Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beyond "motivational poster" spirituality

Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, for I am with you. I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.
Jeremiah 46:28

This is typically not the way in which we think about God's promises. Most contemporary evangelical Christians tend to have what I call a "motivational poster" view of the promises of God. We want pithy words that make us feel good and that look nice with Thomas Kinkade artwork or graphically stunning photography. But God may promise difficulty for various reasons. In fact, much of scripture, narrative in particular in the Old Testament, is given over to these kinds of difficult circumstances.

And in this prophecy we have a promise stacked right in with very real difficult circumstances. God is speaking to the remnant of Judah. These Jews survived Babylon's ransack of Jerusalem, only to rebel against the Chaldeans and flee to Egypt. But then Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army and still these Jews were spared to enter captivity. And at the end of the prophecy that foretells the end of Egypt and of Babylon, God again reminds the Jews that He will keep covenant with them and restore them to their nation. But present discipline and punishment must still be experienced before that day. God gives hope while guaranteeing present difficulty. Sometimes hope does not mean an end of our troubles. God wants the troubles to bring us to the place where our hope is real and dear to us.

Save me from my false view of Your promises. I will trust in real hope within difficulty. And Lord, whatever it takes to purge my selfish optimism that ignores Your discipline... please lovingly cleanse it from me. I surrender to Your wisdom, even in difficulty.

No comments: