Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 7 2013 - Luke 12:8-34 – From fear to faith

The passage we have read this morning begins with the exhortation, "do not worry" (Luke 12:11), and ends with similar encouragements: "do not worry about your life..." (12:22); "Do not be afraid, little flock" (12:32). And Jesus tells us why we should have such fearless confidence; we have a heavenly Father who loves us and who is committed to our care.

I have a young granddaughter. Beatrix is just short of her first birthday and has a mum who is devoted to her care. But that does not stop her fretting and, at times, crying frantically. She has not yet grown sufficiently to understand that she is being well looked after. If her mum is out of sight she gets fretful, fearful that she has been forgotten or abandoned.

All of that is natural behaviour in babies of her age. But why does such behaviour persist in grown adults? We so easily become worried and fretful. We forget so quickly the way God has cared for us in times past. We fear that he has forgotten us and abandoned us. We yell and we rage.

And then we begin to devote ourselves to our own care. We store up treasure to safeguard our own future forgetful that we have a Father who has promised to care for us. We hold on to what we have rather than being generous with all that God has given us.

Jesus tells the parable of a man whose fields one year produced an abundant crop. Now at last he felt that he was secure. He could build a few more barns, store away his bumper harvest and live well on the proceeds of his sales year-by-year for the rest of his life. He is confident that he has no more worries. He has made it. But, says Jesus, this man has failed to reckon with one important factor; that very night he was going to die. How would his great fortune help him now? He had planned for many years of life; he had failed to prepare for death.

Jesus warns us, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions" (12:15). He urges us to be generous and to invest in the kingdom rather than following the self-preoccupied patterns of this world; "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (12:34).

The point is not that we should be heavenly minded and have no concern for the things of this world. Jesus is teaching us to view all that we have – and work hard for – as gifts from God. God cares for us and will provide for us. But it is not that we are to sit back and do nothing, expecting heaven to rain down its riches upon us. Rather we go about our daily work in a sense of dependence upon God. We recognise with thankfulness that all we possess is given us by him and is to be used not merely in self-gratification but for the glory of God and the blessing also of others. Jesus is teaching us to have a right attitude towards earthly possessions, one which neither despises them nor is preoccupied with them. He calls us to a life based on confident trust rather than on worry and fear.

Heavenly Father, help me to rest content in your care for me. Help me to recognise that all I possess comes from your hand. Help me also to remember that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price. In a spirit of thankful confidence, help me to show your love to others through open-handed generosity rather than being constantly worried about my own welfare. Help me to know that, even when you seem to be far off, you are still with me, still caring for me. Your love towards me in the Lord Jesus assures me that I shall never be abandoned.

Apr 7 2019 - Psalm 40 – Waiting for the Lord

I recently read an Advent book by Paula Gooder. The introduction was an extended reflection on waiting. We do not find waiting easy – at least speaking for myself. We wait in queues to be served. We wait for an appointment with the doctor. Sometimes, we wait for the morning. Rarely do I wait patiently. Paula Gooder, writing as a mother, uses the experience of pregnancy to demonstrate that waiting is not wasted time. The birth cannot be rushed and the waiting is necessary for the growth and development of the expected child. It is fruitful time, full of glad anticipation and of hope.

Psalm 40 begins with the words, "I waited patiently for the Lord." David had been in trouble. No doubt he wanted to be rescued and rescued quickly, but he "waited patiently for the Lord." He knew that only the Lord could help him so he did not rely on his own resources, nor did he turn to anyone else for help. He waited on the Lord with expectation and with hope. He waited in full confidence that the one in whom he placed his hope and trust would answer him and come to his aid.

And this is David's testimony:

He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.

At the end of his waiting, God heard, answered and rescued him. David compares his predicament to being in a slimy pit. Not only would it be most unpleasant to be in such a pit, it would also be all but impossible to escape. Every time you tried to get out by your own efforts you'd slip and slide back down to the bottom covered with more mud and mire than ever. But God, says David, lifted him out and set his feet upon a rock. No more slipping and sliding but a firm and solid place to stand. David's mouth is filled with praises to God. The experience was worth the waiting.

David turns his experience into an urgent message to all who will listen: "Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord… May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!'" (vv. 3, 4, 16). The painful experience of waiting is turned into a joyful testimony of deliverance.

Left to ourselves we remain floundering around in the slimy pit of our own sin and helplessness. There is one alone who can help us and that is Christ, who gave himself for our salvation. Maybe it took us many years to come to that conclusion but, having recognised at last that Christ is our help and our hope we realise also that the years of our floundering were not wasted years; they led us at last to him. Now we gladly confess, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." Our experience of our desperate need and of God's gracious response in the Lord Jesus Christ puts songs of praise in our mouths: "Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done." It fills us with the determination to live in glad obedience to our Saviour (v.8), and encourages us to tell others God's saving goodness (v.9). There is no-one like our God.

Father God, we thank you for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, who came down into the slimy pit of our floundering and despair and lifted us up to stand upon the solid ground of his saving work. Gladly we confess that you, O Lord, are great. Help us not to hide away in our hearts the wonderful things you have done for us but to praise you openly and commend your salvation to all who will listen.

Peter Misselbrook