I shall not want

So, I have got to know psalm 23 well over the past few years. But I never noticed this great promise until today. I SHALL NOT WANT. I think a big question when you are in recovery is, how am I going to get through this? In fact, anyone going through a hard thing can think, what about tomorrow? In fact the Lord Jesus had a few things to say on that.

But here, right smack bang in the start of Psalm 23 is the great promise. With the Lord as my shepherd, I shall not want.

I will not have a time where my needs outweigh his supply.

There will not be a moment where I can justifiably say, he has let me down.

As he gently works on my wants, I will come to see that there is nothing I lack.

How did I miss it? Because God’s word is not just expansive for the scholars and deep thinkers; it is expansive for the believer and you can never wring it dry!

HOWEVER, beware of ‘deceitful desires’ that is another phrase that has come back to me today. Paul mentions this in Ephesians 4. As we are fundamentally broken our desires would throw us about like a ship on a tumultuous sea. We need to be wary that not everything our desires feed us is right. In fact, they could be getting used as the devil’s handmaidens to con us. Our desires are deceitful and so we need to learn to be suspicious of them. When I want something, feel a longing, notice a prod…is that thing actually true and right according to God’s word? Do I need to think about that now? How COULD I choose to think about it using good doctrine. The battle after all, is to have good doctrine rather than bad. And, everything is theological. It is theological because there is a battle raging. Thankfully the adversary is defeated.

So, realise that in the truest and best defined sense, we shall not want. But realise also, that the things you are wanting are possibly handmaidens sent to deceive you. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT.

Look and live

Marcus Nelson preaching on John 3:16 ‘Christianity has not worked for me.’

He tackles the thorny issue of what faith is and breaks it down into simplistic terms.

‘Faith is not an action I must will…How could we not look to Jesus….He draws us with his love…to not look at him is such a terrible and unreasonable thing to do.’

Marcus makes the point that if he tells us there is something strange and wonderful on the wall behind us, we would not have to make a decision to look, we would be drawn to look. In fact we would have to try hard if we wanted to not look! Is this not the point of Numbers 21 with the snake lifted up?

This illustrates the attractional power of Jesus and takes the onus from us.

He then makes a great point about eternal life.

‘Jesus has come that we may have eternal life. Eternal life is defined for us. Eternal life is to know him and his Father.’

This reminds us that eternal life has truly started for us now who believe.

While this does not tackle some of the issues head on about Christianity ‘not working’, it actually does the thing needed. It causes us to put down our baggage and look.

 

 

Job and the mystery of suffering

Mike Reeve’s sermon on Job 42 is incredible. I can’t find where it was originally recorded, but I have the audio if you’re interested!

He shows that we need to realise that bad things happen to good people (or at least redeemed people.)

It is natural to ask ‘why?’ But Job’s comforters try and attribute blame and they do it theologically. In the face of his freefall into suffering, they are ready to wag the finger.

Mike shows, however, that Christ and the gospel are threaded right through the book. In Job 16:18-21 we see that Job believes in the Messiah, an intercessor. He is also styled as a kind of suffering servant. See how often Job is called ‘servant’ in chapter 42.

The false comforters are to take a sacrifice and to have Job the servant of the Lord pray for them. v9, after Job’s prayers, they are accepted.

So Job is a kind of Christ figure and that takes us to the cross. Through suffering- the worst event ever- blessing was brought. v10, through Job’s suffering he is blessed in a double portion. Isaiah 61:7 says that believers will be blessed with a double portion.

Then consider that Uz (Job 1:1) is translated fertile place, perhaps a garden and that Satan then makes an appearance to upset this. Does it not all smack rather a lot of Genesis 1?

The journey of Job is from garden, through temptation and into greater blessing. The road is also a long one of suffering. Hopefully we can see that this all comes very close to the gospel pattern. And so woven right through this exploration of human suffering is the story that suffering is not meaningless. The paradigm of the gospel is that through suffering God blesses the world in the gospel. And with Job we see that God blesses him more after his suffering than before. Please beware of false comforters who are quick to ascribe blame (maybe we try and do this with ourselves), and remember also that God is with us in suffering to bless. Praise God!

He is the theme and we are the footnotes

I listened to a marvellous sermon by Paul Blackham given on Christmas Eve, 2000.

As ever Paul announced Jesus as the event of history.

How often do we think we are the great event of history though!?

It is good to get this perspective. God promised Christ as the serpent crusher, Genesis 3:15. Indeed the Bible is thereafter the search for the serpent crusher. Paul makes the point that Eve even seems to believe that she has brought forth the serpent crusher straight away. Take a look at Genesis 4:1 where Eve celebrates the arrival of Cain.¬†Blackham says that (as some footnotes allude) it would be better translated from Eve: ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth THE man.’ Rather, than simply ‘a man.’ Unfortunately Cain was a man who would demonstrate the condition of humanity, rather than come to rescue it.

History is about God’s salvation plan as shown in Scripture!

Some ways this matters for mental health:

  1. It does not matter if I do not change the world today
  2. I can do nothing this morning— and it is still ok.
  3. My witnessing is to be to him and not to what a ‘great bloke’ I am.
  4. I am not defined by my long term achievements, but by his.
  5. Our significance, as Blackham points out, is defined by our relationship to this central man of history, Jesus Christ.
  6. I need to fill my head with him, rather than with me.
  7. I must thank God for my walk on part; but it is really Jesus who gets all the applause. Glory to him.
  8. Who I am is more important than what I do or produce.

Hebrews 12: a treasury for the tested

  1. We see that sin easily entangles (I have the image of the net thrown by a gladiator). I sort of imagine that getting properly entangled takes time and so I will notice it easily. But no. Sin easily entangles. Had we considered that, we might not have so easily got trapped (v1). But the good news is we CAN ‘throw it off.’
  2. We have a great cloud of witnesses willing us on. Our true comfort in human terms does not come from sympathetic listeners, but from the fellowship of brothers and sisters who have passed through such trials.
  3. Fix our eyes on Jesus, as per previous post. We are saved by looking, Numbers 21.
  4. Did you noticed Jesus scorned the shame of the cross. That is he derided it, snubbed it, put it in it’s place. We also must refuse to be shamed. Shaming is a big thing in many cultures and the devil uses it profusely.
  5. God disciplines us, because he loves us. Not because he hates us (v5). An African friend of mind said: ‘Simon in my culture we discipline our children, not because we hate them but because we love them.’ He was appalled at the state of our society and his words hit the mark after a rather unruly youth Bible study!
  6. When we have hardship (v7) we should make ourselves stronger by saying, this could be loving discipline by my Father. It is the mark of being a son (v8).
  7. v10 it is always for our good and to preserve us in the faith.
  8. v11 Don’t be surprised if it feels horrible at the time– there is the guarantee of a harvest of righteousness which comes later. Peace is also promised later. How true this has been in my experience. There is a time promised when this seasonal discomfort will end and the malicious thought that it will ‘never end’ is to be fought.