Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tribulation and Good Cheer

"..and a sword shall pierce your soul.” -Luke 2: 35

A supernatural word from God does not mean your life will henceforth be easy and free of grief and pain. Sometimes, to the contrary, it may mean the suffering, hardship and tribulation involved in entering the kingdom of God and extending it into a hostile world system. The Apostle Paul’s commissioning word from God included the phrase, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My sake.”

The angel Gabriel visited Mary telling her that she would be the earthly mother of Jesus. We celebrate these words at Christmas as we sing about the joy and wonder of it all, while often failing to recognize the perplexities that accompanied the fulfillment of that revelation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song inspired by the subsequent word given to Mary by the elderly prophet who warned her of the grief she would someday suffer at Jesus’ crucifixion. “A sword shall pierce through your soul.”

Then later Mary must have wept with tremendous inner grief when she realized the price paid by those mothers in Ramah who lost their babies when Herod, overcome by the fear of One being born who might be a potential threat to his position, had all the male children under two years of age put to death by the sword. What were Mary's thoughts, knowing that others had lost their children when it was her child Herod was trying to kill? The realities would have been very difficult to understand and even harder to explain.  She must have pondered these things in her heart as she trusted God to comfort those who had suffered without knowing why.

Jameson, Faucet, and Brown in their commentary on Matthew 2:16-18 say eloquently what must have been God’s answer to these mothers: “O ye mothers of Bethlehem! methinks I hear you asking why your innocent babes should be the ram caught in the thicket, while Isaac escapes. I cannot tell you, but one thing I know, that ye shall, some of you, live to see a day when that Babe of Bethlehem shall be Himself the Ram, caught in another sort of thicket, in order that your babes may escape a worse doom than they now endure. And if these babes of yours be now in glory, through the dear might of that blessed Babe, will they not deem it their honor that the tyrant's rage was exhausted upon themselves instead of their infant Lord?”

Jesus died and gave His life that the Kingdom of God may come. And one day righteousness, peace, and joy will reign on this earth and the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The lion will lay down with the lamb. The child will play near the snake, and there will be no hurt or sorrow. There will be no breaking in or breaking out, and no outcry in the streets. But meanwhile, as we proclaim the joy and salvation that is in Christ Jesus, we must be prepared for the spiritual warfare that is necessary in proclaiming God’s kingdom and seeing it extended into the lives of people in this present age. The apostle Paul who preached in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, returned to the new Christian communities strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and reminding them that "we through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16: 33)


Heath said...

Thank you for giving me something to
meditate on this Christmas Day and not the usual Christmas fluff. I needed some spiritual meat.

Billy Long said...

Thanks, Heath.
You remain in our prayers.
God bless,

katie2072 said...

Thank you Billy for the Awesome insight that God gave you regarding the depth of what Mary must have gone through as she began to realize the enormity of what God had asked of her! Early on she began to understand who her son truly was & would have to endure for all mankind! This really gives perspective in my own life knowing no matter what we may go through we are overcomers because Christ has gone before us, faught the battle & we win! AWESOME! This is so timely & I know this blog will inspire many! Mom & Dad love this as well & say hello & are praying for you! God bless you! Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Another excellent work, my dear brother! The Word doesn't say whether Simeon even understood the meaning of his prophecy on that 8th day. But I'll bet Mary remembered the words as she stood at the Cross. What an ironic paradox: Jesus does not call us to Himself so that we can suffer - but He has the audacity to ask us to follow Him even though He knows that we will. And for a believer to intentionally seek suffering would be mentally ill and masochistic, but to refrain from joining in with Jesus to avoid suffering would be suicidal. What a dilemma! Perhaps, it helps our understanding a small bit if we can grasp that life in this fallen world includes suffering - no matter what we decide regarding Jesus. But if we cast our lot with Him, even suffering can have a redeeming purpose instead of being just part of the existential chaos; and if we suffer for Him, there is honor without regret.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Billy. This is a truth we usually do not think about. But it is also key to remaining steadfast during hard times.