The sword and the soul

The Covington News - - Religion -

There are many won­der­ful prom­ises in Scrip­ture about God’s de­liv­er­ance of his peo­ple — Is­rael es­cap­ing through the parted sea, Daniel be­ing spared from the li­ons, the three He­brew chil­dren de­liv­ered from the fiery fur­nace.

Th­ese are won­der­ful ac­counts, but it is also here where we some­times en­counter a prob­lem, a prob­lem that gnaws away at our faith if we al­low it.

The fact is that some­times God’s in­ter­ven­tion may de­liver us from the per­ils we face here on earth. At such times we re­joice. Other times that in­ter­ven­tion may de­liver us from the per­ils we face by de­liv­er­ing us into his pres­ence.

Un­for­tu­nately too few of us see that as in­ter­ven­tion. The re­al­ity is it is the best in­ter­ven­tion be­cause at that time no other peril or trial or heartache or pain can touch us. Yet for many, this lat­ter state­ment will be con­strued as a lack of faith on my part.

There are many to­day who are glibly pro­claim­ing a mes­sage that is sup­ported nei­ther by scrip­ture nor by ex­pe­ri­ence.

They claim that if we will sim­ply have enough faith (and many of them want you to show your faith by giv­ing them large amounts of money), God is go­ing to give you ev­ery­thing your lit­tle heart de­sires this side of eter­nity.

I heard one such preacher pro­claim, “I’m tired of wait­ing. I want my bless­ings now.”

Alas, I fear he may get what he wants. Je­sus warned the Pharisees of his day, men who wanted the recog­ni­tion and ap­proval of men that they would get it, but that would be all they got (See Matthew 6:2).

In my years of min­istry, I have come across many peo­ple who were once ac­tive in the church but who are now inac- tive, dis­cour­aged and some even an­gry to the point that they now op­pose the faith they once pro­fessed.

In ev­ery case the cause is the same: they be­lieved an il­lu­sion about what God promised or about the Chris­tian faith, and when their bub­ble burst, they be­came dis­il­lu­sioned. It will hap­pen ev­ery time.

Per­haps the pre­dom­i­nate rea­son that peo­ple be­come dis­il­lu­sioned with Christ and Chris­tian­ity is be­cause of the be­hav­ior of some of those who pro­fess Christ, yet live like the devil.

More dam­age is done to the Chris­tian cause by those who claim the fam­ily name and then live un­wor­thy of it than by all the athe­ists and skep­tics in the world. I be­lieve it was the Ger­man Philoso­pher Friedrick Ni­et­zshce ( 1844- 1900) who first said, “I will not be­lieve in the re­deemer of mankind un­til those who claim to be re­deemed start liv­ing like they are re­deemed.”

Within the faith how­ever, I think the most pre­dom­i­nate rea­son why some be­come dis­il­lu­sioned drop-outs is be­cause they have mis­un­der­stood or mis­ap­plied what the Bi­ble teaches. Their il­lu­sions of Chris­tian­ity have caused them to be­come dis­il­lu­sioned. Get­ting their the­ol­ogy from feel­ings or ex­pe­ri­ences they have be­come dis­cour­aged. They ex­pected a life of ease af­ter they said yes to Christ and in­stead they dis­cov­ered hard­ship and suf­fer­ing.

Added to the pain they al­ready feel, they were scolded by spir­i­tual sound­ing ar­gu­ments that tell them “if only they had enough faith they wouldn’t be suf­fer­ing,” or worse, “that there must be some hid­den sin in their life and that’s why God is not bless­ing them.”

Per­haps a les­son from the Apos­tle Paul would help put some of this into per­spec­tive. Paul, fac­ing the ex­e­cu­tioner’s sword, wrote, “The Lord will res­cue me from ev­ery evil at­tack and will bring me safely to his heav­enly king­dom. To him, be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Ti­mothy 4:18, NIV). And that is ex­actly what God did.

Most of us would look at that state­ment and Paul’s cir­cum­stances and say, “Poor Paul. He missed that one. He ex­pected to be de­liv­ered from Nero’s hand, to be kept from evil, but, alas, God didn’t do that. Our beloved Paul died at the chop­ping block.”

But is that what Paul said? Did he ex­pect to be de­liv­ered? Well, yes and no.

Look at that 2 Ti­mothy pas­sage again. What is he say­ing with, “The Lord will res­cue me (by) bring­ing me safely to his heav­enly king­dom”?

The sword could re­move his head from his earthly body, but the sword couldn’t touch his soul. His il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer of suf­fer­ing was about to be over.

He who said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Philip­pi­ans 1:21, NIV) was about to ex­pe­ri­ence that gain.

The sword for Paul was not a de­feat but a vic­tory. We, who pro­fess the name of Christ, need to stop look­ing at death as the fi­nal de­feat and be­gin to re­al­ize that it is just the be­gin­ning. We have Je­sus’ prom­ise on that (See John 14:1-2).

The big ques­tion to­day is, do you know for sure that God is on your side? Have you com­mit­ted your­self to him, so that when the per­ils come (and come they will) you, like Paul can de­clare, “What, then, shall we say in re­sponse to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Ro­mans 8:31, NIV).

That is faith. That is vic­tory.

Dr. John Pear­rell is pas­tor of Gate­way Com­mu­nity Church. Email him at john.pear­rell@gate­way­commu­nity.org.

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