Summary: in the midst of suffering, and challenges, the word of OGod is not bound!
† In the Lord Christ’s Name †
May Grace, Mercy and Peace strengthen you, for the are gifts from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Strengthened by Grace – but how are we strengthened
Praying for Faith and Patience
Illusion that I can conquer all
The word is not bound
What is your reaction, when someone tells you, “this will make you stronger”?
If you are really young, it may be your mother, trying to get you to each spinach, or liver and onions, or brussel sprouts. They never say eating candy, or ice cream, or potato chips will make you stronger, do they?
If you are a teen, or in your twenties, it could be a coach, or martial arts master, or a music teacher, as they give you some kind of drill that will be long, and physically challenging, or boring, or both. I mean, they never say going to the beach, or hanging out with friends, or going to the movies will make you stronger, do they?
As we get older, we hear that getting through this situation or that situation will make us stronger. Take this medication, or go on that diet, do this extra task, work with those people or that relative or that we dread. After all, if the task, or process was going to be pleasant or enjoyable, if it had no great cost, they wouldn’t have to try to convince us that it was somehow beneficial, would they?
Paul writes Timothy today, be strengthened by grace, and I know that God directs these words to us as well. Even as I thank God for this strength, yet, I cynically wonder, for what will I need the strength? It’s like the older pastor’s warnings about praying for patience, because God will provide new and exciting ways by which you have to trust in Him, and therefore your patience will increase!
In all three of our readings today, we see people that are struggling with life, much as we do. They struggled with health issues, they struggled with relationships, they struggled with circumstances, they struggle with doubt and fear. Struggles we all have, or have had, or will have, someday. Struggles that seem to take over our lives, and have made us their captive. In order to deal with them, we are tempted to sin, and if we are honest, we often do. Tempted to find some pleasure to replace the suffering, tempted to find a way out, tempted to forgo trusting in God, and play God ourselves.
We feel like we are captives, like we are bound by strong ropes, or steel cables to our struggles. To the Leper, to Naomi, to Paul and Timothy, to us, the message of Hope is clear. The word is not bound.
Bound by health?
The word is not bound
In our gospel today, we see a man who suffered from leprosy. Like so many that suffer illness, the leprosy was like a prison sentence to the man. It dominated every aspect of life, it separated him from those he loved, and it forced him to abandon so many things that he enjoyed. It changed his life.
Of the struggles we shall see in today’s sermon, I think I understand this one the most of all. Things that were joys in my younger and healthier days, like playing full court basketball, or being in Taekwondo tournaments, are no longer possible. Certain things I would love to share doing with Will as he grows older, like surfing and diving, and even rollercoasters, cannot be done because of my artificial valves, and the meds they require. It is depressing, knowing this. It would be easy, to wonder why God allowed this genetic disorder, and be mad that He allowed me to be bound to this challenged body. It would be easy, far too easy, to lose all hope, to not trust God, to just give up. But…
The word is not bound!
Jesus met that leper, and by His word healed him and nine others! The power of God interceded in this leper’s life, and cleansed him. The man realized that God had rescued him from something, and returned to praise and adore his Savior. While some are healed physically by Jesus, then and now, others are not. I do not have the answer to why one and not another, save what I have learned in my life. Because the word is not bound, things that I have suffered through, have become blessings. To hear men in jail praise God for three hours, while I played the piano – 18 days after the valves were replaced is beyond comprehension. Interestingly enough, the same disorder that caused the heart valves to need replacement, also is incredibly beneficial to a pianist. I have been able to see people blessed as they realize the gospel is their gospel; that Jesus is their Messiah, and that is incomparable. To see an unbound word of God, penetrate the dark places of our lives, and bring His light, and love.