Friday, 9 March 2012

My Daddy is bigger than your daddy.

The reality of the Christian life

We often make the mistake do we not of thinking that the Christian life should be easy, as soon as we put our faith in God we expect Him to clear the way forward in front of us – to remove all the trouble and difficulties ahead of us.  The problem with this view is that it’s simply not true and sometimes when that idea is challenged we stumble because it’s so unexpected.  Maybe we confess with our mouths the existence of the devil, maybe we say that we expect persecution but really, deep down it comes as a shock.  And yet the Bible talks candidly about these things:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours”
John 15:20

Scary stuff.

But I’m not writing some sort of Christian horror story to scare people (although we do need to be woken up from our spiritual complacency) but rather to encourage and equip for those moments when our troubles seem too much to bear.  For all that prowling lion wants to eat us, and the world to break us, we have nothing to fear.

Why is that? Why is it that when supernatural forces are aligned against us, when the whole world stands opposed to us, yet we can stand there unafraid?  Let’s think about it, beginning with an assessment of the enemy, moving on to a playground argument and lastly seeking encouragement from the words of children.

Snake, Lion, Dragon

There is an obvious danger of persecution, intolerance and bigotry from the world without but there is a much bigger problem to consider.  The Bible teaches that we have an enemy, who as the quote above says is “like a roaring lion”.  Charles Caldwell Ryrie says this:

“Even as great an angel as Michael the archangel did not dare take on Satan alone but called on the Lord to rebuke him.”

This enemy is big.  Way way bigger than us and so as he goes on to say we should never ever think that we can go this alone.  We are no match for the Devil.  Like the playground bully of the cosmos he towers above us and we cannot resist.

Satan has three titles in the scriptures, setting forth his malignity against the church of God: a dragon, to note his malice; a serpent; to note his subtlety; and a lion, to note his strength.
Edward Reynolds

I don’t want to spend too much time here considering the Devil but to briefly unpack those three points:
1.    Malice: the Devil exists to thwart the purposes of God, to twist His words, trip His people and keep people as far from Him as possible.  He caused Adam to fall in the beginning, attacked Job to try and break him too and tempted Jesus in the wilderness.
2.    Subtlety: The Bible calls Satan the ‘father of lies’ and as The Arrows sing “Oh and there is a lie that works for everyone, everyone”.  He’s been at this since the beginning and He knows just what stumbling block will make you fall.  As Percy Bysshe Shelley said: “Sometimes the devil is a gentleman”.
3.    Strength: As noted before we are but scrawny weaklings compared to he who was once an angel of light and still retains that power.  Think about it, it was Satan who took Job’s livestock, children and health from him.  He has real power and should never be taken too lightly.

So then our enemy is powerfully malicious and Jesus tells us that the people of the world are his children.  As He said to those who rejected Him in His day:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
John 8:44

 What hope remain then for us?  Consider the words of a child and take heart!

A playground lesson

Have you ever heard two kids arguing and then something is said along these lines:  “I’ll tell my daddy on you!”  “Yeah? Well I’m not afraid of your daddy because my daddy is bigger than yours!”  Childish perhaps, but talk about out of the mouths of babies and infants…

You see even as children we know this fundamental fact that often we forget as we grow.  It’s not about how big and strong you are, but how big and strong your protectors are.  How humbly the little child clings to its parent for support and yet how feebly we in our pride try to fight battles in our own strength.  The world may be the child of the father of lies, there may be unseen forces lined up against us that we can never match but we are not alone.

Who then is our father, our protector?  Who stands for us when all else is arrayed against?

Who’s the Daddy?

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’
          Romans 8:14-15

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
1 John 3:1-2

Our Father is the one in heaven, the God who reigns.  The one who protects us is the one who upholds the universe.  Consider the words of God to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
7when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
9when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
17Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”
Job 38:4-11, 17

This, this is our protector, our Father, our God.  The one who laid the foundation of the earth, tells the sea when to stop.  The one who made the clouds, who thunders from on high.  As the passage goes on to say, the one who made the mighty creatures of the earth, the one who made us.  No created thing can stand against this great and glorious God, nothing can resist His power and majesty.  The psalmist asks:

“Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
3“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.”
Psalm 2:1-4

All the power of earthly kings and princes is but a source of laughter for our God.  So the first response to the nature of our Father protector is humility, God is God and we aren’t.  We need to remember that, to remember His majesty and power, to remember our weakness and frailty and to come before Him and ask for His aid.  Later in that passage from Job God says:

“Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
11Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
12Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low
and tread down the wicked where they stand.
13Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
14Then will I also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can save you.”
Job 40:10-14

We cannot save ourselves, we cannot protect ourselves – we simply need to rely on the power of God.  To admit that we are not capable of helping ourselves and that God is so much greater than we are.  As Isaiah says:

“It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;”
Isaiah 40:22

We are but insects to this God, and yet it is this God who says in 2 Corinthians 6:18

“and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

The God of all creation, the awesomely majestic being who created the universe, who calls the stars and planets by name and who sustains all life by the power of His word calls us.  We, broken human beings, fallen and weak to be are called to be His children.  How incredible is this truth!

So then our second response is this: confidence.  We come before Him not as our creator, but as our Father.  And our Father will not turn us away or leave us to fall.  He will guard us, protect us and keep us.  We can face down anything because really, what could stand against us?  The creator of the universe is standing behind us with a ready arm.  We are weak but He is strong.  We are broken but in Him we are whole.  To return to our initial playground metaphor – our daddy is way, way bigger than anyone else's.

To let the apostle Paul write me conclusion for me:

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:31-35, 36-39


<<Further reading: Job 38, 39, 40 and 41...
Further listening: A sovereign protector I have (If anyone can find me a version of this with words on Youtube or something, I'd be grateful...>>

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