Thursday, February 6, 2014

Have you felt the sword?

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today:
Luke 2:21-40
mark this: 2:35
"and a sword will pierce through your own soul also..."
Woody Allen once quipped, ""I'm not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens." For most of humanity, that's not only how we approach death, it's also how we approach pain. In theory, we understand that we will have to face much pain in life, but in practice, we do our best to avoid as much pain as possible.
And to some extent, this makes sense. As a reflex, we quickly remove our hands from a hot stove. And almost like a reflex, we avoid things in life that hurt us: insults, Charlie horses, root canals, Buffalo Bills games, etc.
The problem occurs when we confuse the Gospel found in the Word of God with the Gospel of pain avoidance. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we assume that in exchange for our trust, God has certain responsibilities to shield us from the hurt, disappointment, loss and suffering that come with existence on a fallen planet. We then can become disillusioned with Him, even though He has made no such promise.
A.W. Tozer wrote "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply (1)." Again, this is a message that we can agree with, in theory, and yet run from it when it becomes reality. We know from the Bible that God is in the refining business, and yet we all hope that it's someone else's turn to be refined.
Have you felt the sword? In today's passage, we see Simeon's warning to Mary. This great news of a Savior born comes with a tremendous cost to Mary. From the rest of the Bible we see how that is played out in her life:
- The threat of divorce before she's even married
- The whispers and rumors concerning her pregnancy
- The joys of labor on the road and in a stable
- Barely escaping the clutches of a murderous tyrant
- The sting of your son clearly prioritizing other things than you
- Being unable to shield your son from rejection and torture
- Watching your firstborn suffer and die on a cruel cross
No wonder that so many of us, like Moses before, respond to God's call with a "O Lord, please send someone else...(2)"
But Tozer is right- because he's aware of what the Bible teaches- No pain, no gain.
The apostle Paul stated: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him." The early church declared: "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" James wrote: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds." Peter concurred with this: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (3)"
Have you felt the sword?
We know that Job, and Abraham, and Joseph, and Moses, and Ruth, and Hannah, and David, and Elijah, and Amos, and Jeremiah, and Daniel, and John the Baptist, and Mary, and the 12, and so many more in church history have. In fact, there is not a single hero of the faith who has not.
Have you felt the sword?
Because not even God Himself is immune to pain and suffering, but instead took the very difficult road of offering His one and only Son who was "pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities.
(1) taken from "The Root of the Righteous"
(2) Exodus 4:13
(3) Philippians 1:29, Acts 14:22, James 1:2, 1 Peter 4:12
(4) Isaiah 53:5

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