I just finished reading The Cross of Christ, by John Stott. It was quite impacting. Though it sometimes felt like pretty hard slogging due to its very thorough content, it was immensely encouraging as Stott put the spotlight on Christ crucified and explained so encouragingly what was accomplished and completed on that historic day so long ago.
What excited me most as I read this book was that John Stott does far more than simply explain doctrine. As Stott unpacked what was accomplished by Christ's death on the cross, he emphasized "the heart of the cross" and all it achieved, and what all that can and should mean, right now, in my heart and in my everyday Christian life.
As I drew near to the end of this rich reading experience, Stott quoted the following story, which I found quite moving, and I leave it with you to ponder...
The Long Silence
At the end of time, billions of people were seated on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, not cringing with cringing shame - but with belligerence.
"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?", snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beatings ... torture ... death!"
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black !"
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.
How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man.
Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.
© 2011 by Ken Peters
Sunday, July 3, 2011
So it strikes me as appropriate that after King Ahaz of Judah had been made aware that Israel and Syria were teaming up to attack him, Isaiah's first words to Ahaz were, "Be careful, be quiet, do not fear..." (Isaiah 7:4). When things go wrong -- even dreadfully wrong -- I truly want those words to immediately run through my mind: Be careful -- be quiet -- do not fear.
I need to be quiet lest I speak out of unbelief, and simply discourage myself; lest I give voice to thoughts I'd be wiser to repent of; lest I speak like a fool who refuses to see God in my circumstances; lest I babble on about my fears, thereby increasing them, when I have no need to fear at all!
Isaiah's command to not fear is such a familiar one that we read so often throughout the Bible, but it seems to me that Isaiah's first words, to "Be careful, be quiet" were just as important for someone facing what feels like an overwhelming trial. If we take care regarding how we respond to life's troubles, they will be much less likely to get under our skin and irritate our soul, and we will find ourselves much more often able to face life's difficulties with faith rather than with fear.
© 2011 by Ken Peters