Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Magical Moment 439, "A Troubled Heart"


I got an early Easter egg today. Eddie found this little robin's egg outside. He knows just what kind of presents to get me! 

Sadly though, this little egg has an extremely remote chance of hatching now that it's separated from its nest. If God cares when the sparrow falls to the ground, He surely cares about this egg. That gives me comfort knowing there is nothing so small that God doesn't see, or care about. 

Everyone in the world has personal troubles and hardships. And it can be difficult to know how to react to them. I read a transcript of a broadcast called "When the Sparrow Falls" by Elisabeth Elliot today and I wanted to share it. I sometimes feel helpless and angry at myself when I read the words, "Let not your heart be troubled." What a simple solution!!! If only I could just DO that! And here, she explores the spot-on question of, "How am I supposed to not be troubled about something that is extremely troubling?" If you're dealing with a troubled heart, maybe this will bring you some comfort like it did for me today.

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"God allows us--He gives permission--for us to feel discouraged, for us to feel lonely, for the shadows to come, for the unfulfilled longings. We live in a fallen world. We have a Heavenly Father who does care for us and He never allows anything to happen in our lives that is not out of His purpose of love. Could He prevent the shadows and the longings and the loneliness? Yes, He could. Does He? No, He doesn't. Do you trust Him? Will you obey Him?

These things--these negative things--are the necessary condition for our sanctification. What is God in the business of doing with you and me? He wants to make us holy. That's what I want more than anything else in the world. I think I can say that honestly. I want to be holy. I want to be like Jesus. Jesus was very plain, very forthright. He didn't mince any words when He told His disciples, "In the world you will have tribulation." So what else is new? We have tribulation and then we say, "Why, Lord? Why me?" But our question should never be "Why me?" If you must ask a question, it should be, "Why not me?" Who do I think I am that I deserve to be exempt from the difficulties and the sorrows and the sufferings of the world? It is the necessary condition for God's curriculum, which is our spiritual sanctification.

My book "Discipline: The Glad Surrender" explains just part of God's curriculum. If we are going to be holy, then we have to bring under the lordship of Jesus Christ our time, our work, our possessions, our minds, our bodies, our emotions. And if you hear Gateway To Joy, you probably hear the same things over and over and over again, because God is dealing with me over and over and over again on all of these things. It's a matter of shame to me that I am such a slow learner. When I think of the privileges I've had since the day I was born, greater privileges and very many than most of you could possibly have had, I think, because I was born in a very strong Christian home, where both my father and my mother were seven-day-a-week kind of Christians. Jesus Christ was the head of that house. Over the doorbell of our front door there was a little bronze plaque that said, "Christ is the Head of this house, the Unseen Guest at every meal, the Silent Listener to every conversation." Anyone who came up onto that porch and rang that doorbell had some clue as to what kind of a family lived in this house. It was true. It was worked out. It was lived out.

Well, I had not only those parents, but I had a good church. I was given great riches of books, wonderful books, missionary books. We had hundreds of missionaries visiting in our home. We went to missionary meetings. We looked at missionary slides. We read missionary books. Missionaries were my heroes. All my life I hoped that God would enable me to be a missionary or give me permission. As long as I can remember, that was my great ambition. But God's curriculum includes some very tough lessons, doesn't it?

The writer of the hymn says, "'Let not your heart be troubled,' these tender words I hear; and resting on His goodness, I lose all doubt and fear. For by the path He leadeth but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me." Now the first line of that second stanza is a command, isn't it? It comes straight out of the Bible. It's not just from that hymnwriter. "Let not your heart be troubled." How in the world am I supposed to do that when something happens that troubles my heart? It's an emotion and it arises unbidden. You and I cannot summon good emotions, nor can we dismiss bad ones necessarily. We are people of emotions, and that was God's idea, wasn't it? It was one of the aspects of our humanity. We have emotions and we have wills. These are two contradictory forces very often. Bringing those emotions under our will and by our will bringing them under the lordship of Jesus Christ is a severe and difficult lesson and one that we have to be given over and over and over again.

But I was very comforted when I asked myself this question, "How am I supposed to not be troubled about something that is extremely troubling?" I noticed in John 12 in the context of one of my life verses, verse 24, Jesus says something very interesting. I'll start with verse 24. Jesus is talking to the people, his disciples Philip and Andrew, when they came to tell Jesus that there were some Greeks who wanted to meet Him because Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Of course, anybody would want to meet somebody who could raise someone from the dead. But Jesus gave them a very surprising answer, because the earthly glory that He would receive from being able to raise someone from the dead was of course understandable, and the whole world would come flocking after Him to see a miracle worker. But Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Here of course He is in a very picturesque way predicting what is going to happen to Him very shortly. "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me. Where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me."

Then in verse 27 He says, "Now My heart is troubled." He says, "Let not your heart be troubled" in John 14. "My heart is troubled, and what shall I say?" Now this is the clue of what you and I can do and what we are told to do all through Scripture. It's not a question of how you're feeling about something. It's perfectly normal and human that you should be troubled about many things. The question is, "What are you going to do about it and what does Jesus teach us here?" "My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? No. It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." The emotion was human and Jesus was human. He suffered as a human being. But the decision was a decision of His will and that was, "Father, glorify Your name." That's what He wants to say to you and me. "'Let not your heart be troubled,' these tender words I hear." Did Jesus know what it is like? Yes, He did. "He was in all points tempted as you and I are."

Janet Erskin Stewart wrote, "I know that when the stress has grown too strong, Thou wilt be there. I know that when the waiting seems so long, Thou answerest prayer. I know that in the crash of falling worlds, Thou holdest me. I know that life and death and all are Thine eternally." My dear friend Samuel Rutherford, whom of course I never met--Samuel Rutherford lived back in the 1700s. If you have never read anything by Samuel Rutherford, get your hands on anything you can find. Everything, every line he wrote, is a gem. Every one of them is quotable. There are--I'm not sure if it's still in print--but there have been a number of collections of the Samuel Rutherford letters. This is what he says, "Be content. Ye are His wheat growing in our Lord's field." Remember Jesus' words in John 12:24: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." "Ye are His wheat. If wheat, ye must go under our Lord's threshing instrument." What do you expect if you're a grain of wheat? "Ye must go under our Lord's threshing instrument in His barn floor and through His sieve and through His mill to be bruised, as the Prince of your salvation, Jesus, was: that ye may be found good bread in your Lord's house."

Do you ever stop to think about that when you eat a piece of bread? That had to be a corn of wheat, a grain of wheat, that falls into the ground and dies. If the seed itself doesn't die, there isn't any life that springs up. But as the seed dies, the life springs up. It abides alone if it doesn't die. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. Then of course it has to be harvested. It has to be ground. It has to go into the oven. You and I are meant to be broken bread and poured out wine."