Preacher: Gerhard Venter
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:15
Summary: An “exclamation mark” at the end of Paul’s teaching about giving reveals what Christianity is about!
I guess we are all familiar with disappointments and can tell story after story about disappointments we experienced as a children and even as adults. It’s also no secret that different personalities handle these disappointments very differently. On the one extreme people will simply go quiet and withdraw, while on the other end of the spectrum people will react verbally, with anger, and much emotion.
Most of us had hoped that, by now, this Coronavirus would be “under control”, whatever “under control” means. Maybe that life as we used to know it (how long ago was it?) will return, or that medical science would have come up with a treatment that works, or that the thing will simply go away! But here we are … facing yet another lockdown as cases in Europe (and other countries) seem to spiral out of control. What a disappointment! Most of us are tired of this way of life, forced to stay indoors, wear masks, meet via cyberspace, keep social distancing, and much more. Psychologists actually refer to it as COVID fatigue and even Zoom fatigue! Tired, disappointed.
There is an incident in the life of Samuel that may help us shift or focus during this current disappointment. The first king of Israel, Saul, selected by God and anointed by Samuel, became a major disappointment to both God and Samuel because of disobedience. This caused much mourning on the part of Samuel (1 Sam 15:35) … until God said to him, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons” (1 Sam 16:1).
In the midst of grief, disappointment and mourning over Saul, God found King David, from whom would come the King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Maybe the message for us is: Look up, look ahead, look around to see what God can bring about in the midst of this pandemic!
For a while now we’ve looked at the Book of Judges, digging for gold, which I see mainly as the characteristics of God. Each Sunday we’ve discovered some aspect of how God is revealed to us in the lives and experiences of the “judges”. It’s certainly not the only way to look at the Book of Judges, but it has been helpful to me to work through some very tough (and most often disappointing!) stories and incidents in the life of Israel and her leaders.
One of the main characteristics in the book is the patience of God. There are many definitions of patience, but one puts it this way: it’s “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious”. Looking at the sinfulness of God’s people in Judges, there is no doubt that God had to exercise constraint in not simply killing them off or destroying them in order to start over again. But, such is the patience of God. God is God, God is full of grace, and God had a plan. Even now God is patient, not only with those outside the Kingdom, but also in offering ongoing forgiveness to us when we sin and repent.
Many years after Judges God’s patience resulted in the coming of Jesus to this world to die for our sins. Jesus himself showed patience in bearing with rejection, misunderstanding of his ministry and his final goal, but He “endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2) in order to finish the task of bringing salvation to the world. The author of Hebrews therefore encourages us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2). New Testament authors also encourage us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by pursuing the same attitudes He had – among others, patience, as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
I can think of no better time to be reminded to be patient than right now during this pandemic. It seems as if this “thing” is going to be with us for a while. As followers of Christ, let us display the attitude of Jesus and thereby be true witnesses to the world in how to endure in times of trial and difficulties.