging. We needn’t worry about the strength of the one who will oversee us though. As disappointed as I may get in myself sometimes I know if nothing else that God is never disappointed with me. That doesn’t mean I always have His approval in some matters, but just this: when Jesus Christ was sent to pay my own personal sin debt and yours also, guess how many of all our sins were still yet future? The correct answer is “all of them”.
God knew just how bad it was going to get down here on Earth once sin first entered into the picture through the Fall (Genesis chapter 3). He foresaw all the wars and all the endless cruelty of man, and yet, even still, out of the unfathomable riches of his mercy and grace, decided we were worth saving anyway, so much so that He gave His only son for us as a payment. Again and again God has gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring you and I closer to Him, but just like the few things I mentioned above that God cannot do, there’s one more thing also to add to the list. He cannot make you love him. It’s a contradiction of terms. Love has to be voluntary; and it has to be given out of a grateful heart and a spirit of brokenness. I find that brokenness very easy to arrive at when you survey just to what lengths Jesus Christ went to, in order that we could attain salvation. In closing I submit to you this final thing, an analogy if you will, that just about perfectly describes the decision Jesus Christ made when He voluntarily agreed to come down to this earth and receive the judgment that we deserved.
There was a pastor who had a dream and it was very vivid to him. So much so, that he wrote it down for all to share.
In his dream, God was on the outer perimeter of our universe and called this pastor up to him. His name was Tim.
God said to him “Tim, I need for you to do something for me”. “Anything
Father”, he responded.
God pointed to all of the planets and asked “Do you like the planets and stars
that I’ve created, Tim?”
“Yes Sir”, Tim responded quickly.
“That’s good Tim, I need for you to look way over there”, God said as he
pointed to a small, insignificant little planet in the midst of all that he had
created in the universe, “do you see it?”
“Yes Sir”, Tim responded as he looked and saw the small planet.
“That planet is full of dogs, Tim”.
“Yes Sir”, Tim responded.
“You see, Tim, that planet may be full of dogs, but I love them, do you
Tim smiled and nodded his head.
“Tim, I need for you to go there and tell them that I love them”.
“Okay Father”, Tim responded.
“There are a few things that you need to know, Tim”.
Tim stood with a smile and waited patiently to hear from God.
God spoke and said, “Tim, they won’t listen to you because they won’t
understand you. You must become a dog in order for them to understand
Tim stood and listened intently.
“Now Tim, you also have to understand that they are very dangerous”.
“Yes, Sir”, Tim responded, “I will go”.
“That’s good Tim”, God responded back, “but there is a small catch”.
“Yes, Lord?” Tim asked.
“Tim, they are all vicious Rottweilers and Dobermans”.
“Yes, Lord?” Tim maintained as a question.
“Tim, you must become meek and mild. You must become a Chihuahua”.
Tim shuddered but responded “What ever you want me to do, Lord”.
“Tim, there is one, final thing”.
“Yes, Lord?”, Tim asked.
“You will be a Chihuahua, forever”.
You see, Jesus became a man, not for his time here only to return to what he
was before. He became a man, forever. It is unimaginable to think that there
is a man on the throne, right now, but there is.
Remember this before we close. In the end it wasn’t the Roman Soldiers, or the Jewish People, or anyone else who put Christ on that cross to die that awful and humiliating death, it was me, and my rotten sins. That’s what put him up there, but it was nothing but sheer unbridled love that held him there. And for that, we owe Him nothing but all of our praise, love, trust, and full obedience. Always remember this: you are valuable beyond words, it doesn’t matter what anyone says, the Creator of the Universe, has declared your worth, by paying the highest possible cost imaginable to claim you as his own.