Monday, April 14, 2014

Not Alone in the Foxhole

          Life of Christ 64

          As we enter our story today (Luke 8.1-3) we find Jesus dealing with an increasing hardness of heart on the part of the people to whom He ministers. He will deal with the developing resistance by continuing His compassionate ministry, but orientating it more and more toward the training of the Twelve.
          It was relatively recently that He had formalized His relationship with these men, and selected them to be His Apostles. Now, as He travels from town to town to preach He is accompanied, on a full time basis, by these men, and on occasion by some women believers as well.
          I do not believe that discouragement, in and of itself, is a sin, and thus I do not believe I am ascribing sin to our Saviour when I propose that as resistance to Him hardened so did His discouragement about that resistance. But amongst so much discouraging resistance there gathered about Him a band of faithful men and women who served the Lord and His cause.
          In my experience, the dedicated follower of Jesus Christ will always find himself in the minority (Matthew 7.13-14). When this experience first came to be experienced by me I initially found that it was a hard thing with which to deal. As a young man the Christian high school I attended was at a low point, spiritually speaking, in no small part due to the hypocrisy of the main pastor. The most visible result of this was an almost complete rejection of the rules as most of the students ran pell-mell in the opposite direction. I was faced, for the first time, with the opportunity to swim upstream against the prevailing current of spiritual atrophy.
          By God's grace, I did swim upstream against that current, but I was exceedingly lonely. I didn't get invited to the parties on the weekend at which the wine coolers were passed around. I wasn't called over to join the others at the lunch tables as the conversation revolved ungodly activities. I was, gently at first, and then more harshly as time went on, mocked for my decision to swim upstream. Much older now I recognize in such ostracism a basic insecurity and convicted sense of sin, but back then all I noticed was that I was pretty much on my own.
          In the process of this first opportunity I learned many valuable lessons that have stood me in good stead in the decades since, and one of the most valuable was this: no matter how discouraging serving the Lord gets He always grants you some faithful few to serve alongside. Yes, the vast majority of the young people around me went the wrong way for a while, but not all of them did. Two young people, in particular, bucked the trend along with me, and I found much comfort and encouragement in that. (Not coincidentally, they have been happily married for many years, and, together with their children, serve as the pastor and family of a Baptist church in eastern Pennsylvania.)
          I see this same pattern repeated elsewhere in Scripture. Elijah, whose discouragement had bloomed into a severe suicidal depression, thought he was the only one left in the battle against Ahab and Jezebel. God kindly, yet firmly, informed him that he was mistaken. 'Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him' (I Kings 19.18). Why did God specifically tell Elijah this? Because there is great comfort, even when you know you are vastly outnumbered still, in seeing a few others right there in the foxhole with you. If you don't believe me, ask Hananiah, Mishael, or Azariah; they'll confirm it.
          It is fair to say that no one understood the load that Jesus carried, or precisely that with which He was faced. It is also fair to say that no mere mortal has ever experienced the satanic pressure He did, increasingly resistant to Him every step of the way. But even on the cross, at the very depth of His existence and the height of Satan's, He wasn't alone.
          God is good to us, isn't He? Yes, He oft calls us to swim upstream against the prevailing current of the day, but He doesn't send us on our way alone. 'And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him' (Luke 8.1).

If you would like to listen to the audio version of the blog you will find it here on our church website. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 35, 'The Fellowship in Following Christ'.

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