Friday, August 2, 2013

Always a Fourth Man...

     Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
     Paul wrote:  "It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket.  We're something that everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street.  We're the Messiah's misfits.  You might be sure of yourselves but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties..."  The Message, I Corinthians 4:9-10
    Paul goes on to delineate situations that sound like something out of a fiction novel where the hero repeatedly gets shot, beaten up, and run over only to emerge victorious.  Only Paul got his head cut off.  Similar to what happened to John the Baptist.
   I see Christians, people who love the Lord, "captive Christians" according to George Barna - I see them frequently standing on platforms while people gawk and stare, commiserate with and/or villify, honor and at the same time question.  They must have done something wrong or God wouldn't have allowed....
  Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
  Paul, apparently, completed most of his earthly assignment feeling like a sideshow in a circus, except for the times when he was groveling on the ground in pain, which probably didn't seem much like a circus atmosphere to him at those times. Basically he was willing to be a spectacle for God, to do his best out of devotion to God and then to stand in the arena while lions circled around him and ticket holders ate their popcorn and watched to see who would win, so to speak.  (Sometimes from an earthly perspective, the lions win, just in case you wondered.)
  Sometimes God puts us on a platform.
  Rick and Kay Warren are on one right now.
  I could name others, lesser known.
  Platforms come in all shapes and sizes.
  Motorized wheel chairs early in life.
  The sudden end of a dream.
  The specter of financial ruin.
  Grown kids from good families who go down the wrong path.
  Missionaries who bury a bright, loving  child on the mission field.
  There are others...
  Maybe He didn't send the trouble that we face but He allows it.  And then there we are, under the spotlight, standing for all our friends and foes to see, afflicted, perplexed, perhaps even persecuted, maybe even struck down. (See II Cor. 4)
  So why does God allow some of His most precious followers to become spectacles?
  Many times, we don't know, we can't figure it out.
  So we just have to take God's word for it.
  "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves...  Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' "    II Cor. 4:7;  12:8-9.
   And then, there's also this....

 Once upon a time, God put His only begotten Son...  on a platform....     And He's been standing on multiple platforms ever since. In Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, North America... You get the picture...
How do I know this?
Because in Hebrews 13:5, God promised that He would never leave us and He would never desert us.  and when He promises something, He makes good on it.
So when you see Christians suddenly thrust into the limelight, whether it's in the U.S. or Nigeria  (now there's a place for platforms to abound!)  - when you see God's children standing in the arena of inexplicable suffering, placed on a platform for all to gawk at, remember that there is always a "fourth man" in the fire of affliction. (See Daniel 3)
And He is able to bring His kids out of the fire, in the final analysis, without even the faintest smell of smoke clinging to them.
Fiery platform?
A problem for us, but not for God.
While we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen... (II Cor. 4:18)


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