Saturday, 2 April 2011

Never Beyond Our Endurance

There seems to be a shift in thinking in some places today that we are on our own as Christians. God has set things in motion and now just lets everything run until the end of time.

This is simply not true. God knows the end from the beginning, yes. He does NOT however pre-destine individuals. There is a big difference between knowing what will happen and making the choice.

In the Matrix movies, the problem the machines have is they cannot comprehend choice. Free will is a mystery to them. They are bound by the programming in them and cannot comprehend choice.

We seem to think God is like that - or that is the impression you can get. I once heard Tony Campolo say when he was young he believed in predestination so strongly that when he fell down the stairs he thanked God it was over with!

The problem of Free Will is that we make choices that are bad for us. God allows them, and ultimately uses them to further His will in our lives, but the enemy has a plan to drag us away from His love into destruction, and Jesus Himself said most people will take the broad road to destruction rather than the narrow, hard road to salvation.

When I was still quite young, probably in the summer of 1984 when I was 12, my family went on holiday to the Gower peninsular in South Wales. We used to walk together from Langland Bay to Caswell Bay and back by following a footpath round the headland. It was a wonderful walk, uphill in both directions, or so it felt! We would wander slowly round the cliff walk and sometimes get an ice-cream before heading back. This one paqrticular day was hot. Very hot. We walked in shorts and t-shirts, or just shorts, and open sandals. As we walked we heard crying from above us in the gorse bushes over the path. Two young girls had wandered off the path and got lost in the gorse, somehow managing to get into a place where they couldn't get out by going up or down.

My dad was a schoolmaster, and had a real love of children. Without hesitation he pushed through the brambles and thorns, lifted the two girls up onto his shoulders and carried them back down through the brambles to the path, then on to the lifeguard station at Caswell bay where they were reunited with their parents. Dad's legs were badly cut and bleeding from the thorns, and it took the first-aid attendant over an hour to clean him up.

I have often had the image of my dad that day come back to my mind. He gave no thought of what it would cost him in terms of pain to help these children who were complete strangers. I remember marvelling at the way he just brushed through the thorns. I did ask him why he'd done it later. He simply smiled and pointed out that he knew he could help, so he knew he had to. He could endure what they could not, and they were rescued as a result.

Now my dad was not perfect. He was as flawed and fragile as any human, yet he retained a strength throughout his life. His faith carried him through the ups and downs of existence, and although he eventually succombed to cancer in 1999 he held fast to his convictions to the end. I had the honour of holding his hand as he went home, and although it hurt immensely to lose him, he left us in such a peaceful way that I was strengthened by his example.

We all have to endure things in this world we were not designed to bear. The human psyche as designed by God is not designed to deal with the loss we experience when death comes, or sickness or poverty. We were made for paradise and designed for peace, and we spend our lives trying to find it in spite of the world.

Endurance is something we must learn, but it is something we can do. He promised we would never be given more than we can handle. We forget this and it leads to depression, anxiety, stress and a myriad of other problems. Illness follows and we succomb to the ravishes of the dread diseases of this world. But even then by turning to Christ again He will support our feet and lead us through to safety held high on His shoulders through the brambles and thorns that surround us until we are reunited with our Heavenly Father.

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