Monday, January 14, 2019

A Spoonful of Sugar

 

[Artist's rendering of a mom and two children]


“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show
compassion, so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.”
—Lamentations 3:31-33

You have undoubtedly seen the Disney character, Mary Poppins, in the movie with that name, trying to get the Banks children to clean the messy nursery. She finally sings a song to them with the lyrics: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

An account records1 that after a struggle to come up with a song for the movie, lyricist Robert Sherman went home one evening to find that his children had just taken the Sabin polio vaccine. In asking if it hurt, his son explained that he had felt no pain because the nurse had given him the vaccine on a tiny sugar cube. This gave Sherman the inspiration he needed for the lyrics to the now-famous song.

When they suffer various problems and afflictions in their lives, I truly believe that God devises all kinds of “sugar” for His children. Though our troubles cause us great pain and anguish, God still sends His grace to help us bear the suffering. Our God pours into us as much—or even more—mercy as He may pour into us His discipline.

When I read the Old Testament Book of Judges, it always amazes me. Over and over again, God gives Israel a judge with His Word for them to follow. Once the judge dies, they begin to increase their sin and things go awry again.

The author of the Book of Judges records the length of time the children of Israel have to deal with their disobedience Then, God calls another judge. Each time, I read the words, “So the land had peace for ?? years,” I take particular note that the years of peace always exceed the years that they suffered war and turmoil.2

As we look back over the years of our lives, and as we move forward into the future, we must search for the grace that God sends us during our trials. We then must write the instances of His grace down! This little exercise will encourage us to see that God really does care, that He walks with us, and that He has gifts beyond our imagination to help us through the pain.

The Puritan writer, Thomas Watson, says it this way:3

He [God] will not over-afflict. He mixes mercy with all our afflictions. If he gives us wormwood to drink, he will mix it with honey. In every cloud a child of God may see a rainbow of mercy shining.

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1 Sherman, Robert. A Spoonful of Sugar Online Disney Wiki.
2 For example: Judges 3:11, 3:30, 5:31, 8:28
3 Watson, Thomas, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 228.

 

 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Priorities

 

[Photo of woman praying]


“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.”
—Matthew 6:33

With what do you concern yourself the most? I can honestly say I spend most thought on those things that I can do nothing about except to pray. Jesus knew we tend to suffer most over things it would actually take a miracle of His grace to resolve.

In His Sermon of the Mount, Jesus used as His illustration the worries about food and clothing—something we would all commonly worry about if we didn’t have them. But, rather than telling His disciples to pray about those things, or giving them solutions to those potential problems, He tells us to put our minds first on His kingdom requirements and on the righteousness He expects of us.

Sometimes, in order to get our lives straightened around after a deeply embedded sin and its consequences, we think most about the consequences. Instead, Jesus turns this idea on its head and tells us to first take care of the sin problem. He is the very embodiment of righteousness. And, He has graciously made a way, through His death on the cross, to make us righteous, too. He speaks peace with the words, “I will take care of the other problems.”

Do we put His Kingdom first? Are we anxious about living righteously in our New Year? In each new day? At the beginning of a new venture? When we are faced with troubles?

I was interested to see that in James 5:13-16, where the Apostle teaches us about praying for a sick member of a congregation, he admonishes those praying to confess their sins one to another. Would we consider that important when a man’s or woman’s life hangs in the balance? Certainly God does.

As we begin another new year, whatever worries we may have, if we start by first dedicating ourselves to His kingdom work and His righteous requirements for our lives, we can remain assured that God has the power to act in our behalf. I love the way that Charles Spurgeon addresses this verse:1

What a promise this is! Food, raiment, home, and so forth, God undertakes to add to you while you seek Him. You mind His business, and He will mind yours. If you want paper and string, you get them given in when you buy more important goods; and just so all that we need of earthly things we shall have thrown in with the kingdom.

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1 Spurgeon, Charles H. Faith’s Checkbook. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980. p. 150.