Saturday, November 17, 2012

Relax? I Don't think So.

St. Stephen takes one on the chin for the team.
A friend posted a cute picture of babies leaning back in lawn chairs with the caption, "Relax, God is in Charge!"

We all post cute stuff like that all the time. The point is to reassure our brothers and sisters that ultimately everything is going to be alright.

And it is.

In the end.  The problem is, if you read the stories that come down to us in scripture, leaving God in charge is not an entirely relaxing proposition.  I mean God's record for providing comfort and relaxation for his children is not very good.  Now I'm not saying that everything God does to us isn't for our ultimate good.  I suspect when it's all said and done and we're sitting on our verandas in the New Earth sipping peach tea and nibbling cashews and pistachios, we'll say, "You know, I'm glad God let that happen to me."

But it's almost ALWAYS easier to appreciate some things long after they've happened to you.  I imagine all these guys would have chosen for things to be a whole lot more "relaxing" if they'd been laying out the events of their lives.  Here are some examples:

Noah - Nice house, Family.  Position in the community.  God asks him to preach the end of the world and build a honkin' big boat.  So for more than a century Noah bankrupts himself and wears out his body and his sons' bodies building a boat the size of a small aircraft carrier with nothing more than hand tools. Noah died much younger than his father and grandfather, probably as a result of the stress.  People laughed at him the whole time he was working on the boat.  Then he gets to spend 40 days rocking up and down in a boat at sea in the middle of the worst storm in history then spends the rest of that year feeding animals and hoping the water will go down while living cheek by jowl with family in very close quarers. Then when it's done he gets dumped out in a barren land to start all over clearing away the mud and debris and trying to scratch a living out of the devastated ground.

Jacob - Gets run off by his homicidal brother, sleeps on a rock, get cheated out of a wife by his uncle, cheated out of his pay by his Uncle and to add insult to injury has his leg jerked out its socket in a wrestling match with an angel no less.  He's blessed with two wives who fight constantly, 12 sons that fight among themselves constantly, murder his neighbors and sell one of their brothers to Egyptian slavers.

Joseph - Gets sold to Egyptian slavers by his brothers, gets accused of a death penalty offense by his master's slutty wife, gets thrown in prison and forgotten by everyone he ever helped or did a nice thing for.

David - Peacefully tending sheep and some prophet comes along and pours oil on his head.  Next thing you know he's hiding in caves and the King has soldiers running all over the country looking to murder him.  Why?  No reason. The king's nuts.  God called David a man after his own heart.  Then his own son tries to murder him and stages a revolt.

Elijah - Preaches what God tells him to faithfull, gets hounded from one end of the country and winds up all alone in the mountains eating scraps brought to him by a bird while soldiers scour the countrysided. 

Elisha - Carries on Elijah's work.  Winds up surrounded by thousands of enemy soldiers with one mission on their minds - Kill Elisha!.

Isaiah - Nice man. Prophesied Jesus' coming. Wrote some of the most beautiful passages in scripture. I think the King sawed him in half for his troubles.

Jeremiah - Bit of a gloomy Gus, but he did pass along the messages God told him to.  Was stoned for his efforts to obey God.

Only one of Jesus' disciples died a natural death.  All the rest were murdered, some were tortured and none of their deaths were merciful.  The only one who died of old age was boiled in oil once before they allowed him to expire on his own.

Jesus himself was brutally killed by the leaders of his own church.


I don't think that's in the cards these days.  It may explain why I'm living literally day to day right now.  If anyone has a small cabin in the woods they'll rent me cheap, I'd like to talk to you about it. I don't think things are going to get much better for a while.  Call me a pessimist, but I don't think God's mercy has anything to do with my comfort. Until I can figure out what he wants to do with me next, I'll just ride out the storm.

"Oh, but you left out the rest of those stories," you may protest.  Much good came out of all these.  Joseph became number 2 in Egypt, David was King, Jesus saved us all.

Precisely my point.  If God sees something good He can make out of the events of your life, He has no compunctions about making your life miserable to accomplish that good.  Paul says in Romans 8:28 - "All things work together for good to them that are called according to His purpose."  You should know that going into the deal.  There is nothing in that promise that says you'll be comfortable, wealthy or even well-liked.  Anyone who says differently is building a crystal cathedral or selling prayer cloths blessed by the saints in Jerusalem.  Paul, by the way, was beheaded shortly after he wrote that passage.

When you sign on as a Christian, you don't sign up for a comfortable voyage through life, my sailor friends.  You sign up for a profitable one, true, but don't expect to get paid till the voyage is over.

Tom King -
From a cheap hotel room in Puyallup, Washington in the midst of an almighty great storm