The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5-6, 2008
Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Dear Friends in Christ,
They say ignorance is bliss. But such bliss is always short lived. I want you to think of a small group of children playing in the Dutch countryside in the spring of 1940, near the city of Nijmegen. In distance you can see the top of the great bridge over the Waal river. You think to yourself, this is bliss - a fine spring day, children laughing and playing. Then German paratroopers suddenly begin to rain down from the sky. That brief blissful moment was based on ignorance of the horror that was to come. Some very smart people think that we are at a time when we are like those children blissfully playing in ignorance. Many so called experts fear that we are on the brink of a major war in Asia. Consider this, no major world power has been involved in a region wide war since 1974 when the first Vietnam war ended. Even that was a small affair. The young men who were on the front of the last really big war are now in their eighties. The calamity of war cannot be learned from a book. It must be lived, as many of you did live it in World War II. Those that have never lived it only have a shadow understanding. Thus they lose their fear of it. Many experts are warning that the conditions are ripe for a major war across Asia. With the growth of nations like China and India creating increased competition for resources the pressure is building. Many nations, in order to show their power in the region are making interlocking alliances, much as there were in the years before World War I. One false move and dozens of armies mobilize. Will it happen? I don’t know. Could it happen? Oh, yes. Likely to happen? Depends on who you’re talking to.
In life we have many burdens. Wars and rumors of wars, health problems, financial worries, what nonsense our children and grandchildren are being taught in school and so forth. And sometimes, prosperity brings with it more worries. For if you have more, you have more than can be lost. In the face of these problems there are two models for the Christian life. One model is that Christians are to be sober and serious people who are constantly about their business. God will only bless us to that degree that we set aside the frivolities of the world. The other model is the don’t worry be happy model. After all doesn’t God want to bless us? Both are wrong. Neither is based upon Holy Scripture. Yes, God does want to bless us. But often the blessing of daily bread comes to us from God in the form of employment. God does want us to be rich, yes. But rich in the things of heaven. For indeed as Christ tell us in Matthew 16:26 - “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” And here we should read it as eternal life - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his eternal life? Christ also warns us against the sin of worry. So how should Christians respond to the events around them? With quiet concern and confidence.
There is no doubt that God is charge of the events of this world. He literally has the power to bring down entire nations simply by speaking the word. But if God is in control, why do we have people starving, cancer, school shootings, terrorist attacks and rumors of even greater violence? This is because we live in a fallen world. Ultimately, sin will result in one of two things. The repentant will have their sins forgiven for the sake of Christ, and they will enter heaven. The unrepentant will be punished for their sins for all eternity. This does not mean that the wicked go entirely unpunished in this life. God restrains the forces of evil in the world. Often He uses nations with their armies, navies and air forces to this. No, we don’t get up one day and say oh, God wants to send troops here to stop so and so. God lets men act for earthly reasons. But He is nevertheless in charge. So we fought World War II because it was God’s will. It was God’s will that the Unites States be victorious and Germany and Japan be defeated. But it was also a test. God tests nations by these things. Will you stand by and let innocent people be slaughtered? Or will you intervene? Will you see that those who perpetrate atrocities, such as the Nazi concentration camps, be brought to justice? If a region wide war in Asia does break out, it is God testing the individual Christians as well as the nations that seek to live under His grace. If we claim to be a nation that lives out a Christian world view, then we claim a great responsibility. The testing will be as severe in the future, as it was in the past. There will always be another Valley Forge winter to be survived. There will always be another Omaha Beach to be stormed.
How can we face such trials as this? Our text reveals two reasons for us to be quietly confident in the face of the trials of this life. First, we know who God the Father is. Christ has revealed to us our heavenly Father. We know who rules this world. We know who gives all blessings and all trials. So if we face a calamity we can say, thank you, our dear heavenly Father for putting us to the test. In the testing, God shows who are His and who are not. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. But we can be certain that our trials are intended for our good, as painful as they may be. Second, Christ calls all who are burdened in this life to come and rest in Him. The troubles of this world are all the result of sin. God does not test the angels. He tests us who must face up to temptation. Christ has carried our sins to the cross. So when He is telling us to cast our worries upon Him, He is really tying this to His dying on the cross. In Christ our sin is taken from us. Our hope is restored. We have life, even if we should have to give our life in some fiery trial. So regardless of our difficulties in this life, our future in Christ is secure.
I had said that as Christians we are to be quietly confident in the face of trials. That doesn’t mean we are without care or concern. That doesn’t mean that don’t make plans for the future. But it does mean that we can look to trials and accept God’s will. For we know the final outcome. Even if it were to come to pass that this nation were destroyed, we are still alive in Christ. He has paid the price of our sins and given us life. We can be assured that this will not be taken from us. For no earthly power can rob us of Christ. But some will object, saying well don’t some fall from the faith. Yes, indeed. But this is the strange thing about Christ. We can kick Him out, but no one, not even Satan, can take Him from us. Hence the testing. But we do not have to fear such trials. In Christ we have that perfect rest that will not end. That doesn’t relieve us of trials. But it gives us the confidence to face them. We belong to Christ and in Christ we will remain.