Lent 2 – 13th March 2022
Have you ever claimed a promise from the Bible, and believe it, but it was not fulfilled? I realise many churches might find that question scurrilous, but it is the reality faced by many Christians. We love God, we faithfully serve our Lord, we believe in Jesus, we accept the persecution and ridicule from work colleagues and sometimes family. We are genuine in our faith. So when we claim a promise from God’s word, we are disappointed when we do not see it being fulfilled.
Abraham could relate to how you feel.
In our text, he was not yet called Abraham. He was still Abram. He was still learning to embrace God’s promises in face of disappointing delays. Abram was promised a son that would inherit the promised land. There was no son.
At least not at this point in the story.
The thing is, many years have passed since Abram received God’s promise for an heir. Abram left his homeland, buried his father en route, and wandered throughout the land of promise. Though he exercised such great faith, he embraced disappointment and not a son.
And so Abram took matters into his own hands and took on a concubine. Through Hagar, a son was born. And God showed up with terrifying power to tell Abram that was not the promised one. Understandably, Abram asks, “O Lord God, how am I to know?”
Our faith journey does travel through valleys of disappointments. Lent is that season where we embrace those times of disappointments as evidence of God’s love. It takes great faith to walk courageously, embrace unfulfilled promises. Most people react in fear and reject God’s love.
In this second week of Lent, I want to encourage you to continue “Walking with God through disappointments.”
Christians Curious Symbol
We find the Early Church being taught our symbol of faith as being one and the same as a symbol of hate. The cross of Christ is our symbol of hope, faith, and victory. To Christ’s enemies, it is a symbol of slavery, ignorance, and death. Our response to those who oppose our Lord is humility, love, and joy. Those are powerful weapons that cut into the hearts of those who live in pride, lust, and unrest.
Sometimes it is difficult to have the right attitude. Disappointments lead us to view the cross as a burden to bear. We are not to bear the cross – Jesus did that for us already! We are to lift up the cross and point to it as the means of healing humanity’s condemned nature.
Perhaps it would be easier if we understood the cross of Christ to be more than literal a symbol of our faith.
Joni Eareckson Tada talked openly about her paralysis. Please know that when I take up my cross every day I am not talking about my wheelchair. My wheelchair is not my cross to bear. Neither is your cane or walker your cross. Neither is your dead-end job or your irksome in-laws. Your cross to bear is not your migraine headaches, not your sinus infection, not your stiff joints. That is not your cross to bear. My cross is not my wheelchair; it is my attitude. Your cross is your attitude about your dead-end job and your in-laws. It is your attitude about your aches and pains.
Any complaints, any grumblings, any disputings or murmurings, any anxieties, any worries, any resentments or anything that hints of a raging torrent of bitterness—these are the things God calls me to die to daily. For when I do, I not only become like him in his death (that is, taking up my cross and dying to the sin that he died for on his cross), but the power of the resurrection puts to death any doubts, fears, grumblings, and disputings.
And I get to become like him in his life. I get to experience the intimate fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, the sweetness and the preciousness of the Savior. I become holy as he is holy. O God, “you will make me full of gladness with your presence” (Acts 2:28).Suffering & The Sovereignty of God by John Piper & Justin Taylor © 2006, pp.195-196
Though Jesus was crucified, he rose from the dead. What is there for us, as his covenant people, to be afraid of? Let us follow the ways of God and teachings of scripture with faith. Courage is required to respond in love to those who hate.
In Luke 13:31-35, we discover an odd exchange between Jesus and some Pharisees.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Our Lord’s attitude instructs us how to handle disappointments. Here he is carrying out the mission of the Father and it is being ignored. Here he has religious leaders who, as a whole, oppose his work. Yet somehow they come to “warn” him about Herod? What was that all about? Yet Jesus is direct and clear: Go and tell that fox I am going to keep right on casting our demons and curing today and tomorrow and I will finish up the day after that. I will leave – not because I am afraid of him, but because the next part of my mission requires that I go to Jerusalem. That is where my mission is going to end and then really begin on the third day. So take a hike—I’ve got work to do.
Rather than be disappointed or discouraged, our Lord found motivation from the situation to fulfil God’s will.
On this second Sunday of Lent when earthly powers are all over the place, calling the shots, rolling over the vulnerable and trying to tell the Son of God to get out of town or else, remember that nothing will stop the will of the Most High God, not even a death march to Jerusalem.
Remember that in the throes of your own chaos, the illness, the worry, the fear, the ambiguity, the uncertainty, the swamp within them of corrupted good, that Jesus is Jesus in the midst of it all. Nothing they can or will thwart the love of God that has come to save us. Nothing. So stay focused on him and don’t worry about the foxes or the Pharisees or the rebellious people in Jerusalem and beyond. Jesus is Jesus and he’s the One we are to follow.