2 Corinthians 6:1-13
In today’s Gospel lesson (and really in all our Bible lessons for today as well), Jesus confronts us with a simple question: Do we want Him or do we want to be comfortable?
Do we want the God we meet in Jesus Christ or do we want easy, trouble-free lives?
The problem, of course, is that Jesus never promises any of this to those who follow Him.
He promises that when we repent and believe, we will be part of the Kingdom of God.
He promises that when we trust in Him as the only Son of God and the only way to reconciliation to God, we will have everlasting life with God.
Believers in Jesus know that we have the presence and guidance of God with us in this life.
He will give weary souls rest.
He will be with His people always, even to the close of the age.
Christ’s people have the hope of the life for which we are made--a life which at present we can only see as through a mirror dimly, a resurrected life in which tears are dried, bodies restored, work is meaningful,* and joy is complete.
Not once does He say that decisions will be easy.
Not once does He say problems will go away.
Not once does He say that the life of discipleship--of following Him, of sacrificing ourselves and our own comfort out of love and worship for God and out of love for neighbors--those we can see and those we can’t see--will be easy.
In fact, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
All his property and livestock are destroyed.
All his children are killed.
He is stricken with a horrible disease, his body covered with open sores.
Job had worshiped God and played by the rules. But in one fell swoop, his whole world was decimated.
Following God had not brought Job a comfortable life.
Through much of the book that bears his name, Job's friends try to tell their suffering friend that had he been more faithful, these bad things wouldn’t have come to him. He insists he doesn’t deserve his suffering and angrily challenges God to explain Himself.
At the end of the book, God chastises Job’s so-called friends. Faith in God isn’t a pass to easy street and Job’s distress wasn’t caused by Job being sinful.
But, as we can see from our first lesson, neither does God explain Job’s suffering.
Job suffered in spite of being a follower of God because we live in a fallen world in which bad things happen even to faithful people.
He writes: “...as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Believers in Jesus are called to keep following Jesus even when it’s inconvenient, painful, challenging, uncomfortable.
When it commands sacrifice.
When it threatens our reputations, our financial security, our lives.
Jesus calls us to choose between life with Him and being comfortable.
The incident narrated here comes right after Jesus gives a series of parables describing what the Kingdom of God, the kingdom He is going to die and rise to bring into being. It all begins with a command, which Jesus disciples obey. “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.”
Following Jesus may often seem a simple thing, comfortable. We don’t know what storms may lay ahead.
We Christians ask a version of that question every time adversity strikes, every time Jesus calls us to do hard things we’d rather not do, uncomfortable things: forgive someone who has hurt us; confront a fellow believer with a hard truth; give sacrificially. “Lord,” we wonder, “don’t you care if we drown? Don’t you care if we lose our comfort? Don't you care if what you're calling me to do could result in killing my reputation, killing my investment portfolio, kill my health, kill me?”
He cares more about our learning to follow Him faithfully than He does about our ease. Our ease can come in eternity.
For now, our call is to follow even in the darkest, most difficult times.
When storms come, we wonder how we can survive. We forget that nothing can separate those who trust in Him from the love God gives through Jesus Christ. Nothing.
A young woman, a member of our church in Cincinnati, was dying. She and her husband had two young children. She gave her testimony of faith during worship one Sunday. This was in 1999. She talked about all the things she hoped to be able to see in this world: her children grown, the new millennium. She knew that she might not see any of these earthly hopes come into being. And it saddened her. She tried to understand. Yet she also told us that she was confident that the Lord Who was leading her through her darkest valley would not only lead her to Himself, but also lead her children. She said that she knew that Christ's Church in which her children were baptized would faithfully share Christ with them, forge their characters by the power of the Holy Spirit, and help them to know the eternity of hope we have in Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 104:7, the psalmist confesses of God, “...at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight…”
Genesis 1:1 tells us that God the Holy Spirit moved over the waters of primordial chaos and brought into being peace, order, and life.
The One Who calmed the storm that so frightened the experienced fishermen sailing with Jesus that night was and is God Himself.
Storms, challenges come and go in this life.
Jesus will sometimes ask us to do things, to endure things, to sacrifice things, which in our own power, we are incapable of doing.
But, listen: Whenever we can’t, God can.
And after the storm, the God we know in Jesus Christ still stands.
And so do all who put their faith in Him.
They’re the ones who were more concerned with following Jesus than with being comfortable. I pray each day that God will forge me to be one of their number.
What storms are you going through today?
What is Jesus asking you to do that you don’t believe can be done?
Is there a comfortable sin for which you need to repent?
Follow Jesus and let the One Who can still our storms see you through. Amen
*Work is not a punishment for human sin, as some suppose. Human beings, created in the image of God, are meant to share in His work. But after the fall into sin and the world's subjection to futility, work was marred, along with all human enterprises, by futility. In eternity then, God's resurrected people will be restored to our full function in the new creation and once again fulfill our calling to manifest God's image in work marked by purpose, joy, and fulfillment.