Sunday, April 17, 2016

In This Together?

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:3

I read this Bible verse sometime last week. I will leave you to read it in context, but the lines captured my imagination. What are God’s hidden treasures?  Where are these secret places where His riches are stored? I confess not to know.

I brought the word in church this morning. I have, not just a bee, but a whole hive of bees in my bonnet about being the body of Christ. We read the Bible not as a story about God’s people and the love He shows towards them, but as a story about God’s person – me.  The Bible is written not to me but to us. OK salvation is an individual surrender of a person to God but then God plants us into a church, a local expression of the body of Christ. Being a Christian and not being a part of a church is an impossibility. People might choose not to go to church, but that’s never God’s choice for them.

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.  If they fall down one can help the other up.  But pity those who fall and have no one to help them up.  Also if two lie down together they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone.  Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves.  A chord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4v9-12}

I ran through the main points of what I was going to say with my husband.  Had I missed anything? Had I said too much, too little? Did I labour a point too long? Did my illustrations add to the message or were they a distraction?  He told me a story that featured in an episode of “The West Wing” – he is currently working his way through a boxed set.

A man was walking along a road and fell into a hole.  It was a deep hole, smooth sides, with no way out. He called out for help.  A doctor happened to be passing by.  The man in the hole shouted loudly, “Help me, please!” The doctor scribbled on a piece of paper and tossed the paper into the hole.  It was a prescription – tranquilisers or painkillers, nothing of any use to the man in the hole.  A priest came by and the man in the hole shouted, “Help me, please!” The priest scribbled on a piece of paper and tossed the paper into the hole. It was a prayer, eloquently written, but nothing of any use to the man in the whole. A friend, Joe, passed by. The man in the hole shouted loudly, “Hey, Joe! Help me, please!” Joe, without another thought jumped into the hole with him. Nice as it was to see Joe, the man was not happy. “Why did you do that? Now we are both stuck in the hole!” Joe tapped the side of his nose. “Ahh,” he said, “I have been in this hole before…and I know how to get out of it.”

Someone who had never been in the same hole I found myself in is of no use to me. We spend too much time looking for an easy life and avoiding the struggle. We want comfort. We want spring without the showers, or summer without the sunburn.

We have no comfort to offer others because we have skirted around the difficult times they are struggling with. I think that is the hidden treasure and the riches in secret places – the things we learn about God, about ourselves, about other people, about the enemy and about all the resources we have access to.  That’s the treasure. The dark places, the difficult places, the painful places – these are the hidden places and secret places – the very places we avoid. 

I’m not saying we take great pains to make our lives miserable just so we can access this treasure, but I think we need to stop avoiding the hard times, walk through them rather than around them, with God, whether we feel him close or not, and collect the treasure as we go.

In This Together?

I have no use for you today
You have no words of truth to say
My depth of pain you do not know
You have no scars or wounds to show
You tip toe round the pain in life
And glean no treasure from the strife
How sad, you cannot comfort me
Or wipe away the tears you see

My God allows both light and shade
I say to you “Be not afraid”
Through fire and storm He carries you
His faithful care will see you through
He tells you, “Go!” with broken heart
A healing touch to then impart
To lift the man who’s fallen down
And smooth away his troubled frown

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