Tag Archives: anointing

This too shall pass? [False ideas Christians believe about…difficulty. Part 4]

14 Mar
Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

Are the difficult times in life good or bad? You might read that and think, “How could difficult times ever be good?” Well, when we experience suffering, we tend to feel more helpless and needy and thus we pray more. Increased levels of communication with God, as with any relationship in which greater communication almost always results in being closer to the person, leads to a good change: increased intimacy with God. Maybe difficult times, then, are good? 

So many of us have experienced a deep closeness with God during the hard times.  Therefore, we sometimes say that the phrase, “During times of suffering, you’ll be closer to God.” But is it true?

What we have seen in this series fact-checking phrases that Christians commonly believe is that, like the two-liner statements in the biblical Proverbs, many of these phrases are not guaranteed promises, but they are statements that are generally true.  The same can be said about “during suffering, you’ll be closer to God.”

While generally true, we need to see that this statement is sometimes false, given that some people have gone through suffering and lost their faith!  So this statement is not a promise.  Suffering often brings us closer to God, but it also sometimes crushes faith.  We need to be very sensitive to that.  Many people in the midst of suffering are having a crisis of faith.  God gave us free will, and there are many responses to difficult circumstances.

And that brings us to our next statement.  When people are in the midst of suffering, we say, “This too shall pass.”

How many of you say this?  Or have heard it said?  It is a go-to phrase for many. Is it in the Bible?  Nope. So why do people say this?

Because people in the midst of struggle are really having a hard time, and they need hope.  So we tell them “this too shall pass,” trying too give them hope that the pain will eventually finish.  But is that true? 

Generally, yes.  Most difficult times have an end date.  Yet in the midst of the difficulty, it is very, very hard for us to be comforted by a possible good future.  We are in the pain now, and we can think that the rest of our lives will be this way.

So there is a tension in the reality of life. Whether it is a health situation or a financial situation or a difficult relationship, it is generally true that they almost always pass, get resolved. But not always. Look, for example, at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  Paul reminds us that our troubles will all pass. Here’s the thing thought: the pain might not be done until we die and are pain-free in heaven.  But it will pass. 

That is a harsh reality…this too might not pass until we die.

One of my first acts as senior pastor was to gather a bunch of people to meet with an elderly man in our congregation to pray for him and anoint him with oil.  He was sick and was hoping and praying for healing, and God did not answer that prayer for healing.  James 5 even says that God will heal.  Instead, a few months later that man passed away.  The sickness did not pass on this side of heaven.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that he, himself, had what he called a “thorn in the flesh” and he asked God numerous times to take it away.  We don’t know what the thorn was.  Could be a broken relationship.  Could be a health problem.  Could be an enemy.  But God never takes it away from Paul. 

So again, we have a proverbial phrase.  Pain generally will pass and things will go back to normal.  There are most often seasons in life.  And seasons come and go.  Writing this in the northeastern United States in early March, I am personally ready for the warmer temps of spring!  In parenting, there are seasons.  We recently had an interesting conversation with one of our college-age sons.  He was home for a visit, and somehow we got to talking about these seasons in life.  My wife mentioned that once our kids turned 12-15 years old, we as parents suddenly lost most of our knowledge and became dumb and irrelevant.  But once the kids turned 19-20, we parents amazingly became smart again!  There are seasons, and the statement “this too shall pass” reflects how that is generally true.  Most often, the difficulty comes and goes. 

But not always.  So again, be sensitive to those in pain.  They are in the middle, struggling.  Encourage them and be with them in the pain.  But, do not give false promise that it will guaranteed be taken away.  That is not a promise God gives.  We can and should hope for that, work towards that and pray for it.  But, that is different than saying that God has made it a promise.

As we talked about earlier, in the pain, many can have a crisis of faith.  Sometimes we think “God why are you allowing me to go through this?”  And it seems to us that God is silent.  Nowhere to be found. 

