â€œThough we may Bolt, His Aim is enduranceâ€
Jeremiah 23:23-29, Hebrews 11:29-12:2,
Luke 12: 49-56
Grace, Peace and Hope to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and may the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you Lord-Amen.
Some years ago a football club known for its party culture yet yearning for success enticed a legendary coach out of retirement. He accepted but by the third game was sacked and I still remember the president of the club saying (from how I remember it) â€œWe had too, because while we knew that he would bring some hard truths to the club, to see some players in tears because of it was too muchâ€, and I remember thinking no wonder they are unsuccessful, and still to this day they are looking for that elusive championship.
The truth can hurt, but so too can be not listening to it.
Early in my banking career I was invited to dinner with senior staff and valued customers and when one of them arrived late he was greeted by all at the table rising to greet him, except for me. Later in the evening he publicly and embarrassingly tore strips off me for not greeting him with the same respect that the others had shown him. Fair enough and it was a very good lesson for me that Iâ€™ve never forgotten. The problem was though, that what he didnâ€™t realise was that the reason I didnâ€™t stand and greet him like the others was because I considered myself inferior to him and to the other guests, and so thought it was not my place not to bother him by extending out my hand because why would he want to acknowledge anyone as lowly as me.
When I think of him and his public degrading of me a certain word comes to mind that is best not said here, but the point is that even though his manner of teaching was appalling and really about himself more than me, he did teach me a valuable lesson.
In our lives sometimes the saying â€œitâ€™s not what you say but how you say itâ€ is appropriate, as too is sometimes the reverse in that â€œitâ€™s what you say, and not how you say itâ€. As Christians adhering to the belief that God has revealed His eternal truths to us in His inspired, inerrant word, the Bible, and that it alone is the basis of Christian faith (2 Timothy 3:15-17, John 17:17) and the source of all inspiration and teaching, I would suggest ours is â€œthat itâ€™s both what we say and how we say itâ€ and after hearing todays scripture readings I find myself today and daily needing to pray with fervour our opening prayer and request that â€œthe words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you Lordâ€.
The Lords words today I would suggest are a bit of a wakeup call to me and maybe all of us. Firstly in Jeremiah God condemns the spiritual leaders for misleading people, that by not warning them of the impending judgement it has allowed people to slide into idolatry and immorality. Then, todays Gospel text smells of fire and warfare as Jesus in knowing of the opposition he would encounter offers no sugar coating to the apostles in preparing them for their own struggles and the crosses they will bear in following him. Finally, in the epistle which is always designed to bring light to how the gospel looks in our lives we hear of whatâ€™s been called â€œthe roll call of the saintsâ€ that went before us and what they endured. Some tortured, mocked and flogged. Stoned to death, sawn in two and killed by the sword. Destitute, afflicted, mistreated and living in dens and caves. A chilling reminder of the past and with reports of an average of 150,000 + Christians martyrs each and every year still to this day, it is a chilling reminder to us today that gives light to Pauls words of encouragement for our lives â€œto run with endurance the race that is set before usâ€.
Paul speaking of the saints and how they endured said that in God â€œthey were made strong out of (their) weaknesses. As Christians we are not to live our lives searching to be martyrs or mistreated, but in living and adhering to the Lordâ€™s revealed eternal truths in His inspired and inerrant words of both Law and Gospel, should those situations arise we face them in Christ.
â€œUltra-marathon runner Tony Rafferty said that during his run across Australia:
â€œHe learned the significance of sub-goals. After struggling to complete 1500 miles, I realised I still had 2000 miles ahead of me. At this stage I was tired, sore, dejected and feeling sorry for myself. The task looked impossible. During this stage of depression I changed my thinking. I decided to run about 60 to 80 miles every day and try and repeat it as often as possible to see how far I could go. As soon as I made this decision my attitude changed. I started to feel confident and enthusiastic. I was confident that I could cover this distance each day. My mind was directed away from the huge distances ahead of me and it was focussed on my daily assignments. Because of this I was able to complete the runâ€.
So too could it be said of our endurance race. Most certainly in Christ the outcome is assured and the result decided. That of forgiveness and eternal life in faith in Christ alone. Yes in Christ that is assured, yet though we know what lies at the end we still have many hills yet to cross and only in keeping our eyes on Christ can we make that â€œ60 or so miles per dayâ€.
That 60 or so miles a day where â€œit is both what we say and how we say itâ€. That 60 or so miles a day that though not looking to suffer and be mistreated, are prepared to face such retaliation should our caring and loving words of the Lord to the world and our neighbours be turned back on us with hostility.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said that â€œhe came to fulfil the lawâ€, and we thank God for Him because most certainly we cannot fulfil its requirements ourselves. Yet he also said â€œhe did not come to abolish the lawâ€, â€œbecause the law is goodâ€ and without us knowing the law and our outright inability to uphold it, we donâ€™t truly know and understand the Gospel of saved in faith in Christ alone. The Word of God is both Law and Gospel. The law that kills and condemns and the Gospel that saves. Harsh opponents yet working in unison to bring people to their knees that they be raised in joy and hope both today and on the last day, and that we may not understand why some of His words should be so, seen through Christ we do understand the one who wrote them and trust in Him on our personal journey that he has put before us and endure and delight in and with Christ as he brings before us those in whom we must serve with His Words that He has told us. His word of truth that:
â€œdoes not return empty but accomplishes that of His purpose (Isaiah 55:11) and in knowing that the â€œLord stands at their door and knocks and that if they hear his voice and open the door, he will enter (Rev. 3:20)â€ â€“our wish is that they may hear as we have heard and receive as we have received and know through Jesus Christ the peace of God which most surely passes all human understanding.
So in the sure knowledge of being raised on our last day: Grace, peace and hope to you from God our Father and our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ as you travel on your earthly journey hearing His saving words for yourself and bringing them before those he places before us that they too may open their doors to a waiting saviour. Amen.