I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 NLT
If we have allowed Jesus into our life, we are not and never will be forgotten. An eternity of friendless separation is the prospect for those that reject God. If we turn to Him, we have His promise to meet our needs in this life, and to be with Him for ever.
Living in an area where every few miles there was a garrison with its castle, and every church still displays the tombs of knights from that era, it is a reminder that medieval life was an unpredictable helping of plenty or poverty, security or injustice. One if the more horrific ways of perishing was to be imprisoned in the oubliette dungeon of a castle — the word meaning ‘forgotten’ — the prisoner that didn’t exist, for whom there was no ransom and no hope. It is a fair picture of the hell the Bible tells us we will face without God’s grace — and the way to that is the Way of Jesus, recognising Him as Son of God and our personal Saviour when we ask Him into our life.
This good news is the exact opposite of the oubliette experience. If we belong to God through Jesus, we are not — and will never be — forgotten.
Times of plenty are a danger because we too easily forget the source of our security and let our praise of the Lord who saved us lapse.
But in times of need — the present pandemic has been a jolt to our complacency — it is good to know that in Christ, we are not at all forgotten, and we are never far from the supply. The Good Lord of the friendly castle is not far away and looking out for us.
This is what Paul meant, writing from imprisonment to his friends in Philippi
His actual circumstances of little or plenty mattered less to him than his prospects which were assured in heaven.
Just as the share price of a company goes up on forecast earnings although present profitability may be poor, Paul says he knows how to be content — not anxious, not in fear of tomorrow — in every situation, because “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”. And believing and declaring these words does seems to change the weather, the news and the outlook of the day in a way that’s hard to explain. Perhaps it is because we are taking a stand in agreement with heaven — a call that is heard up on the friendly castle walls as “one of ours”.
“..The word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long… All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will… take our revenge on him’. But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior, so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail… Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked!”
Politicians live in the tension of opinion polls and election results, trying to represent everyone and also attempting to keep the voters on-side…
Someone of my acquaintance who has a somewhat prophetic dimension to his ministry wrote recently under the heading “Is the Lord telling us we don’t need church buildings any more?”
His point was about the good lessons and new focus on being Christians in the community that has come through the present restrictions. To go back to the former routine with no lessons learned, no new practices gained, would be a tragedy, he suggests. Not a popular message!
I heard today on the radio a minister – or ‘priest’ – of one of the more formal traditions explaining that the church building was consecrated with ‘a golden thread’ and was where the reserved sacrament and so the presence of the Lord was to be found. A special place, essential, and so permission to return was vital.
I am more of a marketplace person. My experience has been that a ‘holy person’ performing ‘holy actions’ in a ‘holy building’ can present quite a barrier — well, three barriers in fact — to people who don’t feel for all sorts of reasons, that they belong there!
Added to which I have been hearing the Lord say, for a couple of years now, “I am doing a new thing…”. So to go back to buildings and formality and exclusivity and access through another person doesn’t seem to me to be “a new thing” at all.
This will be an unwelcome line of argument for many who find peace and solace in a historic place of worship (as I have on many occasions). And it may appear threatening to those whose identity is bound up in the role and the building. So this is inviting the insult and reproach that came to Jeremiah.
Most of us are not politicians or even public figures, but we still want to be people-pleasers. We want people to like us, and agree with us. We are shy of conflict.
But sometimes the Lord puts a word on our heart1 which is not the popular view. It may not be ‘politically correct’ or within the current ‘woke’ way of looking at the world. It might not be right… but if it is, if it is a word from the Lord, what do we do with it?
You may not see yourself as a preacher or a writer but you are still a person of influence within your own circle. Possibly even more so at times of tension and risk and lockdown. And what the Lord has impressed on you, in your quiet times and reading the Word, may not be the obvious ways to ‘win friends and influence people’, even if you have the wisdom to share it humbly and in a loving way.
Like Jeremiah, we are responsible for being faithful to what we know to be true, or what we understand to be our hearing of God’s truth of the moment.
Jeremiah said (v.9) “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones – I am weary of holding it in. Indeed, I cannot!” And then we will find ourselves, as Jesus said in the same context but much later on, “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me [but]… whoever loses their life for My sake will find it.”2
To be born again3 is losing one’s life – the old life. And there are facets of that old life, like being popular with everyone, that might need to die some more. When we lay down what matters to us, we pick up the kingdom life4 of what matters to God. That kingdom life, we find, is a pearl of great price5, worth paying for in other ways..