So how should we respond in the midst of pain? Check back in to part 5, and we’ll explore how to have a healthy approach to the difficulty in life.

An Awkward Bible Story – Luke 7:36-50

8 Jul

There are some really awkward stories in the Bible.  This past Sunday in our series teaching through Luke we came to one those stories.  Take a look:

When you read the story, if you’re like me you’ve heard it many times, and you have been accustomed to it, so you’ve already classified it in your mind as “that time Jesus was anointed by a sinful woman” and you go on.  No big deal.

No big deal?  How did you feel watching that video?  Awkward?

This story makes me feel like I want to turn my eyes away.  It’s weird!  Is it okay to say that about a Bible story?  Yes, it is.  Because this story is genuinely, truly weird.  But maybe we find it weird from our cultural vantage point?  Maybe it wasn’t weird in Jesus’ culture?

What is so striking is that Jesus doesn’t seemed phased by the awkwardness.  As we see time and time again in Jesus’ lifestyle, his way, he defies convention and teaches us just by example.  What can we learn from Jesus in his interaction with this sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50?

First, It is okay to interact with sinners, especially when they are repentant. We can be very repulsed by sinners. If there ever was a situation to be repulsed about, this is one. A sinful woman comes to a single man who is a religious leader, and she starts doing very intimate things to him in presence of another high-powered, but legalistic, religious leader? You and I would probably be quick to get the heck out of there. If we let her continue for even a few seconds, people could start talking, and we could lose our ministry.

But Jesus knows her repentant heart. He sees that this is not a sneaky, wily woman. Just think about it. Why else would she be so bold, walking right into a house of a Pharisee like that? Because she has bad intentions and is desperately hopeful that this will start a romantic relationship with Jesus? I mean he is the most eligible bachelor in the land, if you think about it, but no way would her method work. She is walking into the morality police’s dining room! If anything, this is a risky stupid move that had all the makings of getting her stoned. But Jesus knew her heart and he intervened before anything damaging could happen. He shows us that we can and should interact with even repulsive people who are repentant and want to change.

Second, sins can be forgiven, even awful sins. Like I said earlier, we don’t know the extent of this woman’s sins. And though the anointing is really bizarre in our modern eyes, what is striking is the lengths she goes to express sorry and repentance for her sins.

When is the last time you wept because off your sins? She is broken because of her sins. She could be stoned. But she is willing to lay it all out there. The sinful woman has an understanding of the depth of her sin. As the woman is cleaning Jesus’ feet, Jesus told a parable to the Pharisee whose name was Simon. To summarize the parable talked about two men who had loans forgiving, one ten times more than the other.  Jesus asked Simon who would love more, and Simon correctly answered that is was the one who was forgiven the larger loan.  When we have been forgiven much, we see our sin more clearly and love much. Jesus is saying, like the woman anointing him, how important it is that we have an understanding of how much we have been forgiven.

We have all had sin forgiven. And this lady reminds us that we should take drastic action to make things right!

I’ll never forget a scene at one EC National Conference from a couple years ago. During a time of singing songs of worship, which we always do at the beginning of each session, one of our pastors walked forward to the front of the gathering and got down on his knees and prayed…in plain view of the whole National conference. It was intense.  He was taking drastic action.  I don’t what was going on in his life, but it was a powerful display of seeking the Lord.

Do you need to take drastic action to deal with your sin?

Finally, what is also so amazing about this story is the love and forgiveness of Jesus. He was and is a friend of sinners. He is so filled with love, entering into the awkwardness this woman has brought to him, forgiving of her sin.

And he has entered into our awkwardness. His forgiveness is available for us.  He loves us.  The final few lines of the story are amazing:

  1. Sins forgiven
  2. Jesus forgives
  3. Your faith has saved you, go in peace.

What is the sin in your life? Though sin grieves the Lord, do you know that he loves you, that he died and rose again for you, so that your sins are forgiven?  There is hope!