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SKMB On Mission Together – September 7, 2022

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Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?

What is a disciple to do when life is distressing?

I watch a lot of Major League Baseball; the Toronto Blue Jays are my team. A good number of the Blue Jay players wear crosses and routinely engage in the Catholic practice of ‘crossing’ themselves. Both of these provide some level of testimony that God plays a role in their personal and professional lives. It is common practice for some of these elite ball players to make a gesture of thanks and praise to God when they accomplish a good hit, crossing themselves and raising a hand to the heavens. What I began to observe, however, is that some performed this ritual of divine thanksgiving when they performed well and spewed curses when they didn’t. Here is likely a good sermon illustration if I were preaching from James 3:10 – “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” I’m not following that specific train of counsel today.

Times of trouble are our lot in this life. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes would suggest that all of life under the sun is trouble but for moments of grace. As disciples of Jesus, we are to understand the storms in our life – whatever their form – as opportunities given to us by God. They are opportunities for a deeper dependence upon Jesus, self-examination, repentance, character growth, resiliency in matters of discipleship, greater knowledge of the gospel’s place in our spiritual formation, depth in wisdom and, I would submit, worship.

In my own discipleship, offering praise and thanks to the Father when times are good is seemingly effortless (like hitting a homerun and ‘high-fiving’ God), but doing so in times of trouble (like misplaying a ground ball) is far from it. Our default is to express frustration, anger and then blame (often toward God himself). I love God-fearing Job’s perspective after losing riches, health and family: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b NIV). His response to trouble that God had allowed him to experience moved him to a posture we as disciples of Jesus should mirror: “…he fell to the ground in worship” (Job 1:20b NIV). A similar worship-in-calamity posture is found in writings of the prophet

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:17-19 NIV

And it is found in the counsel of the Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica:

“Be joyful always; pray continually;
give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

It is even in the appeal of God Himself:

“…call upon me in the day of trouble.”
Psalm 50:15a NIV

As a disciple, our worship must be constant, despite circumstances good or difficult. Worshipping God when times of trouble are our lot fosters faith, healthy perspective, hope and joy. Worship sets out hearts on the Sovereign One and not the storms raging about us. Worship in bad moments reminds us that there is One who will redeem and restore that which is causing us inner turmoil. Worship aligns us with Scripture’s counsel to walk by faith and not by sight. And so my fellow disciples, in this life, whether you ‘strike out’ or ‘hit a grand slam,’ your heart’s posture and response should be one of worship.

~Phil Gunther, SKMB DM