Friday, April 24, 2009

No one can take it away.

When I was having a seriously bad time in life, long ago now, a friend gave me some precious words to read. What they say is pretty tough, but it tells me something as well. In the NIV they say:
"Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to go on the heights."

He's not making it easy for himself, is he! Could I live up to that? At least, in my own strenght? Not much! I love drinking good coffee, and tea and hot chocolate, and...alright, that's enough. I live eating chocolate, and good wholegrain bread, and Italian food like spaghetti. It's pure joy getting into a good bookshop and seeing what I can buy. I love having our house to live in, not a tent. I sleeping in the same bed as my wife, not out under whatever shelter can be found. In fact this list could go on for several pages, listing all the things there are in life to be enjoyed because they give physical comfort and relief.
The old prophet makes a good point, though. These nice things are good to have. Life would be shorter, harder and grimmer without them. I'm seriously glad to have good pain relieving medication, and anti-depressant medication when needed. It would be a tough call to live up to what is said above. But I don't think Habakkuk was boasting.
If I understand it rightly, he was in a situation where things could not get much worse; and he realized, with the help of the Almighty, that he did not need to despair. Anything of this world is ONLY of this world. What is physical in ONLY physical. And it can all be lost because material things always have a 'use-by' date and then they're gone. What we sometimes learn, even though we would rather not, is that we can actually survive without them.
That does not mean give them all up. If you don't eat at all you starve, right? And being underweight because of body image is a serious problem even in the affluent Western world. So we do need certain things.
But what the prophet is telling us is, those things do not make life. What comes of the Spirit gives life. Jesus added to that when He pointed out, "Humanity does not live by bread alone." He said that to the devil itself - Satan in person, when the evil one tried to take advantage of Jesus' suffering to get Him to do what Satan said. And Jesus threw it right back! He did not need ordinary bread to survive. He needed God. When the time came, when the time in the wilderness was over, God gave Jesus all He needed - and because Jesus waited until God gave it, in His time, it was much much more that He received.
I pray for homeless people, unemployed people left high and dry by the economic collapse. It would be too easy for me to leave my house, carrying my credit card which is backed up by a steady income and deliver sermons at people. But then our family have been through some bad times, too. And we learnt. We need the things of God. When it all goes square-wheeled on Earth, remember God - and the love of God is what cannot be taken away by the rises and falls of the world.


Deep thoughts... said...

Hi Andrew. Your words remind me of a Caedmon’s Call song (from their self-titled album of 1999), called “This World.” The chorus goes:

This world has nothing for me
and this world has everything
All that I could want
and nothing that I need

I have this album on my iPod and I always here it at just the right time. I need a reminder like that occasionally, and lately more often than not. I’ve been unemployed since the beginning of 2009 and I’ve found myself getting angry with God because I couldn’t spend money on something I want.

I had forgotten about the passage you mentioned, Habakkuk 3:17-19, and when I looked it up in my bible, I found that I had marked it sometime in the past. So I know the Lord has had to remind me of this before. Your post is a poignant reminder that this world has absolutely nothing that I need.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, REJOICE!

Thanks Andrew.

Farrah said...

Are you sure you didn't miss a calling to preach? :-) Excellent thoughts, Andrew. "This world is not my home; I'm just a passin' through." So goes an old song. We are simply preparing for our real home, the eternal one in heaven . . . and trying to take as many with us as are willing.

Cara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cara said...

Hi. You once encouraged me on my blog and for some reason I found myself looking at that entry again and was led here. I know you wrote this entry a month ago but it was very encouraging to me so thanks for that. It's amazing, the mysterious ways that God works in our lives and the people he brings to encourage us.